There comes a time in the life of a failing leader when the tally of
his actions and inactions establishes beyond a shadow of a doubt that
he is helplessly incompetent and past redemption. That hour has come
upon Muhammadu Buhari. The clock now ticks toward his moment of
Buhari has lost credibility to the point of being a semi-legitimate
president propped up only by the security of his tenure. His position
has become supremely untenable. The most certain prospect ahead of him
is an ineluctable downfall.
The open letter which President Olusegun Obasanjo wrote to Buhari is
reflective of the prevailing bellwether in Nigeria. Obasanjo’s counsel
of despair is no more than a simple interpretation of the handwriting
on the Buhari’s wall: Muhammadu, you have been weighed on the scale
and found wanting.
Buhari began to show disturbing signs of inadequacy early in the day.
On assumption of office, when he could have harnessed his head start
of enormous goodwill to initiate a new order, he resigned. He
surrendered to leisurely complacency. Instead of settling down for
business, he gave himself to disowning his manifesto documents,
passing the buck and touring world capitals. His complacency and lack
of basic interest in making a success of his mandate saw him squander
six months without putting a cabinet in place.
Buhari could not pretend to be animated by a sense of urgency. His
four consecutive presidential bids were actually driven by a bruised
ego, not a bold vision of Nigeria. His long quest to return to power
was an attempt to remedy the humiliation he suffered when he was
toppled in a military coup in 1985. It was that inner pain that
prompted him to weep like an abandoned baby when his third run ended
in another defeat and appeared to completely foreclose his second
His magical victory in 2015 eventually served to expose him as a man
impelled by selfish ambition. After he won, he configured his
administration as the incestuous conspiracy of a small charmed circle.
His brazen spoils system overwhelmingly benefited tribalism,
insularity and mediocrity. His wife, Aisha, did him the favour of
publicly denouncing the shutteredness of his cult and warned that it
would make his presidency a failure. His response was chauvinistic
humour: she belonged in the kitchen and the other room!
Buhari’s doctrine of nepotism and cronyism proceeds from his narrow
worldview. His small mindedness restrained him from giving himself the
permission to headhunt outside the concentric circle of his tribesmen
and hangers-on. A xenophobe at heart, he is inclined to lean towards
individuals whose identity and ideology profile overlap with his. This
explains his nomination of departed souls for public office: he would
rather tap the dead he knows than the living he doesn’t!
To be fair, nepotism and cronyism have always been part of Nigerian
leadership pathology. Buhari, however, broke the record with his naked
sectarianism. He distinguished himself with his overt commitment to
expressing his clannish instincts in a manner that provokes feelings
of alienation. He neither respects red lines nor makes concessions in
even situations where propriety and commonsense demand a gesture of
fairness and firmness.
The January 2 Benue killing is a turning point. It was the moment that
beatified Buhari as the patron saint of the Fulani militia. It was the
moment that introduced him to the world as the enabler of a
thoroughgoing reign of terror and a continuum of massacres. It was the
moment that rendered all rationalizations of his indulgence of the
mass murderers invalid.
Buhari’s steady response to the killer herdsmen has always been
appeasement, appeasement and appeasement. He obviously panders to this
terror group because of freemasonry and kinship. He cannot so much as
affect outrage in the wake of each slaughter, even if for the sake of
appearance. This is consistent with his proclivity to wink at the
criminal destruction of the other: he approved of the massacre of 350
Shiites in Zaria in December 2015 and rationalized the extrajudicial
killings of pro-Biafra activists.
Buhari takes pride in claiming to have degraded Boko Haram. But by
pandering to the killer herdsmen and incentivizing their bloodletting
campaign, he has cancelled out the modest gains he achieved in
reducing the capacity of the Haramists to kill and hold territory. He
has created an alternative monster. He has grown a death cult as
sanguinary as the demented disciples of Mohammed Yusuf.
Buhari’s clannishness is same the reason why his signature ‘’war on
corruption’’ has failed to make Nigeria a saner space. He filters
cases of corruption through the lens of affinity. If you are as close
and dear to him as Sani Abacha, he would proclaim you innocent and
worthy of paradise. If you are as distant as a stranger, he would
condemn you and send you to hell.
This is why the multitude of sins of the thieves in his orbit are
covered while the transgressions of others earn them show trials. It
is the reason why defection to his camp means amnesty.
Buhari is nothing more than a monumental heartbreak. He was a very
flawed candidate but many Nigerians imagined that his uprightness
would compensate for his foibles. They reckoned that the mythologized
man of integrity would be the very antithesis of the ‘’ineffectual
buffoon’. They presumed that he was only viable alternative to the
Buhari has proved the hope misplaced. He has shown that the
‘’integrity’’ projected on him was not resident in his character. He
has shown himself empty of that supposed saving grace. Nigerians had
simply embraced a messiah in the likeness of their optimism.
Buhari would have remained a hero if he didn’t become president. The
proving ground of power thoroughly demystified him and left us nothing
to admire about him. Until he became president, he existed among the
honourable pantheon of Nigeria’s alternate history. He was lovingly
profiled as one of the good presidents that Nigeria never had.
Everybody now knows the result of the acid test. Buhari’s performance
tells its own tale. He has become as much a threat to national
security as his predecessor was in the run-up to 2015 election. He is
presently the mirror image of Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan’s regime was a long night of gang robbery. Buhari’s
administration is a rescue mission that devolved into a disaster.
Jonathan ran a government in which all officials seemed to be working
in concert to bankrupt Nigeria. Buhari is running a placebo-effective
anti-corruption regime, a noisy crusade bedeviled by the infighting of
his mutually antagonistic aides.
Furthermore, Jonathan allowed Boko Harm to metastasize. He theorized
that it was a creation of his political opponents. Buhari has given
the nomadic prowlers carte blanche to operate. His administration’s
singular concern is the fact that people are emoting over the herdsmen
menace and ‘’politicizing’’ it …instead of relishing the massacres
like a fantastic horror movie!
It’s now clear that the emperor has no clothes. The three decades
Buhari spent as a private citizen had not transformed into a useful
leadership material. He has not reinvented himself or stretched his
mind in any remarkable way. He is at peace with his stubborn,
unreconstructed and neanderthal self. He lacks the aspiration that
make leaders strive to attain greatness.
Frankly, the problem with Buhari is something more serious than his
unsuitability. The real problem is his conceit. He is just as
incapable of appreciating his inadequacy on his own as he is
impervious to any suggestion to take steps to address it.
A second term will not improve Buhari or gift Nigerians an experience
of better leadership. He is essentially resistant to change and
dismissive of opportunities for personal evolution. He is a hard
fossil, a museum piece that needs retirement.
A few siren voices have been calling on Buhari to recontest in spite
of his poor record and shaky health. He would be foolish to take the
bait. They are simply setting him up for defeat. Many Nigerians are
champing at the bit to sack him.
His second term is an impossible proposition. The enlightened populace
recognize that the stake is higher than the tragedy of Buhari’s
underperformance. The question is whether Nigeria will survive his
first term as a corporate entity. Not whether she can risk another
four years of teetering on the precipice.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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