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A look at Buhari’s hailers and his haters

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Last Saturday, May 29, makes it exactly six years since President Muhammadu Buhari first took the oath of office during an elaborate ceremony at the Eagles Square, in Abuja, the country’s capital.

It was President Muhammadu Buhari first four-year term as president. Since that first oath-taking ceremony, the President has had to take the oath of office one more time for a second four-year term that started in May of 2019. At this point of his presidency, Buhari has spent more than two-thirds of his presidential terms. It is, therefore, an appropriate time as any for Nigerians to appraise his performance.

Long before now, the Buhari scoresheet as president has been a subject of animated, often-polarising, debates. Yes, even before Buhari’s multiple bids for the presidency, long after his unceremonious ouster as the head of a junta that sacked the Second Republic, met with success at the fourth attempt, his suitability or otherwise as president has been the subject of acrimonious arguments

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No sooner was he sworn-in than his performance or lack of performance became the basis of mudslinging that has shown no sign of abating even six years after. Events of the last two years, specifically the state of (in)security, be it social, economic or political, with terrorists of various shades, insurgents and bandits, running amok; mass loss of jobs and two-digit inflationary rise, and the future of Nigeria as a political entity being constantly put in question, the role of Muhammadu Buhari as either a performing or non-performing president has again come under sharp focus, ever more stridently.

Thus, on this occasion of the sixth anniversary of his administration, it was again time for both the praise singers and dirge masters to roll out the drums, respectively to celebrate or mourn. But this was not an activity that the arm of the Buhari administration now infamously known as ‘’the Presidency” was going to leave to outsiders alone.

One of the duo of presidential media aides, Femi Adesina, was quick to roll out the drums. But unlike in the past when the songs from Adesina had been unmitigatedly upbeat, he was on this occasion prepared for a nuanced, even if still-gushy appraisal. He conceded in the opening remark of his somewhat starkly long and boring release, that the economic, social and security situation of the country has been very challenging.

As would be expected of a paid mouthpiece on a public relations assignment, Adesina did not dwell in any relative detail on the specifics of the challenging circumstances he wrote about in broad, generalising strokes, before quickly moving on to highlight in very elaborate terms that did nothing to sustain the reader’s interest, due to the boring officialese in which it was written, what he would later call “teeny-weeny bits of what the Buhari government has done in these spheres of national life’’.

Adesina offered very generous appraisal of his principal’s handling of the country’s infrastructural sector, celebrating railways and road constructions, a number of which he says are already slated for inauguration by the President, from the South-West, through the South-East, South-South and the North-Central to the North-West and North-East. On the economic front, he celebrated the different poverty alleviation programmes of the Buhari government. The administration’s effort in the agro-allied sector is not left out. In all, Adesina gave his principal a resounding pass mark reminding those who care to know that there are yet more ‘’wonders’’ waiting to be performed by the Buhari administration.

For the sake of Nigeria, I would want to believe Adesina and, therefore, look forward to those wonders that the administration will perform that it could not convincingly perform in the previous six years. The problem of this present administration is not so much that it has lost much of the goodwill it enjoyed at the beginning as that it is determined to live in the bubble of the alternative reality it has created for itself no matter what the facts on the ground say.

That should not be surprising about an administration that has been hijacked by interlopers who, in the guise of “the presidency”, now speak, take decisions and act in the name of the President. Even when the President must be held accountable for all that goes on in his administration, there is no doubt that a clique, perhaps, a triumvirate that includes Abubakar Malami, Garba Shehu, and Sabiu Yusuf/Mamman Daura, are largely responsible for those contentious decisions that have brought the country to the brink of separation.

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Garba Shehu too has been defending the indefensible in the name of celebrating the achievement of the administration whose history he is doing only next to Malami to write in infamy. The important thing to note here about the hailers and haters of Buhari is that they all operate in absolute terms. While for the hailers it is all rankadede, as with them Buhari cannot set a foot wrong, for the haters, it is mostly bamuso, nothing Buhari does, no matter how useful, can be good. Which then makes both the hailers and the haters who cut across ethnic, religious, professional, and educational divides, undesirable anachronisms unfit and unable to make objective assessments of the Nigerian situation under Buhari.

But what this country needs are citizens, women and men, young and old, who can see things and people in terms of their own merit, people without fixed, apriori allegiance to any position, individual or group. When they see what is right or wrong, they say so within human limitations, no matter what the stakes are. That they supported a Buhari policy today does not mean they should support it tomorrow if there is no reason to.

That they were fervent supporters of Buhari over Goodluck Jonathan in 2015, does not mean they should remain Buhari’s supporters forever even when evidence shows he has performed less than even he promised to. Where such citizens exist, they would be able to examine the Buhari administration in terms of what it has got wrong in the context of present concerns. Indeed, a full account of the Buhari administration will only be possible after the administration has taken its exit.

Until it does, however, honest Nigerians should not be afraid to say that in six years the Buhari administration has accentuated the fault lines of our fragile nationhood more than any other administration in recent memory. No government before this present one practiced nepotism to the level the Buhari administration has now taken it. Nor has the general decline in security been this bad in peacetime Nigeria. The economy itself has been ailing well before COVID-19. These are the facts of a national malaise that is not inevitable. To see this and remain silent is to be unpatriotic.

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