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Election 2015: The Mistake in a Buhari Candidate

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By Alexander Ifeanyichukwu
In a former treatise I wrote on the subject of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the February 14, 2015 Presidential election, former head of state and retired army general Muhammadu Buhari with the title: Why Buhari is not Electable , I cautioned Nigerians against nursing the dangerous feeling of nostalgia and retire into thinking that things used to be much better in that obnoxious Buhari/Idiagbon regime. Not at all. They were not any better.

And that same mood that makes people sometimes camp out on what has been done a long time ago which makes it difficult for them to move ahead to accomplish new and greater things, has crammed some of the arguments supporting the choice of a man who last held public office, in the true sense of that word, some 30 years ago.

In fact, some of the most ludicrous arguments have laboured to remind us of how better organised we were as a people under the horse whip enforced War Against Indiscipline (WAI) which attempted to extract obedience to the law of the land from Nigerians.

WAI in its summary marked some of the worse periods in the nation's human right records, indeed it served as a period of the country's descent to the Hobbesian state when life became short and brutish, in the name of enforcing national discipline. Whatever that meant?

Nothing good could be deduced from WAI and that is why 30 years after its demise alongside that dispensation, no other government, whether military or civilian has attempted its replication in form or content. And this is simply because it lacked any modicum of modern day state institutional format.

How do you explain a corporal punishment that authorises soldiers or ragtag men of the WAI Brigade who would drag out a man from his car for a perceived traffic offence and in the full glare of his wife, children and reasonable members of the society, he is forced to lie down on the bare road, and there and then, his backside is lacerated with several strokes of the horse whip in the name of teaching him discipline and obedience to the law.

Many ladies in different parts of the country endured worse humiliation at the hands of WAI officials, yet no one dared speak out because it was part of the order of the day instituted by the Buhari military junta.

There is no way jungle justice like the type described above can pass for maintaining law and order in a modern society. The only way moral slide can be checked and national ethos enthroned is by establishing state institutions like the National Orientation Agency (NOA) and similar bodies.

In the aftermath of the emergence of general Buhari as the APC presidential candidate, few Nigerians have argued albeit in hushed tones supporting general Buhari on account of the success of the WAI programme yet, no government anywhere in the world has adopted this 'celebrated success story'.

A fewer others have tried to point to the accolades the War Against Indiscipline received across the world, especially from the western world. Again, the question arises: why has not any western country adopted this approach to stop the social malaise ravaging their economies, social and political systems?

The answer to these questions is simple. WAI apart from its inhuman disposition, lacks a workable template that anyone can follow and implement, indeed, not even general Buhari himself can say exactly how WAI can fit into a 21 st Century world order.

Like most things the country experienced in the long years of military interregnum, they remain the concoction of a few egotists who seized state authority by sheer force of arm and are often than not, ill-prepared for running the affairs of the state.

This state of unpreparedness which was quite rampant in the 20 months or so, of the Buhari interruption was visible in virtually every area of the Nigerian life and in his characteristic nature, the army general is not apologetic for this misadventure.

For instance, in the area of the nation's economy, General Buhari's only way of stabilising the economy which his coup-day announcement claimed was grinding to a halt, was by freezing most economic activities. In the end, his administration's weak budgetary implementation was responsible for one of the worse strikes by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in 1985 under the leadership of late Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.

As many Nigerians who were old enough to reason through what the Buhari government presented to the nation as a budget on May 7, 1984, showed clearly that the government was only concerned with strangulating Nigerians.

The highlights of that national budget included, ban on recruiting federal public sector workers, raising of Interest rates, stoppage of Capital Projects, prohibition of borrowing by state governments, cutting import as a way of reducing balance of payment deficit, introduction of currency change, price reduction of goods and services, among others.

Nothing from the list showed a government that was ready to point the nation's economy in another direction neither did it focus on improving the lots of the people as incidence of unemployment continued in that dispensation while there was no attempt to diversify the economy away from its overt dependence on oil revenue and encouraging private sector participation in economic growth.

Ordinarily, this shortfall in national economic perception could have been ignored if Buhari were venturing into governance for the first time, unfortunately not so, General Buhari who was a key member of the politicised military, served as military administrator and between 1976 and 1978 was the country's minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources in which capacity he was the first chairman of the Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), under the General Olusegun Obasanjo regime.

Despite serving in this quite sensitive ministry as a minister, General Buhari failed woefully to recognise that as at the time of his coming into power, it was expedient that the country embark on a massive diversification of its economy, using proceeds from a perishable source like petroleum to fund and develop a non-perishable sector like agriculture, for the future.

It therefore did not come as a surprise that President Obasanjo in his recently launched memoir: Under My Watch , expressed confident doubt that the Daura, Katsina state born retired general is able to manage the economy.

Added to this, only a few days ago in an interview with the Channels Television, General Buhari displayed this ignorance when he suggested that the solution to the sliding oil price on the Nigerian economy is to influence global oil price by lobbying producers.

He is unable to read the handwriting on the walls that it is no longer about dependence on oil, it is about a conscious diversification of the national economy, a process which has commenced over the last decade or more. The world economic leaders are devising alternative sources of energy and power and this will continue to impinge on world oil prices.

This flagrant display of ignorance in the working of the nation's economy from the over-militarised thinking of General Buhari, would turn out a national disaster if he is ever elected a president.

That he is unable to wean himself of this leaning towards his military background at all times was further displayed during his chairmanship of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under late General Sanni Abacha government. Buhari's allocation of 20 per cent of PTF resources to military funding remains a monumental disaster, especially at a time when sectors like education, health care and infrastructure were begging for attention.

For Nigerians, apart from the lure and attraction for continuity which the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency represents, an experimental leadership which the General Buhari option offers is too risky to be contemplated.

The retired army general has consistently displayed crass ignorance in the workings of a modern democracy and given his strict adherence to military ethos, pitiably, he is not cut out for what he is asking the people of Nigeria to hand him, their future.

Alexander Ifeanyichukwu is a public analyst and writes from Enugu  

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