Buhari’s Legacy: Nothing is Left After Buhari
The Benin people of Edo State salute themselves as Ugievbudu (someone with a bold heart). Two Benin indigenes spoke about our economic situation as a country in an interval of two weeks. The two of them occupied very vantage positions that we will ignore the alarms they raised at our own peril. One is a Vice Chancellor (VC) of a university. The other is a governor. The two of them are subjects of the Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II the Oba of Benin. I have lived among the Benin people for a quarter of a century now. I can attest to the fact that when a Benin man or woman decides to be bold, he or she takes no prisoner.
Professor Lilian Salami is the VC of the University of Benin (UNIBEN), and doubles as the Chairman of the Committee of Vice Chancellors of Universities of Nigeria. She delivered a keynote address recently where she raised the alarm that the Federal Government could no longer fund tertiary education. Professor Salami had her reasons and, I dare say, they are reasons that have been in the public domain for a while now. She premised her alarm of the impending doom in our educational system on the poor funding of education as demonstrated by the low budgetary provisions for that sector of our national life. Salami said while UNIBEN spends an average of N77 million monthly on electricity, the subvention it gets from the Federal Government every month is a paltry N11 million.
She proffered a solution; to wit: the university must find a creative way to run its system. While admitting that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) once in a while showed up to intervene, Salami lamented that the intervention was not “robust” enough and lamented the percentage of the national budget allocated to education in Nigeria as “8.2% of Nigeria’s 2023 budget. Ghana allotted 12.8 in 2023, and South Africa allotted 18.4. At UNIBEN, we’ve undertaken the cost of training a student in each department. It takes N3m to train a medical student per session, but such a student pays only N240 over six years. Interestingly, this amount is far less than paid in a private secondary school; some of us pay as much as N380,000 for our children in creches per term. Students must pay commensurate fees for their courses of study. We must pay for services rendered.” What Professor Salami was trying to say here is that going forward, Nigerian parents who desire tertiary education for their children and wards must be prepared to pay. I don’t have any problem with that except where the money will come from.
Governor Godwin Obaseki, the second Edo person who spoke about the state of our finances, answered the poser. In his May 1, 2023, address, the Edo State governor in a very blunt way told the Edo workers who gathered at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin, for the May Day celebration that tough times were ahead of them. Obaseki said that going by the financial health of Nigeria, beginning from June 2023, the Federal Government and most state governments would not be able to pay their workers. He provided a caveat. For the workers to get their salaries anytime from June, the Federal Government would have to print naira notes or remove oil subsidy! Here is how Obaseki put it: “It would be a miracle for the Federal Government and state governments to pay salaries beyond June this year without resorting to massively printing money or removing fuel subsidy”.
He warned that whatever the government decided to do, the workers, nay, the Nigerian masses, would bear the brunt. “Either of these decisions will bring more hardship and pain to Nigerians, particularly workers”, the outspoken governor said and advised the workers to apply their minds to “champion any discussion on subsidy removal. You must shift from the tradition of reacting when these policies have been made but insist that you take charge and ensure full transparency and disclosure.”
This newspaper, Nigerian Tribune, yesterday, Monday, May 15, 2023, ran its editorial on the “Obaseki’s Alarm”, where it stated that “…Every right-thinking Nigerian must be deeply concerned about the statement made recently by the Edo State governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, regarding the country’s finances”. The paper concluded the Editorial by saying: “In any case, if Obaseki is right, as we suspect that he is, it only confirms the self-evident point that the so-called economic policies that the Muhammadu Buhari administration has enunciated time and again have not produced the expected results. Workable economic policies could not have resulted in the current impasse. With the state-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) not remitting anything into the Federation Account for months, the country is indeed in dire straits. Thus, for whatever it is worth, we expect the government to address the solvency question.” This is the state of Nigeria under Buhari. Incidentally, as far back as 2021, the same Obaseki notified the country that the Federal Government printed naira notes to shore up the monthly allocation for that month. He was abused and called several names. Two years after he raised the first alarm of Buhari turning the naira to the “Ugandan shit money” of Idi Amin, Obaseki appears to be justified. The man I pity most is the one who is coming after Buhari.
The president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will take the oath of office as President and Commander-In-Chief (C-In-C) of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on Monday, May 29, 2023, God willing. That is some 13 days away. This news should elate an average Emilokan apologist, as it will distress a typical Obidient adherent. But what is in it for an average Nigerian who craves for a better country, where life is made more abundant? This is the question that flashes in my mind anytime the idea of General Muhammadu Buhari handing over to Tinubu comes up. What type of a country is Buhari handing over to Tinubu? What will Tinubu make of the estate he will be taking over in less than two weeks? And by the way, where are these two gladiators at this moment? Thirteen days to handing over and taking over the reins of power, the two principal characters are nowhere near the shores of Nigeria. While the man, Buhari, who commenced his presidency with a medical tourism in the United Kingdom has elected to end his tenure the way he started; the one to take over, who also promised to continue the legacies of his would-be predecessor, is also somewhere unknown attending to a yet-to-be-disclosed ailment. The only victim of the entire episode is Nigeria, a country admitted in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) but is running out of oxygen.
Nigeria’s ailment did not start today. The most unfortunate thing that has ever happened to this country since its creation in January 1914 is the mistake of handing over a country on its sick bed to a man who equally has his own distressing physiological challenges in 2015. Eight years after, the country has been brought to its knees as every aspect of the country has been paralysed. It could not have been otherwise. What we have suffered in the eight years of Buhari’s misrule and crass incompetence is a situation where the president has elected to attend to his own health first before treating the ailments of the nation – physical, fiscal, insecurity, etc. And you cannot blame the Daura-born retired General. When a mother and her child are scourged by the same fire, it is normal for the mother to first put out the fire on her lap before looking for water to quench the embers on her baby’s body.
Incidentally, the situation is not likely to change with the man that will be taking over. Tinubu’s handlers have tried unsuccessfully to deodorise their principal’s health status, but, like the proverbial fecal matter of a chameleon, each time they clean it, it sticks, and the offensive odour becomes more repulsive. Any man can be ill. Even the strongest of men suffer frailties. The difference between the ailment of leaders and those they lead is that no leader has the moral right to hide his health status from the people he intends to lead. Oh, that is in sane climes where leaders have respect for their citizens. Nigerians deserve to know the type of basket they will be putting their okros in the Tinubu presidency.
My fear for Tinubu and his presidency come May 29 is that he is inheriting an estate that is not only irredeemably bankrupt, but a nation that is at the point of liquidation. I am strongly persuaded that whatever Buhari has done to the nation’s economy, security, and every aspect of the country, especially after the APC primaries threw up the Tinubu’s candidacy, is not only deliberate but equally wicked. But Tinubu has himself to blame for that. A man who brings home an ant-infested log will surely have lizards as guests. Helping Buhari to power in 2015 was Tinubu’s strategy for his own 2023 presidency. Now, he has got what he wanted and how he navigates the murky water his friend and political beneficiary has created for him is his monkey and one can just hope that he will find the right quantity of bananas to feed the emaciated monkey.
Suddenly now, the bandits and killer herdsmen that went on sabbatical during the campaigns are back on the roads and on our farms. They have turned the country into what my people call “ile o gba, ona o gba” (no respite at home and on the road). From Benue to Nasarawa, Zamfara to Taraba, the killer squads are back, killing, and maiming people with impunity. The people of Takalafiya community and Gwanja in Karu Local Government, a few days ago buried 38 of their kinsmen killed by Fulani herdsmen. The deputy governor of the state, Emmanuel Akabe, had the misfortune of superintending over the mass burial of the innocent citizens, among whom was Rev. Daniel Danbeki of ECWA church in the locality. Hundreds of others were displaced by the killer herders who did not spare residents of the neighbouring Gwanja, Angwan Bege, Angwan Madaki and Gidan Allah villages.
Benue State has lost count of how many times it was forced to organize mass burials for its citizens murdered by spinless cattle rearers while the president remained aloof. Some two weeks to the change of baton, the only thing Buhari has done is to move his things from the main Aso Rock Villa abode to the so-called Glass House. Nothing in his character, content and disposition has changed. He is either picking his teeth or repairing the same dentition at the expense of the lives of the people he took an oath to protect. Never in the history of mankind has a leader shown so much hatred for the people he struggled relentlessly to lead like we have in the outgoing Buhari presidency. Why Buhari is not bothered about what posterity records for him baffles me. How a man treats his “friend” the way he is doing to Tinubu is a “topic for future symposium”, as the iconoclast, Fela Anikulapo Kuti would say.
And what about the man, Tinubu, himself? He is hibernating somewhere outside Nigeria in the name of meeting “investors”. Rather than stay and watch what remains of the ruins his friend has made of the country in the remaining days of the Buhari presidency, Tinubu jetted out again on Wednesday, May 10, to “Europe”, as if Europe is a name of a country. That, however, is not the issue here. The main gist is the type of intelligence Tinubu, and his aides are likely to bring to Aso Rock Villa. Tunde Rahman, who issued the statement to announce Tinubu’s latest trip hinged the trip on the need for the president-elect not to be “distracted” and “pressurized” while fine-tuning his transition plans. Imagine that kind of excuse? This is how those in authority think. They believe that the average man on the street knows next to nothing. What type of “distraction”? Where on the surface of the earth can Tinubu hide from its shadows, which are chasing him about? This is how sane people advise a man hiding the obvious: “jewo obun to nse o, ki a da aso ro e” – confess your filthy habits so we clad you with neat robes.
If there is any time Tinubu is expected to stay at home and monitor what happens in the last days of the inglorious reign of Buhari, it is now. Which elusive “investors” is he running after when Buhari, some 19 days to his exit still got the National Assembly to approve a loan of 800 million US Dollars in the name of “National Safety Net programme”, a code name for subsidy removal palliative, in government circles; but which to an average street man, is ‘disengagement payments’. At the rate Buhari is going, by the time Tinubu returns from his trip, he will have an empty shell as treasury. Rahman, in that statement added that reviving the country’s economy is one of the cardinal policies of Tinubu. I hope Tinubu realises, and even more, that the economy needs more than a revival, but a complete rebirth because Buhari is leaving nothing behind; NOTHING is left!