For instance, in a meeting he held on July 29 at Blair House in Washington DC with his classmates, members of the US War College class of 1980, the President told them that John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, “read the riot act” to him, Jonathan and Prof. Attahiru Jega, former chairman of INEC. According to Buhari, Kerry reminded them that the election must be free, fair and in line with the Nigerian constitution.
That is not all: his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, reports that the President said in that very meeting, “God made me but America made me.”
Reading through Shehu’s presentation of what transpired during the meeting, it is obvious that the Buhari that went to America last month is not really the same Buhari who, as military head of state, dealt with Western powers, particularly Britain, tit for tat during the Umaru Dikko kidnap saga, which implies that most Nigerians who voted for him thinking that the tenaciously patriotic Buhari of 1984 has remained unchanged in that respect might be mistaken. Besides, by claiming before an American audience that John Kerry “read the riot act” to him and two other principal actors in the last elections, President Buhari created the unflattering impression of a subaltern or servant reporting what transpired between him and his master.
Worst still, if indeed Buhari said “God made me but America made me,” then he unwittingly corroborated the story in certain quarters that Western powers, especially the United States and Britain, were deeply involved in making sure that he won the presidential election – and we know the extent those two countries can go to achieve their strategic objectives.
Anyway, why would a President, a philosopher-king, pay tribute to some fictional entity and a foreign country for his electoral success, instead of expressing gratitude to those that truly deserve it, namely, millions of Nigerians who defied serious inconveniences and voted for him on March 28, 2015? In my opinion, irrespective of the largely imaginary benefits of Buhari’s adventure in America invented by APC stalwarts and media hirelings, some of the President’s pronouncements, including his persistent mantra about corruption in Nigeria, might have actually degraded the country and impacted negatively on her standing in the comity of nations.
Now, why did President Buhari announce in a foreign country that ministers would be appointed in September? Before Buhari travelled to the United States, Nigerians have been wondering when he would constitute his cabinet. Nothing prevented him from announcing here in Nigeria the decision to delay the matter for over three months after his inauguration – at least it would minimise speculations and uncertainties concerning when the executive branch of the federal government would be fully constituted according to law.
While the constitution did not stipulate any time for an elected President to form an executive council, the President and the Federal Executive Council is the full constitutionally recognised executive arm of the federal government. Therefore, any pronouncement by a sitting President on the matter is significant, for it signals the character and direction of executive authority during his or her tenure. Nigerians elected President Buhari to govern them in concert with members of his cabinet.
Thus, Buhari should have told Nigerians about his decision to postpone such an important constitutional obligation before going to America. His conduct on this issue is a tacit endorsement of the condescending and patronising attitude of American officials towards African countries. That said, despite the current hydra-headed man-made problems facing the country presently, Nigeria remains a potentially great country.
The relationship between her and other countries ought to be based on mutual respect. Meanwhile, the servile pronouncements of President Buhari and exaggerated celebration of his visit to America by his media aides indicate that although Nigeria and the United States may be friends, the relationship is one between unequals, with the latter in a much superior position than the former. Nothing can be more symbolic of the low status the American establishment accords Nigeria than her occlusion from the African countries President Obama visited shortly after Buhari returned to Nigeria from the United States. Let us face it: mediocre leadership that began since independence has crippled Nigeria. But that does not warrant our President to go abroad and talk as if Nigeria is the Mecca of corruption and as if he was a factotum sent on an errand and was reporting back to his master. No leader who genuinely respects his country would behave like that.
I am not surprised that President Buhari told journalists while in America that he would reward various parts of Nigeria differently based on the percentage of votes he received from each constituency – Igbo leaders in APC should take note.
It is in agreement with his pro-Northern disposition, which was manifest when he was military head of state and chair, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund. Buharimaniacs can waste their energy vituperating against critics of the President’s ethnic bias “till kingdom come.”
The point is that, by proclaiming publicly that he would favour the North because of the impressive votes he received from his fellow Northerners, President Buhari still believes in the atavistic Mosaic law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” as an administrative strategy in 2015! Of course, Buhari’s pro-North predilection is already manifesting in the appointments he has made thus far and in his subterranean support for exclusion of the South East in leadership positions of the National Assembly, although he might try to placate Ndigbo later by offering token appointments to few of them.
Ideally, appointment to public offices should be based on merit, not on ethnicity. But meritocracy and intelligent spread of official positions to capture the diverse ethnic configuration of a fractious federation such as ours and give more people a sense of belonging are not mutually exclusive. For every vacant public office, there are qualified Nigerians from each ethnic group who can perform creditably in that position, although the fact that a top official of government is an indigene of a particular ethnic group does not necessarily mean that the ethnic group in question would automatically benefit from such appointment.
Anyway, President Buhari should have taken his parochial logic to its logical conclusion by insisting that his administration would reward constituencies based on their contributions to the national treasury or to the informal economy nationwide. If he implements the principle of “to each according to its contribution to the federation account,” the North will be terribly disadvantaged economically because it depends heavily on money from crude oil sales and other sources of revenue generated from the South.
At this stage in our historical evolution, Nigerians do not need a President who would reward different parts of the country based merely on the voting pattern. Instead, what they need is a creative political leader who sees the entire country as his constituency and is prepared to do whatever it takes to improve the well-being of the suffering masses. If President Buhari is unable to jettison the mindset he used during electioneering campaigns and replace it with the appropriate attitude for good governance across the country, then Nigerians who expected genuine change from him should prepare their minds for terrible disappointment.
Overall, President Buhari’s state visit to the United States is a public relations manoeuvre to create the misleading impression that the new government is working with solid support from the international community led by the United States. Hence, it is extremely doubtful whether the President saw and conquered while there, as my friend, Femi Adesina, claimed gleefully.