Buhari has plenty of time to rescue the situation. To do that, he should revisit his inauguration speech. A re-reading of that speech with deep introspection will sure reveal to him how far he had deviated from the goal of uniting the country, and rather divided it along ethnic lines. A deeper reflection of ‘I belong to no one’ may be able to recall him from the path he either has decided, or, was forced, to drive Nigeria through. Either way, he needs to change his rulership style.
The euphoria among players in Nigeria’s economy, following the new forex policy announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria in President Muhammadu Buhari’s absence, suggests that his obstinacy is a huge disservice to the country’s growth. For his obstinacy, an economy of 170+m people is used as laboratory for antiquated policies. He never tires to tell the world what the economy was in 1985 when he was shoved aside by his colleagues in a palace coup. Recall that one of Buhari’s first policy pronouncements was to order the exhumation of a 1920 report on Lake Chad for review and implementation; in 2016.
Most of those who had commented on the new forex policy say, the same policy direction had been canvassed, and pushed for, since Buhari assumed office chanting change like a Buddhist monk chanting his mantra atop the Himalayas, but he had refused to take heed because of his fixation with 1985. The President is so firmly rooted in the 1980s that he believes the economy of the modern era should work on principles abandoned about 31 solid years ago.
Did we not see that his second medical vacation in four months somehow freed policy decisions including the nomination of ambassadors and the appointment of Ben Akabueze as Director General of the Budget Office, an action which has been lauded as appropriate and desired? This is in direct contrast with the President’s ethnically biased inclinations in seeking direction for the future of Nigeria.
It is disappointing that Buhari allowed himself to be driven by ethnic inclination, and deep bias, in leading Nigeria. Since coming into power, he has not disappointed in showing, and clearly too, that he is on a mission to recreate Nigeria along ethnic lines. He demonstrates his clannish appeal and works stubbornly towards making sure that Nigeria is promoted for the benefits of his preferred Fulani. Remember he is the grand patron of the Miyetti Allah, the umbrella organisation of Fulani cattle breeders.
His public pronouncement on 97% and 5% dichotomy in allocating national resources, including appointments, destroyed whatever Nigeria achieved with President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to concede victory to him, even before the final results of the 2015 presidential elections were announced. Buhari had himself said he was surprised that Jonathan conceded. Gen. Theophilus Y. Danjuma had told Jonathan that his action saved Nigeria from bloodshed. He had said that if Ojukwu had acted like Jonathan did there would not have been a civil war. Danjuma obviously had information that was not available to the public. Several other prominent Nigerians, who should know, had made similar comments publicly. A lot of them had applauded Jonathan’s decision as having saved Nigeria from war. There is no doubt that the Abdulsalam Abubakar and Emeka Anyaoku Elders Council were privy to some intelligence which made them work hard enough to commit Jonathan and Buhari to peace before, during and after the elections. As a matter of fact, the situation at the nation’s international airports on the eve of the Presidential election pointed to huge unspoken facts. The exodus from Nigeria was not even comparable to the June 12 crisis.
Somehow, what would have been unleashed on Nigeria had the election gone the way of PDP is now being expressed as ‘Fulani herdsmen’. It is not impossible that those some Nigerians have now come to see as Fulani herdsmen were mercenaries hired and armed for post-election violence. Buhari, unapologetic over his “baboon-and-dog-will-soak-in-blood” comment and its effects, had told Nigerians that those they christened ‘Fulani herdsmen’ were from Libya. Northern Governors Forum had also said those that Nigerians call herdsmen were not Fulani. Nigeria’s information minister, Lai Mohammed, had been quoted as saying that the ‘Fulani herdsmen’ came to Nigeria from Mauritius. He is yet to put that right. Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase told Nigerians that the ‘Fulani herdsmen’ were from Chad and Mali. The Nigeria Immigration Service also said ‘Fulani herdsmen’ who had found Rivers State as good grazing field are from Chad. Audu Ogbeh, Nigeria’s Agriculture Minister, an indigene of Benue, a state which people have been at the receiving end of the ‘herdsmen’ angst, argued that there was nothing wrong with foreigners driving in and grazing their cattle in Nigeria. From these, one can deductively argue that Buhari and those he rules Nigeria with are aware of the actual origins of those that Nigerians call ‘Fulani herdsmen’. No doubt, they also know why and how they entered Nigeria. If you make further deductive reasoning of this, against the background of the fact that architects of post-election violence of 2011 remain unpunished, you may probably arrive at the same conclusion to suggest that though Buhari loves Nigeria he has remained clannish.
Recall that while Nigerians were still thanking God that despite doomsday predictions, the 2015 elections left Nigeria intact, Senator Seidu Dansadau, speaking in an interview with Daily Trust, said the north had achieved what it had always sought – to have all 19 states in the region vote as one. He further argued that the 2015-2019 presidency was not about Buhari but about the north. Dansadau said the north would surround Buhari, secure the presidency for him, and ensure that even when he leaves office, the north will continually determine who occupies office as President. This mindset may have informed Buhari’s decision to tilt his administration towards the north, and particularly, the Fulani ethnic group. This may also be the reason he has built his presidency around a non-state official, Maman Daura, who, as publicly known, is neither elected nor appointed to any particular office but is the main power behind the presidency; shielding away the Vice President in the discharge of state power. Daura is recorded as Buhari’s nephew and a bit older than the President. How the presidency is anchored on a non-state official beats pure reason. But it comes down to one thing – oligarchic view of presidential power in a democracy.
One other thing that gives Buhari away as clannish is his first federal budget. He made provision, in the budget, for N940m to be spent on the ‘development of strategic grazing reserves’. Grazing, that is the nomadic type, is an exclusive Fulani business. Most non-Fulani who own cattle farms created ranches and do not engage in nomadic grazing. What has been done by the President is simply drawing from the federal budget for the promotion of a business that is exclusively ethnic in nature. With this, Buhari leaves no one in doubt about his ethnic cleavage which is threatening the unity of Nigeria, after declaring that he belonged to no one, but to all. It had been argued that it was for this reason that he found it difficult to condemn killings allegedly carried out by the herdsmen. The speed at which he reacts to such killings locally is at variance with the speed at which he condemns killings carried out by terrorists in the United states or elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the funding of grazing reserves in not contained anywhere in the APC manifesto. This is what is contained therein: The creation of functional agricultural extension and food inspectorate divisions with a view, not only to making professional services available to farmers, but also improving nutrition and eliminating food-borne hazards; embarking on massive agricultural land preparation in all states to prepare the ground for massive crop production by restoring the NALDA; encouraging commercial livestock and fisheries development as well as strengthening forestation and environmental protection schemes; a policy to encourage young people to go into agriculture by funding incentives and mechanization techniques. This will replace the ageing current generation of farmers who are too few to meet the nation’s demands; reclaiming the desert by tree planting programmes and growing alfalfa grass, and other legumes for livestock nutrition; institution of land army scheme across the nation; restarting farm settlements and procuring appropriate machinery for agricultural productivity, locally sourced or imported; strengthening the Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development and investing in irrigation facilities for all-season agro-enterprise.
While Nigerians look forward to enduring the mismanagement, nepotism, clannishness and policy flip-flops till 2019, there is need for the President to review and rework his style so as not to confirm the fears of those who had opposed his candidacy in 2015 because on his very deep ethnic leaning. For instance, in his Democracy Day speech, the President left no one in doubt that his social intervention programme has a specific target. He said ‘…I have approved to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.’ The words ‘particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict’ make the target population specifically defined. It means the intervention is not for all Nigerians. During the 2015 election campaigns, Buhari and his party promised to pay N5000 monthly to some millions of the poorest with a proviso that they must send their children to school and also make them available for immunization. The emphasis on sending the kids to school and making them available for immunization is targeted and specific.
On Niger Delta, Buhari and his party made some promises in their manifesto. They said: ‘APC government will commit itself to the continuous well-being of the inhabitants of the Niger Delta area, and take measures to address the long overlooked challenges of environmental devastation and mass poverty among the people whose land lays the golden egg’. To achieve this, Buhari and APC stated they would ‘mitigate the environmental degradation of the Niger Delta areas, occasioned by oil exploration and gas flaring activities; to douse the tension in the Niger Delta areas because of youth restiveness; to restore the confidence of the citizens from Niger Delta areas in the oneness of the Nigerian nation; development and implementation of a special environmental clean-up program for the Niger-Delta; construct navigational bridges across big rivers and swampy lands to link isolated islands in the Niger-Delta areas with the rest of the country; embark on mass-literacy programs for the citizens of the Niger Delta areas, gas flaring in the course of mineral oil mining activities shall be discontinued; enunciate a policy to compel Oil/Gas companies to embark on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes with definitive impact on the well-being of the Niger Delta areas; and special focus on the funding and operational efficiency of the Niger-Delta Development Commission (NDDC)’.
What has however pertained to the Niger Delta question is the avowed commitment to end the amnesty programme and shift attention to the Northeast. In other words, end a poverty alleviation programme for a region you identified as ‘people whose land lays the golden egg’ and move the same golden egg to the development of a region which devastation came via Boko Haram, a direct creation of its political leaders who, in the quest to hold on to political power in the manner described by Dansadau earlier, had vowed to make the country ungovernable, post-2011 presidential election, if any Nigerian who was not from the north emerged as president.
These clearly showed clannishness. However, Buhari has plenty of time to rescue the situation. To do that, he should revisit his inauguration speech. A re-reading of that speech with deep introspection will sure reveal to him how far he had deviated from the goal of uniting the country, and rather divided it along ethnic lines. A deeper reflection of ‘I belong to no one’ may be able to recall him from the path he either has decided, or, was forced, to drive Nigeria through. Either way, he needs to change his rulership style. He is President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I think he needs to understand that very well.