Our Tired President

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By Hakeem Baba-Ahmed

Nearly all men can stand adversity.If you want to test a man’s character, give him power.’– Abraham Lincoln

PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari says, for the umpteenth time, that he cannot wait for the end of his term. He says he plans to live as far away from Abuja as he can when he serves his two terms out.
Recently, he was specific in preferring Daura, his hometown, where he will live in peace without being troubled by anyone. In recent days, he had lamented that he has not been as appreciated as he should have been, in spite of doing his best. On one or two occasions, he had hinted that he was tired of leading the nation. On the whole, you will be forgiven for thinking that our President is behaving  like a pained married person who cannot wait for a divorce to come through.

President Buhari appears resigned to a single-item legacy which he believes he can leave intact: a credible election. His understanding of credible election appears to be one in which INEC has all it needs in funding, and one in which no one, in  his party or in   the country, will see his hands in determining candidates or outcomes and consequences. To be fair to the President, limiting himself to  the 2023 election matters is not a bad strategy. What else will stand scrutiny as an outstanding legacy by May, 2023? He certainly cannot refer to his three key promises on fighting corruption, fixing the economy and securing the country when he judges himself. He and his beleaguered salesmen have shiploads of excuses for his incredible achievements of  making these key matters a lot worse than he met them. The country has its own opinion over the lamentable record of the administration in these areas.
People who recently crafted voluminous and expensive  advertorials and media releases  celebrating the birthday of the President must have scratched heads to hair roots searching for language to use which will not further offend a country labouring under a record of spectacular failure that will take the best part of the next decade to reverse.

The laziest accolades  were those that hailed him as a man of integrity, or more specifically, the President who was not corrupt. The insult to intelligence of Nigerians screamed in the face of some of the most outrageous cases of breathtaking corruption being alleged or tried against people who work right under the President’s nose. Perhaps President Buhari never really had a sense of smell. This is the only  explanation for the stench around the entire petroleum and gas sector where he is also the Minister, the CBN, the banking and finance sector, telecommunications, defence and security institutions and just about every institution or system that is relevant to governance and the private sector.

The excuses for failure to improve the economy, secure jobs and improve diversification in eight years should be carefully documented by students of policy as reference material when discussing leadership failure. From underestimating the damage inherited by  PDP administrations, to crash in cost of crude prices, to COVID, to crude theft and sabotage, every excuse has been offered to explain why  an administration is about to leave a country a lot poorer than it should be, by any standards of sound judgement. Sound judgement will rank among the major deficiencies of President Buhari, especially when applied against failure to manage an economy with better hands, ideas and stronger political will.  No area will indict Buhari’s record more that the failure to secure the country. In a little less than eight years, Nigeria  moved from a country battling an incipient insurgency feeding on insensitivity and incompetence, to a country  at the mercy of the multiple threats, some of which have raised questions about the entire capacity of the Nigerian state to protect citizens.

The insurgency Buhari inherited developed international links and dug in; irredentism developed muscles strong enough to hold an  entire region hostage and threaten the unity of the country; armed gangs targeted the nation’s soft underbelly (its large,  unprotected population) to raise banditry and kidnapping into monsters that stalk millions of citizens, and opportunistic crimes blossomed where corruption and weak leadership had virtually  crippled public safety,  and law and order  institutions. It will be  a badge Buhari will not want to wear, but the truth is that under his leadership, Nigeria has become one of the most dangerous countries to live in.

It  says  to a lot about Buhari’s hands-off approach to governance that he thinks he has done all there is to do to have a credible election in February 2023. It will not be unfair to assume that someone forgot to read him the leadership and governance manual in 2015, and now it is looking increasingly clear that he is not reading the writing on the wall that should tell him that even his pet dream about a credible election is under threat.

A credible election is one conducted under a safe and secure environment; in which all votes count under a free and fair process; results are transparently compiled and contestants and voters respect rules and accept outcomes. Security of the electoral environment and of the ballot are the two most important requirements of a credible election in 2023, and both are threatened. Unfortunately for President Buhari’s  limited governance approach, they are also his to fix.

Unfortunately for the nation, it does not appear that President Buhari thinks he has to radically improve the security environment in spite of increasing breaches that could get worse by the day. His textbook approach is to leave it all to those he trusts to do the job, and neither experience nor commonsense have taught him that he has responsibility to do more than appoint people into sensitive positions.

As things stand, IPOB/ESN, or, as they are more popularly known, unknown persons, will ultimately decide if millions of voters in the five states of the South-East vote or not. Large numbers of communities in many parts of the North will have to depend on the disposition of bandits and insurgents towards allowing them vote. Politicians have trashed peace accords, and their followers now know that pretenses at selling visions, plans and promises are over.

Election-related violence will intensify, and the President will have little say on its intensity or impact. His ‘neutrality’ will free his party to fight its way to victory in an election in which it also has to shoulder the liabilities of his legacies. The opposition will fight dirty, dusting an old rule book for a new battle in which friends and enemies change places at dizzying pace. This is an election that will decide whether the nation loses the South-East or regains it. Another President will be looking at options and scenarios regarding the region. President Buhari appears to think this  problem will be more appropriately left to his successor, no matter how he emerges.

President Buhari is tired of being Nigeria’s President, and cannot wait  to relocate to Daura. He thinks that will buy him peace, but he is likely to change his mind because Daura is part of his State of Katsina which has not known peace in the last few years. To be honest, Nigerians are also tired of a President who will not govern.

We should be grateful that the democratic system puts time limits, but the person who is indifferent over our  journey to the elections, their conduct and outcomes cannot wish this country well. Neither President Buhari nor Nigerians can afford the luxury of expecting a happy future because he is no longer President.

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