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Castigating Buhari: How Fair?

By Tony Eluemunor

Few Presidents in history have been castigated as much as President Mohammadu Buhari, sometimes unfairly. Some charge that he introduced a fractious religious divide into Nigeria.

He didn’t; military President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida did when he smuggled Nigeria into the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) full-membership and added religious problem to the ethnic one.

Buhari has been criticised for not starting any project of his own but has been completing those his predecessor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan, left uncompleted. He should please wear that as a badge of honour for government is a continuum.

Infrastructural projects should not be left uncompleted just because the administration that started them was voted out of office. Some said he appointed non-performers as Ministers; wrong.

He may be criticised for dillydallying for six months on the appointments but some like Chibuike Ameachi, Fashola, Chris Ngige or Audu Ogbe performed creditably as public officers in earlier assignments.

The trouble with Buhari though is that those who were supernovas in their past appointments have been eclipsed in Buhari’s administration. Actually, Nigerians have proved to be most indulgent towards Buhari.

For instance, the French President, Emmanuel Macron faced street protests for increasing diesel tax, but Nigeria remained protest-free – even after Buhari doubled petrol price, universities have remained shut for months now, insecurity of life and property has worsened, and the economy is ailing – according to Buhari himself, etc.

A fair criticism is that Buhari has failed to forge a national consensus on anything, but betrayed the angry voters who threw out President Jonathan mainly because he pussyfooted in tackling Boko Haram, doled out inconceivably high oil subsidy while refusing to repair the petrol refineries or the dilapidated roads.

Buhari has not only failed to repair the refineries, he managed to do the unthinkable by removing Dr. Ibe Kachikwu who endeavoured to repair the refineries and updated Nigerians constantly on the results with an NNPC Group MD who showed scant interest in such repairs and gives no updates.

Then, after criticising Jonathan on petrol subsidy, his own administration pays out a higher percentage of the national budget on subsidy – unannounced and unexplained to no one.

The Economist Magazine wrote in its December 8th-14th 2018 edition that “Macron forgot that a French President is neither a god nor a monarch but merely a politician in a democracy that requires the constant forging of consent”. Buhari should take that advice to heart.

Consider the calamity misidentified as cattle herdsmen versus farmers’ clash. This is a lie. Variously identified gunmen have been invading various communities. Leading government officials have identified the killer herdsmen as foreigners; the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, said so in the Vanguard newspaper of May 8, 2016.

The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, confirmed this through the Premium Times on May 16, 2017. To give the information an incontrovertible stamp of authority, the Department of State Services specifically named the Islamic State of West Africa as sponsors of the killer herdsmen in The PUNCH of January 21, 2017.

Instead of protecting Nigerians from the pillaging and plundering foreigners, the authorities have been behaving as though the trouble is between Nigerian farmers and Nigerian herdsmen.

Put differently, if the attackers are non-Nigerian trouble makers, then even if you transform the entire Nigeria into a Cattle Colony ruled by a cattle with a legislature peopled by cattle, the attacks would still continue unless Nigeria does what other nations do; protect its territorial integrity.

But this administration left the problem to attack shadows by pursuing first, specified Cattle Routes, then Cattle Colonies and now Cattle Ranches. Even the Nigerian Army is opening cattle ranches nationwide.

On 20th June, this year, Ogbe and others announced that the Federal Government planned to build 94 ranches in 10 states prone to herdsmen/farmers clashes – Adamawa, Benue, Edo, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Oyo, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara.

They said the NEC, chaired by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had approved a 10-year National Livestock Plan, which would cost about N179 billion. Many states objected.

A few days ago, newspapers reported that the Federal Government would spend some N7 billion to establish a ranch or ranches in Kaduna state. It is uncertain if that ranch is a part of the 94 touted nationwide.

Then recently, many Nigerian news organisations published that Ghana’s government had started cattle ranching as a means to end the herdsmen/farmers clash. Many then called on Nigeria to emulate Ghana.

I marvelled at such illiteracy! Nigeria, a federation, differs greatly from the unitary Ghana. Also, Ghana’s problems, history, politics, geography and sociology are totally different from Nigeria’s. Nobody has ever talked of a Fulani hegemony in Ghana.

No Fulani has been Ghana’s President. No Fulani ever conquered the kind of a large swath of Ghana as Othman dan Fodio did in Nigeria. In fact only about ‎800,523 Fula people are in Ghana.

According to the 2010 census, 71.2% of the population was Christian, 17.6% Muslim, and 5.2% practiced traditional faiths, so Ghana is practically a Christian state.

While other Nigerians cry that the Fulani or the Hausa-Fulani control Nigeria’s security agencies, and so have refused to tackle the herdsmen’s menace, it is different in Ghana where Konongo Divisional police commander, Superintendent Bossman Ohene-Boadi ordered his troops thus:

“I believe in safety first, if you see anybody holding arms and wants to attack, please don’t waste time”.

He spoke to about 200 combined military and police force deployed to evacuate the Fulani nomads from Agogo land in the Asante Akyem North and Sekyere Afram Plains Districts in the Ashanti Region, asking them to shoot at sight if their lives were threatened.

In Nigeria, the rampaging nomads (aliens, remember) have never been evacuated from anywhere.

In Ghana, the President is not a Fulani. Yet, he is protecting them and is setting up a ranch for them and his country. Buhari, a Fulani should show such concern for non-members of his own ethnic group. That is the only right lesson to be learnt from Ghana.

President Buhari must take seriously this accusation of being insensitive to the feeling of others. Insensitivity infuriates; just like the one Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, exhibited recently.

TRANSCORP HILTON’S INSENSIVITY

On the day former President Jonathan launched his latest book at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, visitors to the event were shocked. The hotel had introduced a parking fee of N200 per hour. Payment kicks in just after 20 minutes.

So, if you just went to drop a friend there and encountered a traffic jam, or spent 30 minutes seeking a parking space, and only 10 minutes inside the hotel, you would have incurred a hefty debt.

This is highly insensitive. Transcorp Hilton’s unkind gesture when other such hotels worldwide are seeking for ways to be friendlier to the public, is unjustifiable.

Those who schedule events that would draw the public, especially journalists, to Hilton should think of the monetary burden the hotel has imposed and the insult and assault on their invitees … and take every necessary action to alleviate such.

Seeking alternative avenues would not be out of place. Such insensitivity should infuriate us if we are not slaves.

Tony Eluemunor, an Abuja-based journalist is a leading authority on the presidency.

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