Well, it is going to get old saying I told you so. I can bet my bottom naira that nothing is going to change, at least not from what we have seen so far. As I have repeatedly stated in this column, change cannot come from a man who has not changed one bit, nor shown the slightest inclination to change contrary to the tales that were peddled on the campaign train. That will only happen when it’s proved that a leopard can now change its spots, or a tiger can change its stripes. His recent actions are a further proof of his ironclad narrow-minded, and ethnically inclined nature.
Those who collectively misled the people that Buhari had changed but are now singing a different tune must be held to account. We were bombarded with all sorts of virtuous and exemplary conducts of his past, and told his ethno-religious tendencies were “contrived” to undermine him. We were assured that Buhari would heal this land and restore hope to a fractured people. That has not happened; instead he has more than any president in the history of Nigeria consciously exacerbated the ethnic and religious divisions of the country by his actions and total display of insensitivity by his appointments.
They told us that he was the expected one – the long-awaited messiah who would bring back the glory of the fatherland and restore the pride of a people that were terribly famished. That wishful thinking has now clearly exploded in the faces of the proponents who spent their precious naira burnishing his image with cosmetics, as the candidate played along to the excitement of many.
In the last one year, the Nigerian economy has practically collapsed under the great “fixer”; the business environment has been scorched to the ground. Hunger and starvation have become daily companions of many people such that parents now exchange children for food. The change agents told Nigerians the ominous sounds of the prospect of a Buhari presidency that rang out so loudly during the electioneering were in fact drumbeats of exhilaration, hope and renewal.
Today, Nigeria stands challenged in all spheres, rudderless and floundering like never before. And of course we have so many astonishingly ridiculous and perverse people making silly excuses for the man who clearly has no business being at the helm of affairs of this country. Now it seems so obvious that Buhari and his party were very good at making promises but only excel spectacularly at making excuses for not fulfilling them.
The clamour for change can be categorised into four broad subheads, viz., the genuine change-seekers, the willfully blinded, those that lost out in the power struggle and had become spiteful, and the extremely partisan and sneaky activists who now even look the other way as the rule of law is mocked and torn to shreds.
It is true that many people yearned for a more fundamental change and desired it desperately; indeed, they still do. They constituted the genuine but ignorant, naive, vulnerable and undiscerning majority. These genuine change-seekers however became easily susceptible to the illusions called “change” promised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its standard-bearer who walked about with padded feet, waving and smiling sweetly at everyone to frenzied applauses from enthusiastic crowds.
Secondly were those who chose to be willfully blinded to the danger signals that were so glaringly visible that then Candidate Muhammadu Buhari represents. Thirdly was the category who embraced change more out of spite and malice than conviction that Buhari’s presidency would bring the much-needed elixir and healing to this troubled country. Having lost out in the struggle for power and control, they wanted to get back at former President Goodluck Jonathan. And in a clear act of sheer desperation, progressive-minded people joined forces with ultra-conservatives in an unholy alliance to get power.
Lastly were members of the intellectual/activist class who staked their reputations built over many years to sway support for the general on the extremely naive and dishonest premise that Buhari had changed. By endorsing Buhari, they were endorsing a brand of populism rooted on a campaign of half-truths, “true lies”, ignorance, prejudice, sectional politics and outright deception driven by a motivation to mislead the people to achieve power. To this group, the end justified the means.
The intellectual/activist class is particularly guilty of the situation we find ourselves today. They vouched for Buhari with such vigour and gusto that left the discerning dumbfounded. Our own hero and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, stood shoulder above all others on this score. This was how he expressed his love for him: “It is however just as purblind to insist that he has not demonstrably striven to become what he most glaringly was not, to insist that he has not been chastened by intervening experience and – most critically – by a vastly transformed environment – both the localised and the global.” This to me was a pure fiction.
There is a saying in the land of my fathers that the hardest thing in life is vouching for someone, especially someone you barely know. When you do that, you are indirectly saying, ‘I’m putting my reputation on the line. I believe this person is a good person, with good character’, or has changed. This was what Nigerians were told. Soyinka and co. stood as referees for Buhari when he applied for the position of the president of Nigeria. They vouched for a changed Buhari and encouraged the public to employ him for the top job.
Will Soyinka honestly tell Nigerians whether this was the change he assured them would come from Buhari? Has Soyinka seen the lopsided appointments Buhari has been making across all strata of government? It is a chilling reminder of his past stint in office, particularly his tenure as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF); a past that was denied by his hysterical supporters in the run-up to the election.
Professor Pat Utomi was one of those who like our own dear Soyinka put his reputation on the line to reassure the people that Buhari “will restore hope” and lead Nigeria out of the woods during the high fever of electioneering.
You can imagine my profound shock and disbelief a few months ago when he launched a scalding attack on President Buhari and his government for the beyond-belief manner he was managing the national fault lines as well as his poor handling of the economy. This was what he was reported to have said: “The problem with Buhari’s administration is his medieval mindset. He excludes rather than includes. So, he does not get the best idea. He is insular. Because of their medieval mindset, they have created a country that is more divided than they met it. And that is a problem for leadership that is marching towards progress. His ideas go back 30 years and they are irrelevant to this world.
Open up your mind and listen to people and you can make progress. To lead is to serve. To lead, you must be knowledgeable. People don’t follow somebody who doesn’t know where he is going. Otherwise, you fall into a ditch.” After reading that statement, I could not but asked myself and anyone who cared to listen, did he just know this about Buhari? I’m baffled as to how I could have seen it all and more experienced people like Utomi didn’t.
As if Utomi’s about-face was not dramatic enough, read what Oby Ezekwesili of Bring Back Our Girls fame had to say about the administration: “Buhari’s economic policies are archaic and opaque, reminiscent of his first coming in the 80s. During that era, inflation spiralled. During that era, jobs were lost. During that era, the economic growth level dipped. That era wasn’t the best of eras in economic progress. “What did not work in 1984 cannot possibly be a solution in a global economy that’s much more integrated.”
She accused Buhari of rehashing the same “command and control” approach towards economic issues which has left the country’s economic indices worse off, adding: “We have lost the single digits inflation status we maintained in past administrations.”
The question we should all ask our bouncy campaigner is: did she just know this about Buhari? The truth is, she was one of those who consciously ignored the danger signals that were all so visible to everyone but which many chose to be willfully blinded to. The Chibok girls’ plight became a vote-catcher for then Candidate Buhari who repeatedly played it up and assured the nation it would top his list of priorities only to quickly relegate it to the footnote after gaining power. Where is Professor Charles Soludo? Is he still in this country? If yes, then he must be grumbling quietly by now about the state of the economy. That is, if his economic theories still make any sense. But why is he not talking? The change he helped foist on the people is mutating into a crippling police state.
The economy is in a perilous state – on the verge of a recession. Is he not aware? To the chagrin of investors recently, a “changed” Buhari lest we forget, talked down the CBN new forex policy moments after endorsing it, thereby making many potential investors to nervously wait and watch from the sidelines. Now, won’t Soludo tell Nigerians how much the country has lost through the mismanagement of the economy, lack of policy direction and lost investment opportunities under one year of Buhari — N10 trillion, N20 trillion, N30 trillion or more? It will be interesting to hear from him, that is, if he still has the courage of his conviction. It is a crying shame that a first-class economist of Soludo’s stature was one of those who just couldn’t see through the facade of lies; maybe he did, but was driven more by petty revenge and that disease that afflicts only black people.
It is a double tragedy that he even aided and abetted the campaign of malicious lies with his allegation of “missing” or “mismanaged” N30 trillion during the run-up to the presidential election. It was a season when the walking wounded with malice in their hearts would come to the public space to spew rubbish just because they wanted to hug the headlines the next day. It keeps me up at night knowing that they willfully led this nation back to a replay of 1984/85, the consequences of which are the debilitating economic and socio-political crises we have today.
Let Nigerians ask former President Olusegun Obasanjo whether this is the “Nigeria of our dreams” he so gleefully told the world Buhari was building some months ago. The same Obasanjo acknowledged even before the election that Buhari knew next to nothing about economic management but went on to recommend him for the top job. Obasanjo who instituted an enquiry into the activities of the PTF even denied the findings. It was the height of fierce determination to push through his spiteful “change”. If Buhari was not good on the economy, he has even proved worse on politics. No one can tell for sure, maybe, just maybe, this was the change they meant after all.