Issues in Buhari declaration


By John Udumebraye
In General Muhammadu Buhari declaration for the presidential race of 2015 on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), he strongly criticised the Government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Buhari enumerated a number of areas in which, he thought, the Government had failed Nigerians, including the welfare of the people, provision of infrastructure and social amenities, the economy, poverty alleviation, security and governance, in general. He concluded that PDP 15year rule had been that of massive failure and non-performance.

Traditionally, no one expects an opposition aspirant to speak positively about a sitting President, more so, for a man such as Buhari who has suffered defeat several times. Indeed, after three failed attempts at the presidential contest, the General may be considered to have acquired some considerable experience in coping with failure. Obvious signs are that he has become desperate, especially as age is not on his side. For credibility and seriousness of purpose, Buhari points of criticism of Jonathan at the declaration ceremony need to be assessed on the basis of facts and his own track record.

Having once had the opportunity of serving the nation as Head of State, Buhari record of leadership and performance should still be fresh in the memories of Nigerians, most of whom are still alive. It is ironical for Buhari to accuse President Jonathan of mismanaging the nation economy, resulting in untold hardship and widespread poverty. On the contrary, it was he (Buhari) who had a record of hair-brained economic policies that attracted sanctions from the West and ruined the economy, eventually forcing the regime of President Ibrahim Babangida to adopt the policy of devaluation and IMF conditionalities, which led to further decline in the economy.

Think of the poor economic conditions under which the masses of the people in the North now live. What did Buhari do to alleviate the situation in the region? One after the other, Northern leaders did nothing over the years to lift the region out of poverty. So, why should any of them talk about poverty when they left behind a legacy of abject poverty? Is that not why the North today has the largest number of poor and illiterate people, young men and women out of school?

Buhari claims that on the previous occasions that he was massively defeated in the presidential contests, the elections were rigged by the PDP. This was to be expected, following the truism that when people tell their own stories, they generally vindicate themselves and find faults with others. Buhari obviously has refused to realise that nobody can win a presidential election in Nigeria without doing well across the country.

In all the presidential elections (2003, 2007 & 2011) in which Buhari participated, he could not score 25% in any of the States in the South and was able to do so only in few States in the North. How did he expect to win? More importantly, Buhari lost the popular votes as well as his appeals at both the election tribunals and the Supreme Court. Were the court judgments also rigged? Buhari refusal to accept the results of all the previous presidential elections shows clearly that he has no respect, either for national institutions or, even more dangerously, for the nation judiciary.

Buhari lack of respect for the judiciary also permeates his attitude towards the rule of law. Nigerians could not have forgotten the notoriety earned by the General from his application of Decree No.4, detention and jailing of two prominent journalists on the basis of that Decree; nor can we forget the execution of two others for drug trafficking based on a retroactive application of the law, demonstrating the mind of a person who has no patience for the fine details of the law.

Yet, another irony in Buhari criticism of the Jonathan administration is his expressed concern for the state of insecurity in the country. In spite of this so-called concern, his statements and attitudes have tended to encourage violence. During the campaigns for the 2011 presidential election, Buhari openly incited his supporters to violence in the name of asking them to defend their votes and deal with election riggers. Did his supporters not accept his invitation to violence? Yes, they did! And the result was the massive outbursts of violence and orgy of destructions in many States in the North. Is it not the seed of violence sown by Buhari, out of electoral desperation that has now germinated into insurgency and terrorism? Was it not also said, at the time, that if Jonathan won the 2011 presidential election, the country would be made ungovernable for him? Why are the architects of violence now the ones bellyaching about insurgency?

Over the years, Buhari name has come to be erroneously associated with discipline, transparency and accountability. This reputation, as we all know, is based on propaganda. As head of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), Buhari, not only sanctioned and approved an arrangement which gave the Management of all the Agency projects (worth billions of naira) to only one consulting firm, made up of only Northerners, including the late Salihijo and loquacious Nasir el-Rufai. What came out of the billions? Where are the projects?

Even the challenge of divisiveness, so gleefully referred to by Buhari, was openly promoted by him as Head of State. True, Buhari initiated and implemented policies that were anti-South. For instance, he stopped the mono-rail project in Lagos which today would have solved the public transportation problems in the metropolis. That project, worth an estimated value of $700 million at the time cannot even be contemplated today because of the prohibitive cost. Consequently, millions of naira are still lost daily to traffic jams and gridlocks. Also, Buhari regime was characterised by a lack of sensitivity to delicate balances in the country. For example, the top echelon of his Supreme Military Council was predominantly composed of Muslims, and sadly mainly Muslim Northerners.

Can Buhari point to any development legacy in Nigeria? How can a man who once ruled and had nothing to show for it be pontificating about performance and criticising those who have an abundance of projects and achievements? Hardly is there any reference to, either some infrastructure, or major projects executed during the Buhari era. It is, therefore, another irony for a man who has done nothing to accuse another of non-performance.

When Buhari claims that for 16 years, the PDP Government had done nothing, is he talking about the same PDP Government that took the country out of the slavery of foreign debts accumulated by Buhari and his cohorts; the PDP Government that has moved Nigeria to the number 1 economy in Africa, expanded university education by privatising the sector and allowing the creation of more than 70 private universities, with the attendant expansion of university opportunities for Nigerian youths; established, refurbished and re-equipped numerous teaching hospitals, medical centres and specialised medical facilities? Is Buhari referring to the same PDP Government that brought a revolution of telecommunication, through the GSM and took Nigeria to the club of space research, through the launching of her own satellite? Is he really talking of the same PDP Government that has transformed Nigeria in the last 15 years? Buhari vision is, indeed, skewed!

Mr. Udumebraye sent this piece from Port Harcourt.

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