Only an entrenched and implacable Buhariphobic will work himself into unnecessary ecstasy over the comments of the President of the World Bank that President Muhammadu Buhari urged the World Bank to focus its efforts in the North, in the wake of the calamitous wreckage by the Boko Haram terrorist group. It is only those that are permanently fixated on finding faults with everything the president and the present regime do that will try to build a noxious ethnic or tribal slant to the charge of the president, given that apart from the World Bank, almost every other international development attention has been focused on rescuing the bizarre damage Boko Haram inflicted on the North before the coming of President Buhari. The task of rehabilitating and rescuing the North-East had been a huge humanitarian case that had even drawn extra governmental attention before President Buhari came, so what is the problem with President Buhari requesting focus on the wasteland which Boko Haram reduced the North, especially the North-East, to?
Let us get some facts clear. Before President Buhari came, Boko Haram was ravaging unhindered and ceaselessly in various parts of the North. While it captured and levied sovereignty over an area The Economist magazine said was bigger than Belgium, it was pushing frantically to other parts of the country and was fiercely challenging for the control of the Federal Capital, Abuja, where it made numerous deadly and unfettered raids. What more, Boko Haram was able to bomb the headquarters of the Nigerian police, the United Nations office in Abuja as well as markets, schools and motor parks where hundreds were killed. The entire North-East was a devastated and vanquished region as Boko Haram took effective control of a bigger chunk of the region and maintained constant fearful presence in the rest part. As a result of this egregious calamity, millions of citizens of the region fled and became refugees in various parts of the country where they were holed in makeshift camps. Buildings, churches, mosques, markets, schools, hospitals and other public and private infrastructures were razed down. Being a largely agrarian zone, agricultural activities were halted which led to a huge crisis that attracted worldwide attention. Hunger and famine so ravaged the internally displaced peoples that spewed from Boko Haram war in the zone. Even the government that preceded Buhari’s under which watch, the Boko Haram menace flowered had to launch a special intervention fund to ameliorate the worsening plight of the region.
So with this humanitarian crisis, which leader would not charge any interested developmental organization or agency to concentrate on the ravaged zone, even if to ensure the other less affected zones are spared of the spillover of the crisis? Which leader worth his salt would ignore this massive humanitarian tragedy which spilled millions of homeless Nigerians to other parts of the country? Which leader, wherever he comes from, will play deaf to the need to recapture and rehabilitate the war-ravaged North-East which was a burgeoning disaster when President Buhari came to power? Which leader would, in a bid to appease hate-filled coyotes, veteran ethnic chance-takers and displaced power hustlers, refuse to tap into any available opportunity to restore and recover a region that had been totally laid bare by insurgency and terrorism? Which leader would feign ignorance of the total disaster in the North-East, which was one of the biggest liabilities President Buhari inherited from the past regime? Was former President Yar’Adua a tribalist when he started the Niger Delta amnesty program that became feeding trough for all manners of rogues from the region rather than attend to the developmental needs of the area? Why was former President Jonathan not tagged 'tribal' when he diverted trillions of Naira in state resources to criminal warlords in the Niger Delta in the guise of dealing with the Niger Delta insurgency? Why has the Nigerian leadership, which makes a dedicated provision of 13% of its budget as oil producing allocation and marks out hundreds of billions of Naira in its yearly budget for programs to deal with the Niger Delta interests and indeed carved out a ministry for the Niger Delta, not perceived as sectional?
We have gotten further explanations from the video and audio recordings of President Buhari’s request to the World Bank to put more efforts to restore the North-East to what it was before Boko Haram came. The Presidency has come out to clarify what the President said and has provided further proof that the President, like every other Nigerian and every other international agency, was concerned about restoring the North-East in his charge to the World Bank. Even the President has got an unlikely defender in one of his critics, Oby Ezekwesili, who herself was a former Vice President of the World Bank who emphatically explained that the North-East and its gargantuan humanitarian crisis fit very well into the core programs of the World Bank the world over and rightly merits the focus the President demanded of the World Bank President. She has even gone further to chastise those acute Buhariphobics who want to twist the President’s request for political reasons. That should mark the end of the story.
But because they are petty and obviously pursuing very notorious agendas, the Buhariphobics whose lives now revolve around nit-picking every word or action from President Buhari and his government, scavenging same for faults to ply their jaded wares, are not consoled by the obvious intents of President Buhari in making this patriotic request. They ask why the World Bank President never said that President Buhari requested them to focus on the North but on the North-East. Can you imagine such silliness? Can you imagine such pettiness? Can you imagine such mischief? Can you imagine such avarice?
Because they are fixated on finding faults to bolster their political permutations, they forget that the North-East is a subset of the North. Because they are condemned to the frustrating project of nailing Buhari and his government at all costs, these nihilists have refused to submit to simple common sense. We should not forget that this was the same arrow the erstwhile PDP and its sympathizers who are fanning the present sectional embers, used to shoot itself on the foot during the last election when, in a desperate bid to win election, they criminalized and tagged the entire North as Boko Haramists who wanted to remove their Southern/Christian candidate. Not knowing which battle to take or leave, these bristling Buhariphobics have plunged themselves into this as they have done to other collapsible straws that have failed them in the desperate and deadly project to nail Buhari and his government by every means. These bitter Buhariphobics which is an amalgam of various interests that are threatened by the present government’s reform process, do not know that such weapon they are using is a double-edged sword and the aftermaths may rebound n due season.
Strangely, the purveyors of this bigoted mischief against Buhari and who trash and twirl to hurl ethnic, tribal and sectional label on him were disciples, lackeys, cronies, beneficiaries and sympathizers of the previous regime which diverted trillions of Naira from the Nigerian treasury to sundry criminals in the Niger Delta as amnesty payout and other illicit patronages. They are the same people that benefited from the egregious acts of corruption that saw trillions of Naira stolen in the guise of rebuilding the Niger Delta region while the Niger Delta remains a scrambled sore point today. They remain the same disciples of the erstwhile regime that excelled in allowing gargantuan purloining of state resources by all manners of militants, ethnic and religious leaders that happened under Jonathan’s watch. This was even so bad the former President, Olusegun Obasanjo had to write an open letter to Jonathan complaining against this, among all other malfeasances. By then, Jonathan was not a sectional leader but Buhari has become a sectional leader just by appealing to the World Bank to focus its activities on the humanitarian crisis in the North-East! What bland hypocrisy! What deliberate mischief!
But even if we stretch the argument further, lets us assume President Buhari meant that the World Bank should focus on the North and leave the rest of the country, as the Buhariphobics are trying to twist, did he also order the World Bank to do his bidding? Is President Buhari in control of the World Bank and its decision-making process? Is President Buhari in a position to decide what project the World Bank decides to embark on or not embark on? Does President Buhari’s request carry the force of command or authority on the World Bank? Does President Buhari have any instrument to coerce World Bank to do his personal biddings? Do we agree that the World Bank has a prerogative to carry out its projects in line with its policies and objectives? Most importantly, have the Buhariphobics tried to do an analysis of the concentration and spread of World Bank project in the period the World Bank President spoke of to know whether they reflect the humanitarian sore in the North-East or tilted to favor the North over the rest of the country because President Buhari wished so?
Let us be reasonable. The whole hoopla is a mish-mash of ethnic cum partisan project to blackmail and demonize the President. It fits into an extensive project by those that feel aggrieved by the actions of the present government to run it down and the project is nearing the point of fatal addiction. I know that Buhariphobics are immune to such little inquest that will unravel their mischief but they should know when best to stop playing mischievous politics with every issue because they want to get at Buhari. That they continue failing in this nefarious intent should inform them that Nigerians are not the dummies they take them to be. I think 2019 has still more lessons to teach, if 2015 never taught the Buhariphobics the folly of playing silly politics with every issue.
Peter Claver Oparah writes from Ikeja, Lagos. You can reach him at [email protected].