Buhari: Our President, their Deity

The biggest challenge in the assessment of any government is always the counterforce of a marked legion of partisans loyal to it and willing to employ both literary and physical violence to defend it and malign its critics, often without bothering to address the faults exposed in the critiques.

Over the past months, one has been challenged to explain that clear-eyed assessments of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, and even of his candidacy years before he was sworn into his present Office, aren’t expressions of regret or mortal disappointment in him. They are the basic civic vigilance required to keep politicians on their toes, because, despite their declared interests, all are selfish or self-serving in different ways and to peculiar extents. But their partisans are quick to remind you, for every honest critique, that their principals or candidates are infallible. Perhaps this is because at our schools, teachers are not motivated to point out the difference between criticism and critique in public discourse or civics or even social studies.

The truth is, for many of us who have registered that Buhari’s honeymoon is over, if an election is conducted even today between him and the ousted former President Goodluck Jonathan, none would have a second thought before casting their votes against Jonathan, whose government almost legitimised corruption and was cruel to the point of diverting funds meant for counterterrorism to personal accounts of party stalwarts and terminal sycophants. Which was the reason for the overpopulated IDP camps across the north!

Our assessment of President Buhari was exactly the mindset we expected the pro-Jonathan to exhibit when they were busy singing praises of atrocious mismanagement of resources and disdain for critics of the government. Jonathan failed because they asked us to give him more time—even sharing his statement that a 4-year tenure wasn’t enough to fix Nigeria— while things were steadily falling apart. Jonathan failed because, even after squandering his goodwill and unable to meet expectations of the majority as validated in the March 28 polls, the sycophants allied and formed a sycophantic group paraded as “Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria” to extend the sufferings and dying of the Nigerian.

It’s easy for us to identify with Buhari based on shared religion and regional reasons, in the PDP apologists’ fashion of polarising realpolitik. But how would such sentimental advocacy fix the problems of the average Nigerian from Aba down through Oyo to Zaria?

Another mischief, though surprisingly infrequent, employed by some successors of the Pro-Jonathan, the Buharists, in countering critics of the government is reminder that criticism of the government is a ploy to get the attention of the government. This is the pitiable low to which public discourse has fallen in Nigeria. Unknown is the truth that many of these critics are frequently approached for political appointments, often rejected on grounds of principle or on having realised their role really is merely to head the propaganda unit of a government department. 

Early this week, I questioned the need for the popular #‎iStandWithBuhari movement. It’s hard not to notice them, with their outrageous spending on ads, planting billboards at strategic locations in Abuja to complement their online ads that spam the social media platforms of even the most tolerant internet users. If know what it means to have a billboard planted on the busiest streets of Abuja and also promote an obscure Facebook page for a large audience, then you may have an idea of the millions going down the drains for a markedly irrelevant partisan cause that masks its sycophancy in patriotic garments. This waste of resources on political frivolities is happening in a country with the third largest population of internally displaced persons in world, after Syria and Columbia! 

If partisan movements designed to promote the interest of politicians, instead of that of the nation, are a confirmation of patriotism, then we must have a second thought on our disapproval of Daniel Kanu’s Youth Earnestly Ask for Abacha (YEAA) for the late General Sani Abacha and Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Both campaigns elevated the virtues of personalities to the detriment of national or patriotic interests.

It is, to me, embarrassing that youth who ought to remain in their workstations to manage their specialised ventures and contribute to salvaging our collapsing economy are busy with sycophantic advocacies months after elections. The greatest service to any politician is electing him to choose qualified citizens to run the affairs of the nation. But what forms a good leader aren’t the cacophonous praise songs hummed by partisans, but the determination of civic-minded citizens to ensure that electoral promises are kept. 

Between ‪‎TAN and ‪#‎iStandWithBuhari, I don’t see any difference. If anything, TAN and YEAA pursued justifiable interests, the electoral capitals of their principals. Theirs were sycophancy with a defined purpose. ‪#‎iStandWithBuhari, happening months after the elections, for, as one of them argued, the defence of an elected leader, who has the military and the para-military institutions and the civil service at his beck and call, isn’t only sycophantic but inessential. They are a collective of ambitious partisans desperate for relevance. If indeed the partisans need such profligate movement to get Buhari working, it means they don’t even trust the man. Which is ironic. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda 

@gimbakakanda On Twitter

Niger State at 40: A Sober Reflection


On February 3, Niger State turned 40. It was created on that day in 1976, but its official existence as a State began on April 1 of the same year. The territory used to be a part of the old North-Western State, which was the era the people of Niger province registered themselves as extraordinarily progressive and, instead of being dominated by number, they only became the backbone of bureaucracy in that political formation that included the people of today’s Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbistates.

Prior to the existence of North-Western State, Niger even produced the Deputy Premier of the Northern Region, Alhaji Aliyu Makama of blessed memory. It may break your heart to learn that “Aliyu Makama”, a bureaucrat of primal esteem and model, is not even a Wikipedia entry. The era of the Makamas was that of polished bureaucrats who inhabited the multi-ethnic territories in their pursuits of a more unifying regional agenda eventually disrupted by the military goons.

At 40, and going down memory lane, what could be pointed to as accomplishment of the State, something to celebrate as a benefit of the demarcation (aside from, perhaps, the avoided inter-ethnic rivalries between the Nupe and the Hausa)?

Well, at 40, Niger is only a memorabilia of wasteful administrations and a few ones praised only because of the failings of the others. At 40, the strongest legacies of governance in Niger State were by the military. The progress of Niger State in those four eventful decades seems to have gone the inglorious way of its first Governor, the military administrator who only recently, as democratically elected this time, ran another state aground: Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako!

First, we started with a tradition of progressive bureaucracy which, ironically, has become our setback. The same Civil Service we used to point to as evidence of our administrative advancement is now what consumes the allocations received by the State and the meagre revenues it generates internally to run its affairs. We failed in this department because our policymakers did not exactly recognize the needs to identify and develop sectors of the economy to keep the burden away from Civil Service.

At 40, we boast that our States is enormously rich with solid minerals, but the governments have no official records of the distributions and amounts of deposits across the state. Because we are sure of the federal allocation that comes to complement our deficits.

What I always point to as the most symbolic evidence of retrogressive growth in the State are some of the policies of the past governments that only make me nostalgic and conscious of the achievements of the soldiers who came in the 80s. Niger is so indebted to the soldiers that, I think, it may not be a waste of resources to build monuments in their honour. The soldiers have left behind legacies that call to question performances of their successors in plainclothes.

For instance, I grew up in a Minna of well-paved roads with flowered central reservations and functional streetlights and flowing pipe-borne water and economic boom and regular environmental sanitations, achieved by the soldiers. So it’s funny to find us celebrating, about two decades later, the installation of streetlights by the last government.

If a streetlight was a normal sight in Niger in, say, 1991, celebrating it two decades later only calibrated our underdevelopment.

So, at 40, instead of celebrating Niger State, and our obviously laughable boast of being the largest state in Nigeria, I will call on our policymakers to develop a practical development plan to rescue this State that that is home to hydro-electric power stations that have accounted for nearly 50% of Nigeria’s stable power sources for decades!

Niger is a stallion mortally wounded, its promise of better days uncertain and hope resting on destructive ethnic politics. Our politics has taken the form of the nation’s. It’s levered by zonal Cabal whose interest is merely to restore their ethnic or family heritage. Today, it’s either a candidate is Christian or he is anything other than Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa.

In just two decades we have devolved into the opposite of that State where the Nupe, who are largely Muslims, elected their Christian brother Professor Jerry Gana as legislator. We are no longer the State that elected a man who was not Nupe, Gbagyi or Hausa, Dr. Musa Inuwa, as governor. Those were the years; those were the good years destroyed by several seasons of rearward development which the lucky Governor Inuwa himself energised in his ethnically inclined Civil Service reforms that revived the demons of tribalism that still terrorisethe State.

The legacy of Governor Inuwa wasn’t the foundation of our ethnic polarization and affinity, but it was the lintel on which ethnic ambassadorship and politics became the aim and priority of our zonally rotated executive leaderships. We have fallen from the tower of progressive ideas to the pit of primordial ethnic rivalries to the detriment of our proposed development. It was, thus, a relief that the current Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, which some creative mischief-makers refer to as “Diasporan Governor” for his many foreign trips, didn’t even acknowledge the day, let alone bother to celebrate“the fool at 40!”, wasting our resources in vain. Happy Anniversary (Reflection), Niger State. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

@gimbakakanda on Twitter

The Vacation President Buhari Needs 

The announcement of the President’s five-day vacation last week was interpreted vastly differently by individuals and groups across the country, generating both commentary and debate. This was because it happened less than a year into office. The good old man has also spent so much time thousands of meters above many big seas, crisscrossing from one hemisphere to another over the last eight months that a break away from his cluttered desk seemed to have more irony in it than meets the eye. 

 One of the subjects of intense debate during the vacation was whether indeed it was wise for the leader of a troubled country to spend more hours inside “Eagle One”, his official jet, than in his office at the Nigerian Presidential Complex, Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Abuja. 

 A devout believer in President Buhari observed that the only person that seems to believe in this government is Buharihimself. I interpreted that to mean the President is surrounded by sceptics and saboteurs, who give obsessively critical citizens evidence to employ in “embarrassing” the President. 

 I think the people have a reason to be worried by the existence of an itinerant President who ought to be around to monitor events, instruct his men and supervise the execution of approved solutions. Since the weight of the nation’s problems rests on the President’s shoulders as the father of the nation, it’s seen that the only vacation he needs right now is a long one inside his Office. This way, the institutional lapses that result into uninspiring policies, corporate fraud and escalating terrorism, like the grossly inflated budget, electricity tariff hike and uncertainty over territories under Boko Haram respectively, would be tracked with keener presidential interest.

 Some of our damaged foreign relations, which the President rushes to repair, can be fixed by proxy or through delegations. This is even the reason he has ministers with portfolios. Or these trips can wait for the President to finish his most pertinent homework. In fact, we have lobbying agencies available for engagement, to communicate our agenda to the Big Brothers who, nonetheless, always watch. What can’t wait, while the President junkets, are the collapsing internal structures of the country. What can’t wait are problems that “body language” can’t fix, at least from a foreign land. What can’t wait are the so-called budget mafia, and all who would only perform their tasks diligently in the presence of a monitoring spirit. 

This was why, on reading report of another proposed trip by the President, a three-nation tour of the Middle East, I think the people need to beg him to postpone it. If not for his health, then for that of the nation plugged to his integrity and decisions. Our internal affairs, which even yesterday killed over 50 innocent citizens with an attack on an IDP camp in Borno State, are, for now, more damaged than our foreign relations. A wise man doesn’t need a second thought to note which, between home and abroad, to make his priority.

It’s scary that we’ve built a political system in whichsycophantic citizens play the role of the President’s spokesman, issuing statements in authoritative tones to defend the President. This was the syndrome exhibited by a tribe of partisans referred to as “Jonathians” in the days of President Goodluck Jonathan, but it appears that the wave of pro-Presidential partisanship amongst a tribe that parades itself as Buharists is even more obnoxious. What must be pointed out is, the President owes the people a responsibility. What he does isn’t based on altruism, but as instructed by the very Constitution on which he swore an oath to correct the accumulated wrongs he inherited from the administrations before his. He also travels around the world on public funds, yet, for simply demanding to know his foreign policies or asking why he doesn’t engage the services of smart lobbyists instead or even sit to serve as the nation’s father, any conscientious enquirers are described as political skeptics or the unintelligent epithet “wailing wailers” by a people adept in mischief.

 That the President appended his signature on the calamitous fraud that is the 2016 budget is an unfortunate twist for which, going by his antecedents, he ought to apologise to the nation and promise to correct the flaws and prosecute those culpable. This is because he ought to have engaged a technical review team to vet the proposals before the circus on the floor of the National Assembly. Nobody would’ve blamed a certain “budget mafia” for the discrepancies in the budget if it were Goodluck Jonathan. We have shamelessly lowered the bar for our man in power, protected him from taking responsibilities for all the things he was elected to redeem. We also crucified Jonathan for refusing to visit places and people hit by the terrorists. This should not change under Buhari. We shouldn’t change the meaning of responsive and responsible governance to suit the style and flaws of the new President. If he were not overseas so often, a visit to the grieving may not bring back the dead but it certainly will comfort both the victims and unaffected citizens and assure them that, despite the setbacks, efforts are in place to redeem their conditions.

What is even most heart-breaking is that censorship has been instituted by the Buharists who disapprove of basic analyses of the President’s foreign policies and bilateral relations and agreements with all the places visited. Instead of dissecting Buhari’s foreign policies, we are blackmailed or chose to fawn over how he shakes hands with cool white men in prim suits and stands in front rows in their photographs. This is the depth to which civic responsibility degenerates. May God save us from us! 

 By Gimba Kakanda 

@gimbakakanda on Twitter