By Okike Ezugwu
If you call Muhammadu Buhari incompetent, it is only a crazy man who would stand up to make a case to the contrary. Buhari is as incompetent as the day is long. His tragic lack of ability has completely ruined Nigeria. The dreadful thing about some of the harms he has caused is that they might prove ineradicable. One needs hardly say that the economy is mortally wounded. The naira, terminally sick before he arrived, is now dead and resting with its ancestors. Bandits run a thriving parallel state, where they supervise world’s most brazen-faced and profitable ransom-farming. For the first time in the country’s history, a coterie of criminals appointed an educated spokesperson and occasionally speak to the press, pretty much like the white-collared guys in Wall Street. Since press lying got Buhari into Aso Rock, it doesn’t rain for Nigeria, it pours. Buhari is calamitous incompetence personified.
But it is not easy to brusquely dismiss the Buhari legacy as one of mainly incompetence. A point I would later try to make in this opinion is how his quarrel with the carpetbaggers in the ruling APC makes him even a greater conundrum before the eyes of history. Is Buhari corrupt? His wife has been petulant since he became president. They’ve been, you might say, strange bedfellows. Fairly reliable sources have it that Aisha’s belligerency was inspired by the fact that she failed–after many months– to see the perks and private affluence typical of third world presidency in her family. Pressed by the media, at the zenith of that domestic insurgency, Buhari, comically clothed against the inclemency of a European weather, suspected his wife of having joined another political party. It would have been more alarming, he famously added, if she was found wanting in the kitchen and in “the other room.”
We should give Buhari his due: his known disdain for the amassing of private material fortune is not hypocritical. Historian’s difficulty here would consist in capturing the various manifestations of corruption and determining the extent of Buhari’s infractions.
His election in 2015 was funded by Nigeria’s most corrupt elite. The paradox here was that Buhari was riding on the crest of corruptly obtained money while using a megaphone to announce a war against corruption. One example would be enough. Olusegun Obasanjo alleged that Atiku, who deputised him twice as president, stole enough money to feed the equivalent of Nigeria’s population for many generations. Atiku was among the most generous sponsors of Buhari’s journey to Nigeria’s highest office. He, the historian, should also argue that tribalism is not a type of corruption or otherwise. Buhari has been unerringly and pornographically tribalistic. He wears his tribalism with pride. He is also a vengeful partisan who vowed to apportion appointments according to how people voted. And was faithful to his words.
Is Buhari’s association with crime a thing of geography? Philosophers are united in the opinion that destiny is geography. Did he stand a shadow of chance if he wrestled against the tide?
After the 2019 presidential election, the popular opinion is that Buhari did not win that election. Mass suffering caused by his policies ignited a groundswell of discontent among the Nigerian voters. Most of his influential henchmen had turned against him too, emptying into another alliance for his defeat. He had elite conspiracy and public rejection to contend with. Buhari, as grapevine had it, told his remaining friends that hell or high wind, he was not going to step down for anybody. They saw the bloody chaos such situation presaged and it became public interest that the election is stolen for Buhari. Buhari continued to threaten, with the face of a mean-hearted autocrat, that nobody was going to remove him. He was not vaunting his popularity. It was a matter of iron and blood. Evidence remains that Atiku and Obi won that election. Perhaps, one is not entirely sure.
If there was anybody Buhari wanted as successor, it was not Bola Tinubu. The tenacious, hard-fighting Lagos landlord had been one of Buhari’s strongest backers. He was backing Buhari with his eyes peeled for the presidency. In supporting Buhari, he thought it was going to be a win-win. Things fell apart in the build up to the Presidential primary election. Buhari did not want Tinubu. Tinubu, now old and parted with much of his heyday crystal spirit, is still not the man who throws in the towel. He fought vigorously, and helped by Buhari’s constitutional indifference and slothfulness, beat the likes of Yemi Osinbajo and Rotimi Amaechi to clinch the ticket. Buhari appears determined to make things difficult for his erstwhile benefactor.
You are already aware that the New Electoral Act, signed into law by Buhari, invented fresh difficulties for election riggers. But what is an electoral law when you can buy votes? Nigeria has the poorest people in the world. The hard-headed implication of this is that you can buy your way into power. In Nigeria, what money cannot do does not almost exist. And here we are talking about Tinubu who despite being fantastically rich himself, has unfettered access to the resources of Lagos state and even much of the South-West.
Buhari would find another way to clip Tinubu’s wings. He would strike just when the iron is hot. When the Jews wanted to take money off the Arab world, they began to trump up the need for clean energy and electric cars. Oftentimes, you find more than one way to kill a rat. The naira redesign policy, while not completely effective, has significantly reduced Tinubu’s purchasing power. It is a cliché to say that heaps upon heaps of naira notes stashed way for the purpose of vote-buying became redundant overnight. Tinubu was compelled to cry out. The implication is multi-pronged for his ambition. Scarcity of money notes unleashed hell on Nigerians. The anger it provoked is rubbing off on Tinubu’s campaign.
Tinubu’s well-wishers have been screaming blue murder. Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna has been the most affected and hysterical. Tinubu is not the only victim of Buhari’s ironclad resolve. State governors across the country are in throes of pain. The boldest of them had approached the Supreme Court to abort the policy. The horse had already bolted assuming Buhari has ever obeyed a court order. el-Rufai has declared a parallel financial regime. In Kaduna, the old notes survive and enjoy currency. Those who chose to obey the Federal Government are doing so at the pain of legal persecution. The election is four days away. It is left for vote-sellers to decide if they would collect the old notes or even “transfer,” as the Nigerian expression is.
Buhari is as unmoved as the Rock of Gibraltar. “Nobody would be allowed to mobilise resources in any constituency,” he insists, with unusual intellect. Is it true that Buhari wants to leave a legacy of a free and fair election? This again is a puzzle. Buhari bought votes in 2015. Buhari bought votes in 2019. Bola Tinubu contributed money to help Buhari buy votes. Why can’t Tinubu buy votes now? Don’t mind me. The Buhari legacy is amorphous. For the historian, it is a long row to hoe.
Okike Ezugwu is a writer and legal practitioner