One of the ‘mysteries’ of today’s politics is what some Nigerians see as the continued popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari in the North, despite his evident ineptness and the many, many failures of his government. When these Nigerians see him in outings where massive crowds of young people work themselves into a frenzy as they rent the air with “Sai Baba!” chants, they wonder what diabolical concoctions he must have let loose on them to make them feel this way.
People are being buried in grinding poverty, the economy is on a stretcher, Nigeria is regressing into the Stone Age in every respect and Buhari hops into a plane to London and back or walks 800 meters and the whole place is filled with jubilation in the North, or so it seems. What information do these people have that the rest of us don’t have? What planet are they living on when the nation clearly is on a deathbed?
2. The False Successor:
In the nation’s history, only two Northern politicians have had what can be considered the type of popular support or loyalty that Buhari has today in the North. These men were Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto and Mallam Aminu Kano. But the irony is that as opposed to Buhari, these men actually had political ideas of governance and real track records that gave them credibility with the people.
The Sardauna was a natural inheritor of a traditional base for leadership. Most of the North with its mainly conservative Muslim culture has always had a monarchical political structure which survived colonialism, but which in an attempt to be modernized merely transferred token power to politicians while real power remain with the Emirs and the Native Authorities.
But as independence loomed large and as it became obvious that modern politics would play a pivotal role in the future of the North’s relationship with the rest of Nigeria, the Sardauna became the undisputed political leader of the North as Premier. He was an unapologetic pro-Northern politician who formulated the principles by which the Northern political establishment dealt with the rest of the country. His traditional position as the Sardauna, a great-great-grandson of Usman Dan Fodio and the head of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) gave him a mythical status up North. He was so comfortable in that position that he had to send his lieutenant, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa to take up the position of Prime Minister in Lagos.
However, the general alienation of the ordinary people (talakawa) was a huge social and political issue in the North. In the pre-colonial days, these ordinary people had always found champions amongst Islamic scholars and teachers, the bolder ones amongst whom sometimes challenge the feudal system and gain some rights for the common people. But, while the Northern feudal and establishment people found a natural political home in the NPC, the talakawa couldn’t ideologically, even though in the highly ethnically directed politics of the time, they’d naturally identify with the NPC in elections. It was that void that Aminu Kano, the son of an Islamic scholar filled with the formation of the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), which under a banner of a kind of Islamic socialism set up an ideological divide with the conservative feudalists of the Northern political establishment.
Aminu Kano railed against what he termed the “Family Compact rule” (feudalism) and called on the talakawa to engage in a “class struggle” against the “vicious circle of the Native Administration”. Aminu Kano’s call for the “emancipation” of the talakawa, the reform of the autocratic institutions and their transformation to democratic institutions in the hands of the talakawa “for whom alone they exist” and his call for gender equality were ideologically packaged for politics in what was clearly a culture war.
But this was a mere perforation of the huge cultural blanket underpinning politics and its development in the North because most of the political figures and policymakers of the dominant Northern People’s Congress (NPC) were people that had feudal relations or who grew through the system. Aminu Kano’s politics made him quite popular amongst the talakawa, but his party, NEPU, could not match the NPC politically. In the Second Republic, Aminu Kano established the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), which had its political strongholds in Kano and Kaduna.
3. The ‘Northern’ Agenda:
However, unlike the genuine popularity of the two politicians mentioned above, Buhari’s popularity is a well-crafted fraud by the Northern political establishment in what they term as competition against the South. In other words, Buhari is not an accident in our national life. A closer look at his career will reveal that he is the Northern establishment’s sword against the Nigerian petroleum economy and later, its politics. As the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources in 1976, Buhari was the first Kaduna Mafia’s point man in their attempt to control the Nigerian oil economy. That role required him to be mythologized in the North. Thus, his popularity is built on divisive politics propagated with lies and sustained by more lies and posturing. He has nothing to offer in terms of ideas, but he has been a Northern and now a Fulani cultural activist in and out of uniform and his position today is a direct result of a careful political play that hoodwinked everyone, including some of his most fervent supporters, North and South.
Basically, Buhari has two sides to him up North. There is the side of him as the arrowhead of the Northern establishment against the South in the elite fight for control of the nation’s resources. This was something that became imperative for the Northern elite shortly before the war when the secessionist Biafra took over the oilfields. However, even though oil had not become definitive of our national economy at the time, everyone recognized the potential. So, after the war, the Northern elite coveted control of this resource. For many reasons, their desire never materialized until a series of events culminated in Buhari taking control of the oil portfolio in 1976 on behalf of the Northern elite. The second image is the image he has with the talakawa or ordinary Northerner. It is presented quite crudely as Buhari representing a mix between an Islamist messiah, cultural activist and political leader. Amongst this group, he has what is akin to a cultic following because of false promises made over the years, promises he’s still riding on today, even when it is now obvious he cannot fulfill them.
After the war, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) and the Ministry of Mines and Power controlled the Nigerian petroleum economy from the government side. Then the oil boom came and General Yakubu Gowon was playing Father Christmas with Nigeria’s wealth, selling oil cheap to African nations, paying the salaries of Grenada’s civil servants, etc. The Igbo, just coming out from the war were impoverished and the indigenization programmes generally saw them out of the top echelon of the Nigerian economy. The Yoruba and the Hausa-Fulani Northerners plundered the wealth like conquerors. They took over the headship of public companies and the central points of the Nigerian economy.
The Northern power brokers were not happy with Yakubu Gowon because originally, he was supposed to be a placeholder for a truly Muslim Northern leader supposedly to continue with the ‘term’ of Tafawa Balewa cut short by the January 1966 coup. After the July 1966 coup happened and it was obvious that the country was not going to welcome a Muslim Northerner as leader whether in and out of uniform, Gowon, a minority Northern Christian was put forward for national leadership by the North. He was merely supposed to be a figurehead while the core North in and out of uniform control things. But then the Civil War came, that strengthened him and some Southern power brokers like Obafemi Awolowo, Anthony Enahoro and Okoi Arikpo and some so-called Super Permanent Secretaries helped the inexperienced military run the war economy without borrowing and without debt.
By the time Obafemi Awolowo was leaving the government on principle in 1971 because he had realized that the military were technically already reneging on the promise of handing over power to civilians, Gowon had become stronger with a class of military boys he’d promoted and the Super Permanent Secretaries. With the oil boom, the Udoji salary awards and the relative peace in the polity, Gowon thought he had a leeway to play military politics with the promised handover date of 1976, especially also with his connections particularly with the British government and some Western nations generally. However, he thought wrong because the North was still working with its pre-Civil War agenda. Gowon was overthrown on the 29th of July 1975 while he was in Kampala, Uganda at an Organisation of African Unity (OAU) summit and Murtala Muhammed, the leader of the 29th of July 1966 revenge coup took over.
But Murtala was to prove a huge disappointment to the Northern power schemers. They had fashioned a programme of Northern control of politics through the army, but with what they saw with the oil boom and petrol being the new gold, he was supposed to come in and put the North properly in the driving seat. Unfortunately for them, the Murtala of 1966 and the Civil War was no longer the Murtala of 1975. With his relationship with men like MKO Abiola and some Southern and Northern radical intellectuals, he had become socially and politically educated and had become a changed man. He was no longer the rabid ethnic jingoist that plotted the July 1966 coup or whose troops went on a killing spree in Asaba during the war; he was now an undiluted patriot, a driven man who thinks Nigeria has to establish itself as a black power. He fought imperialism and graft at home and was quite popular with Nigerians who for the first time began to have a sense of national pride since after the first months of independence. He became an enemy of the Kaduna Mafia and the industrial-military complex and, of course, the enemy of the West too. So, on Friday, 13th of February 1976, they took him out through the Bukar Suka Dimka coup planned all the way from London with Gowon fully involved.
4. The Power Machine:
Though all Nigeria mourned the death of Murtala, Northern power brokers were secretly happy. They were most hit by his effective anti-corruption effort and rightfully so because of the positions they occupy in government and in many of the parastatals. His death provided them an opportunity to reset their programme and return to the original Northern agenda. Their first inclination was to once again play the Gowon gambit by proposing that a minority Christian from the North who has worked for their interest in the past takes over as a placeholder, while they prepare for the political transition programme already drawn up by Murtala before his death. Their man was Lieutenant General Theophilus Danjuma who was then the Chief of Army Staff. But Danjuma didn’t want it because he thought it was a poisoned chalice. He knew what was going to happen shortly after. The Christian Middle-Belt elements in the army, the arrowheads of the coup that killed Murtala, were going to pay the ultimate price at the stakes and he was effectively from the Middle-Belt himself. He wasn’t keen on being the one to sign their death warrants. But, of course, he wasn’t going to say so. He simply said there was no use to sabotage the chain of command as they did to put Gowon there in 1966. He said that was a mistake and there was no need to make that mistake again. He said General Olusegun Obasanjo, as Murtala’s second-in-command and as the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters should simply take over, especially as Obasanjo was also known to be senior to Murtala in the army.
For the Northern schemers, this was convenient. They had a man who they could blackmail with his friendship with Chukwuma Nzeogwu, a man they could virtually ask to do anything to placate the North and he would do it, a man who could be their poodle. Obasanjo has always been and will remain so, they thought. Based on the Northern agenda, two officers that were key agents of the Kaduna Mafia were to be put in prime positions to achieve the political, and economic aims of the North. Shehu Yar’Adua, a Lieutenant Colonel, was catapulted to Brigadier and Major General immediately to be Obasanjo’s second-in-command; but, in truth, he was effectively the real power at Dodan Barracks. Buhari who was Governor of Borno State was drafted straight to the centre to take charge of the national economic asset as a new Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources.
5. The Jackpot Of The Petroleum Portfolio:
Taking over the national petroleum assets was the most important thing for the Northern power brokers before a return to civil rule planned for 1979. Though they were sure that they would remain in control after the military handover, the oil boom had opened their eyes to the potential in the oil industry and Buhari was their man. Under Buhari, they had the perfect cover to do the looting of our national wealth. That cover was the international petrol politics going on with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) still fighting the West and the Obasanjo government continuing with the anti-imperialist agenda of Murtala and with plans to continue with the nationalization of the petroleum industry. While the noise about all this was happening internationally, Buhari was making hay domestically setting up the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and positioning his people with the new petroleum assets in his hands. Today, we complain that Northerners own most of the prime oil assets in the oil-producing areas, but what we may not know is that it started mostly with Buhari as Federal Commissioner for Petroleum. Mamman Daura, his nephew holed up with him in Aso Rock today was and still is his principal agent.
We are hearing now in the news that Buhari has refused assent to the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) because he fears it would reduce his control of the oil industry. But the irony is that this is precisely the reason for the bill – to make the Nigerian petroleum sector more transparent! Of course, Buhari has not been there all the 17 years this bill has been in the making, but he is the president who has it in front of him now to sign into law. Whatever the political shenanigans holding it up all these years, the point is it’s ready, but Buhari who promised he was going to sign it if it comes to his table is demurring. Do we have to be told why?
The modus operandi was that Buhari would always be the Teflon Don. He created a graduated system of rent that had many fronts and go-betweens. This went on nicely while Nigeria was celebrating the impending return to civil rule with the Second Republic. There were many cases of corruption associated with the outgoing military, but none more sensational than the report of N2.8 billion missing from NNPC’s coffers under Buhari’s watch. This money was equivalent to roughly about $4 billion at the time.
Another uncomfortable thing Nigerians heard about Buhari even in hushed tones was that he was the leader of the military officers who were insisting on Sharia at the Constituent Assembly before they hand over. Indeed, there were many stories of attempts within the military high command to sabotage the handover to civilians to herald the Second Republic and the N2.8 billion oil money missing under Buhari’s watch was believed to be money used to settle the officers who were about to sabotage the transition programme. Buhari oversaw this heist. Therefore, it was no surprise that it was the same Buhari that emerged as military Head of State when they overthrew Shehu Shagari out of fear that the latter was going to lose the Northern political stranglehold through his poor management of the Nigerian economy and the growing political instability.
6. Head Of State:
The greatest fear the Northern branch of the Nigerian Armed Forces had at the time was Obafemi Awolowo. The election of 1983 was evidently rigged and the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) had to do some arithmetical maneuver in court to survive his challenge. But it was obvious that he was gaining more grounds politically all around the country and his acuity had even become sharper with age as he took the Shagari government to the cleaners over its austerity measures and corruption. To the class of officers who entered the army under the political mentorship of Ahmadu Bello, knowing that the story was that the planners of the January 1966 coup were thinking of handing over power to Awolowo, these were not good signs. They feared that an Awolowo presidency may jeopardize them all, especially with rumours flying around that if Awolowo wins, he was going to probe the N2.8 billion missing from the NNPC, the massive corruption in the army following the oil boom and that he was even going to put on trial officers that were believed to have committed genocide during the war.
Thus, it was no surprise that one of the very first things Buhari did when he returned to government as military Head of State after the coup that ousted Shagari was to raid and ransack Awolowo’s homes in Lagos and Ikenne and put him under house arrest in Ikenne. Buhari then put the Petroleum portfolio under close control and got his nephew, Mamman Daura to recruit his friend, Professor Tam David-West to front as Minister of Petroleum when he (the Minister) had absolutely no control over policies and operations.
Buhari continued with his pro-Northern rent politics over oil, while he ran a very repressive government. He was able to cover up a lot of the underhanded dealings in his regime by publicly pretending he was fighting corruption, making scapegoats of politicians with atrocious show trials and long jail sentences. Of course, he had no idea of the economy or how to run a stable polity. When it became unbearable for the nation, his colleagues in the army simply performed the coup de grâce and removed him and there was jubilation all over the land.
7. In The Cooler:
The Ibrahim Babangida coup was not so much a halting of the Northern agenda, but more an attempt to refine it. Babangida’s control of the army establishment gave him a great platform to succeed with the coup. With the depth of Buhari’s unpopularity, ineptitude, wickedness against the civil populace and Nigeria becoming an international pariah nation under him, the establishment consensus that he should be in the cooler for some time was perfect for everybody.
Babangida attempted to open up the industrial-military complex to more Southerners in the media, intellectual and business class. It was a way of him using favours and ‘settlements’ to buy political loyalty and also supposedly to open up the closed political space. But in the end, he began regressing and with his ‘Maradonic’ attitude towards the transition to civil rule, he began to lose goodwill inside the army and amongst the civil populace. The April 1990 Major Gideon Orkar coup exposed the heart of the leadership as still basically hegemonic and June 12 1993 just further confirmed it.
8. Petroleum Trust Fund:
Again, the Northern agenda was fully revived under General Sani Abacha, but his attempt to personalize power and go rogue on the industrial-military complex were just a few in the many political battles he had to fight. Abacha who had the Buhari temperament felt he needed to play to the Northern power brokers in the face of the fierce challenges he encountered in the South and from a very active civil society and the international community by making them (the Northern power brokers) believe the agenda was still on. Two men represented his keys to them - Buhari and Shehu Yar’Adua. With Abacha looking to transmute into a civilian president, Yar’Adua was a threat. So, he got Yar’Adua killed in prison in Abakaliki on trumped-up coup charges, locked up Obasanjo and many others, but invited Buhari to oversee a newly-created super-parastatal, the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). This was a statement to the Northern power brokers that they were back in business with their man effectively the head of the petroleum money again.
Of course, as is normal with Buhari and the Northern agenda, he created a vast network of Northern fronts and emergency billionaires on the oil money, channeled projects disproportionately to the North and generally legitimized Abacha and his transmutation agenda with the Northern power brokers. However, Abacha’s death again changed the whole calculation. With him dead, the Babangida wing of the industrial-military complex was back in power under General Abdulsalami Abubakar and they were now eager to do a quick getaway with an arrangement with their international backers to take over the seemingly unending political transition programme to civil rule. One man that appeared head and shoulders above the rest in the new machinations was Obasanjo. How did this happen?
9. The Obasanjo Challenge:
What happened was that while the North was scheming and placing Obasanjo as a stooge in the late seventies, Obasanjo found a way to create a new national power niche for himself by becoming a CIA agent after President Jimmy Carter visited Nigeria. Obasanjo soon grew to be the CIA’s biggest point man in Africa. They laundered his image as an international statesman with many outings with the Commonwealth and the Ford Foundation and so on. Obasanjo soon recruited Babangida and later, Aliyu Gusau, Danjuma and Abdulsalami Abubakar for the CIA too. At the time, it was the height of the Cold War and the threat of Soviet expansionism in Africa was real. America needed to have a strong presence in the Gulf of Guinea to protect its oil supplies and Nigeria was the natural place to look at. Obasanjo became quite a useful tool for them in that regard. But the most important benefit to Obasanjo was that this new position catapulted him to the headship of the industrial-military complex in Nigeria. Abacha felt the power of this connection when he locked him up. The kind of backlash it generated saw Obasanjo survive Abacha’s gulag. Obviously, when he was released by the Abdulsalami Abubakar regime, everything was set up for him to take over as the new civilian president. The West and the industrial-military complex were now going to take over and steer Nigeria along the neocolonial lines they wanted.
With that kind of power behind him, Obasanjo, unlike in his first incarnation as military Head of State, was now no longer a poodle of the North (even though he was and still is a poodle of the Western powers). Buhari and the old school Northern schemers were simply shunted aside and Obasanjo was able to hold them at bay with the work he and Danjuma (who became his Minister of Defence) did by totally emasculating the Northern-controlled military and giving the Sharia advocates a free reign while pretending to fight them. Buhari, who at this time was using the Sharia movement as a political front couldn’t use it to mobilize against the government in the North as planned because Obasanjo just more or less ignored them when they were going on with this political Sharia. Amidst all the killings and deaths, Obasanjo just stonewalled them.
Immediately Obasanjo took over, the Northern schemers then began to present Buhari as their political face through the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). In those 15 years of all these incarnations, Buhari had an iron grip on the political parties he was using for the agenda. But while Nigerians witnessed him fail at every election and wondered why he was not really campaigning in the South, what he was actually doing was sewing up the Northern base by selling the Buhari myth as the man who would be going to claim back all the national wealth the Southerners have stolen to help the North. This is all Buhari is about in Northern consciousness - the Mahdi, the political arrow against Southern infidels and thieves.
Also, in the early 2000s, as part of a plan to present Buhari’s politics as a national alternative to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we got people who started to portray him as a thinker, an ideologue. In that regard, a few Northern intellectuals began what was essentially a rewrite of history by framing the clueless economic policies that he pursued when he was military Head of State as “Buharism”. Prominent amongst the theorists of Buharism then was Sanusi Lamido Sanusi who is now the Emir of Kano. The man who at the time complained that he was being seen as an “ideologue of Fulani supremacy” because of his support for Buhari said Buharism was a bourgeois nationalist ideology that was taking us to Eldorado before it was sabotaged by “the fifth columnists within the military establishment” and other “retrogressive elements”. Buhari was presented as someone who only had a difference of opinion with the Washington Consensus about how to improve the balance of payments of the country, a kind of nationalist capitalist in the mould of Malaysia’s Mahathir Muhammad. According to them, in the face of the pressure on our foreign reserves, Buhari did not believe in the standard devaluation proposals by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because the conditions necessary for devaluation to succeed as a panacea did not exist. Instead, Buharism proposed demand management measures for the allocation of foreign exchange.
Of course, the issue wasn’t that people didn’t understand the problems with IMF prescriptions at the time or that they were just ready to accept them, the issue was that Buhari had no real answers to the problems facing the country except posturing. His policy proposals were naive and self-serving as there was no room for accountability and plenty for favouritism. Indeed, Buhari’s policies were very costly for Nigerians, yet people like Sanusi were defending his dictatorship and fascism as necessary to set the country on the right path. Sanusi even went as far as defending Buhari’s call that Muslims should vote for good Muslims in elections by claiming that this was just Buhari calling for Muslims to vote for good people.
Truth is Buhari had nothing to offer while in government as a military officer and outside government as a politician before he was voted in as president. Anything Buharism represented and whatever it was in theory and in practice was disastrous. I mean, if according to his supporters Buhari was not given the opportunity to show us that Buharism was a great idea in the eighties because he was overthrown, he had the opportunity after he was elected in 2015 to show us how good it can be. But he turned out a huge national embarrassment because we saw how totally clueless that policy was when he was insisting on “defending the naira” as all came crashing down around him as he sent the economy into a tailspin. The same Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was all over the place begging for devaluation! In the end, Buhari ran away from his senseless Buharism with his tail tucked between his legs! Honestly, like some kindergarten narrative, the Buhari oversell has been on repeat for almost two decades now and the tragedy is that so-called educated and informed people are still buying it.
Of course, the Northern power brokers have no illusions about Buhari’s intellectual capacities. To them, he’s just a tool. They know he is their battering ram against the Southern economy through the oil, they know he’s their man in their quest to steal the oil wealth. But this ‘double-face’ is something Buhari has built his entire political career on. To the ordinary people, he appears to be the incorruptible, no-nonsense leader, but to the Northern power brokers, he is their champion in stripping the South of wealth and diverting it to them.
11. The Gambling Chief:
Recently, Sule Lamido, the former Governor of Jigawa State was speaking in Hausa and he called Buhari a ‘Kartagi uban 'yan caca'. This is a very cryptic comment only truly understood by a few people in the Northern establishment. Literally, what this comment means is that Buhari is the head or chief of gamblers, the one who sets up the table and gets everyone to sit down and gamble and who then collects his cuts from the winners. He seemingly is not part of the gambling, but he is the organizer and the biggest beneficiary. It’s an analogy that is clear to those addressed. Gamblers are seen as shifty characters with no morals, people who would betray anyone for money; Buhari is their protector who profits from their act while pretending not to be part of them. What the man is effectively saying is that Buhari is the father of corruption pretending not to be corrupt.
For followers of Northern politics, this was some brave talk from Lamido. At some other time he had called Buhari a blackmailer. People may think Lamido is after Buhari because he’s in the PDP and running for the presidential ticket of his party, so as to challenge Buhari in the forthcoming election. While that is part of it, it does not fully explain what is going on. People familiar with Lamido’s political history would have realized that he built his political career on the back of being a radical Northern politician under the old PRP as one of Aminu Kano and Abubakar Rimi’s protégés. Though he did taint his credentials with the ignoble role he played as the Secretary of the old Social Democratic Party (SDP) who, along with Tony Anenih sold MKO Abiola’s mandate to the military, yet he has always been opposed to the traditional power brokers of the North. His rise to become Jigawa State Governor was actually in spite of them. He had built up enough political capital with the talakawa to credibly win elective office in Jigawa, which was created from the old Kano State.
What he was doing with that comment was not only sending Buhari a message, but also he was sending a message to the Northern power brokers. He is ‘breaching’ one of their cardinal rules, which is to protect the Teflon image of Buhari in the South. It is instructive that Lamido was one of the few top Northern politicians in the PDP who refused to join the ‘Northern conspiracy’ against Goodluck Jonathan, which was to support Buhari against their own party man and the then incumbent president. His travails with his sons at the hands of the EFCC and in prison are mainly attempts to rubbish him amongst the talakawa with whom he has a lot of credibility. He’s paying the price for breaching the Northern concert to protect Buhari’s well-crafted image of personal integrity.
The way Buhari sells the agenda with the Northern commoner is to present himself as a true Muslim fighting for their welfare. It’s been working so far because Buhari and his promoters in the Muslim North always justify his collaboration with some Southerners (something naturally necessary to win the presidency), especially those even the common people up North consider as corrupt as Taqiyya. In Islamic theology, Taqiyya is supposed to be a protective injunction against persecution. Sharia allows a Muslim to act deceptively or lie to save himself and his faith when under persecution, but like some religious doctrines open to misuse and misinterpretation, the Buhari promoters have used this principle to successfully explain Buhari’s hobnobbing with some of those his Northern fans thought he should be going after if indeed he is fighting corruption or fighting for them.
It was also his explanation for picking a Christian pastor, Tunde Bakare as running mate in 2011 and his collaboration with Bola Tinubu and Professor Yemi Osinbajo in 2015. In 2011, his popularity up North came to a peak and the feeling amongst his followers was that he would finally win the election, especially as the story was sold that Jonathan was a minority nobody who stole the mandate of the North by torpedoing the PDP’s zoning formula after the death of Umaru Yar’Adua by denying the North the opportunity of completing Yar’Adua’s term. That feeling of injustice fuelled and grew the Buhari support base up North. It was a shock to him and his supporters when he lost in a free and fair election to Jonathan. It led to an outbreak of violence in the North, which led to the deaths of hundreds of Southerners based in the North, including members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who Buhari and his supporters accused of collaborating with the PDP to rig the election. Buhari did not condemn the violence which cost the nation more lives than it has lost since the Civil War, rather he justified it as caused by cheating.
13. Alimi Finds His Afonjas:
After the 2011 election, Buhari in an emotional public speech declared that his 2011 run was going to be his last attempt to win the presidency. But shortly after he took his CPC into alliance with Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and factions of a few other parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), which then became the biggest opposition party against the PDP. Buhari’s problem before now in negotiations with others in a bid to form coalitions against the PDP was his inflexibility. But his 2011 loss made him realize that if indeed he was going to win the presidency, he needed some kind of partner in the South who can either deliver the South-South, South-East or South-West vote.
A number of factors worked to produce Buhari as the 2015 presidential candidate of the APC. First, the PDP in its overconfidence committed a sort of hara-kiri by letting its internal troubles get out of control. The biggest of those problems centred around the Jonathan presidency’s interference in the politics of the Governors Forum which put him at loggerheads with then Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State. In their attempt to undermine Amaechi, the presidency began to sponsor a challenge against him in the Rivers State PDP with the aim of seizing the party from under his control. The arrowhead of this challenge was Nyesom Wike who had been Amaechi’s Chief of Staff and at the time a Minister in Jonathan’s government. Wike, a formidable grassroots politician, was one of the principal persons behind Amaechi, so losing him was a huge blow to Amaechi.
But, the Wike challenge was not only aimed at taking over the PDP from Amaechi’s control, it was also aimed at installing Wike as the Governor to succeed Amaechi against Amaechi’s chosen person in the form of either Dakuku Peterside or Magnus Abe. This made it quite difficult for Amaechi to remain in the PDP as he began to hobnob with the APC people, dangling before them the prospects of breaking into the South-South. While such prospects were somewhat farfetched, losing Amaechi to the APC was a bigger blow for the PDP nationally, even if not in Rivers State. This is because it finally encouraged others who were halfhearted about betraying Jonathan. In their thinking, if Amaechi could betray his brother, Jonathan, why should anyone have any scruples about doing the same? This culminated in a lot of defections. Governors, Senators, House of Representatives and House of Assembly members all jumped ship and this finally gave the APC the legitimacy and the national outlook it needed. This was what Buhari needed and his promoters honed in on it.
In the South-East, the only thing the APC had was Rochas Okorocha taking a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to join up with the APC mainly because he had presidential ambition too and was desperate to actualize it in any party. Again, Buhari promoters welcomed this because they thought it would deplete the PDP votes in the South-East and also deplete the votes of his internal opponents within the APC in the South-East.
However, it was in the South-West Buhari hit jackpot. The desperation of Bola Tinubu made this possible. Tinubu who as Lagos State governor survived the 2003 Obasanjo tsunami against the Alliance for Democracy (AD) in the South-West used the opportunity to finally kill off the AD. He used his executive position and, no doubt, questionable wealth stolen from the coffers of a wealthy Lagos State, to build a political machinery first in the form of Action Congress (AC) and later Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and began to use the party as a sword against the federal establishment and also as a bargaining chip with them. In the course of it, he built a regionally formidable political grouping which gradually won back some of the stolen mandates from the PDP in the states of Edo, Osun and Ekiti. This feat made Tinubu a larger than life political figure as he was known to be benefactor to the new governors taking over and even others seeking elective offices under the banner of the party elsewhere. It is a statement on the state of progressive politics or what is left of it that today Tinubu is so strong as to lay claim, even if debatably, to the title of Asiwaju, a cultural title first bestowed on the highly revered Awolowo unchallenged.
Indeed, Tinubu fancies himself as the extant leader of the Yoruba politically and therefore the doyen of “progressives”. Of course, it’s a farce. He’s just a good player of the contemporary Nigerian establishment politics who in the beginning was mainly using the ACN for his own political survival and recalibration. In 2006, he imported Abubakar Atiku into the AC to contest for the presidency against Umaru Yar’Adua when Atiku’s natural party, the PDP, under Obasanjo’s control kicked him out. There are those who suspect that he did this in secret collaboration with Obasanjo, so as to give Atiku false hopes and ultimately bury his ambition. Well, what we know is that the latter lost woefully, but at least we could all blame it on the massive rigging by the PDP then, even as discerning people knew he had no chance, because AC went into that election lukewarmly. Again in 2010, Tinubu imported Nuhu Ribadu into ACN, even though as EFCC head, Ribadu had described Tinubu as one of the most corrupt persons in public life and had vowed to bring him to book. Tinubu played godfather to him but led him too straight to the electoral slaughter slab in 2011. Again, there are those who actually suspected that he did this in conjunction with Obasanjo to railroad the then opposition. However, while all the stories connecting Obasanjo to Tinubu and AC and ACN presidential candidates are, of course, just speculations, there is no doubt that Tinubu had a personal agenda with his importation into his party of these persons. For instance, not a few noticed the report that he was being sent a presidential jet to meet up with Jonathan even mere hours before the 2011 presidential election.
However, if there was any romance between Tinubu and Jonathan, that came to an end after Tinubu was put on trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal. The case was not diligently prosecuted. In fact, there were reasons then to think it was just something done to give the impression the Jonathan government was tackling corruption. Eventually, the case was dismissed and, curiously, the government of Jonathan did not appeal the verdict. We were to learn later that Jonathan’s Attorney General, Bello Adoke argued against the appeal on the spurious ground that there are people who, according to him, “we just cannot afford to rubbish over anything”. Yet, by that time, Tinubu’s name had become synonymous with corruption and with James Ibori, the former Governor of Delta State on trial in the UK, questions were being asked in several quarters why Tinubu, supposedly one of his allies, was not on trial in Nigeria. As I said, in the end, the case was dismissed, but Tinubu did not forgive Jonathan for trying to humiliate him. So, the question of another collaboration with the PDP in the presidential election did not arise as the 2015 election loomed. Tinubu who had then began to nurse presidential ambition knew he couldn’t be on the ballot in 2015 as the consensus in the APC was that the ticket be given to a Northern candidate. Tinubu’s calculation was that Buhari being the oldest of the candidates presented him with a better route to the presidency. He was going to work to get Buhari the ticket and put himself in as the running mate because this would put him in a natural line of succession if anything happens to Buhari while still president and if he finishes his term or terms, it would still put him naturally in succession when the presidency rotates to the South. This was the calculation that put Tinubu firmly behind Buhari and the beginning of the rebranding of Buhari in the South-West.
Tinubu ensured that this rebranding of Buhari was done with no cost spared! Prior to this time, Buhari had a very poor image in the South as a whole following his poor leadership as a military Head of State. He was known as an ethnic bigot who did everything to rubbish the South, especially Yoruba leaders. As I said earlier, the great Obafemi Awolowo was put under house arrest in Ikenne, while all the governors from his party, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), were all thrown into jail to serve atrociously long sentences. Some came out of jail to nurse various illnesses and eventually die from such illnesses. He stopped the then ongoing Lagos Metroline Project initiated by the Lateef Jakande administration in Lagos, harassed MKO Abiola and attacked his businesses. He jailed Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his brother, Dr Beko Ransome-Kuti, drove many Southern intellectuals and academics into exile and generally made the South a living hell for citizens. When he was overthrown, it was jubilation all over the South.
Buhari was to return as part of Abacha’s kitchen cabinet when the latter imprisoned Abiola. As head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), he unabashedly discriminated against the South. After his time with Abacha, he reincarnated as a Sharia advocate, marching to the Ibadan to complain to Governor Lam Adesina about the supposed mistreatment of the Fulani in the South-West only to be thoroughly educated by the governor. Tinubu knew that no other Nigerian leader has been so openly mean and so wicked to the South than Buhari, but he was looking at his own ambition and thinking he has to go through Buhari to the presidency. He therefore got his minions together and they stole their states’ coffers dry to install Buhari as the APC candidate.
However, when it got to choosing Buhari’s running mate and Bola Tinubu put himself forward, he was fought tooth and nail by other top party members like Bukola Saraki, Nasir el-Rufai, Rochas Okorocha and Rotimi Amaechi who felt that his influence over the presidential candidate was too much already. Not only that, they also felt that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would not work at the time, despite Tinubu’s counter that it worked for MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in the old SDP.
In the end, despite the proposal that Rotimi Amaechi should take the slot and Nasir el-Rufai still rooting for Bakare, Tinubu prevailed with Buhari to leave him with the privilege of choosing the Vice Presidential candidate if he was going to be out of the picture himself. Tinubu, who holds the honorific title of “National Leader” of the APC then chose his longtime acolyte and loyalist, Professor Yemi Osinbajo who served him as Attorney General while he was governor and who also is his business partner. He is virtually a placeholder for Tinubu in the administration today.
Watchers of political development would have noted a swagger in Tinubu’s steps recently because he thinks Buhari is eating out of the palm of his hand right now. Whatever Tinubu is thinking, he needs to know that Buhari may be inept and clueless about administration, but he is very adept at the Nigerian power game because of his position in the Northern scheme and because of his long time serving in leadership positions in the system. Today that scheme has become a factional Fulani hegemony project under his presidency because other patriotic and peace-loving Fulani have seen the stupidity of it all.
Though Tinubu is not part of the Fulani hegemony scheme, he is at the moment fully part of the project to get Buhari reelected because he thinks his political future and fortunes depend on Buhari winning a second term. Of course, the Fulani hegemony scheme would eventually swallow him up if he helps Buhari to a second term, but he doesn’t know that yet. He’s been given clear warnings these past three years, but like a dog who no longer hears the hunter’s whistle, he’s doubling down on his support for Buhari. Afonja must answer his name, it seems.
Yet, if Tinubu understands that he would be the biggest fish to be caught in Buhari’s net and that cutting him down to size would represent Buhari’s biggest achievement in the eyes of his Northern base, he would not play Afonja. If Tinubu recognizes that taking him out is imperative for the factional Fulani agenda and that it means the final conquest of the South in the eyes of the hegemonists, he would snap out of his political reverie right now. If Tinubu knows that he’s now on a path to a lonely journey that will cost him dear and that no Nigerian would fight for him when it happens, he will sit quietly and rethink his options.
14. The Industrial-Military Complex And Their Last Winning Hand:
Now, despite the political mergers working in Buhari’s favour, the real factor that determined it for him was the industrial-military complex. Jonathan is the only Nigerian leader up to that point who was not a member of the industrial-military complex. He became president by providence through the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua who was installed by Obasanjo after his third term bid was thwarted. He sort of tied the hands of his fellow industrial-military complex members because Umaru Yar’Adua was junior brother to one of them, the late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua. That tied the hands of Ibrahim Babangida who was considering running at the time.
Jonathan, who at first appeared malleable, soon began to show streaks of independence that were not welcome by the industrial-military complex. He denied them and their international partners many deals, but it all came to a head when he attacked the fertilizer cartel controlled by the retired generals. Once they realized they weren’t going to get far with Jonathan, they began to attack him. Obasanjo wrote his notorious public letter filled with lies, but rather than for Jonathan to robustly handle his menace, he was rather lukewarm, thinking the better approach was not to take on Obasanjo publicly. Obasanjo and the industrial-military complex then welcomed Buhari back into the fold and co-opted him to be their instrument in removing Jonathan. We all saw and heard Ibrahim Babangida declare that they all were going support him. He even thanked the APC for “honouring” the military by choosing Buhari.
They then went to work on Jonathan. They fashioned a campaign that defined Jonathan as clueless, his administration as corrupt and Buhari as the real antidote. They were all falling over themselves to declare him a saint and Buhari and his promoters just lapped it all up. They framed their campaign as “Change” and Obasanjo was designated the “navigator” for APC after his rather dramatic tearing up of his PDP membership card.
With the industrial-military complex and the APC on the same page and with stolen money from the APC states and some foreign elements behind him, Buhari was repackaged as some no-nonsense corruption fighter and the general that will see off Boko Haram, even when it was obvious to discerning Nigerians and international observers that elements of the then opposition were in cahoots with Boko Haram, while Buhari was their political mouthpiece. They brought in the David Axelrod-led AKPD to help sell Buhari internationally. They rolled out the red carpet for him at the Chatham House with no mention of the fact that this was the same man that organized the terrorist kidnap of Umaru Dikko in London in the eighties. He was heralded everywhere as the Nigerian messiah and he and his people were making all sorts of outlandish promises about what they would do in government if they win. A lot of us knew it would all end in tears, but so many of our countrymen and women had been conditioned by propaganda to deeply hate Jonathan and the PDP, even when it was obvious that a lot of those campaigning against him and the PDP on the APC platform were members of the PDP for more than a decade before then.
Though, we have all accepted today that Jonathan was defeated fair and square in the 2015 election, there are reasons to believe that this may not be so. The only thing that gave the Buhari victory any credibility was the precipitate way Jonathan conceded. Personally, I think the man was intimidated and negotiated out of the presidency by the industrial-military complex. For instance, the Kano election result was a farce. With almost 2.3 million votes, there was not one single voided vote in Kano! Six days after, the Resident Electoral Commissioner, Munkaila Abdullahi was killed in a mysterious fire outbreak at his home! That fire claimed him, his wife and two daughters! The present Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris was the Commissioner of Police in Kano at the time. He said the fire came from a split air-conditioner and that no sabotage was involved and that was the end of the matter.
Jonathan inexplicably opted not to challenge the result in court despite many obvious reasons he should have done so. He was being celebrated everywhere for conceding, for being the “hero of democracy”, for saving Nigeria from bloodshed when in fact there was nothing to indicate that if he had simply gone to court to challenge the result as he should have done, this would have led to bloodshed. Jonathan did not think of the millions who voted for him, he did not think they must have a reason for trusting him, he did not think it would serve the cause of democracy better if he went to court, so that they can look at the evidence and put everyone’s mind at rest with whatever decision they reach with such evidence. The Professor Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was deliberately inefficient with the distribution of PVCs because they had an agenda and the open rigging and underage voting that were recorded in many places in the North simply did not matter to Jonathan. Once Abdulsalami Abubakar came calling to convince him to concede and hand over, he couldn’t wait to go back to Otuoke. And so began this Buhari reign as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
15. President Dysfunction:
Now, let’s get something clear. Buhari will not live forever. One day, he will go the way of all mortals and Nigeria will still be there. Nigeria will not die with Buhari and, hopefully, it won’t die with any of us. We pray for Nigeria to live up to its potential, to be the great nation it can be. However, if we really want the best for our country, we cannot possibly say Buhari is the best we can produce now in terms of leadership. Okay, in 2015, maybe some of us felt he should be given a chance and we have now given him that chance. Buhari has proved that our confidence in him is misplaced. All he had before 2015 was a sense of entitlement, not of service. I mean, it’s only a sense of entitlement that will make a man leave an office more than 30 years ago, fight for the same office for almost fifteen years, get it and prove he has no idea what to do now while in that office. All Buhari has brought to Nigeria is suffering and death and nothing more.
It is important that those who are considering Buhari again look at his organizational record and capacity to build on friendships and goodwill. In a short space of three years, the man has lost most people and most things that made it possible for him to be president. He runs a dysfunctional government that is so collectively inept that today they are a national disgrace. A lot of those who voted for them and supported them initially can no longer justify their support for this government. Only paid agents are shouting themselves hoarse defending their emptiness. Every power group that helped bring him to power in and outside APC, North and South, have backed away from his reelection bid. Indeed, most people who defected from the PDP to APC to make it a national and viable party have defected back to where they originally came from. I mean, how bad can you really be to make that happen? How bad can you be to lose that type of goodwill? Only idiots would believe the excuses Buhari and APC are giving for these defections. The simple reason is inability to operate and run a party with a national outlook with capacity to accommodate different interests with a view to fashioning out progress from diverse opinions. The only people working tooth and nail now to get Buhari reelected are persons who think they have something personal to gain through his reelection, people like Tinubu and Rochas Okorocha who think their way to the presidency in four years is through Buhari’s reelection.
What the above tells us is that if he wins a second term, it would be a worse disaster than the first because his party would be involved in a deathly battle for who will succeed him. His government would certainly not be stable enough to make development plans and he himself with his age and not-so-great health condition and his distinct lack of intellectual and emotional appreciation of the issues facing the nation will not be in a position to do anything about the country sliding more and more into anarchy. Buhari is only interested in giving excuses, blaming others for his failures and accusing people of being unfair to him when they ask him questions. The firm and progressive leadership we need certainly won’t come from him. Everything tells us clearly that choosing him again will be a form of national mass suicide.
16. The Wizards’ War:
Of course, we know that the industrial-military complex and their international backers are fighting Buhari today. But they are not fighting him because they want the best for us. They are fighting him because they fear his capacity to take the nation into uncharted territory and possibly destroy their investments with his cluelessness. They had hoped he would lead by consultation with them, but the man has gone rogue and is actually running a factional Fulani hegemonic agenda. A lot of these people are men who fought the Civil War to keep the country together and even though we know they’ve bled the country with their type of leadership, the last thing they want is for the country to disintegrate and with Buhari’s style, the possibility is real. These men who are now in the departure lounge of life do not want to see their whole life achievements destroyed by Buhari’s extreme bad governance while they still have breath. They want to take the steering wheel from him again, install their own stooge and keep things on an even keel once more.
But we must not listen to them! Neither them nor Buhari represent a viable road to the right future for the nation. We have all signed up for democracy. Buhari did not shoot his way to power. Nigerians elected him and Nigerians must be the ones to democratically send him back to Daura through a free and fair election. There are now over 90 parties vying for elective offices, but we know only two are really viable in terms of the presidency. So, let’s not beat about the bush, if the APC presents Buhari again, let’s not waste our time thinking it too much; we should simply choose whosoever the PDP brings along! Why, because such a person, whoever he is at this stage, would be infinitely better than Buhari. I mean, he possibly cannot be worse, can he?
The person would be better because of the nature of the mandate that put him there and because of the special historical circumstance that brings him about. That person will feel the weight of the people and history on himself because he would realize that no godfather, no industrial-military complex, no special interest brought him to power, but the people of Nigeria making that decision because of the unique circumstance they face at the moment. Such a man would be driven to prove that good governance is indeed possible in Nigeria and we the people will back him all the way if he shows the will to succeed.
17. Poisoning Civil Society:
One sector that was key to Buhari’s victory in 2015 was the civil society sector. It was this sector and not the politicians that finally reached the Nigerian people with a message of defiance against what they felt at the time was Jonathan’s profligacy. I think they felt very disappointed with Jonathan because they could genuinely claim to be part of the coalition that brought him to power with great expectations. That affinity with Jonathan started with their united fight against the Yar’Adua cabal that was denying him his constitutional right of succession. The protest of civil society ultimately forced a resolution that brought the Doctrine of Necessity and the eventual Jonathan takeover of the presidency.
Obviously, by the time Jonathan was taking over as substantive president after the death of President Umaru Yar’Adua, many members of the civil society groups were already working in opposition to the PDP government. They were mostly split between the ACN and the CPC mainly because of the influence of three persons - Bola Tinubu, Nasir el-Rufai and Tunde Bakare. These people were preaching a brand of opposition politics and sponsoring the type of public activism that the civil society members mainly identified with. They showed their hand under the banner of the ‘Save Nigeria Group’, which they successfully used to hijack the popular fight against the Jonathan government’s fuel price increase of January 2012. This gave them a lot of confidence going forward after the 2011 election. Towards 2015, with the mergers leading to the APC, a major part of civil society became a key part of the political mobilization strategy and, eventually, they helped in selling the Buhari candidacy.
At the time, it was one of those national mysteries that not many could crack. How was it that civil society groups, whose rise in power and profile started in earnest with the military dictatorship of Muhammadu Buhari in 1984, were now the champions of the same man in 2015? But for the discerning, it was not much of a mystery. Bola Tinubu, Nasir el-Rufai and Tunde Bakare successfully weaponized the national disaffection with the PDP, poured in money for mobilization and got most members of these groups to stand by their politics. Their contribution to this state of affairs was simply opportunistic. In fighting Umaru Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan, they ingratiated themselves with civil society groups, telling fantastic tales of the evil in government and working them up to fight what they thought were national battles, but which in truth were self-serving political battles.
Today, the APC is in government largely because of the mobilization work done on their behalf by many civil society groups. Now seeing that what we have now isn’t what we should be proud of, many civil society groups out of shame have slinked away from public view, while many of those still pretending to stand are no more than gangrened appendages of the ruling party. In the course of all this also, a lot of them have become driven by ethnic sentiments and therefore clearly unfit for purpose.
Yes, Buhari was a beneficiary only because the civil society groups had the assurance that he was a changed man who has learnt his lesson and who can be caged in a democracy. They were going to inherit the Nigerian earth, they were told! Of course, this was poison and they swallowed it hook, line and sinker. Today, civil society power is at its nadir thanks to the emasculation campaign of their erstwhile political sponsors. Well, there is no time for ‘jonesing’ as the streets would say. They have to wake up and smell the PVC!
18. Two Alarm Bells:
Two recent developments should alarm Nigerians and members of the human rights community particularly. They should alarm us because they tell us clearly where Buhari is headed. The first thing he did when he recently returned to Nigeria after another medical trip to the United Kingdom was to declare that he would be jailing “more of the thieves…that brought the economic problem to the country” because it is really something expected of him. Not surprisingly, some of us were up in arms accusing him of being tone deaf. However, that is because a lot of us do not understand the script. The script is a return to dictatorship under the garb of democracy. Buhari is desperate to remain in Aso Rock, no matter what happens, but he thinks silencing the politicians, the elite and the people who do not support him with this threat is the next thing to do.
First, the threat is directed at those within his party still intent on decamping to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He’s telling them that any decampment will put them in his crosshairs. Naturally, he expects such a threat to keep them in line because they know they are protected within the All Progressives Congress (APC) no matter their crimes, as far as they are working for his reelection. He’s also telling those in the opposition parties, especially the PDP that he will be coming directly after those of them who pose a threat to his reelection bid and/or persons who make their political structures tick.
There’s another group the speech is directed to as a coded message. This is his Northern base. It is a narrative long established that Southerners have stolen their wealth through conspiracy with a few Northerners and that like a Mahdi Buhari is the one to bring judgment upon them. It is proclaimed as the only job of his presidency and what he would deliver on, which is why he said it is what is expected of him.
Of course, he knows that this is not the priority of the rest of Nigeria. He knows Nigerians are expecting him to regenerate the economy and enforce peace in the land, but his base expects him to fight some puritanical war against corruption because his promoters have been using this as an excuse why things are bad. They have been assuring his base for more than three years now that once “Baba” finishes dealing with these corrupt people all the recovered stolen wealth would be shared to the suffering masses in the North! With the election coming and with him persecuting his opposition in the name of trying to jail the thieves, he’s sure this would energize his base and assure him of their votes. Again, for those who understand Northern politics and the Buhari imaging, this is something that has been woven into popular culture to mythical levels since his days as a military Head of State. This is about Buhari who wants to purify the system, but who the thieves never allowed while he was in uniform, but who Allah has brought back to do that job now. This messianic tenor to the Buhari story is very real and very loud up North
The second development is his scandalous speech at the annual Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) General Conference. It was a speech unworthy of any democrat of whatever hue! He went before the annual gathering of lawyers and effectively proclaimed his government a dictatorship! The President in an administration that has a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) as the Vice President and another as the Attorney General went before the NBA to lie about a ruling of the Supreme Court evidently based on the lies sold to him by another desperate Senior Advocate of Nigeria by the name of Festus Keyamo who is now fully part of his campaign for reelection. This is embarrassing enough, but more embarrassing is what the lie is meant to achieve.
The president declared on the strength of a non-existent law and a non-existent ruling of any court of the land that the Rule of Law must be subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest after he and his administration have refused to release Mr Sambo Dasuki whom the courts have granted bail on numerous occasions and after he and his soldiers have captured Mr Nnamdi Kanu who was on bail at the time they invaded his home in September last year. Since then, no one has seen Mr Kanu prompting fears that he may have been secretly killed. On Friday, the 17th of August 2018, 120 women, aged between 22 and 70, mothers of children went out to peacefully protest and plead for Kanu’s release in Owerri, Imo State. They were tear-gassed, beaten and thrown in jail without food and without access to relatives and their lawyers! For days, the nation wailed and cried at the sight of such infamy until a Vacation Judge, Justice Benjamin Iheka courageously discharged and acquitted the women unconditionally!
So, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eighteen, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria went before the national body of lawyers and judges and declared that national security and national interest are matters only he and his goons can deal with and not our Constitution. Yes, in that singular speech, the president abrogated section 35 of the Constitution, which is the section guaranteeing the right of a citizen to personal liberty. The section lists the processes and the conditions under which a person may be deprived of his or her personal liberty and none of those conditions and processes includes a citizen being deprived of his or her right to personal liberty when the president or the security services feel that he or she is a threat to national security. None of it says the president and the security services have the right to keep a citizen in detention after the courts have granted them bail and after they’ve met the conditions stated by the courts to be admitted to bail.
What the law says is that if the president or his security services feel(s) that someone in detention does not deserve bail because they are a threat to national security, the state has to come to court to argue the case and show evidence why the court should not grant the person bail. If in the discretion of the court, the state has not made the case for the continued detention of such a person through its submission, then the judge will grant bail and whatever prison or agency of state holding such a person in custody must release them forthwith once the bail conditions are met. If the state makes the case, the court will grant their prayers and order the person to still be remanded in prison or detention. The law never envisages a situation where the state will capture a citizen, put him or her in detention and declare that some unknown law allows them to keep this person in detention because he or she is supposedly a threat to national security. The law has not given the president and his security services any such powers. Only a judge of a competent court can make that decision.
So, yes, on that podium, the president has ousted the jurisdiction of the courts in matters of bail for anyone that he and his goons whimsically declare to be a threat to national security. On that podium, he told the judges and the legal community that he and his goons will not be coming to their courts to argue why anyone should not be granted bail because that is now solely his decision based on his interpretation of when whoever happens to be his victim poses a threat to national security.
President Buhari does not recognize that only the courts have the duty and the power to adjudicate on what constitutes a matter of national security or when someone poses a threat to national security based on the case made to the courts by the state and the evidence presented. From now on citizens will be captured and thrown into the gulag and the keys thrown away. Then the Attorney General would appear before the cameras to tell Nigerians that in the case of the detainee in question, his or her civil liberties and individual rights to freedom and movement do not exist and cannot be granted by any court of law through any bail process because in their case, the Rule of Law is subject to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest as defined by the president and the security services. This is where we are right now as a nation.
Of course, the more disappointing thing for me is the loud silence that has greeted this menace from the legal, civil society and human rights community. Where are the lawyers? Where are the human rights advocates? Where is civil society? I can understand that protocol probably did not allow them to openly object to the president on the floor of the conference where he delivered the speech. But we’ve heard from people who were there saying that the lawyers were clapping when the president was delivering the speech. But whatever the situation, what has happened since then? Why the eerie silence from members of the bar and the human rights community? What kind of country are they looking to continue practicing their law if they accept this from the president of a supposedly democratic country? Can’t they see that this is a return to Decree 2 of 1984 promulgated by this same Buhari as a military Head of State?
I urge our lawyers and civil society groups not give up now. They have to learn the lessons of the past, pick themselves up and face the challenge we now have in front of us. No one can make them irrelevant in the nation’s affairs but themselves! Yes, in spite of everything, this is the time for them to wake up! The tag of “democracy” must not deceive them because those who should be defending this democracy have already compromised it! Thus, it is important that civil society bodies rediscover their mojo now because they can once again save Nigeria in 2019. Political parties are just special purpose vehicle for grabbing power and we know as a fact that accountability is non-existent!
The civil society groups must redevelop the June 12 mentality of the struggle to fight the menace in the polity now! They must not look and say they cannot act because there are people with whom they were in the struggle in the past whose political fortunes would be hurt. No, it’s the survival of the nation that is at stake! Nigeria is one and if any group of people must show this on the ground, it’s the civil society sector. That is the next stage of the struggle. They must be bold to win over the people whom they serve. They are not political parties but they must campaign even better. Yes, it is a pro-democracy struggle all over again and we need not deceive ourselves! Buhari is a mistake, but we can correct our mistake! He’s got to go and civil society must play its role in seeing him off! On offer here is another opportunity for civil society organizations to change the direction of government and politics in Nigeria. That opportunity was offered on June 12 1993, it wasn’t taken. It was offered at the beginning of the Fourth Republic and it wasn’t taken. It was offered in 2015 and they took it, but we now know that choice was a mistake, the mistake we are still living with now. Now, that chance has come again.
19. North And South United For The North Against Buhari (Relationship Status: It’s complicated):
I do not think most people in the South are still under the illusion that Buhari has anything good to offer the nation. We know that APC political leaders who are feeding fat from the Buhari presidency or who have political ambitions riding on the back of his victory in 2019 will tell us Buhari is the best thing since ewedu and amala, but most of us in the South know that’s not true. The problem we have today with regard to Buhari is with the Northern elite and the ordinary Northerner. We need to speak the truth to each other and that is the plain truth!
The Northern elite has to come to terms with the fact that Buhari is a bad investment for them and the nation. They may make money from having him in government, but it’s blood money because many are dying from Buhari’s bad governance. They have to think of making money with a better leadership that addresses the economic and social needs of the country because there is every reason to believe that with Buhari we are building up to a political and social upheaval of the worst kind.
I know the way most members of the elite think is to go hide their families abroad and get a ticket ready to move at the slightest sign of trouble. But that is myopia. When it will come, a lot of them might not be in a position to do all they have planned to do and the truth is no one knows who’d be a victim. It is therefore better to enjoy the country and allow others too to enjoy. No one is saying everyone has to be rich, but majority of Nigerians have no reason to be this dirt poor. I mean, in a statement released ahead of her coming to Nigeria, Mrs Theresa May, the British Prime Minister stated what the whole world now knows, which is that Nigeria currently is the poverty capital of the world where 87 million Nigerians live on less than $1.90 a day! Mrs May called our country “home to more very poor people than any other nation in the world”. Is this what we should be celebrating in 2018?
The elite and the predatory establishment are as responsible for the state of the nation as much as Buhari, but he has to go because he represents our biggest danger today. He’s a danger to our national security, he’s a danger to our national unity and he’s a danger to our national economy! The elite of the North must act patriotically and turn their back on him now to save our nation because like the rest of the nation, they know the embarrassment is becoming too much!
As for ordinary Northerners still supporting Buhari and still thinking he would bring good governance to them, especially the Muslims, all I will tell them is to go to their Koran and also search all Islamic and Muslim literatures they can find. They should review Islamic history all over the world and let them find that one good leader in history or in contemporary times where their leadership has the same effect on the people they lead as Buhari’s leadership has had on them in the past three years and today. I will tell them that they are not worshipping Allah. They are worshipping a man who repeatedly lies to them and whose only love is to himself and his family. They have it in their hands to change their fortune. They have their PVCs to send the message that they are not dumb. Buhari is not the leader that will do for the North what the North deserves now. But, as I said, it’s in their hands.
For the rest of Nigeria, our focus should be on saving the North. Yes, I mean that absolutely! Only those who haven’t been visiting the North will not know that the gap between North and South in terms of development is too wide. It was that gap that delayed our independence from Britain for years and that gap is wider now because despite the North dominating national leadership, the leaders they have produced for Nigeria have been largely poor, very poor! It is true that we now have a zoning system operated by the main parties and we also have the Federal Character provisions in our Constitution, but these have only succeeded in papering over the problem of our nation.
The problem of Nigeria is the North and until we decide to tackle that problem squarely, the North will continue dragging us back! This is beyond politics; it’s national survival! It is in the interest of the rest of Nigeria for the North to be brought into the 21st century! Sure, the Northern elite knows how to take care of themselves, but the hordes of ordinary Northerners remain Nigeria’s problem because all they want, like any decent human being, are the basic things of life - food, shelter, access to good education, good employment, access to good health facilities and peace. Jonathan, despite all his faults, recognized that the problem starts with education, which was why he set up nine universities in the North out of twelve. But what has happened since he left? Not only are these universities now neglected, education all over Nigeria is neglected!
All citizens must begin to think of bridging the development gap as a project, North and South. We can start with this election. If Buhari is reelected, we can be sure that the gap will further increase because the man has no clue nor inclination to engage in development of any sort. After his four years, the North will not smell the presidency for at least 8 years. Only God knows what would be the state of our country at the end of that time, even where there is no guarantee that any Northern presidency thereafter would be better. We need to stop the bleeding now!
We must start by making sure that we vote in another Northerner with a developmental agenda as President. If such a person wins and does a good job for four years, we would be happy to give him or her another four years to continue with the good work. If all that this person achieves after eight years is investing in education and social development mostly in the North so we can get quality human capital from that part of the country to help build a 21st century national economy and society, then we would be fine. If we must save Nigeria, we have to save the North from itself first. And to save the North from itself, we all must first save Nigeria from the scourge of Muhammadu Buhari.