September 27, 2022

Businessday Ng –
Just over a week ago, on May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari marked his seventh and penultimate year in office. How time flies! By this time next year, he will no longer be in power. But how has he performed so far? Well, judging by what government is really about, which is to improve the well-being of citizens and the health of a nation, the Buhari government’s achievements are shrouded in dubiety. Any attempt to deny that is tantamount to, as George Orwell put it, “giving appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Truth is, President Buhari has failed to fulfil the promises he made in his first term to defeat terrorism, fix the economy and fight corruption, which he repeated in his second term, with the acronym SEA – Security, Economy, Anti-Corruption. His government has achieved nothing in these areas that can be described as truly transformative or game-changing!
Yet, President Buhari is seen by his followers as such a transformational leader, such a great achiever, to deserve an ism, ‘Buharism,’ which his core supporters, the Buharists, say is the exemplar, the epitome, of good government in Nigeria.
Recently, during a valedictory session that President Buhari held for his outgoing ministers, Godswill Akpabio, former Niger Delta Minister, spoke for his colleagues: “As we step aside from the Federal Executive Council, I want you to know that you have disciples in us, I want you to know that it is time for us to propagate Buharism.” Buharism? What is Buharism?
Truth is, Buharism is a cult of personality, driven by Buhari’s messianic character and his preference for personal rule and raw exercise of power and control over people, policies and institutions
Well, Wikipedia describes Buharism as the socio-political and economic ideology of Buhari, which he practised as a military head of state from 1984 to 1985 and has practised as a civilian president since 2015. But, consequentially, Buharism spelled doom for Nigeria under Buhari’s first incarnation as a military dictator and has utterly diminished the country’s economy, politics and institutions under his second life as a civilian president. So, what’s there to propagate about Buharism?
Truth is, Buharism is a cult of personality, driven by Buhari’s messianic character and his preference for personal rule and raw exercise of power and control over people, policies and institutions. Yet, although Buhari is an extremely powerful and magisterial president, with monarchical tendencies, he lacks leadership and competence to transform Nigeria!
Leadership matters. Rot often starts from the top, and every government reflects the personality of the individual running it. A clueless leader will run a clueless government. Thus, as Matthew Parris, a prominent British writer, recently put it, there must be in every government “the presiding intellect with the intelligence to grasp the problem.”
But, over the past seven years, the Buhari government has lacked that “presiding intellect.” Sadly, too, despite his weaknesses, President Buhari has failed to surround himself with competent people who, given executive authority and political support, can envision and implement the rights reforms and deliver the right outcomes for the good of Nigeria.
What’s more, over the past seven years, Buhari has been utterly impervious to voices of reason and wisdom, be it on political restructuring, on handling separatist agitations or on critical economic and institutional reforms. The results are a comatose economy, a corrupt and dysfunctional politics, a fractured society beset by widespread poverty, debilitating insecurity and, inevitably, massive distrust of government.
Yet, the presidency rolled out the drums to celebrate the seventh anniversary of the Buhari administration. In a 28-page document, published on May 28, the presidency reeled out several achievements, covering legislative reform, infrastructure and agriculture. Taken at face value, the achievements appeared significant, but, ultimately, the key question is: How truly transformative and consequential are they? What are their outcomes?
Take the new Electoral Act. President Buhari was widely hailed for signing the bill into law. But the Act has not stopped the obscene monetisation of Nigerian politics that we’ve seen with the party primaries, where a presidential form was sold for N100 million and purchased through obscure means, and where delegates’ votes are reportedly bought with several thousands of dollars. If an electoral law cannot sanitise election financing, and safeguard the integrity of the electoral process, then it has failed.
Or take infrastructure. The presidency trumpeted what it described as “the biggest and most ambitious federal infrastructure programme since Nigeria’s independence.” But why has such “unprecedented” infrastructure development not created significant jobs, and lifted the economy, including attracting significant foreign investments? Major infrastructure projects tend to produce such outcomes. Why not in Nigeria?
Then take agriculture, where the Anchor Borrowers Programme has “disbursed more than N800 billion to more than four million smallholder farmers of 23 different commodities.” Where is the food security promised Nigerians? Just over a week ago, more than 30 people died in a stampede as a mammoth crowd rushed to collect free food at a church charity event in Port Harcourt. Why are food scarcity, food inflation, poverty and hunger so rife as to push Nigerians to such utter desperation?
Provocatively, in a piece titled “Buhari administration at 7: Service to the people, nothing else”, Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s special adviser on media and publicity, wrote: “Revisionists would want to look at security challenges … alone.” He added: “But we look at the entire gamut.”
Really? What’s the “entire gamut”? Doesn’t it revolve around the social contract, the heart of which is protecting lives and property and safeguarding the well-being of citizens? Perhaps Adesina and his boss, President Buhari, should be reminded, from the mouths of great philosophers and politicians, what’s the real purpose of politics and government.
Take Aristotle. For him, politics is “primarily concerned with the development and actualisation of human flourishing.” Thomas Jefferson, third US President, put it this way: “The care of human life and happiness is the only legitimate object of good government.” And for Harold Macmillan, a former British prime minister, “the central aim of domestic policy must be to tackle unemployment and poverty.”
Read also: APC: Consensus candidate loading as Buhari meets with presidential aspirants
Which of the above can Buharism and the Buhari government claim to have actualised? None. Rather, the administration is mis-defining the purpose of government by trumpeting as “achievements” statute laws, physical infrastructure and agricultural spending, despite their miniscule impacts on the lives, safety and wellbeing of ordinary Nigerians.
Sadly, apart from mis-defining the purpose of government, the Buhari administration is also undermining Nigeria’s critical institutions.
Take the anti-corruption agency, EFCC. It’s struggling to secure high-profile convictions. Yet, the few politicians whose convictions it managed to secure are granted presidential pardons, as we saw with the recent pardons of ex-Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame. What’s more, Buhari often stood by the appointments of people as heads of critical state institutions who ended up being charged with massive corruption, as with the case of Ahmed Idris, the Accountant-General of the Federation, who Buhari re-appointed despite attaining retirement age, only to face allegations of embezzling over N80bn of public funds.
Furthermore, President Buhari undermines Nigeria’s party system by luring politicians from the main opposition party to his own with promises that their “sins,” including corruption allegations, would be forgiven. Isn’t it instructive that most prominent members of Buhari’s party, APC, including the party’s national chairman, secretary and treasurer, defected from PDP?
Then, take the Central Bank. Its independence and impartiality have been utterly eroded under the Buhari government. Surely, President Buhari’s tacit encouragement emboldened Godwin Emefiele to want to run for president as a sitting CBN governor. Even now, Buhari pretends that Emefiele can continue as CBN governor, despite being a registered member of the APC and a presidential hopeful under the party.
Truth is, Buharism is not a credible ideology of government. Over the past seven years, it has failed, as it did under its military dispensation, to transform Nigeria economically, politically and socially. Its demise next year would be good riddance!
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