999 views | Mahmud Jega | June 8, 2021
Last week, we should have heard the deafening sound of the Buhari Administration blowing its own trumpet to mark the completion of its sixth year in office. The Administration has spent 75% of its maximum 8-year term in office. As we say in the village, the barber finished with the back of the head long ago; he has finished with the center of the head, and barbing has now reached the forehead. Instead of self-congratulation, the Buhari Administration spent the better part of last week fighting the microblogging site Twitter, which deleted the president’s posting, and the Federal Government in turn banned Twitter in Nigeria.
Many other things conspired together to mar the administration’s sixth-year anniversary. Apart from Twitter, they include the cold blooded killing of former presidential adviser Ahmed Gulak in Owerri, burning of INEC offices and police posts in many south eastern states, mass kidnap of Islamiyya students in Niger State, renewed attacks on military bases in Borno State by an ISWAP recently emboldened by its killing of Shekau, threats by NLC to resume its disruptive mass protests in Kaduna State, growling by ASUU’s new president and his threat to resume the “suspended” nine months’ strike, as well as the hurling of geo-ethnic brickbats between IPOB secessionists and Coalition of Northern Youths, the latter asking government to allow Igbos to secede from Nigeria.
With 75% of its tenure elapsed, what should the Presidency do to turn things around in its remaining 24 months in office, lest it squanders the remaining period merely reacting to one outrage after another?
The Buhari Presidency lost the chance to dominate national discourse before, during and immediately after the anniversary by not resorting to the oldest trick in the anniversary book, which is, to carry out a cabinet reshuffle. In the run up to important anniversaries, Nigerian newspapers used to devote many pages speculating on likely cabinet changes. After the change is announced, more stories and commentaries follow on the meaning and impact of the changes made. It is a mark of how much our media houses know Buhari that I did not see a single article or opinion column speculating on a cabinet reshuffle. This president does not like making changes, unless where fraud is alleged.
The chance to divert public attention having been missed, what should the Presidency do with its remaining two years in office? Out of those two years, we may have to deduct at least six months that will be devoted to party primaries, campaigns, election and transition, or what in other lands is called the lame duck period. Effectively therefore, the Presidency has one year and six months to make an indelible mark. In which areas can it make them?
It will be good if it ends IPOB’s secessionist bid and the developing insurrection in the South East. Maybe the security agencies can do it, but a neater way is to separate the IPOB hotheads from the wider, wiser mainstream. How? It could bring all South Eastern governors, elders, leaders of thought and elected representatives together to a meeting with the president and get them to disown IPOB and secessionism.
Every one of these elite figures knows that to secede from Nigeria and establish a landlocked, overpopulated, natural resource-challenged Biafran nation of too many traders with no enough buyers, and probably lose trillions in landed property in other parts of the country, is not a good strategic idea. Yet, the elite won’t speak out against IPOB unless personal security is guaranteed, and also until Buhari makes major political concessions. He can do some, such as appointing South Easterners to some key Federal positions and undertake a few more key projects in the East. To other demands, such as for an Igbo president in 2023, he can plead personal incapacity.
The Presidency would leave an indelible mark if, in its remaining time in office, it manages to build national consensus on a program to end pastoralism [what is now called open grazing] within a few years. President Buhari is culturally a Hausa man but strident propaganda in the South and Benue State has cast him as a Fulani man. Fair enough; he should bring together all governors and statesmen to a national meeting to adopt a program, with timelines, to end pastoralism within, say, a decade. It could kick off by relocating all pastoralists to the Northern states. Sure there isn’t as much pasture in the North as there is in the South but that is ok. Save the country first and we will rebuild the cattle herds later. In the meantime, if anyone complains that the price of beef is too high, tell him that it is deregulated.
Another Administration goal should be to completely defeat Boko Haram and to drastically reduce banditry and kidnapping, all within a year or two. Since ISWAP, unlike Shekau’s faction, is fighting a more-or-less conventional war, the Army should be at home with this challenge. Bring in any help that is needed; old-fashioned ‘we can do it on our own’ national pride will not do here.
There are other do-ables, but time is scarce. Barbing has reached the forehead. The barber will soon drop his clippers. Look closely into the 2023 mirror and ensure that the head is clean shaven.