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Poor President Muhammadu Buhari! – By Emeka Ugwuonye

To crown this string of blunders, Buhari goes to the national television and refuses to obey the order of the Nigerian courts. Indeed, he arrogantly and imprudently asserted that he would not obey the courts, and that he would be deciding the cases himself. 

With every day that passes, you really have to pity President Buhari. He is turning out to be the opposite of what those of us that supported him with all we had expected him to be. I had expected the arrival of a President so resolute and firm, with high moral standards and high level of wisdom garnered over the years of his complex and convoluted leadership experience.

Many Nigerians must have shared my expectations of Buhari. Hence millions turned out to vote for him despite the delays and postponement of election dates. But what did we end up having? There is a huge gap between the leader we bargained for and the leader we ended up having.

First, Buhari showed an astonishing form of dishonesty when he said he delayed appointing his Ministers because he was looking for honest and honorable men of high integrity. But after five months of such delay, the same President Buhari gave the country a list of Ministers that was exactly what everybody knew even before the election. 

Instead of the men from Mars that he promised, he appointed more than five ex governors who sponsored his election and managed his campaign. Nobody says he shouldn’t appoint anybody he liked, but why lie about the reason for the delay? That was the first shocker from Buhari. The man we expected to show a high level of integrity ended up lying from his first day in office. He was not waiting for time for any Ministers of high integrity caliber. He had that list in his pocked during his election and nothing much changed.

The second shocker was that Buhari, whom we expected to be fearless, independent and bold, turned out to be too weak to deal with his sponsors even after he had won the election. Yes, his best judgment told him to look for men of integrity, a different brand of new players, who could help him stir the nation forward. 

But to do so meant he would have to turn his back to his sponsors and some people in his party that have questionable background. But what did he do? He did not have the balls to pursue what he believed in. So, he was forced to turn back and appease his sponsors by appointing them as Ministers.

Third, we expected President Buhari to have a clear idea what he needed to do to make a clear progress in the war against corruption, which was the area where everybody felt he was the champion. But again, he started off so badly, showing that indeed, he had no clear idea or clear plan what to do. Consider the following missteps:

(a) He could not act decisively against the leader of the EFCC, whom he was convinced should go. So he merely terminated him, but allowed him to leave the country for some medical treatment in the middle of an investigation.

(b) He failed to overhaul any of the failed anti-corruption agencies. When he fired the Head of the EFCC, he merely appointed his next in line to continue from where they stopped.

(c) He could not form a clear plan what role the courts would play in the fight against corruption. Instead, he showed open contempt for the courts by making extremely provocative press pronouncements antagonizing the Nigerian courts. For instance, each time Buhari said he needed special courts and to appoint “honest and fearless” judges, he was actually suggesting that all the existing judges were timid and dishonest. 

Yet, all that was just talk. There was no plan for the special courts (None was provided for in the budget bill). And there was no plan to appoint “honest and fearless judges” even if he knew how to do it. It was all propaganda.

(d) Fourth, President Buhari, rather than pursuing serious policy changes on the war against corruption, ended up playing to the gallery with the penchant for tokenism and symbolic gestures. The fixation on Dasuki and Kanu cases is purely a gesture. There was no serious effort to understand the political and institutional forces that made it possible for Dasuki to misappropriate the kind of money they said he misappropriated or the social and historical conditions that made it possible for a little-known fellow like Nnamdi Kanu to inspire millions of youths simply by strings of foul language on a radio transmission that has nothing else to offer but curse words and hyperboles. Buhari never attempted to get to the root of the issues. He thought that trying Dasuki in the media would become equivalent of successful war against corruption. And he thought that playing cat and mouse with the Nigerian courts over Kanu’s case would be evidence of toughness of his government.

(e) To crown this string of blunders, Buhari goes to the national television and refuses to obey the order of the Nigerian courts. Indeed, he arrogantly and imprudently asserted that he would not obey the courts, and that he would be deciding the cases himself, instead of the courts. That moment was a rare display of the mindset of General Buhari when he signed for the execution of three men for drug offenses even though the punishment was created after the offense. He must have been in the same frame of mind – to show toughness of government.

Even the most fanatical Buhari’s supporters realize that the President has placed himself in a bad corner and in a bad light. They understand that the President has nearly ruined all his political capital. So, they are now campaigning for an online petition to salvage a tilting and troubled Presidency. In one of the petitions, they even admitted that the President would be demoralized if the petition was not signed by many people.

It is pathetic that a President who just won a landmark election to claim his mandate is now needing an online petition to maintain that mandate. That goes to show how badly Buhari has squandered his political capital, even before he got to do anything serious in the country.

Inevitably, there is a real question of fitness at this point. Buhari was not prepared for the job. He did not seem to know what it would take. He is now scared of the same social media that helped bring him to power. I blame it all on his advisers. They are the most incompetent team. But the President was himself incompetent by not knowing what type of men he really needed to succeed.

My fear is that as President Buhari flounders more and more, he will move further in the direction of dictatorship in order to maintain his hold on power and to suppress critics. This a real fear. He has displayed incredible amount of weakness, which tends to cause African leaders to become ruthless dictators.

Emeka Ugwuonye [picture above]

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