President Buhari’s 100 Days: Ethical and National Questions -By Adeolu Ademoyo

Filed under: National Issues |
Adeolu Ademoyo

Adeolu Ademoyo

 

This Buhari and APC choice – the denial of a programmatic vision that brought them to power, which is also a denial of the existence of the issue of the national question and the urgent need to address it, is a clear return to ex-president Jonathan’s sectional and irredentist government which was based on and run by ethnic and irredentist loyalty of and to the South-South and South-East.

With the oiling of the media by Buharists in celebration of Buhari’s 100 days in office, it is a strange paradox that Buharists do not see a moral dissonance between this celebration of 100 days in office and their denunciation and denial of the moral platform, “My Covenant With Nigerians” that brought candidate Buhari and the APC to office. If they – as they have done – deny a moral platform in the Change Covenant, responsible for President Buhari’s electoral victory, the critical question is: against what are Buhari’s media men and women assessing performance and celebrating the 100 days? Should Buhari celebrate in a vacuum outside the moral pledge made during the election?

Regardless of how President Buhari is redefining the issue, candidate Buhari in the 2015 polls made public ethics as one of his key talking points during the election. And, at least this was one main reason for the overwhelming support he got from social democratic forces across ethnic lines in Nigeria and in the Diaspora. So it is strange that in all the media push by the Buharists, they subtly run away from engaging the barefaced lies of President Buhari and the APC on the denial of a major document that brought the APC to power.

Being a moral covenant between Buhari and Nigerians, “My Covenant With Nigerians” is the key issue in the public domain this government must speak to during the 100-day assessment and celebration. To attempt to play down, after the election, a covenant made during the election is to set up new rules and criteria in the middle of a game. Such is morally problematic. For a government and a party that made ethics a key point of campaign, this is unacceptable.

This denial and the ethnically biased and irredentist appointments Buhari has made so far impels one to ask if this is not the beginning of the national and moral diminishing of Buhari’s presidency.

During his visit to the US, Buhari was asked a simple question – which borders on the national question – about his views on the South-South/South-East. Buhari’s political answer that those who contributed little to his emergence as President should not expect the same degree of benefits from those whose contributions were overwhelming is a betrayal of an ethnic, sectional and irredentist stream of consciousness.

His ethnically biased answer, no matter how his media aides seek to re-package it, was a clear moral and national reduction of Buhari’s presidency. Hence, the question is: who are those whose contributions were overwhelming? And why will that be a major criterion of governance in a democracy?

In Buhari’s flawed reasoning, mindset and practice, those “whose contributions were overwhelming” to his victory at the polls are Northerners. And to back this strange anti-Change Mission mode of thinking up, some commentators from the North have come out subtly and also boldly to arrogantly lecture Nigerians on the “size” of the North, how the “size” of the voters from the Northern part of the country was sufficient for Buhari’s victory at the polls, how this strange sense of “sufficiency” explains and justifies Buhari’s obvious ethnic bias, and how the rejected ex-president Jonathan’s ethnic irredentism presently justifies President Buhari’s own ethnic bias and irredentism.

In other words these strange commentators are using the past to explain and justify the present. This mode of thinking by Buhari and his backers is a big set back for a President who won an election on a moral and national platform.

Some of the known Buharists who hold this questionable justification of Buhari’s ethnic bias are Junaid Mohammed who said, “If it is about Buhari making the appointments based on merit, I have no problems with it. I don’t believe Buhari or Nigeria owes any Igbo anything. I don’t care what Ezeife says; if they had seceded, there would have been no Nigeria today. As people who acted outside the interest of Nigeria as a country, to expect compensation is a very odd logic…”

Junaid continued strangely in defense of his condemnable irredentist position, “If the Igbo don’t like it, they can attempt secession again. If they do, they must be prepared to live with the consequences. Nobody owes them anything and nobody is out to compensate them for anything.”

Junaid Mohammed who may be using different standards from those used by other Nigerians said very strangely, “They (critics) should tell us which ethnic groups have been favoured by Buhari in the course of making his appointments in parastatals and agencies. Those who are making those allegations, particularly the Igbo, have not told us exactly which parastatals.”

He continued: “For example, an Igbo man has just been appointed as the head of the NNPC, one of the most important government agencies in Nigeria. And over 50 percent of those appointed before him were also Igbos. So, if people decide to be mischievous, there is nothing anybody can do about it. As far as I am concerned, those appointed have been good and credible persons.” In other words, for Junaid Mohammed, Buhari’s ethnic bias in public governance is historically and morally justified.

An irredentist such as Junaid who defends Buhari’s irredentist appointments must not be allowed to eat his cake and have it. In other words, we either choose to use merit consistently in all cases and throw out quota and federal character, or we use federal character and quota consistently. It is intellectually and morally dubious for Junaid Mohammed or anyone to defend on “merit” Buhari’s irredentist appointments so far, while wishing to uphold federal character and quota in other matters in the country.

Interestingly, Junaid who is a well-known irredentist also appealed to “merit” in justifying Buhari’s irredentist appointments. But the critical questions are: Nigerians of high merit are located in every part of Nigeria. And if Buhari closes his eyes on people of merit from other parts of the country, in favour of people of merit from among his small coterie of loyalists who are Northerners, then Buhari is guilty of irredentism in his appointments.

Second, the country cannot eat her cake and have it. An irredentist such as Junaid who defends Buhari’s irredentist appointments must not be allowed to eat his cake and have it. In other words, we either choose to use merit consistently in all cases and throw out quota and federal character, or we use federal character and quota consistently. It is intellectually and morally dubious for Junaid Mohammed or anyone to defend on “merit” Buhari’s irredentist appointments so far, while wishing to uphold federal character and quota in other matters in the country. For example, if Junaid and other irredentists are right then we should immediately stop the policies of federal character and quota in admissions to schools and other professional employments. Making a similar argument, Mohammed Abdulrahman, a member of National Executive Council of Arewa Consultative Forum said when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s appointments were published, about 95 percent were southerners, while the North had only about five percent. Again, it means Buhari’s ethnic bias and irredentist appointments are historically and morally justified, and if it is justified we should continue such irredentism.

And those who like APC Chairman Oyegun; Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina; the Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Buhari, Shehu Garba; Chairman of Arewa Consultative Forum, Ibrahim Coomasie, argue that Buhari will make thousands of appointments and that the earlier irredentist appointments will be corrected need to do a re-think.

First, with such self-serving response, they have admitted Buhari’s irredentist appointments without wanting to do so publicly.

Second, for a modern state, and given the nature of executive presidency, certain positions are crucial for the appropriation of resources and security, either altruistically for public good or un-altruistically for an ethnic group.

So far, President Buhari has placed these positions in the hands of members of a particular ethnic group – his own. For example, to compare a gateman, a cook, a driver or a media aide in the presidency from the Southern part of the country to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation who is from the Northern part of the country, in terms of the appropriation of resources and power, is a denigration of common sense. And this is precisely what Buhari and his backers who talk about the countless number of appointments Buhari will make and use to “correct” his irredentist appointments, which is already a set back for his presidency and those who back a Change Mission, are saying!

It is thus laughable when Buhari and his backers justify this ethnic bias with the argument about rewarding those who “support him overwhelmingly”. They forget that when the election is over, you govern the whole country and not a section of it.

Buhari and this group of backers simply forget that those Northern votes of the “masses” they refer to may be necessary, (just as any politician’s immediate constituency’s votes may be necessary) however, they are not sufficient to elect Buhari (as they did not three previous times) or any politician in Nigeria on a national scale.

With this mode of reasoning, and with Buhari’s media men and women working hard to fend this national question off, Nigeria is in big trouble because the presumed Change we voted for is being redefined through bigotry and zealotry before our very eyes. Like all failed Nigerian presidencies – as we saw in that of Dr. Jonathan – when a president is on the path of perdition, the first thing that happens is that he and his backers consciously lose historical memory of everything, especially the social forces and coalition that brought him to government. With this loss of historical memory comes arrogance of an empty sort that is the precursor to self-diminishing and a political end.

Now here are the facts. President Buhari contested at least three times and lost, with all the often talked about votes of the Northern “masses”. The important thing is why Buhari lost repeatedly. The answer is simple. Truly or wrongly, in those elections Buhari was seen as a religious zealot and bigot and an ethnic jingoist who can never change. Even though he allegedly had the fabled Northern “masses” behind him, the rest of Nigeria said NO to him.

If Buhari failed thrice, why will he and his coterie of defenders arrogantly twist and assault reality, fact and history by claiming that Northern votes were what sufficiently gave him victory in 2015 and that this justifies Buhari’s ethnic bias and irredentist appointments? Those votes were necessary but they were never sufficient to elect candidate Buhari.

This empty arrogance, which borders on disrespect for other Nigerian national groups explains Buhari’s ethnically skewed appointments so far and it also explains what many see as the national and moral recession of Buhari’s presidency. In retrospect, given Buhari’s irredentist appointments, one can understand why General Muhammadu Buhari would say that one of Nigeria’s greatest thieves, and also one of the most corrupt heads of state in Nigeria, a fellow General, Sani Abacha was not corrupt! There is an obvious dissonance in Buhari’s claim that General Abacha was not corrupt and his claims to to be motivated in a fight against corruption!

But before Buhari and his backers destroy the history of the 2015 elections, it is important to lay things bare and stark. The outcome of the 2015 elections was partly decided by the hard work of the social democratic forces across Nigeria – the working people and masses across all geographical parts of the country and members of the middle class, both at home and in the diaspora, who took the decision to end PDP’s rule and commence a search for a Change. Candidate Mohammed Buhari was a mere symbol of that Change Mission. And, a symbol and his coterie of loyalists cannot be bigger than the national forces that made that symbol possible.

Ex-president Jonathan’s government and party, PDP, fell at the 2015 polls precisely because of this moral poverty of vision in public governance fed by sectional, ethnic and irredentist politics, which President Buhari is re-inventing and re-making on the irredentist platform of a coterie of so-called loyalists from the Northern part of the country.

Also, a mirror can never change itself. So it is with Buhari’s perceived bigotry and zealotry. If someone is a zealot and a bigot or is perceived as one, he cannot by himself change that, for nothing he says will be believed by the external world beyond him. Hence as a perceived zealot and a bigot, candidate Buhari cannot, by himself, change that perception. This explains why he lost the presidential election three times.

After those losses, and given ex-president Jonathan’s ethnic and jingoist government and failed presidency, it took the social democratic forces across all parts of Nigeria and the Diaspora, to stand up and work to change that local and global perception of Buhari as a zealot and an ethnic bigot. Candidate Buhari and his skewed and irredentist backers that are suddenly showing their faces may not know this, but that is the blunt truth. And this must be stated in the public domain before someone distorts the history of Nigeria, as it is often done.

That social democratic force across the nation and in the Diaspora is what explains the game change and why Buhari was accepted abroad and locally. For President Buhari and his clique of irredentist backers to wake up after the election and forget this is not only opportunistic but a big set back for the Change Mission and for the country. This empty arrogance is at the root of the moral and national reduction of the Buhari presidency.

Shehu Garba as Senior Special Assistant (Media and Publicity) to President Buhari carried this empty arrogance to a ridiculous extent when he waxed “philosophical” and categorically denied that candidate Buhari had knowledge of the Change Document, “My Covenant With Nigerians”, which was the platform that gave Buhari victory. Lai Mohammed the APC publicity secretary put the weight of APC behind this lie.

If Shehu Garba and Lai Mohammed are right, three things follow, one or all of which must be true. It is either candidate Buhari lied to APC or that APC lied to candidate Buhari, or both candidate Buhari and APC lied to one another. Whatever is the nature of the mutual lie, the consequence is what matters. If Buhari and APC are denying the Change Document, it follows that Buhari believes that he was elected in a programmatic vacuum.

And this belief that he is elected in a programmatic vacuum may explain why Buhari believes that his loyalty lies with an ethnic group, a coterie of so-called “trusted loyalists” – a Northern ethnic group – rather than a programme of action. This is because in democratic politics you are either loyal to a clearly stated programme – which “My Covenant With Nigerians” is – or a coterie of persons which the covenant is not. By Buhari’s denial and the denial of his party, APC, to the knowledge of a programme, which brought them to power, both Buhari and his party APC, are making a choice – loyalty to persons and not programmes in public governance.

This Buhari and APC choice – the denial of a programmatic vision that brought them to power, which is also a denial of the existence of the issue of the national question and the urgent need to address it, is a clear return to ex-president Jonathan’s sectional and irredentist government which was based on and run by ethnic and irredentist loyalty of and to the South-South and South-East.

Ex-president Jonathan’s government and party, PDP, fell at the 2015 polls precisely because of this moral poverty of vision in public governance fed by sectional, ethnic and irredentist politics, which President Buhari is re-inventing and re-making on the irredentist platform of a coterie of so-called loyalists from the Northern part of the country.

This is why this national and moral reduction of the Buhari’s presidency is a signal to what may happen to the future of our country, the 2019 polls, and beyond.

Adeolu Ademoyo, aaa54@cornell.edu, is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

 

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