Buhari@80 And Nigeria: Which Has Served The Other?

Buhari@80 And Nigeria: Which Has Served The Other?

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

President Muhammadu Buhari

Let me start by using this opportunity to congratulate our President Muhammadu Buhari, on his birthday today. He has attained an octogenarian status, as he turns 80. For a person to reach such age, in a country like ours, with all its challenges which he too contributed to, substantially, the person survived all the risks and tribulations, and still standing today, not only as an "ordinary" citizen but the number one citizen of the country, it can only be the grace of Almighty God.

So, President Buhari and his entire family have every reason to thank God and celebrate. They need not allow the mood of the nation to dampen their happiness from "popping champagne". I can only wish him many more years in good health. I want to believe he has lived a fulfilled life "personally". I emphasised the "personally" because, by virtue of the position he occupies and others that he has previously occupied, I doubt if his assignments were fulfilled. He is a man with a lot of "wishes or wishful thinking", but who could not translate many of them to reality, to bear on the people he is leading.

There are two Buharis, and I don't  mean that there is any "Jubrin El-Sudan", a creation of mischief, apart from the one we have known up to 2015. What I mean is that, there is a "theoretical idealist" Buhari and the "reality" one. The theoretical one was the one who was sold to Nigerians in 2015. Warts and all, he was "near perfect" when it comes to incorruptibility and zero-tolerance for corruption and associated filths, as presented. That one does not condone malfeasance, no matter how little, no matter who is involved.

The other one is the real one in action. He might have some personalities of the ideal one but they don't reflect in his real actions. President Buhari has been in charge for about seven years and a half. Many things that have happened were not what Nigerians bargained for when they voted for him. Or, was it their fault to have had excessive expectations from him and raised him to the "demigod" status, who would change their lives with a snap of his fingers?

When a man is 80 and takes time to reflect on his journey of life, there must be so many things to be happy about, as much as many others to regret. To wish he or she could have done in another way and much better. Buhari won't be an exception. By providence, God has given him rare opportunities in life, which only few could ever attained. One of them is leading a very big and complex country like Nigeria, not once but twice, in both military and civilian capacilities. Only Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has similar privilege. Then I wondered, between him and the country, who has served the other?

This question will seem so ordinary to many, except deep thinkers. An independent Nigeria is 62 and Buhari is 80. In this 62 years of Nigeria's independence, Buhari has been part of it, almost all through. He has lived on Nigeria, worked for Nigeria, and retired on Nigeria.

President Buhari was born in Daura, in the present day Katsina state to Mallam Hardo Adamu and Hajia Zulaihat. He started his primary school in Daura in 1953 and later Katsina Middle school. He proceeded to Katsina Provincial Secondary School between 1956 and 1961. All these were public schools under the old Northern Regional Government in Nigeria before independence. It was in final year that he joined the military.

At age 19, in 1961, he attended Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC), a preliminary military school before proceeding to Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, in England, in 1962. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1963, on graduation. He began to hold military position in Abeokuta, Second Infantry Battalion, as a Platoon Commander. He later attended Platoon Commander's Course in Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), to which the NMTC has been upgraded, in 1964.

When the failed January 1966 coup happened, which brought General Aguyi Ironsi to power, the young officer Buhari was actively involved in the subsequent countercoup of July, same year. He participated actively in the task of keeping Nigeria one when the civil war broke out in 1967. He was posted to various locations at the war front. After the war, he held various offices within the Army. He was appointed the Governor of the North-Eastern State between 1975 and 1976, and later Borno State, between February and March 1976, when the state was created.

Subsequently, he was appointed as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources by General Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976 till 1978 and later, Chairman of the newly established Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in 1977. Coincidentally, he has been holding the same position since 2015 till date, as the substantive Minister for Petroleum. All these were under successive military regimes from Yakubu Gowon to Muritala Muhammed to Olusegun Obasanjo.

As the second republic came, he went back to various military positions which saw him moved up the ladder and ranks. By December 31st, 1983, he, with his khaki boys, struck again. The infant democratic government was terminated just after four years and few months, giving some excuses of corruption and mismanagement by the civilian government. He became the Head of State as the civilian administration of President Shehu Shagari was sacked. He was a Major General. His second-in-command was the late no-nonsense Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon. They ran Nigeria with iron fists.

That regime needs to be seriously revisited by historians and researchers. It was one embedded with mixed feelings. There is need to dispassionately and critically analyse what happened in that 18 months of their regime; the good, the bad, and the ugly. What was, what wasn't and what could have been? This is because, in my thinking, I felt, despite the seeming excesses of that regime, if it had been allowed to survive for longer period, with the disciplinarian measures introduced and various stringent policies being implemented, Nigeria could have emerged to be a Libya of Gaddafi years or a bigger Rwanda of today.

All these mess we are in, engendered by the indiscipline on the parts of leaders and followers, financial recklessness, monumental corruption, entrenched by subsequent military regimes and civilian administrations after them, up till today, that he is also now enmeshed, possibly, could have turned out differently. I am of the opinion that we could have been on different trajectory. But, the "evil genius" terminated that, introduced us to this new path and the country has sank, neck deep into the mess.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari was under house arrest for till 1988 after he was ousted in August 27, 1985. He retired to his home after his release. It was General Sani Abacha who brought him out again when he was appointed as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). The organisation was saddled with deploying the extra revenues generated from petroleum price hikes to develop infrastructures across the country. Under him, Nigeria witnessed gigantic strides in such. Massive road construction, renovation of old schools and construction of new ones, hostels, libraries, etc. Same with hospitals, equipping and provision of drugs to them. It was bliss period.

Although, there were allegations of corruption against his subordinates in PTF, the organisation was acclaimed to have been substantially run transparently. At the turn of century with the coming of the fourth republic, after Abacha had died, and General Abdulsalam Abubakar, who took over, had handed over to another General, though retired, as the new president of Nigeria in May 29, 1999, retired General Buhari was again, unhappy, with how his country was being run, just as he was in 1983. He then decided to throw his hat in the ring to vie for the presidency from 2003 for which he failed three consecutive times, until he won on the fourth attempt in 2015. He has been president since then till date.

In all this journey, his entire life has been sustained and financed by Nigeria, in power or out of it. Whatever President Buhari must have been today, Nigeria made him to be. That means, Nigeria has served him well. But, has he served the Nigeria well as he would have wished? To what extent has he reciprocated the goods Nigeria did to him? When Nigerian history is been written, what contributions would be recorded for him?

To be fair to him, serving in the military by any citizen is considered the height of patriotism and service to fatherland. To have also fought in the civil war was an icing on the cake. Same as his effort in dealing with the Chadian rebels led by Chadian Army Chief-of-Staff, Idriss D├ęby, who later became head of state of Chad. They intruded into Nigeria's Lake Chad region. Buhari was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Third Armoured Division of Jos then. He chased them into Chad. He always seemed to have good intentions as the head of government, but somethings "usually" go wrong, unfortunately.

His administration since 2015 to date has faced unprecedented criticism for what the country has become. He campaigned on three cardinal points; security, economy and anti-corruption. At least, in two of them; security and anti-corruption, Nigerians expected excellent performances based on his pedigree. He is a General. And like they say, "a General will always remain a General". No one would have expected the Boko Haram insurgency to last another six months under a Buhari government, but here we are, though degraded reasonably, Boko Haram is still alive and kicking.

The Speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly just said recently that two local governments are still under their control. Worse still, another more deadly dimension has entered into the insecurity crisis. It is called banditry. Not until recently when the government and military raised their game, bandits have become the new "bosses" in town. They ruled the forests, ruled the farms, ruled the communities, ruled the highways and roads, and some cities. They kidnapped at will, raped as they please, maim to their pleasure, and killed as they fancied. Nigerians were at their mercy. The roads became impassable. They attacked airport and trains as well. They kidnapped school children enmass, at will, with impunity, worse than Boko Haram ever did.

Also, based on the posture of incorruptibility and zero-tolerance for corruption image he flaunted, no one would have imagined the monumental corruption and heist that have been taking place under his watch. How could one person stole over N100 billion naira under him? How could oil theft of unbelievable proportion continued for so long, undetected all through his administration? How could NDDC leadership squander N82bn of money he allocated to them? How could the criminal petroleum subsidy escalated to over N4 trillion naira in one year, and still increasing, under him as the Petroleum Minister? How could..? How could?...Too many cases to mention.

The salt upon injury is that many of the culprits of these criminalilties are still roaming the streets, alive and even flaunting their loots. Some of them are romancing the power. Some are being treated with kid gloves. Others are using their loots to seek more powers by contesting for political offices. Some boast of their untouchability because they are close to him. How could these happen under the Buhari that many Nigerians thought they voted for in 2015?

Let us not start with the economy. Nigerians have become far poorer than before Buhari came to power in 2015. This is contrary to his supposed love for the masses, the poor especially, which planted his love in their hearts. The poor masses could kill and die for him. They have actually done that in the past. They trusted him with their lives, to save them. But, has he? It is reported that over 130 million people are in multi-dimensional poverty now in Nigeria. We became the poverty capital of the world. Debts are breaking down our neck. Unemployment at the highest ever. Inflation is roof high. Value of currency plummeting. Survival has become privilege. This is not what Buhari who campaigned for years till 2015 would have wanted. What went wrong?

In all honesty, it was not all doom and gloom. There are some silver linings in the dark sky. It is undisputable that Buhari's administration has done more infrastructures than previous governments since 1999 put together. Just two days ago, the second Niger bridge was commissioned for use. I watched how elated those commuters interviewed were. It was so timely, especially at the Christmas period like this when our Igbo brothers will have to travel home. Many dreaded that period yearly. With the new bridge, this year's travelling will be better and easier. This is coming after 57 years that the first one was commissioned in 1965. President Buhari deserves our commendation for this.

The trains travelling across states and regions are also part of his achievements. Many Nigerians have never travelled in trains before until now. There are massive road rehabilitation and construction going on across the country. The power sector is being quietly revolutionalised with many things being done by this administration. We are hoping to start seeing and enjoying the results soon. Power remains the most critical infrastructure for transformational developments of any country. And many more.

There are many areas that need more attention. Sadly, the current administration is gradually winding down with less than six months to its exit. However, the sun shining outside can still dry clothes. Work must continue until the last day. Government is a continuum. The next administration will continue from wherever this one stops. One other legacy that President Buhari can and should leave behind is to ensure a successful conduct of free, fair and credible elections in 2023 and peaceful transfer of power to the next president. Nigeria is at a delicate point and we cannot afford to bungle it. Nigerians are more conscious and determined than ever, to choose their preferred leader. Let the will of the people be done and reign supreme.

Once again, I want to wish President Muhammadu Buhari, happy 80th birthday today.

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

Email: [email protected]

Whatsapp: +2348179512401

December 17, 2022.

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