Saturday Notebook

Buhari’s Nigeria versus Obasanjo and Co.’s

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo


 “Old fault lines that were disappearing have opened up in greater fissures and with drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere…Today, Nigeria is fast drifting to a failed and badly divided state; economically, our country is becoming a basket case and poverty capital of the world, and socially, we are firming up as an unwholesome and insecure country…”—former President Olusegun Obasanjo berating the government of Muhammadu Buhari for its poor performance

 “No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources…We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts…”—President Muhammadu Buhari responding to criticisms of his government in his October 1 Independence Day address.

President Muhammadu Buhari

 It took recent appointments in the customs and another hard look at President Muhammadu Buhari’s other appointments into other critical positions in the political establishment for one to better appreciate the import of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s knocks for Buhari over the latter’s management (or mismanagement) of the nation’s affairs these past five years.

In a similar way, Buhari’s response gave us a clearer window on his world: the President’s idea of right and wrong, unity and disunity, patriotism and lack thereof, etc, is really poor. It is either the President truly doesn’t know any better or that he simply doesn’t care how the rest of us feel about his suffocating, illiberal style of leadership. He seems to be quite high on self-conceit and very low on humility. And humility is everything!

I mean, isn’t Obasanjo right? It says a lot about the Buhari persona that it was about the week that Obasanjo stridently criticized the President’s leadership style as divisive and destabilizing that Buhari announced new appointments in the Customs. And, as if he couldn’t care less, all the new appointees happened to be Northern Muslims!

Now, consider the newly appointed officers: DCG Abdullahi Babani – HRD; DCG Mohammed Boyi–NCS TRADOC; ACG Saidu Galadima – ICT/Modernization; SM Modibbo – Zone ‘B’ HQ; ACG Uba Mohammed – E, I&I; ACG Hamza Gummi – T&T and ACG Usman Dakingari – Doctrine & Development (TRADOC). Not to forget, of course, that the CGC himself is a Hameed Ali, the DG of Ports Authority is a Hadiza Bala Usman and her NIMASA counterpart is no longer a Peterside Dakuku but a Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh. Add to the incestuous list the CGI (Comptroller General of Immigrations) who also happens to be a Muhammed Babandede and you have only the ‘president’s people’ in total control of the nation’s ports of entry and activities, in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural Nigeria. And Obasanjo’s criticisms were just those of an impudent old man?

Indeed, there are a whole lot of other such sensitive appointments that President Buhari has made in the past five years that portray him as insensitive to concerns about balance and equity that such appointments have raised in the polity. But the President’s headship of the oil industry and those he has recruited to assist him run it bear mentioning. Or, who does not know that President Buhari himself is Minister of Petroleum Resources? Or that a Mele Kyari is Group Managing Director of NNPC? Or that a Malami Shehu is MD, Port Harcourt Refining Company; Muhammed Abah, MD Warri Refinery; Umar Ajiya, MD of NPMC; Bala Wunti, GGM CP&S; Usman Yusuf, GMD STA. (Tech); Ahmadu-Katagum – GGM Shipping (Downstream); Kallamu Abdullahi – GGM Renewable Energy Division; Shaibu Musa – MD NNPC Medical Services Limited; Ibrahim Birma – GGM Governance, Risk & Compliance Division and a Farouk Ahmed – MD Product Mkg – Retiring?

Again, but for the tokenism of South West’s Adewale Ladenegan, MD Kaduna Refinery; Adeyemi Adetunji, MD NNPC Retail; Bola Afolabi, GGM Research & Development, and South South’s Roland Ewubare, Group General Manager and Diepriye Tariah – MD of IDSL, in the unbelievably lopsided setup (forget the South East for now, please!), the management of the nation’s oil industry– and wealth– would have been, whole and entire, firmly under the control of ‘Buhari’s people’, one ethnic group and or religious faith.

Chief Olusegun Obasanjo may not be fair in looks and character—he is not, nor does he aspire to be, your more likeable Richard Mofe-Damijo, Yul Edochie or Ramsey Tokunbo Noah. But he is certainly fair-minded. When Obasanjo upbraids Buhari for opening up in greater fissures our fault lines that were already disappearingwith drums of hatred, disintegration and separation and accompanying choruses being heard loud and clear almost everywhere, he is only reminding us, in his characteristic bluntness, that the Obasanjo Presidency would never have been defined by the glaring insensitivity and narrow-mindedness that have characterized Muhammadu Buhari’s conduct of public affairs as President of the Federal Republic since 2015. President Olusegun Obasanjo would never, for instance, have allowed to pass through his desk recommendations for the kinds of appointments that President Buhari has effortlessly, not say unabashedly, allowed and acted on these past five years. Obasanjo would never have made such appointments as we have made references to here. In point of fact, if there was anything that the Obasanjo Presidency was ever guilty of, it was certainly not marginalization of any persons or group, as Buhari has so mean-spiritedly promoted.

The late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua

Neither would Yar’Adua nor Jonathan have been this mischievously obtuse in handling state affairs as Buhari, with all due, has been these past five years. Yar’Adua appointed Ogbonna Onovo from Enugu State the first Inspector General of Police of Igbo extraction while Jonathan appointed Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika the first post-Civil War Chief of Army Staff of Igbo extraction.  On the other hand, Buhari flagrantly breached the PENCOM Act 2014 by replacing the former DG, Chinelo Anohu-Amazu from the South East with Aisha Umar from North East. That Section 20(1) and section 21(1) and (2) of the National Pension Commission Act 2014, state that “in the event of a vacancy, the President shall appoint replacement from the geopolitical zone of the immediate past member that vacated office to complete the remaining tenure” didn’t mean a thing to the President. Buhari’s thoughts and actions can’t be guided by the laws of the land—he is the law himself! Anohu-Amazu’s tenure was truncated. Again, when Tunde Fowler’s tenure as FIRS Chairman expired late last year, Buhari quickly nominated Mohammed Nami as his replacement. Fowler could have been reappointed.

As is obvious, we have only looked at one aspect of the governance challenge. Of course, examples abound of other areas of governance where the performance of this administration isn’t also exactly stellar or noble—like the DSS recruiting 535 cadets from the North West and North East alone while leaving the entire South and North Central with only 93 recruits.

Suffice it to say that even if we were to rate the President vis-a-vis others only on the basis of the appointments he has made in the past five years, it would still be difficult for one to see how the actions that the Presidents before Buhari took (some of which we have pointed out) amounted to steps towards the destruction of Nigeria while Buhari’s were geared towards saving the country. On the contrary, if we accept that most of these appointments have been anything but representative, then it is reasonable to posit that if destruction ever awaited Nigeria in the hands of its leaders, it would be in the hands of the current men of power, not the other way round.

Former Pres. Jonathan
Former Pres. Jonathan

To have assessed himself and or his government with so much aplomb, as Buhari did on October 1, is to show that the President still believes in the spin about his messiahship, promoted largely by ambitious men who simply latched on to and rode to power on the wings of his mass religious following in the North, later manipulated into election-winning (or rigging, if you will) political following. A true democrat who didn’t believe in his own infallibility couldn’t have said that it was impudent of a former President to criticize his handling of the affairs of state. After all, Obama’s political strategist David Axelrod (the creator of ‘clueless Jonathan’ whom Tinubu hired) had created an electioneering image of a do-good, know-it-all and incorruptible Buhari and not even the President’s disappointing performance in office should be allowed to dent that image or change that delusional narrative about our doodling Mr. President. Which explains why practically every criticism of the President hardly attracts the- president-explains kind of response from his publicists who are given, instead, to throwing punches with so much vitriol at every critic of Buhari as if asking ‘how dare you?’

By his latest scathing criticisms, Obasanjo only helped to bring Buhari finally back to earth. But, rather than come down from their high horses, organize their thoughts and respond responsibly to Obasanjo, Aso Rock, as usual, resorted to name-calling and making laughable claims about Buhari being the best we have had since 1999. Which all shows, unfortunately, that these people are still victims of their own illusion of grandeur.

In the end, however, Aso Rock, like it or not, must answer what I interpret as the question in Obasanjo’s knocks for Buhari: what kind of political engineering makes the President think that the larger interests of Nigerians are better served with the suzerainty of one small, indeed tiny, section of the country over the rest of us?

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