What was the deal with President Muhammadu Buhari when he appointed some key advisers from the North to his administration? Is the austere PMP out to settle old scores in his second iteration as head of state in order to impose northern hegemony over the south? Yes, according to some influential Nigerian commentators. First Dame Aisha Buhari wore some nice dress and jewelry to her husband’s inauguration and some people wanted to know where she got the bread to purchase such expensive items because her family was supposed to be dirt poor.
The president declared his assets and it showed he had the chump change of 30 grand in his bank account for a former head of state. Nevertheless, some critics expressed incredulity and shock that he had that kind of dough in his bank account. And how about the sudden improvement in power supply since PMB took office? He has absolutely nothing to do with the increase in electricity supply; the former president gets the credit for that, some critics say. Busting and prosecuting current and former politicos who may have ripped off the hoi polloi for tons of bread have also been greeted with cries of witch-hunting and selective prosecutions.
But the issue that got the most play among the commentators was the president hiring some key advisers from his neck of the woods. Some of the commentators were literally beside themselves with rage; while the others were middle of the road in their criticisms of the president. Here are excerpts from the views of some of Nigerian commentators on President Buhari’s first few months in office.
In his Monday Lines column in the Nigerian Tribune of August 31, Lasisi Olagunju did not pull any punches on the key advisers the president had hired. He writes: “Let me ask, what will be the official language of government business now that the president speaks Hausa, his Chief of Staff speaks Hausa, his ADC speaks Hausa, his Chief Security Officer speaks Hausa, his Principal Secretary speaks Hausa?”
And if the president thought he was in a monogamous relationship with his beautiful wife, Mr. Olagunju has this advice for him.” Nigeria may be a family, but it is not a product of monogamy. It is polygamous.” In other words, Mr. President, when you’ve had a bunch of kids with different dames, you can’t go around treating some better than the others, the columnist implied.
In an article published in Elombah on September 9, a public figure that a bunch of people consider one of the most progressive voices in Nigeria in the last three decades, Dr. Arthur A. Nwankwo, took a two by four to the president after accusing him of being a bumbling, incompetent ethnic champion. Dr.Nwankwo writes: “In 100days, Buhari has shown that he is mentally incapable of managing Nigeria; that in all these years he had contested and lost the presidency, he has no blueprint for Nigeria’s development.”
In the penultimate paragraph of his essay, the fire-spitting, totally pissed-off Dr. Nwankwo offers his readers this apocalyptic assessment of the Nigerian condition: “There is a cancer on the soul of Nigeria. You are watching the death of a country and it is time the patriots in this land stand up firm for the truth”.
For Ochereome Nnanna, a Vanguard newspaper columnist, the president’s only achievement in 100 days is that public officials now perform their functions more efficiently for fear of losing their jobs. According to the columnist, Buhari is the president of the Northern part of the country. In his column of September 7 , Mr. Nnanna writes this: “Buhari, who in his inaugural speech had promised: “I am for everybody and I am for nobody” has shown clearly that he is a president for the North, especially Arewa Muslim North, which had been desperately clamoring for a return of political power to them.”
In the same Vanguard newspaper, columnist Femi Aribisala, perhaps the most hysterical traducer of Buhari among the nation’s commentators, called the president a bust after three months in office in his October 5 article. He blamed the president for everything including not controlling the speculators on the world oil market in London, New York, and Kuala Lumpur. A few of his readers must have chuckled when they read a line like this: “It is now clear that Buhari obtained votes from Nigerians during the election by false pretenses.”
Dr. Aribisala wrote about half a dozen anti-Buhari screeds in the run-up to the presidential election earlier this year. He predicted with certitude in those pieces that the then APC candidate would suffer a humiliating beat-down at the polls. His prognostications bombed. He now calls President Buhari a dictator-in-chief. The hyperbolic, bombastic columnist writes:
“In the middle of a national economic crisis, the president has been comatose. He made himself the Sole Administrator of Nigeria; a role not envisaged by the Constitution. These 100 days, Buhari has been the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Petroleum, as well as the Attorney-General. He has been the Minister of Education. He alone has been the minister in all the ministries of the federal government (And he is comatose?).” The irony in all this is the “dictator-in-chief” right now is at the apex of his powers, and yet columnist Aribisala is free to make unsubstantiated allegations against him without fear of getting busted.
Also Not impressed with the choice of advisers the president has made is Etcetera, a columnist with the Punch newspaper. In his September 16 piece, the youthful-looking columnist rapped the president for choosing loyalty over competence in his choice of advisers. Etcetera writes: “Most of the names I have seen on President Buhari’s ministerial list do not represent the best and brightest Nigeria has to offer.”
In the same Punch newspaper, Abimbola Adelakun, a back page columnist, gently took the president to task for being a micro-manager at a time when big, bold ideas were needed to resolve some of the nation’s challenges. She said at a time when Ethiopia had just launched a light rail system in Addis Ababa that the president should not be focusing on little-bitty things such as stopping risk allowance to palace guards or reducing the budget for the nation’s 55th independence anniversary. Ms. Adelakun poses these questions in her October 1 column: “Why is the President the one poring over the payment voucher of Villa guards? Is he not supposed to be busy with weightier matters of statecraft while the administrative office handles pay slips? Is this really how money is being lost in Nigeria – through the salaries of Villa guards?”
In his September 17 column in the Sun Newspaper, Jimanze Ego-Alowes launched this broadside against the president for what he said was a lack of diversity in the people around him: “In other words, it can be said that Buhari collects votes from all over, East, North, West and South and like his Nigerian banker counterparts, he becomes sectarian and gives out loan and offices to only those he trusts. Simply put, Buhari would cajole and collect votes from you and your people indiscriminatingly, but on winning he just won’t and or can’t trust you, if you are not a northerner, to be a member of the inner loop of his government. So, he doesn’t trust you if you are not a northerner.” The columnist with the hyphenated last name then ends his column on this sobering note: “And like we warned in the heady days of Professor Chukwuma Soludo, it is time to know the system is about to self-implode.”
To be concluded…
By Bayo Akinnagbe