Is President Buhari Still in Charge?

By Amby Uneze

A lot has been said and heard about the in-activeness of President Muhammadu Buhari still being in charge of the leadership of this nation. Prominent Nigerians across the board have voiced their disenchantment on the way and manner insecurity has taken over the affairs of the country without the government in power doing anything to confront the scourge.

To Nigerians, this is not the Buhari they knew years back, when he held sway as the former Military head of State of the country. Then, Buhari’s command and actions were like a gigantic bomb that sends shivers to the psyche of the people. Nigerians were afraid to do anything untoward at that time, because the mention of the name of the head of state was like a corrective order to do things the right way. That was when President Buhari was indeed an action leader. 

One is tempted to pose this question: Is the democratic form of government that changed Buhari to a lame President or is it that he is not actually in charge of the state of affairs of the country now. However, it had been stated at various fora that while President Buhari was actually the head of state then, the person who controlled and directed affairs of the state at the time was his second-in-command, General Idiagbon. 

Idiagbon was described as a very strict and focused soldier who felt that discipline should be forced on the people as part of their day-to-day characteristics. This attempt of enforcing discipline on Nigerians though was applied every strictness but it worked as Nigerians then learnt to comport themselves, imbibed due process and crime was very low.

Back to Buhari and his style of leadership under democracy from 2015 he came into power till date Nigeria has not known peace. His campaign promises to dislodge terrorism and banditry have failed completely. The claim to fight insecurity at every level, especially Boko Haram has also not been successful. His era has been characterized with multiple killings of innocent Nigerians on a daily basis, kidnapping, herdsmen menace, insurgence here and there, banditry, etc.

The current outcry from well meaning Nigerians across the country and in the Diaspora is a testament that the leadership of the nation is not working. Indeed, it is an understatement to say that the president has failed; it has actually collapsed because there is no longer hope to survive the next day. Everybody is praying daily for God’s divine intervention to rescue this country from bad leadership, which the nation is currently experiencing. If the government cannot safeguard the citizens, which is the fundamental duty of the government to provide security, secure lives and property, and guarantee the right to live, then such government is not worthy to exist.

In her effort to defend the inadequacies of government, the presidency accused some religious and political leaders of plotting to forcibly remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office, and warned that it would thwart the moves and ruffle some unruly feathers in the process.

The presidency, however, came under fire as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); the pan-Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere; the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in separate reactions dismissed the allegation. PDP described the allegation as a resort to blackmail in the face of the failure of the Buhari administration. Afenifere said Buhari had lost control of the country’s leadership, stating that nobody needs to pass a vote of no confidence in him before the world knows that he has failed Nigerians.

Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, said in a statement that available evidence indicated that some disgruntled religious and past political leaders are poised to throw the country into a tailspin, which would compel an undemocratic change of leadership.

Adesina’s statement came a day after the Department of State Services (DSS) alleged that some “misguided elements” were threatening Nigeria’s unity and peaceful co-existence. DSS spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunanya, in a statement on Monday, said that among those threatening the federal government and Nigeria’s unity are “some religious and past political leaders who have either called for a forceful change of government or mass action against it”.

The presidency in a reaction to the DSS yesterday said there is proof that the disruptive elements are now recruiting the leadership of some ethnic groups and politicians around the country, with the intention of convening some sort of a conference, where a vote of no confidence would be passed on the president, thus throwing the land into turmoil.

According to the presidency, the caterwauling, in recent times, by these elements, is to prepare the grounds adequately for their ignoble intentions, which are designed to cause further grief for the country. The agent provocateurs hope to achieve through artifice and sleight of hands, what they failed to do through the ballot box in the 2019 elections.

It added that Nigerians have opted for democratic rule since 1999 and the only accepted way to change a democratically elected government is through elections, “which hold at prescribed times in the country as any other way is patently illegal, and even treasonable. Of course, such would attract the necessary consequences.”

The presidency also accused external forces of collaborating with some individuals and groups to cause a crisis in the country and warned that it will not take kindly to such moves.

“These discredited individuals and groups are also in cahoots with external forces to cause maximum damage in their own country. But the presidency, already vested with mandate and authority by Nigerians till 2023, pledges to keep the country together, even if some unruly feathers would be ruffled in the process,” it said.

Some analysts believe that the presidency might have been reacting to a grand move by some past leaders of the country to hold a conference to discuss the state of the nation, which they said had been hemmed by massive violence from non-state actors, including bandits, terrorists, kidnappers and separatist elements.

The conference being facilitated by a former head of state is expected to be attended by leaders of prominent regional political groups, civil society organisations, religious leaders and past political office holders.

The groundwork had reached an advanced stage and state intelligence agencies and the presidency, the analysts, said may have panicked in the fear that the conference in dissecting the litany of woes that have befallen the country may throw up conversations and conclusions that are certain to embarrass the Buhari administration.

In strongly reacting to the allegation, PDP dismissed it saying rather than live up to the responsibilities of office by taking charge and securing the nation, the presidency was engaging in frivolous allegations against Nigerians.

The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, stated that the Buhari presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are being haunted by their own shadows as Nigerians know the persons as well as the political party with the history and penchant to scuttle democratically-elected government.

“The presidency has forgotten that in 1983, Brigadier Muhammadu Buhari, as he was then known, led a military coup to truncate a democratically-elected government thereby causing our nation a huge drawback on democratic governance.

“Also, in 2015, the APC, which was hurriedly formulated, made itself available as a vehicle of brigandage to disrupt our political process by beguiling Nigerians and taking power through violence, propaganda and falsehood. Even in 2019, Nigerians will be quick to remember how the APC imported bandits, vandals and thugs from neighbouring countries, as political mercenaries, to unleash violence, disrupt our voting processes and muscle itself into power.”

The PDP urged the presidency and the APC to look inwards for those allegedly plotting to upturn democracy. “Our party believes that the statement by the Buhari presidency is an attempt by the APC to heighten political tension in our country ahead of the 2023 election, having realised that they cannot face the people at the polls.

“For us in the PDP, our party will remain undeterred, alongside other patriotic Nigerians, in our commitment towards the sustenance and stability of our democracy as well as the unity and corporate existence of our country, Nigeria,” the PDP said.

Also replying to the Presidency accusation, Afenifere, ACF, PANDEF and the CAN also dismissed the allegation by the presidency that some religious and political leaders are part of a plot to overthrow Buhari.

The leader of Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said Buhari had lost control of the country’s leadership, adding that nobody needs to pass a vote of no confidence in him before the whole world knows that he has failed Nigerians. He stated that given Buhari’s poor performance, there is no need for any group to “gather anywhere to pass a vote of no confidence in him”.

Adebanjo, who described the 1999 Constitution as a fraud, also urged the president to, as a matter of urgency, return the 1964 Constitution agreed on by the founding fathers of Nigeria, including the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.

He said: “Who is interested in passing a vote of no confidence in Buhari? Who has confidence in Buhari before let alone pass any vote of no confidence in him? That is not the issue. The main thing is to restructure the country back to federalism and forget all these gossips by Adesina. We don’t have to pass a vote of no confidence for the world to know we don’t have any confidence in Buhari.

“I don’t know of any group who wants to take over the government, but I know those of us who want the country to be restructured in a peaceful manner. Those of us in Afenifere and all other groups in the South who are agitating for restructuring are the friends of Nigeria, are the friends of Buhari. I hope it is not too late for Buhari to realise this”.

ACF also said it was wrong for the presidency to see all its critics as disgruntled people with ulterior motives. Its spokesperson, Mr. Emmanuel Yawe, said the presidency should be broad-minded and tolerate all shades of opinions.

According to him, many criticisms against the government are done in good faith to help improve the situation in the country. Many criticisms are done in good faith and if acted upon will help improve the situation in the country.

“It is wrong to see all critics as disgruntled, religious and past political leaders with dark motives. Some of them mean well for the government and the country”.

Also, the Chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of CAN, Rev. Joseph Hayab, said the president and his team were becoming confused. “The president and his team have gone blind and confused since in their world view, Rev. Father Mbaka and others who are telling them the truth about what is happening in the country have now become enemies. 

“You should know they have run out of excuses and have turned to blackmail even those who love them and want them to do what is good for the generality of Nigerians. Every religious leader who chooses to stand with the people and is demanding good governance is now disgruntled”.

The CAN chairman said the presidency needed “to pause a little and remember that these people whom they are calling names today stood with them and for them when those who think they know them more warned against it.

“Nigerians have since passed their vote on Buhari and his government after watching helplessly how bandits have taken over the country; our young university students are being killed and destroyed”, he said.

Hayab appealed to those who are making statements on behalf of the presidency to be careful with their poor words and strive to win the support and confidence of the people with love and facts, not blackmail.

The Special Assistant to the CAN President on Media and Communications, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said beyond praying for things to get better, religious leaders reserved the right to criticise the authorities if they were not doing the right thing.

“If the government accused some religious and past political leaders of planning to remove President Muhammadu Buhari, in what ways has that concerned the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN)? The biblical responsibilities of the church include but are not limited to praying for those who are in the position of authority but to criticise when doing wrongs or performing below the average. Check the Bible; there was never a time a bad ruler was spared from criticism,” he said.

He stated that the government should pre-occupy itself with how best to tackle insecurity and ensure the wellbeing of the people. “Our candid advice to the government is to find an answer to the menace of insecurity occasioned by the bandits, kidnappers and terrorists. The country is approaching the precipice and President Muhammadu Buhari is in the position of rescuing the country by stopping the unprecedented bloodshed.

“It is only the fool that goes to bed when his roof is on fire. Our members and non-members are being kidnapped and killed while the government appears helpless,” he said.

According to him, fixing the security challenges is beyond issuing press releases or threatening to deal with the criminals. He stated that 24 hours after Buhari vowed never to tolerate any banditry attack on schools, the bandits struck, adding that the victims are still in captivity.

“What is the government doing to rescue the victims? Some university students who were kidnapped in Kaduna are being killed but the government is too busy threatening the critics. We advise the presidency to recall all the promises made by Buhari during the electioneering and what is happening under his watch. Until his government wakes up to its responsibilities, the church will not keep quiet,” he said.

In a reaction, PANDEF National Publicity Secretary, Hon Ken Robinson, expressed shock that the presidency would under the prevailing situation of disastrous insecurity tag religious leaders and past political leaders “disgruntled.”

He said such a statement was the least expected from the government.

The group urged the presidency to stop chasing shadows, stressing that Nigerians are anxious, troubled and many are becoming hopeless over the worsening insecurity, while the security agencies appear helpless and vulnerable. PANDEF asked Buhari to involve all critical stakeholders nationwide in efforts at finding solutions to the problems facing the nation.

It said: “What we expect from President Muhammadu Buhari, at this time, is to rally all critical stakeholders, from all sectors and sections of the country, to build national consensus and fashion out collective and holistic ways to address the hybrid problems confronting the country. This is not the time for arbitrary statements.”

Former president Olusegun Obasanjo has also advised the presidency to apply a stick and carrot approach to tackle the insecurity that has overwhelmed the country. He decried the attitude of paying ramsom to bandits and kidnappers for the release of victims.

In the same vein, Senate Minority leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe has raised the alarm that President Muhammadu Buhari was pushing the country to war and disintegration.

The senator, who represents Abia Central senatorial district in Abia State said the spates of insecurity and killings in all parts of the country were caused by Buhari’s policy of nepotism and bad sectionalism.

In his keynote address delivered yesterday at 2021 law week of the Owerri Branch of the Nigeria Bar Association, Abaribe said that the “president’s “enthronement of sectionalism and nepotism has led the country to be in free fall”.

He said, “Ethnic triumphalism of President Buhari’s tribesmen, Fulani, has equally helped in fueling disintegration of the country. In my interactions with Nigerians across all divides and classes, you get the impression that Nigerians do not want to go to war. You also get the impression that Nigerians don’t want to be divided into many mini countries today,” he explained.

“But, Nigerians are being pushed to the wall by two things: Nepotism and sectionalism of this government and ethnic triumphalism that is going on; importing people from outside Nigerian who come into this country and decimating people in this country and no effort is being made to tackle the problem because some people think they are of a particular religion or ethnic nationality.

“Under the watch of the present government, Fulani militia is on a mission of conquest all over Nigeria. By infiltrating and trying to take over every region of this country, we have had to witness killings of natives, women raped, farmlands destroyed, kidnappings of citizens all over the country and forests forcefully occupied.

“The security forces that should offer protection seem to rather act as if they are in collusion with the criminals and this invading army being treated with seeming indifference. Nigerians, who bear the brunt of these attacks daily, lose hope in the idea of unity of the nation”, he stated.

As a consequence of the insecurity in the country, the House of Representatives has called on the federal government to suspend the proposed 2021 population and housing census due to insecurity in the country.

The decision of the House was sequel to the adoption of a motion moved by Hon. Sheu Beji at the plenary yesterday. Moving the motion, Beji said that the federal government through the National Population commission had commenced preparations for the 2021 population and housing census across the country.

He pointed out that the State of insecurity in Nigeria has displaced numerous citizens who are duellers of the various communities to be captured in the exercise. The lawmaker observed that some displaced persons have crossed over to neighbouring countries for refuge and cannot be captured if the census is to be conducted.

Beji noted that with the overwhelming security challenges at hand, expecting accuracy in any census conducted now would be like passing an elephant through the eyes of a needle. He expressed worry that in the circumstance, a large chunk of Nigerians have fled their homes, while many others are being held captive by kidnappers, adding that conducting such a census without them means infringing on their constitutional right.

Beji stressed that posting enumerators or adhoc staff to volatile areas of the nation in the name of conducting census was irrational, as it would be like giving them out to criminals. He was of the view that conducting population and housing census in the current economic recession would only waste the hard earned resources of this country as the outcome would be inconsequential. 

Beji stated: “The precarious situation that has befallen our nation apparently informs the need to set priorities in governance. Thus, our priority should be titled towards a lasting solution to the killings, kidnapping and other criminal activities tormenting the nation”.

He added that the Green Chamber had in the same vein called on the president to declare a state of emergency on security to avert a possible impending calamity.

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