The Dongoyaro Verdict


As we berth at the banks of one year bash of the ascension of President Mohammadu Buhari to office as a civilian leader, it is important that we interrogate his stewardship so far in the context of the present sufferings of Nigerians. In this interrogation, the only sensible and fair instrument that would be used is that of History in juxtaposition to the present to engage in the hazardous task of gauging in a fairly manner, what the next three years would likely look like.  

It was the Spanish born American trained essayist, George Santayana who once posited that those who refused to learn the lessons of history are bound to repeat the mistakes of history. In this, he has been seconded by our own WS, Professor Wole Soyinka who has also posited, “History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future.” These two great scholars and social consciences of the human race have in the simplest of all forms communicated one of the greatest lessons needed by social engineers for the progress, prosperity and the development of the human societies especially in the areas of justice, peace, economic fairness and eradication of poverty.

The social engineers are the politicians. For it is they who enunciate policies that twitch the pendulum of development positively or negatively to underdevelopment, mal – development or non- development; they constantly seek the right modulation of social tenor to achieve the best they know how. In this task, as these two scholars contend, lessons of the past are germane and very instructive. They instruct us about the failures of the past and why things had gone wrong and how we could or should navigate the present to arrive at a better future for ourselves.

It is for this reason that once again the interrogation of President Buhari would have to be done on his score card that his professional colleagues gave him when he was removed from power in August 1985. This is because some of the reasons appropriated for his removal from power then unfortunately are the same things that are currently being manifested in his governance of Nigeria as we speak. At about one year in office, it is clear that the leopard has not changed its spots. There has not been any difference between the then General Mohammadu Buhari and the now President Mohammadu Buhari.

Brigadier Joshua Dongoyaro who delivered the broadcast to announce the overthrow of General Buhari from power on August 25,1985 among other things said the following:

“The Nigerian public has been made to believe that the slow pace of action of the Federal Government headed by Major-General Muhammadu Buhari was due to the enormity of the problems left by the last civilian administration.”

For those who are closely paying attention to the present Buhari administration and its fundamentalist apologists, this is the same mantra that is being flung around; it is the same inanity that is being ornamented for his slow pace of things. But a lot of insiders in this administration know that this is balderdash. Even then, the fact that he and his political party sought to replace President Jonathan from power presupposes that they knew they had to fix the mess President Jonathan would leave behind. But please listen to Brigadier Dongoyaro again:

“Although it is true that a lot of problems were left behind by the last civilian government, the real reason, however, for the very slow pace of action is due to lack of unanimity of purpose among the ruling body; subsequently, the business of governance has gradually been subjected to ill-motivated power play considerations. The ruling body, the Supreme Military Council, has, therefore, progressively been made redundant by the actions of a select few members charged with the day-to-day implementation of the SMC's policies and decision.”

The above explanation by Brigadier Dongoyaro is exactly what is repeating itself presently in this President Buhari administration. This writer has it on authority from some insiders in this administration who are insisting that the botched 2016 Budget “best explains” the operational style of this administration with everyone working at cross-purposes.   The obvious lack of plan, dangerous power-plays, nepotism, negative tribalism, superiority complex and fear of initiatives from senior members of the administration among others are gradually eating away the ability of this government to respond to Nigerians who had hoped that this would be a different era.

But listen to Brigadier Dongoyaro again in 1985:
“The concept of collective leadership has been substituted by stubborn and ill-advised unilateral actions, thereby destroying the principles upon which the government came to power. Any effort made to advise the leadership, met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty.

Thus, the scene was being set for systematic elimination of what, was termed oppositions. All the energies of the rulership were directed at this imaginary opposition rather than to effective leadership.

The result of this misdirected effort is now very evident in the country as a whole. The government has started to drift. The economy does not seem to be getting any better as we witness daily increased inflation.”

Everything in the above quotes sounds like just now. It sounds as if this is a criticism of President Buhari as opposed to General Buhari. Same old approaches, same old results. But please, do not conclude yet. Brigadier Dongoyaro also said inter alia:

“The nation's meager resources are once again being wasted on unproductive ventures. Government has distanced itself from the people and the yearnings and aspirations of the people as constantly reflected in the media have been ignored.

This is because a few people have arrogated to themselves the right to make the decisions for the larger part of the ruling body. All these events have shown that the present composition of our country's leadership cannot, therefore, justify its continued occupation of that position.

Furthermore, the initial objectives and programmes of action which were meant to have been implemented since the ascension to power of the Buhari Administration in January 1984 have been betrayed and discarded. The present state of uncertainty and stagnation cannot be permitted to degenerate into suppression and retrogression.”

Do the above statements sound relevant to the present? You bet it does. Yes, this is history repeating itself. This is part of what some asked the political leaders to look at before they anointed Buhari as the flag bearer of the party.   They did not listen. And here we go again.

Nigeria once again is betraying the hope of its peoples by recycling a fiendish retired military man turned emergency politician to pilot its fortunes.   Those who gave him a benefit of the doubt in his second coming are already gnashing their teeth now. As much as they want to keep excusing him, the basis on which they have to offer explanations for his indiscretions and failings are getting too numerous by the day.   The most painful of all this is that this second coming could easily have been averted. The trajectory chosen for Nigeria could easily have been different. But the kind of the political leadership in control is challenged in so many ways than one to make better decisions for Nigeria.

There are a lot of things that are dangerous about President Buhari – from incorrigible religious fanaticism, ticklish tribalism, malignant nepotism, dastard dishonesty to craven corruption. But the two most dangerous things about President Buhari are his deception and incompetence. The issue on the table is not that there are not knowledgeable men around him but like Brigadier Dongoyaro insisted in 1985, “Any effort made to advise the leadership, met with stubborn resistance and was viewed as a challenge to authority or disloyalty.” It was the issue them. It is still the issue now.

This could be seen in the practice of the administration and its fundamentalist apologists who would brand any honest critique as coming from a PDP or a member of the opposition. They have no tolerant of any divergent view. Their excuse is that there is too much corruption for Buhari to be opposed. They insist that Buhari should be allowed to do whatever he wants as long as he fights corruption. Even, my good friend and colleague, Femi Adesina sees the critics of the administrations as “Wailing Wailers.” He even suggested that when Buhari speaks with Nigerians, it was a favour that he did not have to do. He has forgotten that calling Buhari or any other occupier of that office “President” is euphemism for “First Servant.”

As Brigadier Dongoyaro advised, “No nation can ever achieve meaningful strides in its development where there is an absence of cohesion in the hierarchy of government; where it has become clear that positive action by the policy makers is hindered because as a body it lacks a unity of purpose. It is evident that the nation would be endangered with the risk of continuous misdirection. We are presently confronted with that danger. In such a situation, if action can be taken to arrest further damage, it should and must be taken.”

But as is evident so far, the war against corruption is not coordinated. It is largely being fought on the pages of the newspapers and there has not been any substantial progress. Corruption is going on under the nose of Buhari. Apart from a lot of corrupt men holding sway in the administration, corruption is metastasizing under President Buhari's nose. For example, the National Resource Governance Institute (NGRI) an international non-profit organization is already alleging that the NNPC is withholding more money from the National Treasury compared to what happened in the previous administration. So far in the first 6 months of Buhari administration only one third ($2.1b) out of ($6,3b) found its way into the country's Treasury. The report alleges that parts of unremitted amount ($4.2b) “are spent in unknown manner” insisting that it found evidence “NNPC has retained all earnings from the offshore Oil Mining Lease (OML) 119, a field owned wholly by NPDC that produces around 30,000 barrels per day of Okono grade crude.”

Aside from corruption not abating under Buhari, there are agonies on the Nigerian streets. Boko Haram is still hanging like the sword of Damocles on the heads of Nigerians; the Fulani herdsmen are maiming, raping, murdering and looting across Nigeria, they are openly carrying arms in violations of the law and they are being protected by the compromised and tribalised security agencies ; light has become more irregular; there is no fuel in our stations; food are more costly; kidnapping is on the rise; armed robbery is becoming daily event; salaries are unpaid for several months across the country and Nigerians are dying needlessly on daily basis.

With all his best intentions, President Buhari constitutes a danger to the country. The greatest danger constituted by President Buhari to the country is his lack of know-how. It is not his dishonesty; or his corruption; or his tribalism; or his religious fanaticism.   It is his lack of knowledge on how to do whatever he thinks he has to do. Even if he wants to prove wrong his critics, he has no idea how to go about it. Some think he is overwhelmed. Others think that the problems of the country are too complex for him. But the TRUTH is that Buhari is incompetent and he does not have the know-how.

The Dongoyaro verdict of 1985 still remains relevant in 2016. The same shenanigans that prompted the overthrow of Buhari in 1985 are presently manifesting before our very eyes again. Buhari's leopard has not been able to change its spots. His views have remained the same. His methods have not changed. His feelings remain the same. His vision has remained tunneled. His mission is as serpentine as ever. He promised “change” and has no idea what “change” means. With this same conformation, the next three years do not look exciting for Nigeria and its peoples. Nigerians, aside from Buhari's fundamentalist apologists, so far have been enormously disappointed.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”

– John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

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