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  • Buhari: Why Nigeria Fails
  • Muhammadu Buhari’s still appears on the roll,
    and his picture on the walls of various public
    buildings, as President and C-in-C, but the
    actual power of the president has very clearly
    shifted into the hands of Yemi Osinbajo, former
    Professor of Law, who has been acting as
    president of the republic since Buhari embarked
    on his extended medical leave. And yet again, it
    is déjà vu. It feels almost right back to the Umar
    Yar’Ardua situation, when the Nigerian electorate
    were manipulated and deceived into electing a
    very sick man.
    The difference is that Nigerians from all sides of
    the great river soon fell for Yar’Ardua, who
    embarked on his presidency with a virtuous
    stride. First, he acknowledged that the elections
    that brought him to office were flawed, and
    pledged not only to do right by Nigerians, but to
    rectify the flaws in the electoral system as part
    of what he’d leave as his legacy. Second, he
    embraced a peace-building initiative by bring in
    the militants of the Niger Delta from the cold.
    He made very deft diplomatic moves, reached
    out to them, and opened an empathetic ear, and
    managed to bring that situation under control.
    Yar Ardua solved the problem of the Niger Delta
    insurgency by acting as statesman, a diplomat,
    and an astute political leader with deep
    intellectual capacity. Yar’Ardua moved quickly to
    embrace the nation, including those who did not
    vote for him, and quickly tried to set Nigeria on
    an even keel. He was methodical in his moves
    to bring corruption to an end, and there were
    hints that he was intent on making his moves,
    even against the big names who had big hands
    in the Nigerian cookie jar, before he succumbed
    to his terminal condition, and his death, many
    Nigerians still confess, robbed Nigeria of one
    who might have been her first great president of
    the 21st century.
    But Yar’Ardua came from different stock: his
    family was politically grounded. His father had
    been Minister of Lagos – the equivalent today of
    the Minister for Abuja – in the First Republic.
    His elder brother, the late Shehu, had built a
    formidable political following himself, and it does
    seem that the younger Umar, inherited the
    leverage and goodwill his brother who was
    allegedly murdered in Abacha’s prison in
    Abakiliki had built. But he was his own man
    also. He had chosen radical politics over his
    family’s more centrist, and possibly
    conservative politics, both as a student at the
    Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he read
    Chemistry in the 1970s, and at the onset of the
    politics of the Second Republic.
    Where Shehu dabbled with Awolowo’s UPN,
    Umar chose to ride with Mallam Aminu Kano’s
    PRP. Umar had also been finely educated at the
    Government College Keffi and Barewa College,
    the two great public schools of the North, where
    he had also played fine cricket, a game he
    continued playing, earning his colours on the
    Ahmadu Bello University Cricket XI, playing
    alongside the likes of Dan Nzelu, onetime
    executive Director of the NNPC, among others,
    with whom he was contemporaries at ABU. He
    served his stint, taking no advantage of his
    family’s formidable political connections, as a
    Lecturer at the Kaduna Polytechnic. Yar’Ardua
    was young, well-educated, sharp, modern,
    secular and broad-minded, and did not carry the
    burdens of fierce nightmarish faith. He was not
    just a Northerner. He was a Nigerian. He made
    that absolutely clear. But as I said, he was a
    sick man, and his handlers knew this, yet they
    deceived Nigerians into voting a man who
    carried the burden of his own possibly imminent
    The drama leading to Yar Ardua’s death and the
    transfer of power to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan set
    the grounds for the kinds of political anxieties
    and uncertainties that later grounded Jonathan.
    But first, Nigeria was governed by a dead man
    for months. His handlers were in denial. The
    region of the north, and the political “elite” of the
    north who felt the presidency was the North’s
    were in denial and up in arms. The National
    Assembly elected to be the guardians of the
    nation was stymied by ethnic and regional
    interests. The transfer of power became
    acrimonious, alongside a North-South divide
    that as I said set the tone for Jonathan. When
    he finally became president, Jonathan was
    expected to carry all the burdens of the nation
    and distil it to its most elegant solutions: here
    was a president who became president by
    indirection – almost on a platter of gold: a
    minority’s minority; an educated man with
    tertiary degrees; a man of science, and one who
    grew from extreme poverty to become the leader
    of a nation.
    It was almost as if providence had come to play,
    and that the so-called Nigerian “common man”
    finally had an ally on the seat of power in
    Nigeria. But it soon became very clear that in
    spite of the enormous goodwill that rode with
    him into office, Goodluck Jonathan was
    uncertain about his next moves; he became a
    captive to special interests – the “privatizers” of
    public corporations; the “security state”
    apparatus for whom great national insecurity is
    big business; the international consortium of
    what John Perkins called economic Hitmen.
    Jonathan had a very thin rolodex, and he had to
    rely on an apparatus foisted on him by
    ambitious and desperate men.
    The tragedy of Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency
    was that he was busy looking over his
    shoulders, and he was hobbled by anxieties, and
    it led to the failed policies of appeasement. He
    failed to make decisive and bold moves: he
    allowed “Boko Haram” to fester and it became
    real business for shadowy interests in his
    government; he tried to appease a so-called
    disgruntled north, and he was very frontally
    subverted, and he continued on the path of
    appeasing powerful special interests rather than
    serve real Nigerians. It ended his presidency
    and tied him today to an uncertain legacy.
    I’m afraid that Osinbajo is about to embark on
    the same route that hobbled Jonathan. But he
    must look to history. Let us call it as it is: to all
    evidence before us, President Muhammadu
    Buhari is not functioning as the elected
    president of Nigeria, and his continued residency
    in convalescent captivity in London or wherever
    secret place he may be kept out of the public
    eye, has now become a national security threat
    to Nigeria. Buhari has basically, by no direct
    fault of his own we must acknowledge,
    abandoned his official duties for far too long.
    Having been gone for this long, it is clear that
    Buhari is still not yet able to come back an work
    to govern Nigeria.
    Does it now behoove the elected Nigerian
    National Assembly to do its duties by Nigerians,
    write to the president, and make public the real
    condition of his health, so that he can go home
    to Daura, and take care of his health in order to
    allow Osinbajo assume full control of the
    business of governance in these moments of
    serious and troubling crises that threatens to
    unravel Nigeria. The National Assembly has that
    obligation and that power. Nigeria fails because
    those the people elect fail to do their duties to
    Nigeria but choose to cling to primordial and
    dangerous interests. It is like Osinbajo meeting
    with the so-called “traditional rulers” over the
    issue of a Nigeria threatened with separatist
    Same old and tired moves for a man who
    should know that these “traditional rulers” are
    relics that have very little influence anymore in
    these matters in a highly urbanized,
    demographically young and complex nation. A
    more effective president elected in a democracy
    and confronted by an open revolt of the people
    would seek to meet directly with various
    community groups: town union reps, Nnamdi
    Kanu who commands an Army of followers
    larger than any “traditional ruler” in Igbo land;
    Professional organizations – the NBA, the NMA,
    the Union of Teachers, Community Action
    Groups, Civil Society organizations, Students
    and Youth organizations, Neighbourhood
    associations and their Block Captains, Trade
    groups, and even ask his Public
    Communications team to organize a wide-range
    of direct town-hall meetings in the East and in
    the North, which he should tour extensively to
    address, and appeal to the people directly.
    But Osinbajo may yet fail to read the writing on
    the wall. He must not make Jonathan’s mistake
    of appeasement of special interests while
    ignoring real Nigerians. And he should, right
    now know that with the rapid and unfolding
    situations, there will be no second chance.

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