By John Darlington
Nigeria a country with an estimated population of nearly 200 million is without doubts Africa’s most populous country and biggest democracy. The democracy which the country enjoys today was fought and won after a ding-dong battle against reactionary forces which led Nigeria for decades before the return to civil democratic rule in 1999.
In the summer of 1999, on May 29 to be precise, Nigerians assembled at the popular Eagle Square in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city and the baton of leadership changed hands between two generals. The former, the then Head of State and of course the head of the Federal Military Government, General Abdusalami Abubakar, handed over power to a retired General and former military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, who earlier handed over the reins of power to the civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in 1979.
These were indeed interesting times in Nigeria’s political history. On December 31, 1983, this government was overthrown by General Muhammadu Buhari. President Shehu Shagari was accused of leading an administration severely battered by corruption which gave the military a compelling need to end the regime via a coup d’état. Military tribunals were set up across the country to try politicians accused of corruption that ruled over Nigeria between 1979 to 1983 and many were tried and given long custodial sentences.
Under that defunct military government headed by Gen Buhari which purportedly fought corruption at the period under sad review a lot of anomalies took place that called his sincerity in question and as luck would have it this regime again collapsed like a pack of cards via a palace coup and Buhari was evicted from the then State House at Dodan Barracks, Lagos, Nigeria and whisked away to prison.
In Nigeria’s tradition of recycling leaders, Buhari who ruled the country over thirty years ago again made an incursion on the Nigerian political scene by contesting the presidency which he eventually won under highly questionable circumstances after three unsuccessful attempts considering the doctored election results that came from the North particularly from the desert city of Kano.
What gave him ‘victory’ was his firm resolve to fight corruption after labeling the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) under former President Jonathan one vast empire or cesspool of corruption. In the build-up to 2015 general elections, the country witnessed a gale of defections from the then ruling party to the main opposition, the All Progressives Congress (APC) – the product of a historic merger.
The defections at the time did not come with the persecution of dissenting voices and witch-hunting of perceived political opponents by the then PDP-controlled Federal Government. Ironically, today the country battles numerous challenges ranging from massive corruption to insecurity of lives and property. Under the Buhari’s government corruption which he vowed to fight is clearly evident on all fronts.
For starters, a lot of things have happened of late to call Buhari’s avowed declaration to fight corruption in question. Corruption according to English Oxford Dictionaries is the ”dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power…..”. There is no aspect of Buhari’s governance that does not reek of this eyesore.
President Buhari has been pursuing power retention via a one-party Maoist ideology instead of giving good governance to the people of Nigeria. To consolidate a firm hold on power, President Buhari made sure the heads of the country’s security agencies are manned by his near kins from one section of the country who do his bidding which is typical of dictators and other totalitarian regimes.
Elections have in fact been held since he came to power about three years ago. The governorship election that took place in Edo State in 2016 was a sheer mockery of democracy because the figures collated at the polling stations were different from the ones announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) which his near kin again heads.
No time in this history of Nigeria has the head of an electoral commission emerged from the same zone with the president and by extension a relative of the president. I wonder how Nigerians would expect credible polls which would be presided over by a relative of their president.
In any democratic setting, the pulse of the people often dictates the outcome of elections results, in fact, it dictates on where or which side the pendulum swings but what we often see at the end of the day are doctored results from his kin which do not in any way reflect the will of voters at the polling stations. This has happened severally since he took over the reins of power in 2915 in his resolute bid to eliminate the opposition. Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State won the Anambra gubernatorial election as a result of his alliance with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). In Buhari’s capacity as a declared corruptionist, his bidding in collaboration with his near kin as the head of INEC prevailed in the gubernatorial elections that took place in Edo, Ondo and Ekiti States where there were instances of large-scale vote-buying and a similar scenario is again unfolding in the forthcoming gubernatorial election in Osun State where the APC National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhonle, the immediate past Governor of Edo State openly boasted that victory would be a walk-over for the APC candidate. In a mega-rally that took place on Saturday, August 4, 2018, in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, Adams Oshiomhonle vowed to punish the main opposition with President Buhari maintaining a conspiratorial silence.
One astonishing thing is that politicians in the opposition who have been accused of large-scale of embezzlements automatically become saints on defection to the ruling party. The ruling party abounds in many of them who were previously arrested by the country’s anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). More surprising is the fact that the Presidency now goes about, cap in hand, begging the same persons it haunted as corrupt and evil. One of such is Senator Godswill Akpabio, a former Governor of Akwa Ibom State who, reports say, would also be defecting to the ruling party today.
Recently, a cleric in Benin City filed a petition to the EFCC against the immediate past Governor of Edo State who is now the Chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party wherein he accused the former of massive looting of the state’s treasury but the EFCC has turned a blind eye to the petition while the petitioner has continued to shout hoarse which has generated a media storm against the President and his ruling party. This is a president who is prosecuting an anti-graft war. What a paradox!
In a similar vein, the Rivers State Government forwarded a petition to the EFCC against the immediate past Governor of the State, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi and the Minister of Transportation for embezzlement of government funds who many believed bankrolled Buhari’s presidential campaign in the build-up to the 2015 presidential election but that petition was equally swept under the carpet. Mr Amaechi was neither invited nor summoned for questioning, thanks to the federal might which covers Buhari’s loyalists on defection.
Forgery in the Nigerian criminal law is a crime which is both actionable and punishable and also in other civilized societies. Only recently, investigations conducted by Nigerian online news medium, PREMIUM TIMES, exposed the certificate forgery by Mrs Kemi Adeosun, Nigeria’s Finance Minister who has reportedly owned up to the crime. Since her alleged confession, the Federal Government has not handed her case over to the police for further investigations and possible prosecution. Again, that is a government that is prosecuting a corruption war! Again, what a government full of ironies, paradoxes and dissonance!
In another development, there was a leakage of an internal memo sometime in October 2017, about the abuse of contract process to the tune of N9 trillion naira, which is well over twenty-four billion dollars ($ 24.965.325.000,00) at Nigeria’s state-owned oil firm, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This crying contract scandal under the Buhari-led Federal Government was swept under the carpet in a country where over 90% of its citizens live below the poverty line.
To further tell you that the anti-corruption war is nothing but a ruse, President Buhari has been wooing those in the main opposition he labels looters to his party with bogus promises, cash gifts and above all to have their corruption cases quashed, this is a man that heads a government that fights corruption. What is all this desperation for a second term about with public money freely changing hands in the face of these abysmal rots and failures? The irony of it all is that their moronic followers often justify these crying acts of illegality without considering their future that is being bastardized. To them, Buhari remains the legendary Homer that never nods.
Let us shift attention to the security of lives of property. Today Nigeria is like a country which is prosecuting a war as a result of the mindless killings ravaging every nook and cranny of the country, particularly in the Benue-Taraba axis. The country’s security architecture has broken down which finds expression in the ongoing armed invasion of the abovementioned region by Janjaweed armed militias who masquerade as herdsmen. There are other clear cases where Fulani nomadic herders have been caught red-handed in the ongoing reign of terror. Calls by well-meaning Nigerians to classify them as a terrorist organization have fallen on deaf ears while the killings continue with undiminished intensity.
This is very disheartening! President Buhari’s soft spot for these criminally-minded elements stems from the fact that they are of the same ethnic stock which compels some well-meaning Nigerians to draw the inevitable conclusion that Buhari-backed ethnic cleansing is surreptitiously on course.
Many villages have been sacked and the inhabitants of such communities butchered with all savagery. Christian Churches have been invaded with scores of worshipers and priests killed. The irony of it all is that about four people in the Middle Belt who reportedly acted in self-defence and inadvertently killed a herdsman in the process were sentenced to death the other day which sparked outrage in the region and beyond.
Every life is now on the line as these armed militias have also infiltrated southern Nigerian communities. Many peasant farmers have been killed and also have their crops, their only means of livelihood, destroyed by the invading band of marauders which is an open invitation to famine. Many of them now dread going to farms for the fear of the unknown as possible death now hangs over their heads like the ancient sword of Damocles. In all this no single Fulani herdsman has been arrested and prosecuted for these mindless killings.
The cheapening of lives under the Buhari administration is alarming and therefore calls for concern because never a time has Nigeria witnessed killings of this magnitude since the civil war ended over 47 years ago.
The previous administration handed over the largest economy on the continent to President Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress. As a leader that was ill-prepared for governance, he resorted to the blame game by employing the APC propaganda machine to demonize his predecessors whose administrations were miles better than his amid unproven allegations of looting because as I write this piece no one has been convicted.
Today, the All Progressives Congress has only succeeded in pauperizing Nigeria while it claims to be empowering the people.
In the run-up to July 14 governorship election in Ekiti State, the ‘Governor-elect’, Dr Kayode Fayemi openly said the Ekiti governorship seat will go to the highest bidder and also boasted he has earmarked over N10 billion naira for the election. As luck would have it money freely changed hands on that day with each voter taking home as much as N10,000, an equivalent of $28 US dollars in return for each vote cast. The ruling party in the state, the Peoples Democratic Party allegedly took part in vote-buying and other forms of electoral malpractices but at the end of the day, the highest bidder carried the day.
This was openly acknowledged by everyone and the international observers voiced their condemnation in its entirety for falling short of global standards but President Buhari who purportedly leads an anti-corruption war was the first to congratulate the ‘Governor-elect’ on this underserved victory instead of calling for an outright cancellation of the exercise.
Although Fayemi’s victory is being challenged at the election tribunal I am afraid if this will see the light of the day calling to mind what happened in Edo State which could also be replicated in Ekiti State since Buhari plays the piper and dictates the tune for the judiciary, a prelude to what likely to play out in 2019 general elections. Elections will be conducted no doubt and Buhari against the popular wishes of the people would be declared the winner, aggrieved opponents would be asked to go to court while the country’s security agencies which have become partisan would be on red alert to quell uprising from any quarter. This is as sure as fate.
Frankly, I do not see Nigeria holding credible polls next year as the APC rigging machine has been reconditioned with his near kin, Prof Yakubu Mahood, behind the wheels to navigate his principal through stormy waters and thereafter have him reinstalled in the Villa.
Only yesterday the worst act of illegality was committed by the operatives of the Department of State Security following the armed invasion of the National Assembly to forcefully change its leadership. As luck would have it this plot like the previous ones again collapsed like a pack of cards despite the huge cash that freely changed hands from the initial $500,000 to $1000,000 to each senator to commit an illegality in a country where nearly all its citizens are on the breadline.
From the foregoing, we need no reminding that this government has all the trademarks of a neo-Nazi regime which is hell-bent on power retention by employing every instrument of coercion including corruption, criminal killings and other acts of illegality to consolidate its hold on power.
*Iyoha John Darlington, a social activist, an expert in conflict management and resolution, a public commentator on national and global issues wrote from Turin, Italy.