Opinion: Buhari Countdown Calendar: 1444 Days By – SONALA OLUMHENSE
I join in the congratulations of President Muhammadu Buhari for renaming the Abuja Stadium after MKO Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election.
By this gesture, we have almost come full circle, Abiola now one step away from being posthumously pronounced President. A few months ago, Buhari honoured him with the nation’s highest civilian award in what he calls “the national process of healing and reconstruction.”
But everyone knows that before you eat the porridge, you observe the condition in which it is served, for never must we be so poor we eat out of a filthy bowl.
The Abuja National Stadium, like its counterpart National Stadium in Lagos, is a shameful symbol of our nation that nobody in authority really cares about. Ideally, the Democracy Day ceremony ought to have been held there to draw significance to the renaming.
But despite the presence of the nation’s most prominent citizens in Abuja, the stadium is in such abominable condition it is not a sports venue.
The biggest irony is that even with the government having decided—and we have to believe that it was a carefully-considered decision, not one haphazardly arrived at on the morning of Democracy Day—that it would rename the stadium after Abiola, nobody summoned the sincerity to put even a complimentary coat of paint on it.
This sends the warning for the next four years. What is the world to expect of Buhari’s second term, if it is not truncated by the courts?
The answer was evident on Democracy Day. So poorly-planned and implemented was it that, just as they did two weeks earlier at the inauguration, the world largely ignored Abuja. A few African leaders showed up, their nations carefully but irrelevantly referred to in Buhari’s speech, but no former Nigerian leader acknowledged it.
And then there was Buhari’s speech, which was far and away the worst speech ever given in written English by a Nigerian leader.
For a man who didn’t speak at his inauguration, I reckoned that meant they had two more weeks to refine his words. And yet it lacked class and inspiration and edge. It was uninspiring, choppy, incoherent and confusing; and was replete with errors, contradictions, absurdities and repetitions.
And the grammar was painful to read. In no other English-speaking African country would any leader reading from a prepared text deliver such a linguistically deficient statement. In no English-speaking West African Examinations Council country would a secondary school student deliver that standard of English in his final test.
But what is of greater concern than language or style is substance. Buhari continues to market bluster as substance, sabre-rattling as service-delivery, and promises as performance.
“In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet,” he declared. “We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want CHANGE, But CHANGE has come, we now must move to the NEXT LEVEL.”
Buhari has Nigeria back on her feet? At which border did CHANGE sneak in?
I admit: Buhari was once overhead launching something he called “Change Begins With Me.” But to launch is not to achieve, just as to contract for the Second Niger Bridge or Lagos-Ibadan rail is not to complete.
If Nigeria’s current dysfunction is a nation on her feet and represents change, the so-called ‘Next Level’ is a frightening prospect.
Buhari inherited a Nigeria that was travelling in circles. Leadership was rotten and shameless. Power, privilege and affluence belonged largely to those who were ruthless and cunning. Decency was disappearing. Government had forfeited the trust of the people, and the country plunged ever deeper into poverty and under-development.
That was what needed to be CHANGED. That was why Nigerians hired Buhari. And they hired him through the only sliver of decency left: the willingness of the then leader, Goodluck Jonathan, to concede defeat as tensions mounted following the 2015 election. To clean up the government, Mr. Jonathan had also in July 2011 ordered a comprehensive audit of the financial transactions of all federal ministries, departments and agencies since 2007.
But Buhari would not, in four years, undertake any such nod to probity. He did not undertake the public declaration of assets he pledged nor ask his ministers to do so. Beyond lip service, he routinely ignored the rule of law and the separation of powers. He did not, beginning with self, nurture transparency; on the contrary, his party shamelessly seduced the most powerful looters and saboteurs.
Buhari unapologetically punctured his own electoral promises and his legitimacy with his nepotism and his contempt for merit.
That sounds more like a slippery slope for Nigeria. It is certainly not CHANGE and not a pedestal on which Nigeria can rise. We must have higher standards.
The omens are not good. The frontlines of politics, governance and Buhari’s ruling APC are now loaded with the worst among us: certificate forgers and men of dubious academic qualifications; former governors who ate their states alive; persons who desecrated public office; lawyers who ripped-off their clients; and people who owe their jobs to narrow-mindedness in high places.
Supporters of Buhari in 2015 believed him to be a man of his word, a man capable of strong decisions, including of potent appointments; a man who would hurt corruption by making it difficult, dangerous and inconvenient.
In just a few years, Buhari eliminated all such illusions. Today, in Buhari’s Nigeria, corruption and criminality—if you are properly-connected—yields vast rewards.
There are fewer words to capture the depth of this depravity than the famous words of the former Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, who this year said of the Buhari administration in a leaked recording: “The rate of poverty is very high. The people are hungry…”
Amaechi, who might still return as a minister, also observed that Buhari neither listens nor cares: “You can write what you want to write,” he told the journalists, “Does he read?”
That is partly why Buhari could only have sounded good to himself and to those who worship him last week.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who spoke at an EFCC anti-corruption summit to mark the occasion, had a few choice words for Africa’s “corruption-fighting” champions. He warned that that such “fighters” often “turn a blind eye to the more consequential forms that people only whisper about because the rich and the powerful are the main beneficiaries.”
“This is a fight that can be won,” he remarked. “Tolerating corruption is a choice, not an inevitability. It is within our power to end it. That is the most important starting point, otherwise, it will be a waste of time for us to keep talking about it.”
This is why Buhari’s Democracy Day address must be seen as a dark warning, because talk is what Buhari does as distraction and entertainment, leaving corruption, cynicism and incompetence to flourish.
Still, if Buhari wants to do the right thing, he will lack neither friends nor hands nor help. Otherwise, he is on pace to become Nigeria’s worst leader in 60 years.
With that, I launch the Buhari Countdown Calendar (BCC): There are 1444 days to go. Punch