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Buhari’s ‘Resurrection’: Why Mr President is Suddenly Awake

By Eric Elezuo

On February 12, 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari arrived the city of Maiduguri, Borno State, with high hopes of cutting the god-figure the average northerner has revered him with overtime, but alas, the president was wrong. His years of negligence, incompetence and attendant maladministration, which has engendered untold hardship among the populace, has turned his most ardent supporters against him. They were aware of Buhari’s nonchalance to the plight of the common Nigerians; they were aware of the rising cost of living with no hope of remedy in sight; they were aware of the unprovoked attacks by insurgents reducing the worth of life of the average Nigerian. They were aware that Buhari has preferred frequent oversea’s trips to interacting with those that elected him. They were aware that Buhari was no longer the same man that had a cult-like followership.

To many, he was dead politically, administratively and even in person. His ‘resurrection’ therefore, in the last couple of days, following recent activities is needed not to just prove himself, but also debunk the theory of his death, which has made more rounds than most regular stories.

As a result, in exchange for the ‘sai baba’ slogan which heralded the 2015 election, and to an extent the 2019 election, the people of Borno chanted a different slogan, ‘we no do again’. The president saw a different version of the people who hitherto followed him without question.

One would have thought there would be an immediate change, but the president took another 14 months to rearrange his priories, and in June 2021, there seems to appear a ray of hope in the horizon considering Buhari’s public relations in terms of communication and coming closer to the people he governs, and also attempt to deliver on projects. As a result, many has seen his attempts in the last one week as a miracle of resurrection wherein he had granted interviews to two media houses, though relayed, and visited two of Nigeria’s major cities; Lagos and Maiduguri; again all in a space of one week.

Prior to this time, Buhari hardly appears in public nor speak directly to the populace. Nigerians have had to make do with pronouncements from his media aide, Garba Shehu, with claims of representing the presidency. It is worth noting that majority of his statements, which he has credited to the president, have seen everything right with the north, but otherwise with the south. This has made Nigerians contest the source of his statements, with many dismissing them as a figment of the aide’s imagination.

Buhari’s journey to rediscovering himself, especially after the inglorious ban on twitter in Nigeria; an action that has been condemned locally and on the international level and the blood letting taking place in the Southeast region, began with the exclusive interview he granted Arise TV with the CEO, Nduka Obaigbena, Rueben Abati, Tundun Abiola and Segun Adeniyi as anchors. The interview however, took place at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja.

The station summarised the content of the scoop as follows:

“Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari spoke exclusively to ARISE NEWS in the first interview he has granted since beginning his second term in office more than two years ago.
“He spoke on a wide range of issues, including the worrying security situation in the country.
“According to him, the northwestern part is his biggest concern, because of killings going on among people of the same culture.
“President Buhari however revealed that he’s given the police and military the power to be ruthless with those behind the insecurity in the region.
“On the pressing and topical issue of the suspension of Twitter in the country, Buhari was reticent, saying only that he would keep that to himself.
“The president also addressed the issue of perceived lopsidedness in his appointments, saying people shouldn’t just be picked for a geographical balance over those who have earned their place.
“The Nigerian president further touched on other topics, from the activities of IPOB in the southeast to the EndSARS protests of October last year, the troubling issue of killer herdsmen, and how he would want to be judged after his tenure.”
The almost two hours interview, which though did not give Nigerians any form of hope, economically or politically, succeeded in proving that at least the country still has a president. While many has said that the chat further exposes Buhari’s dictatorial tendencies, many others were of the opinion that his coming to the public in black and white portends a ray of hope, and a prove that he wasn’t dead.
However, one of the interviewers, Rueben Abati, who himself was a presidential media aide, captured the experience as follows, in part:
“Nonetheless, the excitement that has been demonstrated over the Buhari interview(s) owes in part to the status of public perception about the President’s unwillingness to communicate directly with the people who elected him into power in 2015 and 2019. For the better part of his six years in power, President Buhari has engaged more with Nigerians through third parties, spokespersons and press statements. Other Presidents before him appeared regularly on Presidential Media Chats during which they responded to the people’s concerns. Not this President. In six years, he has not granted one Presidential media chat. Other Presidents gave one on one interviews to media houses, or even stand-up interviews with reporters. This President has been unusually reticent and absent. On the few occasions that he has spoken to the press, he did so with foreign journalists, a counter-productive move that merely infuriated Nigerian stakeholders. As his spokespersons churned out press releases and statements clarifying previous releases, in the face of rising wave of insecurity, violence and confusion in the land, Nigerians demanded that they would rather have the man they voted for speak to them. 

 

“The absence of the President’s personal voice eventually resulted in conspiracy theories which flourished unabated. Opposition elements argued that Nigeria no longer had a President but a Presidency that had been taken over by a cabal. They argued that the elected President died a while ago and had been replaced by a body clone called Jibrin from Sudan. For effect, they added that even the First Lady was aware of this and hence, her trenchant criticisms of the government and her husband’s aides. Commentators like Farooq Kperogi, claiming insider knowledge of Aso Villa and its actors, in seductive prose, told Nigerians many tales about how their President had succumbed to a combination of dementia and senility and government had been taken over by unscrupulous persons who call the shots in the President’s name. The big lesson in retrospect is that when a President distances himself from the people, and refuses to engage them as we see leaders in other parts do, he unwittingly encourages conspiracy theories about a vacuum in power and the politics of absence and/or indifference at the highest levels.

“Whoever advised President Buhari to grant media interviews last week and also address the nation on Saturday, June 12, did him a big favour. The intensity of media appearance was a good move, even if it came rather late. Nigerians may disagree with some of the things the President said in his media outings, but many of the myths constructed around him have been exploded, and that must be helpful to his administration. The man that our team sat with and interviewed didn’t sound like a Jibrin from Sudan. He was alert, alive, informed, confident, relaxed, witty and capable of disarming humour. He was not the invalid or the senile old man that his critics say he is. He didn’t sound weak either. As the interview progressed, he had another function that he needed to attend, and we didn’t leave the Villa until about 11 pm. Less than 12 hours later, the same man, the following day was in Lagos to commission rail, maritime, and security projects. His submission to a media conversation is also a form of protection for his spokespersons. Many have accused Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina and Alhaji Lai Mohammed of speaking for themselves, and not for the President, but we have all seen a President, speaking for himself, whose views do not contradict what his aides have been telling us. Our interview with him also proved the point that there is no doubting the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari is effectively in charge. He knows what is going on. And he showed no hesitation in restating some of his reported views and taking ownership of them despite the controversial nature of those views. Every President has his or her own style but deliberately playing possum should not be part of that style. President Buhari should speak more often to Nigerians. He should sit down at Presidential media chats. Nigeria is not a feudal system where the aristocrat treats the people with disdain. In a democracy, the man of power is accountable to the people who expect their leaders to continually justify why they must be in power and office.”

It must be added that while many were speculating and debating on whether the president will actually come to Lagos in person to commission some projects as was earlier advertised, he stunned many and appeared on stage. He, with renewed agility commissioned railway projects, security equipment for the police as well as maritime equipment. He attempted to prove he was really in charge. He did.

President Buhari’s next stunt in his ‘resurrection’ appearances was his arrival at the ‘war zone’, Maiduguri, Borno State for a one-day official visit amidst tight security.

Buhari visited to assess the security situation in the North East, and addressed troops of Operation Hadin Kai at Maimalari Cantonment, and also inaugurated some completed Federal and State Government projects.

The visit of the president to Borno State served as a morale booster to the Nigerian troops and afforded him the opportunity to personally assess the security situation in that region and determine the level of progress made by the country in its fight against terrorism and insurgency.

In company of Governor Zulum, he commissioned the 4,000 housing units for displaced persons out of the 10,000 units being constructed by the Federal Government in Borno and the Senate building of Borno State University, Maiduguri. Other projects commissioned were the Borno State Vocational Enterprising Institute, Muna, Government Day Technical Secondary School, Njimtilo, Dr Babagana Wakilbe Memorial School, Abbaganaram Maternal Healthcare Centre and the Jiddari-Polo road and drainage.

But unlike the February 2020 reception, Buhari was better received. This was the power of his ‘resurrection’ from the doldrum and lukewarmness.

But what constituted the reasons behind the sudden rediscovery and awakening of the president? Some of the factors that aided this, observers have said included: barrage of attacks, threat of disintegration, pressure from abroad, division among the APC governors along regional divide and scaringly enough, possibility of a coup.

FEAR OF COUP

There were tangible fears that the military were no longer comfortable with the turn of events, especially with stories of discontent among the rank and file of the armed forces. There were also stories of neglect and mistreatment in the theatre of war with the Northeast as a point of reference. These incidents sort of put a question mark on the Buhari presidency and ability to remain commander in chief.

In addition, the Department of State Service, Nigeria’s secret police said they had uncovered a plot to remove President Muhammadu Buhari from office. According to the investigators, disgruntled politicians and religious leaders were behind it.

The presidency also raised the alarm, accusing ― without mentioning names ― former and present leaders working with foreign powers of trying to remove President Buhari from office forcefully.

“They are plotting to hold conferences, which would pass a vote of no confidence in President Muhammadu Buhari, a man they so much love to hate,” President Buhari’s special media adviser, Femi Adesina, said.

The report published by the DSS came just a few days after the army pledged its loyalty to the constitution and subjected itself to civilian rule, warning its members to stay away from politics.

According to dw.com, which quoted security analyst Kabiru Adamu; “If the coup is going to occur, it won’t be carried [out] by the serving generals for the simple reason that they’re benefiting from the system.”  He added that a coup could be staged, however, by a group of officers that “feels disfranchised and unhappy” with the current situation.

If these unhappy military members work together with political players interested in changing the government, the possibility of a coup is “huge,” Adamu told dw.com, pointing out the military takeover in neighboring Chad as an example that could inspire a revolt in Nigeria.

THREAT OF DISINTEGRATION

The emergence of the agitation for the Yoruba Nation, spearheaded by the Sunday Igboho Adeyemi and the likes of Prof. Banji Akintoye, in addition to the already existing call for Biafran nation by a lot of secessionist groups from the southeast, chiefly among them Nnamdi Kanu’s Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), has given the government reason to rise from their slumber.

The inability of the Buhari-led government to address the issues of herdsmen killing across the nation has prompted ethnic nationalities to demand a country of their own. This is addition to claims of marginalisation, especially among south-easterners owing to Buhari’s lopsided appointments in all strata of government administration and security.

PRESSURE FROM THE DIASPORA

The Diaspora Nigerians and their foreign counterparts have been relentless in their call for a change following what many analysts have described as Buhari’s inept approach to matters of security and alignment of all ethnic nationalities. On many occasions, the president has been embarrassed on foreign lands by protesting Nigerians, who had used strong terms to describe his government.

It would be recalled that recently. Buhari travelled to London on a supposedly medical trip, but was booed all through his stay in the English nation. He was accused of running down to developed countries for medication while his own country’s medical facilities is in comatose.

DIVISION OF APC GOVERNORS ALONG REGIONAL LINE

While the president is finding a little difficult in dealing with the opposition PDP, his own party faithful were busy turning on against one another as a result of disagreement on issues bordering on ethnic and regional integrity.

Shortly the 17 southern governors retreat in Asaba in May, there seemed to have arisen discontent between APC governors of northern origin and APC governors of southern origin. While most of the northern are in support of the open grazing the south had placed a clampdown on the practice. This has resulted into a loggerhead between hitherto ‘friendly foes’.

As much as the president feels he was immune to attacks and criticisms, it is obvious that the barrage of attacks that trail his administration must have gotten to him, and suddenly he decided to make amends.

Nigerians are hoping that this new found vigour of Mr President will be translated to profitable living for Nigerians, who have wallowed in abject poverty since 2015 when the present administration took power. Buhari and every member of the of his administration, including supporters have continually heaped the blames of the administration’s ineptitude on the previous administrations with special emphasis on the immediate past Dr Goodluck Jonathan’s government.

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