That President Muhammadu Buhari is a patriot is not in doubt. For a man who stayed in the trenches for 30 months, fighting for the country’s unity, alongside compatriots many of who are now dead and rotten in their graves, it beggars understanding why some Nigerians will loath the very mention of his name.
As a testament to his undying patriotism, Mr Buhari at the International Conference Centre (ICC) in Abuja, in 2011, wept like the Biblical account in John 11:35.
While Jesus wept for the sins of mankind, Buhari’s tears were for the problems confronting Nigeria.
The patriot in him could bear the pains no more, and instead of echoing, “Eli, Eli, Lama, Sabachthani,” the man who would after several attempts to be President, in 2015 became Nigeria’s Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, lamented;
“After being head of state, I am sure I could easily have retired into a life of comfort and ease as an elder statesman, as a contractor or as a beneficiary of any one of the nation’s many generous prebendal offerings.
But that is not what I wish to do with my life. And so, if I don’t take any of these alternative courses of action, it should be clear that I am not in this for the love of office or the pursuit of personal glory or in order to achieve some personal goal. Far be it from me that this should be.
I need nothing and I have nothing more to prove. I am in this solely for the love of my country and concern for its destiny and the fate of its people. And that is why, despite the many disappointments along the way, I am still in the struggle and will remain in it to the end.
I have decided to dedicate the remainder of my life to fighting for the people of this country-until their right is restored to them.”
This is an excerpt from the famous 2011 speech, “my primary mission in the service of Nigeria as president is to provide the requisite leadership for the actualization of our collective vision _ by example, by action and by sacrifice.”
These for me shall remain articles of faith in my conduct as a public servant. To actualize this vision and achieve the mission, I will be guided by the following three principles: creating opportunity for all Nigerians, demanding responsibility from all Nigerians, and forging a strong and virile communal spirit among all Nigerians.”
“Never again should the people of this nation have to tolerate the rape of their nation, the pillage of their resources and the consequent destruction of their nation. In order to succeed in this, as in all other national endeavours, we need unity to end the destructive divisiveness along with the people of our dear country.
I would therefore like to call upon you to close your ranks and stand proudly as Nigerians because there is pretty little that can be achieved without unity.
Unity is needed within the party, between our party and other parties; it is needed among all the political parties within the country, and it is needed between political friends and foes.
We need unity of purpose to defeat the enemies of the people, to be able to successfully attack problems and to be able to deepen the roots of our nascent democratic culture.”
But before this speech, a lot had gone wrong. Events that trailed the announcement of Goodluck Jonathan as the elected President in 2011 called to question the sincerity behind Mr Buhari’s declaration at the ICC in Abuja.
In her review of the 2011 Presidential election, Corinne Dufka asserted that “the April elections were heralded as among the fairest in Nigeria’s history, but they also were among the bloodiest. She was then a senior West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The Chief Observer of the European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), Alojz Peterle, during the presentation of the Mission’s Final Report on the conduct of the 2011 general elections in Abuja, remarked “…overall the 2011 elections marked an important improvement compared to all polls observed previously by the European Union in Nigeria.”
Yet, deadly election-related and communal violence in northern Nigeria following the April 2011 presidential voting left more than 800 people dead according to Human Rights Watch.
The victims were killed in three days of rioting in 12 northern states.
The violence began with widespread protests by supporters of Muhammadu Buhari who then ran on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change.
The protests degenerated into violent riots and sectarian killings in Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Niger, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara, with estimate showing that more than 65,000 were displaced from the orgy of destruction that followed.
Records show that no sooner had the riot which began with supporters of Buhari protesting an imaginary rigging of the election by the then President, Goodluck Jonathan than Muslim rioters targeted and killed Christians and members of ethnic groups from the south, who were perceived to have supported the ruling party.
The rioters burnt churches, shops, and homes and attacked police stations and ruling party and electoral commission offices.
In predominately Christian communities in Kaduna State, mobs of Christians retaliated by killing Muslims and burning their mosques and properties.
Muslim rioters pursued students and beat them to death, hitting them with machetes.
In predominantly Christian towns and villages of southern Kaduna State, including Zonkwa, Matsirga, and Kafanchan, Human Rights Watch said that “sectarian clashes left more than 500 dead,” with the vast majority of the victims in these areas being Muslims.
All these happened because Buhari in a One minute, 56 seconds video filmed during his campaign for the presidential election at a location and on a date which the video that allegedly carried an NTA bug did not state, told his supporters, “Ku fita ku yi zabe. Ku Kasa, ku tsare, ku raka ku tsaya. Duk wanda bai yarda ba, ku halaka shi,” meaning “Firstly, you must register, come out and vote. You guard, protect, escort to the collation centre and you wait until the result is counted. Anyone who stops you, kill them!!!
Mr Buhari however denied uttering those words, even as he also denied uttering another call for bloodletting “kare jini, biri jinni” (the dog and the baboon getting soaked in blood) if the 2011 election was rigged).
The ensuing violence from these unguarded utterances from one who would become Nigeria’s President saw to an attendant death of 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC).
Since he assumed power in 2015, the country has seen an alarming wave of violence which has left millions of people dead.
Attacks by jihadist groups in the northeast have been compounded by a sharp rise in abductions targeting civilians in schools and at interstate links across the country.
Mass killings by bandit groups in rural towns, a reported rise in armed robberies in urban areas and increasingly daring attacks on security forces by suspected pro-Biafran militants in the south-east have also all risen.
This is further compounded by alleged state-sanctioned indiscriminate abductions, attacks and killing of innocent persons in the southeast by security forces.
The Council for Foreign Relations posits that in April alone, almost 600 civilians were killed across the country and at least 406 abducted by armed groups.
All Progressives Congress (APC) Senator, Smart Adeyemi describes the situation as “the worst instability we are facing. This is worse than the civil war.”
When he (Buhari) in a virtual meeting with US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said the army was “resolutely committed” to combating insecurity and urged more cooperation with foreign partners, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka quickly pointed out that “those who have been proven weak and incapable must learn to swallow their vain pride.”
His vision for a crisis-ridden Nigeria has been there, emerging from the dark recesses of his mind at moments when he felt at home in the provincial cocoon of like-minds.
In 2013 as the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration made efforts to quell the Boko Haram uprising in the north, Mr Buhari joined other short-sighted, self-centred and anti-nationalistic persons in the north when on a Liberty Radio programme, “Guest of the Week,” he accused the then government of killing and destroying their houses while the Niger Delta militants were given special treatment by the government (a reason which allegedly accounts for the special treatment given to supposedly repentant Boko Haram terrorists).
He added, “what is responsible for the security situation in the country is caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants. Every Nigerian that is familiar with what is happening knows this. The Niger Delta militants started it all.
“What happened is that the governors of the Niger Delta region at that time wanted to win their elections. So, they recruited the youths and gave them guns and bullets and used them against their opponents to win elections by force.
“After the elections were over, they asked the boys to return the guns; the boys refused to return the guns. Because of that, the allowance that was being given to the youths by the governors during that time was stopped.
“The youths resorted to kidnapping oil workers and were collecting dollars as ransom. Now a boy of 18 to 20 years was getting about 500 dollars in a week, why will he go to school and spend 20 years to study and then come back and get employed by the government to be paid N100,000 a month, that is if he is lucky to get employment.
“So, kidnapping becomes very rampant in the South-South and the South -East. They kidnapped people and were collecting money.”
As time would prove, this line of thinking followed Buhari into Aso Rock, where, working through his coons, he insisted on giving the north a replica of the so-called presidential pampering the Niger Delta militants received, regardless of the merit of the course the group was agitating for.
For a man who had opposed an earlier onslaught to dislodge the Boko Haram terrorist group from the north, describing military campaign against them as an attack on the north, it didn’t need deep thinking to understand why the group festered more under his watch as President of Nigeria.
It also wouldn’t need deep thinking to understand why his government would establish the North East Development Commission (NEDC), a copy of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) with similar mandates; only this time, the NDDC was set up to address the yearning development needs of the Niger Delta caused by years of neglect, as against the NEDC which mandates among others is to give to ‘repentant’ insurgents, the type of presidential treatment that Niger Delta received.
His provincial inclination is compounded by his belligerence in filling government agencies and parastatals with Fulanis and other northern Muslims. Even his appointments into Heads of the country’s security network bears the markings of a Buhari Principle of Federal Character. A clear departure from the Federal Character doctrine designed to ensure equal representation among the country’s regions and religions.
In line with his lenses for assessing the country, the recent threat which he has already launched, to remind the Igbos of the gory episode of the civil war, as against the kid gloves with which he’s been pampering the insurgents, kidnappers and other criminal elements of Fulani origin, marauding in the North and parts of the South West, further prove a Nigeria of Buhari’s dreams.
A Nigeria where the “Blood of Baboons and Dogs” soak in the earth in horrendous volume. And a Nigeria where equity, equality, merit and national unity disappeared through the windows of gross mismanagement of what was left of our national ethos.
Buhari in Aso rock represents the Buhari in 2011. One that has no qualms with the death of others as long as he or his family members are spared the immediate pain of the dastardly situation his administration created through the eyes of the regional warlords, he surrounded himself with.
This is the Nigeria of his dream. One that flows with the blood, tears and pains of others.
Benneth Joshua is a Public Affairs Analyst and can be reached through: [email protected]