“I wish that General Muhammadu Buhari will one day come back to rule Nigeria again”, I said to my uncle’s wife in 1996 as she regaled and beguiled me with fascinating stories of Buhari’s regime and succeeded in indoctrinating me.
In the past few months, weeks and days, I have been bombarded with questions from friends, family members, relations and even attacked on social media by those who consider themselves as “enemies” because of one thing: Why am I no longer supporting Muhammadu Buhari? Some said, rightly, that I sold Buhari to them and what happened that I am now the same person who is criticising him?
These are genuine and honest questions. And I promised that I will, in the fullness of time, explain what informed my new choice.
Buhari formally joined partisan politics and registered as a member of the defunct All Peoples Party (APP) which later became All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). From that moment, I became a staunch and die-hard Buhari follower and supporter.
I revered him, adored him, and believed in him as that one leader who possessed the magic wand to transform Nigeria, rid it of all the menace and evils that have bedeviled it from time immemorial.
During the 2003 Presidential Election, I was in a youth fellowship programme in the church where I used the platform to campaign for Buhari. This was the time Buhari was alleged to have preached that Muslims should only vote for Muslims and was accused of being a religious bigot and jingoist. But I gave a deaf ear to that because he was my star, my hero and my idol who does no wrong.
On Election Day in 2003, we drove to go and cast our votes as a family but I was the only one who voted for Buhari because all the rest were PDP and Obasanjo supporters. They knew he was my hero and my star and it was my choice, my right.
From 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015, I campaigned, supported and voted for Buhari, my hero whom I saw as the ideal leader for Nigeria.
He would vow to fight corruption and stop waste, stop the fraud called fuel subsidies, stop medical tourism, reform our education system, and being a former tough military commander-in-chief, repeatedly, the story was told of how he handled the Maitatsine riot, how he led Nigerian troops and routed invading Chadian rebels or forces during the Shagari administration.
Buhari presented himself to me, and indeed, millions of Nigerians, as the only stainless and untainted leader Nigeria has ever produced. Few days to 2011 presidential elections, I was at the International Conference Centre, Abuja, where Buhari and Pastor Tunde Bakare wound up their campaign and in giving his final remarks before the election, Buhari became too emotional and cried profusely in public-all for the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians and even declared that it was the last time he would run for election because by 2015, he would have been 72 years old and thus, too old to run. Yet, he broke that promise and threw his hat into the ring in 2015 and again, I wholeheartedly supported him because he was my hero, my star who does no wrong.
“I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody.”
This statement resonated with Nigerians and indeed, reverberated all over the African continent and the world. Personally, it reinforced my feelings and belief in Buhari that finally, the Messiah had come.
Although I can describe myself as an incurable optimist, but at the same time I am also a realist. Thus, I never expected him to turn Nigeria into a paradise or Eldorado over night. No. But I also expected him to lead from the front, to provide the basic minimum irreducible leadership. Leadership which inspires hope and confidence in the citizens-a total departure from the past, from the usual business as usual ways of doing things in Nigeria. That leadership that will build an egalitarian society and provide equal opportunities and level playing ground for all citizens to realise their potentials, build and strengthen institutions. Nothing more, nothing less.
Regrettably, since assuming office on May 29, 2015, things started unfolding, and I began to notice another part, another colour of Buhari hitherto unknown to me and contrary to the picture I held or what was sold to me. For instance, it took him six months, yes six months, not six weeks, to constitute his cabinet. General Murtala Mohammed of blessed memory was only in office for six months, two weeks and wrote his name in gold on the sands of time. Yet, I kept faith with Buhari, excusing all his failures because he was my hero, my star who is infallible and does no wrong at all.
Unfortunately, Buhari, my hero, my star, my idol, would travel abroad and talk down on Nigerians by describing them as criminals. For instance, on February 5, 2016, he told UK Telegraph that: “Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but they have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking”. Chai! I am yet to see any President of a country who would travel abroad to de-market his citizens and tarnish the image of his country, never.
Buhari sees himself as the only righteous human being in Nigeria, all of us are condemned criminals. This narrative he repeated on at least three occasions-all in a foreign land, including the infamous #LazyNigerianYouths of last year. We are a nation of about 200 million people and I can bet that 199 million are sincere, honest and hardworking people who are struggling and working hard to survive under harsh conditions. It is, therefore, utterly despicable for anybody to suggest or insinuate anything to the contrary, let alone our own president for that matter. Unfortunately, Buhari, my hero, our globetrotting president, travels abroad and presents himself to world leaders and the international community as the only righteous man remaining in this part of the world.
It was heartbreaking for me as things kept moving from bad to worse under the watchful eyes of Buhari, my hero. From removal of fuel subsidies, re-introduction of fuel subsidies, refusal or failure to constitute economic management team, naira devaluation which saw to the crashing of the value of Naira from N180 to N530 to a US dollar, creating serious economic crisis and hyper inflation. Loss of about 10 million jobs which forced parents to withdraw their children from schools both home and abroad, middle businessmen and petty traders couldn’t procure forex to import and then you hear of how some very few individuals were being allocated forex at the expense of the hapless masses and they make hundreds of billions while resting within the four walls of their bedrooms. It took the intervention of Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, who busted the racket. Yet, I kept faith with Buhari, hoping this will change some how and excused his failures.
Sadly too, his lopsided appointments continued unabated especially in the security sector which gave the north most of the positions. We have six geo-political zones and the convention has been that these positions are spread among the six zones, which is in accordance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution which provides that appointments into government of Nigeria or any of its agencies shall be done to reflect the federal character of Nigeria so that there shall be no dominance of one ethnic group or religion over others and to create a sense of belonging and patriotism among the citizens but again my hero, my star Buhari failed, yet, I excused his failure.
As time passed by, Buhari failed to make simple appointments to fill hundreds of vacant positions in agencies, or replace ministers whose positions became vacant on time. He also failed to fire or penalise appointees whose failures or indiscretion were visible even to the blind. Yet, I kept faith with Buhari in the hope that things will change.
Buhari fell ill and travelled to London for treatment not once, not twice, contrary to what he preached and castigated former leaders for doing. As the President of Nigeria, there is no medical equipment or physician that he cannot procure. I expected that as a man of integrity, he would not thread the path of those he loathed, condemned, castigated and derided. But unfortunately for me, Buhari failed me again. Yet, I kept praying for his recovery day and night and remained hopeful that somehow, things will change.
In his inaugural speech, Buhari promised to check abuse and diversion of local government funds, yet, as I write this, that was the last he ever said or mentioned about it. Again, he failed me, but I still kept faith with him, hoping things will change some how.
Before his inauguration, Buhari vowed to probe the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, reform the sector, forward the PIB to the National Assembly and institute culture and regime of transparency in the nation’s oil and gas sector. Again, Buhari failed woefully. He didn’t forward a single Bill to the MPs in this regard, NNPC continued doing business as usual and even awarded $25 billion oil contract without competitive bidding or even advertisement as required by law and some even said the companies in question didn’t possess the basic minimum requirements. Rather, he even vetoed the PIBG passed by the National Assembly. Yet, I kept faith with Buhari, hoping that things will change.
Insecurity engulfed almost every part of this country- from armed robbery, kidnapping for ransoms, herdsmen attacks, ethnic clashes, and then the Boko Haram insurgents became even stronger despite claims that they have been “technically” defeated or decimated. In all these, Buhari appeared completely detached and disconnected from the plight of the people. He would not visit victims of killings, and in some cases, even simple three paragraph statement to condole, console with the victims and show them empathy were either not issued or done after nationwide outcry and condemnations and it stopped at that.
The 200 kilometre Abuja-Kaduna road which, years back, I used to ply every other weekend even at odd hours became a danger zone due to activities of kidnappers. On daily basis, people are still being kidnapped and killed on the road and travelers now say their last prayers when plying that road. Yet, my fellow Buharists would not blame him even though he is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The mass murder of Muslim of the Shiites sect in December 2015 in Zaria where about 500 of them were killed, and hurriedly buried in a mass grave overnight remains unresolved and keeps haunting the Buhari administration.
The worst of it was Buhari’s divisive comments when he visited Plateau State after about 230 people were killed last year. He first said he shouldn’t be blamed for the killings simply because he looks like Fulani herdsmen and then he dropped the bombshell when he said “more people are killed in Zamfara than in Benue and Plateau State combined”. Sad. I was taken aback when I heard that. Questions over questions kept popping up in my mind over this reckless, divisive, insensitive and insulting statement coming from no other person but the President and commander-in-chief who supposedly is the father, leader and saviour of all Nigerians be they Christians, Muslims, Pagans or atheists. Whether they are Tivs, Beroms, Fulanis, Yorubas, Igbos. Kanuris etc., what message was he sending, what was his aim? What happened to his humanity? Where is his sense of empathy as a father, leader and president? What message was he sending to the families of the victims and the injured? Is it now about figures and numbers and not human life? Unfortunately, even as I write this, mass murder and genocide continues in Zamfara State and elsewhere and just last week, not fewer than 40 people were killed but the president only gave a phone call to Emir of Maradun, Alhaji Garba Tambari and flew to Uyo, Akwa Ibom State to flag off his re-election campaign.
All said and done, it was in January 2018 that I finally parted ways with Buhari. It was when I came to terms that here is a President whose appointments are openly and brazenly lopsided against majority of the country.
He was accused of being clannish and nepotistic in his appointments abinitio and did nothing to address that or even allay fears expressed by other sections of the country, ethnic or religious groups. Rather, more and more of those appointments were being made day-in, day-out sowing serious seeds of discord, division and disunity in a country that has so many fault-lines.
The scandal that rocked the spy agency, the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 2017, which saw to the ouster of the then director general and appointment of the most senior deputy director general, Mr Arab Yadam as acting DG and then Ambassador Muhammed Dauda, to head the agency, was still fresh on my mind.
I had expected that the least Buhari would do was to confirm Mr Yadam or Dauda since they were in the service of the agency. But to my utter shock, Buhari surprised Nigerians when he appointed his kinsman, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar to replace Dauda. He neither trust a Yadam nor Dauda both of whom are northerners at a time another of his kinsman, Lawal Daura, was heading the DSS and he was accused of concentrating the security appointment to favour his kinsmen.
To my best recollection, there was no president who concentrated these two key positions in his state of origin at the same time. Not even Goodluck Jonathan whom we vilified and characterised as the most clannish and nepotistic president ever.
For three days, I had a conversation with myself and deeply reflected over my 16 years support and followership of Buhari and nearly 30 years of my idolisation of him and kept asking myself: Is this the Buhari I was told is just, fair, honest, sincere, righteous, upright? Is this the man whom I adored, revered, and almost worshipped all these years? What has happened to him? Definitely he is not Jubril from Sudan. What happened to that solemn declaration he made on May 29, 2015- I belong to everybody? Does that mean he actually belongs to some people? I then remembered him saying in far away United States of America that in all honesty, his appointments and other political considerations would follow the same voting pattern of 2015: 97-5 percent. But even at that, these appointments didn’t in anyway satisfy or conform with that infamous formula in all honesty since a large percentage of the 97 percent fell between the cracks and effectively left out.
From that moment onward, my eyes were miraculously opened, I regained my consciousness and was delivered from the spiritual indoctrination, collective insomnia, exorcised from the dogmatic hallucinating spirit that had blinded my senses and the chains that caged me were let loose and I heaved a sigh of freedom and I began to see Buhari in his real and true colours of who really and truly he is and not the dummy that has been sold to me for nearly three decades and finally liberated from “mass idiocy and frightening deadening of moral sensibilities”, to borrow from Prof Farooq Kperogi. The scales has truly fallen off my eyes.
Mr Hassan wrote in from Abuja