By Uche Ugboajah
In the auspicious season of Easter, Mathew Hassan Kukah, the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, delivered a message to his congregation, which perhaps did resonate with all Nigerians, except those worshiping at the Aso Villa altar. The Kukah message in itself is nothing new; only that the fiery Bishop has a way with words that tends to more poignantly express already known situations. Bishop Kukah in a nutshell told Nigerians that President Buhari has failed beyond any explanations as a president so much so that Nigerians can hardly recognise the country they handed over to him in 2015.
Although the presidency pretended not to be rattled by Kukah’s assertions about our country, the Bishop himself admits that he is not saying anything new. “One would be tempted to ask, what is there to say about our tragic situation today that has not been said? Who is there to speak that has not spoken? Like the friends of Job, we stare at an imponderable tragedy as the nation unravels from all sides. The government has slid into hibernation mode. It is hard to know whether the problem is that those in power do not hear, see, feel, know, or just don’t care. Either way, from this crossroad, we must make a choice, to go forward, turn left or right or return home,” said the preacher.
Professor Wole Soyinka who ‘for the sake of his own sanity’ rarely speaks these days about the performance of President Muhammadu Buhari, expressly endorsed all Bishop Kukah said with a single line: “It is finished!” And trust the Nobel Laureate, he gave us some new vocabulary in describing how the President had woefully failed even in the single assignment he chose for himself – fighting corruption. If President Buhari considered the pardon of convicted Jolly Nyame, former governor of Taraba State and his Plateau State counterpart, Joshua Dariye, as great gifts to the Nigerian people, it turned out to be Pilate’s gift of Barabbas to the Jews. In fact, Soyinka aptly captures it as “putrid Easter gift.” Soyinka said so, deal with that!
Even before Bishop Kukah and Wole Soyinka, the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had warned Nigerians in December 2021 that Buhari was done. He had offered the best he could and had nothing left in his tank. In short, the former president, a soldier himself like the President, albeit a better one, told the nation coyly to start looking beyond the Buhari era. This is a terrible assessment for a president who still had nearly two more years to go. And two years can massively change the life of a country.
As expected not one response to Bishop Kukah from the presidency was enough; Femi Adesina, this season, surprisingly mild, rejoined claiming that it’s Kukah and his like, not Buhari, that are dividing Nigeria; of course, forgetting that he might be the most divisive element in the Buhari government with his “wailers” categorization of anyone who disagrees with this government. Garba Shehu perhaps did not think that his colleague’s intervention packed enough punches. Apparently robed in cassock and armed with the good Book, he ventured to quote extensively the verses dealing on instructing and reconciling the people. In dangerous times though, even the devil quotes the Bible, we know. As I write this piece and knowing the reflexes of this intolerant regime, I expect to read Alhaji Lai Mohammed’s riposte before dawn. No hard feelings, they’re all doing their jobs the best way they understand, the only problem being that Bishop Kukah insists that they’re bad at their jobs.
One of the key points in the Kukah Easter Message is his belief that although charting a new trajectory for the country in 2023 is quite significant, but it is even more significant to ensure that the country survives before we get to the election year. Not a few today believe that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari has already set the 2023 general election on a very slippery slope.
Already, no less a person than Chief Afe Babalola had called for the suspension of election in 2023 and instead demanded for the emplacement of an Interim National Government. Yes, the suggestion of an interim national government in 2023 has no place in our Constitution and the suspension of the 2023 general election may be more destabilizing for the country, yet there is palpable fear that with pervading insecurity and the way the present government has mismanaged the country’s diversity, one mistake with the polls may ignite a conflagration that will consume the entire country. Bottom-line is that people fear for our country as we transit beyond Buhari.
And there are genuine reasons to be afraid of the continued existence of this country. The magnitude of insecurity playing out in different parts of the country and the almost hand-wringing response of the government is a red flag towards the election-year. Boko Haram is still doing their thing with this government seemingly more interested in rehabilitating “repented terrorists” than routing them out. Meanwhile their metamorphosed relatives, “bandits” appear to be in charge now in Niger and Kaduna states, and perhaps more visible than el-Rufai, the one elected to govern Kaduna State. The bandits are striking at will, this time not at soft targets as the failed propaganda of this government used to put it, but at choice national assets like the Kaduna Airport and train stations. They are taking captives of citizens who voted Buhari into power expecting him to solve the security problems with his much-touted body language and stern mien. They are negotiating and receiving huge amounts as ransom undetected despite the billions spent by this government on SIM registration.
Some of those taken hostage by the terrorists who attacked the Kaduna bound train are still in captivity; yet, those whose actions and inaction caused the attack or did nothing to stop it are going about as if nothing happened. Some of them have even declared their intentions to replace the President in 2023 and are shamelessly trotting about the national landscape politicking. That is the kind of impunity that has become the face of Buhari’s era. Just imagine a few years back with President Jonathan and the PDP in power and a train attacked by terrorists killing innocent citizens; and to rub it in telling the government that it knows what they (the terrorists) want and that they will do worse if the government does not accede to their demands. Add to that the insensitivity of the supervising minister of transport running round the stadium apparently to convince us of his physical fitness to run for the office of the president of the country.
Yes, by now, the great Jagaban, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, would have galvanized the entire APC governors and presidential hopefuls to pay a choreographed visit to injured victims in one hospital in Abuja telling Nigerians how the incumbent president is a weakling and kindergarten president. Lai Mohammed would have issued one or two statements calling Jonathan names. But what are they saying now? Of course, Tinubu is still saying Buhari is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria while he is chasing APC delegates around. He dares not say anything different for now. Amaechi after blaming his colleagues in the Federal Executive Council for the attack has quickly moved on; he is also crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country like Tinubu with the presidency as the prize for a lifelong ambition. Yet, you may ask where is the opposition especially the PDP? That Buhari and his party, APC, have pushed the country down to rock bottom and getting away with it paints a picture of a terrible job the PDP is doing as the main opposition party.
Yes, it may be easy to say that the PDP and its aspirants are on the road too in the process of wresting power from APC. Yet, what many are not getting is the subtle message from Bishop Kukah, Obasanjo and Soyinka, that with the way Buhari’s government is going, if citizens do not sit up there might not be Nigeria even before the 2023 general elections. And this not just mere pessimism; it is the reality.
We have seen that disturbing viral video of gunmen in the South-East shooting at INEC staff and citizens who had come to register to vote in 2023 threatening that elections would never take place in the zone. What is even more outraging is that with all the insecurity in the South-East, the region appears not to be in Buhari’s ‘must do box.’ Yes, he gave that impression himself while addressing members of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of his party recently. Meanwhile, in Kanam and Wase LGAs in Plateau State alone about 106 persons were reported killed recently by bandits who attacked ten communities. Unknown gunmen are rampaging in the South-East, particularly in Anambra and Imo states. In the latter, Orlu, its main commercial centre, has been literally cut off from the rest of the state because of the criminal activities of these gunmen. The insurgency in the North-East doesn’t seem to be abating despite the best efforts of the gallant soldiers laying down their lives daily for the country while the politicians eat and belch. With Kaduna already besieged and its normally loquacious governor muted in recent times, fears are that Abuja may be the next stop.
Amid this grim security situation some people in the guise of doing their jobs still want us to believe that the security situation has actually improved from 2015 when Buhari happened on Nigeria and Nigerians. The new story is that the good Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto is one of those delaying the defeat of the insurgents by blocking the Federal Government from sourcing superior weapons from abroad. This is rich coming from the same people and political party who dressed up in 2014, left home and went to the former president of the United States and pleaded with him not to sell arms to their country for political reasons. The greed to remain in power clearly makes amnesia worse, or so it seems.
It seems like presidential spokespersons have run out of vocabulary to convey the president’s condolences to families of victims of insecurity in the country since 2015. But they have at least found an escape route in outright lies and revisionism. In the same vein, all the APC aspirants for the office of the president are deceiving themselves with the balderdash that they are coming to build on Buhari’s achievements, when they know that is the worst line the Nigerian electorate wants to hear from anyone serious about replacing Buhari. Although not ready to admit it, Buhari is also happening on them; they can neither chew him nor swallow him. Yet, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, Chief Bola Tinubu, and Rotimi Amaechi are worst hit in this regard.
The good thing in all of this is that Nigerians are already looking ahead without Buhari. The countdown to his exit from office has begun in earnest. Despite what his handlers say, Buhari himself had admitted in January this year while visiting the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Sa’ad Abubakar, that he was already overwhelmed with the security situation in the North-West..
All things being equal now, Nigerians cannot wait to see his back in 2023. The only hope for them now lies in the post-Buhari era that beckons.
Ugboajah, political scientist and media strategist, is Editor-in-Chief of Ikengaonline.