Kiikpoye K. Aaron
In the aftermath of some incidents suggestive of manifest governance failures, some Nigerians and groups have put the blame on President Buhari. In consequence, he has been asked to resign. Among a multitude of those that have called for Mr President’s resignation are Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe and very recently, the Northern Elders’ Forum (NEF). Senator Abaribe’s call on the floor of Senate for the President’s resignation was premised on the fact that, among other things, Nigerians voted for President Buhari based on his campaign promises that he would fix the country’s problems, particularly restoration of security of lives and property, if elected. He argued that although the All Progressives Congress (APC) maintains that Nigeria is safer today than they met it, the reality is that Nigeria is far more insecure – the killings by bandits and Boko Haram in the North providing sufficient evidence. He concluded that since the government had apparently failed, the moral path was for the president to resign. The NEF on its part made the call for resignation following the gruesome murder of rice farmers in the North by Boko Haram. Its case against the President was that by failing to protect lives and property, President Buhari is ipso facto in breach of Section 14(1) which made security and welfare of citizens the primary purpose of government.
On the contrary, I argue that while the calls for resignation rest on apparent logical foundation, they are nonetheless misplaced, and in some sense, grossly unfair to the person of President Buhari! This position is informed by my conviction that the President had amply demonstrated a manifest case of infirmity of mind and body, before and during the campaign for his second term and therefore unfit to be presented as a presidential flag bearer or be voted into office in the first place.
Prior to the 2015 elections that brought President Buhari into power, he had on several occasions in the past campaigned vigorously but failed to emerge as president. He was so dogged and consistent in his determination to become Nigeria’s President that I suspect that if he was given a form to fill, under ‘occupation’, there was every likelihood that he would conveniently have filled in ‘Presidential Aspirant’. He went about the pursuit of the office as if his life depended on it. On one such attempt at becoming Nigeria’s President, precisely at the end of the 2011 presidential campaign of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in which he was the party’s flag-bearer, Major General Buhari (rtd) openly wept for the mess in Nigeria while reading his 12-page address at the International Conference Centre, Abuja. Pastor Tunde Bakare, his running mate at the time, Mallam El Rufai, now Governor of Kaduna State, Col Hameed Ali (rtd) who were on the high table with Buhari, had their handkerchiefs soaked in tears as they sobbed along with him.
Coming against the background of the Jonathan presidency which some believed was not wonderful (it has since become wonderful now, perhaps the best we have had in recent memory), Buhari campaigned vigorously against the existing order that some Nigerians were in a hurry to get rid of. There was corruption. Buhari promised to be the solution. Adjudged an upright and great disciplinarian, based on the antecedents of the regime he headed as Military ruler, Nigerians thought he had the solution to corruption, the malaise that had denied them a better life. In hindsight, it has become evident that it was Brigadier-General Idiagbon (rtd), not Buhari that imposed discipline on a nation that was badly in need of one. There was also insecurity. Boko Haram had emerged, and in some sense, pampered by the Northern elite as an aspect of a broader agenda to end the Jonathan rule. The terrorist group had taken captive of school girls to the embarrassment of President Jonathan, locally and internationally. Buahri promised to end Boko Haram in three months. There was no power supply. Roads were bad. Buhari and his collaborators like Tinubu promised to fix Nigeria. More pointedly, as part of the pact with Nigerians, as it were, shortly on assumption of power, Tony Momoh, speaking for the ruling APC, urged Nigerians to stone them should they fail to deliver on their campaign promises within the first two years in office. The governance challenges faced by President Jonathan, combined with a convergence of forces with the mantra ‘Anybody but Jonathan’ led to the emergence of President Buhari in the 2015 election. Against all known campaign norms and decorum, he had promised violence of unimaginable scale should he lose that election. Thanks to President Jonathan, who has always insisted that no man’s blood was worth his ambition for power, he conceded defeat even before the final results were announced. I can bet that Nigeria would probably have been history by now but for that gesture by President Jonathan.
Some years down the road in office, everything that was symptomatic of absence of good governance under President Jonathan has become child’s play. The national currency has been grossly devalued by insensible economic policies and practices. From N150 to a dollar where President Jonathan left off, it now exchanges for about N500 or so to a dollar. Corruption under President Buhari has assumed a bolder face. From multi-million naira grass-cutting contracts to pension funds stolen by his cronies, it became clear that the war on corruption is long lost. Even lower animals like snakes under President Buhari became corrupt too. More to the point, a clerk in the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) reportedly told auditors that N36 Million was swallowed by snakes. The roads, bad under President Jonathan became worse. It was first the roads in the East that suffered neglect and the popular narrative was that the region did not vote for the president. As I write, some roads in the North are impassable and have constituted safe havens for robbery and kidnap operations. We still do not have power supply. The health system is in a comatose state. For more than nine months, universities have been shut down as a result of strike by lecturers over non-implementation of agreements the government willingly entered into with the Academic Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU).
Beyond manifest non-performance, President Buhari’s health became a serious national concern before the end of his first four years in office. A better part of his time was spent in countries with functional health systems. No one told Nigerians what was plaguing the president. However, his frail physical looks and more importantly, his incoherence in spoken language, suggestive of dementia or senility or a combination of both, gave him away as unfit to hold the high office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on grounds of infirmity of mind and body. Yet his handlers foisted him on the party as flag bearer. During the campaign for a second term, his handlers would give him a few minutes to utter some words for which he would have had several training sessions. Even at that, there were several faux pas, notably, the Edo State case where he was seen handing over the ‘flag of honour to the Presidential candidate, the gubernatorial candidate….’ In other words, the man did not know that he was the presidential flag-bearer of the party. Apart from that, we have also watched our president being asked a question on youths in Nigeria but his answer was on oil companies.
That was the performance of President Buhari at the end of the first four years. To be sure, before the end of Buhari’s first term, no Nigerian, except those benefiting from the system was under any illusion that Buhari had the key to Nigeria’s problems. More pointedly, it became clear that he had become the problem. At this point, a call for resignation would have been in order for two reasons: first, for failing to fulfil his campaign promises and second for infirmity of mind and body. Yet the system allowed him to run for election and in what amounted to insulting the collective sensibilities of Nigerians, was declared to have won that election. Even when his victory was contested on grounds of qualification to run for the office for non-possession of the basic qualification of school certificate, the judiciary at the highest level found a way around it. Worse, our collective docility could not allow a mass action against the decision of the electoral body and the judiciary. So now we have a President who cannot be seen nor heard. Some, like Nnamdi Kanu and co-travellers insist he had been long dead and buried. To prove he is not dead, his handlers present recorded videos of him once in a while when it becomes absolutely necessary for him to address the nation. This practice was taken to the UN meeting where the president read a prepared speech in an interactive forum! He is on permanent ‘mute mode’. We are now ruled by the presidency and not the President. The president is never seen speaking extempore. Instead press releases are issued in his name. Femi Adesina, Presidential aide on media matters insists it’s the President’s style.
To return to the call for resignation, what then is the basis for the call? More to the point, on what basis are we judging the president for us to arrive at the conclusion that he should resign? Did the president make any electoral promise in 2019? I can remember none. Was the president found fit to run for the office of president in 2019? The answer is a categorical no. By 2019, not only did Buhari not know he was the presidential candidate of his party, he had become highly incoherent whenever it became absolutely necessary for him to utter a word. As I pointed out earlier, although Buhari was the presidential candidate of the party, he was seen in Edo ‘handing over the presidential flag of honour to the Presidential candidate of the APC.’
It is in this regard that I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the call on the President to resign is misplaced and in some sense unfair to the person of the president. Consequently, any blame on Buhari for incompetence or non-performance is misplaced. Instead, we should blame the faceless cabal that rules in his name, the flawed electoral process, the highly compromised judicial system even at the highest level, and more importantly, his wife and children who allow his name to be used in the pursuit of the interest of a few who clearly do not mean well for the country.
*Professor Kiikpoye K. Aaron teaches Political Science at the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State.