The Danger In Buhari’s Totalitarian Patronage Model
Diversity and dynamic opposition are twin catalysts for effective democratic leadership. This explains why Nigeria owes a debt of gratitude to patriots, most notably, Ogbonnaya Onu, Bola Tinubu, and Muhammadu Buhari for sustaining the opposition movement, which culminated in the birth of All Progressives Congress (APC). Similar kudos ought to go to President Goodluck Jonathan for creating the enabling environment that engendered the emergence of the APC, the elusive viable alternative to the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The irony, however, is that Buhari, as president, has adopted a patronage model, which is on pace to decimate the opposition and potentially plunge the nation into a “next level” of crisis.
The Buhari patronage model is a totalitarian discriminatory scheme predicated purely on political inclinations. Adapted from the stone-age imperial philosophy, and brought into the 21st Century Nigeria since 2015, the model views opposition with perilous contempt. For example, Buhari’s second term is set to once again overly reward Northern Nigeria at the expense of the South, merely because the former accounted for 77% of his votes in the 2019 presidential election. Specifically, government patronage is likely to mirror the share of his total votes, which are as follows: North-West:40%; North-East:21%; North-Central:16%; South-West:13%; South-South:7%; and South-East:3%.
The totalitarian model explains why Buhari, upon assuming office, discarded an equitable order embraced since 1999, whereby positions of the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker, Chairman of the ruling party, and the Secretary to Federal Government were spread across the six geographical zones—regardless of political inclinations. The totalitarian scheme is the sole rationale behind the current plan by the ruling party to zone the Senate Presidency to the North-East, thereby producing a curious state of affair where all the three arms of government are headed by the North. Today, virtually all critical state organs are controlled by people of the Northern extraction, particularly from the North-West and the North-East zones—thanks to the Buhari model.
This blind pursuit for total domination is antagonistic to the Nigerian diversity and negates the Constitution. The optics is taxation without representation, which historically leads to revolt. Moreover, injustice ingrained with impunity is a recipe for crisis which, of course, does not always differentiate between the North and South. But what not must escape the minds of Buhari apologists is the fact that Nigeria remains a diverse country of bellicose ethnic groups, with national income accrued from the states naturally endowed with remunerative resources. Thus, while it can be convenient to gloat over the reality that over 70% of Buhari’s votes came from the North, it is bluntly instructive that over 70% of the government revenue is generated from the South, the apparent victim of the president’s totalitarian regime.
As elaborated in my 2015 essay, “How PDP and APC Created New Biafran Agitations”; while the abject lack of development in the East during the PDP years handed the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) the convenient backdrop to curry its initial groundswell of sympathy, Buhari’s brazen threat of vendetta against the region definitely exacerbated the secessionist movement. The immediate effect, remember, was the emergence of a sister organization, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), that shutdown oil facilities in 2016, causing production to its lowest level in the Fourth Republic, which contributed in no small measure to the economic recession that followed. A repeat of Buhari’s first term blunder is bound to provoke a next level of crisis. Only a loon will ignore the message inherent in this passage.
Yet Buhari’s yes-men will argue otherwise, nudging the president to stay the status quo. After all, the man just won re-election. But that is a toadying travesty. An objective history will not archive his victory in 2019 as any reflection of broad or mass support. The verdict was merely a byproduct of a binary election in which the opposing party, disgraced out of power, nominated a fundamentally flawed candidate with perplexing prospects for victory. Nevertheless, the flaws of the opposition party or its candidate do not bequeath President Buhari the rabid audacity to oppress 44% of the electorate, or the zones, that voted against him. Opposition is neither a crime nor failure. Thus, the prevailing attempt by overzealous ruling party propagandists to stoke guilty conscience on some people or zones based on their voting preferences is maddening nescience.
The fact is that Buhari’s discriminatory patronage model is a serious threat to the fabric of the vitally essential Nigerian diversity, as well as the opposition. This portends a troubling future. Other fears apart, the president ought to realize that the primary victims of a weak opposition state are the poor masses, the very class he claims to symbolize. Buhari must also recognize that the new generation of Nigerians—both north and south—want an equitable and progressive country. It is not surprising, therefore, that true patriots within the ruling party, particularly from the North, are rising against the unjust patronage model.
SKC Ogbonnia, a former 2019 APC presidential aspirant, is the author of the Effective Leadership Formula*