President Muhammadu Buhari came to power with a lot of promise. He enjoyed enormous good will from a cross section of the very diverse Nigerian populace. To the down trodden, he was a messiah, who is incorruptible, high on integrity and patriotism, who has come to deliver them from political and economic bondage. To the elite class, he was a stabilising force needed to pull Nigeria back from the precipice of disintegration. Buhari benefitted a lot, politically, from the crisis within then ruling PDP.
A crisis that portended great danger for the country because of intense power struggle arising largely from the violation of the zoning arrangement by former President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011. With the build up to the 2015 general election, with Jonathan determined to get a second term, these factors and much more favoured his emergence as president because the ruling northern elite across party lines gave him massive support to stop Jonathan’s re-election at all cost. Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari came into office with a largely cooperative citizenry, which was willing to give maximum support to him to lead the country to greatness. Regrettably, this rare opportunity was mismanaged and the once deified Muhammadu Buhari has now been demystified.
Favouritism, cronyism, nepotism and tribalism, collectively known as sectionalism is the root of corruption. It is a cancer that destroys the body politic of any nation.
Unfortunately, the president is unrepentantly sectional in his key appointments and policy initiatives. Sectionalism replaces merit with mediocrity and relegates competence and expertise to the back seat. Sectionalism promotes discrimination and marginalisation which in turn breeds disaffection and disunity.
The negative consequences of sectionalism have manifested in many ways. From dysfunctional state institutions arising from incompetent heads at the top, to systematic recruitment of children, friends and family of highly placed individuals in government, in a clandestine and corrupt manner, devoid of due process and transparency as was discovered in choice government MDAs such as NNPC, CBN, FIRS and FAAN, to Elder Solomon Dalung, Buhari’s minister of youth and sports, who is fast becoming a poster boy for controversy arising from poor understanding of his job; corruption and incompetence are gradually becoming the hallmark of the Buhari administration and the country is suffering greatly from this suffocating system. Nigeria cannot achieve much progress, prosperity and development under this unfair and unjust system.
Recent developments in the polity are clear indicators that sectionalism has found expression beyond appointments but has influenced key government policy directions.
The ministry of interior, which has the primary mandate of ensuring internal security of our country is dominated by Nigerians of northern origin. The minister of interior, Abdulrahman Dambazzau is from the north as well the heads of police, immigration, NSCDC, prison service, all of which are agencies under the ministry. This may largely explain the inability of security agencies to curtail the excesses of the marauding Fulani herdsmen, whose criminal and violent activities have displaced a lot of communities in central and southern Nigeria.
The extent of this sectional policy in internal security was clearly demonstrated when the president and commander in chief, on the 12th of July, on the occasion of Army day celebration, decked in full military gear, personally went to Dansadau community in Zamfara State to launch a security initiative against cattle rustling. Cattle rustling affects the Fulani herdsmen as negatively as their own grazing activities affect their host communities in central and southern Nigeria.
The president is a Fulani man, as well as his minister of Defence, who is actually from Zamfara State. The president has clearly shown more concern for lives of cattle in Zamfara State, a predominantly Fulani and Muslim enclave than human lives in predominantly non-Fulani and non- Muslim Agatu in Benue State and other like communities ravaged are still being ravaged by marauding Fulani herdsmen all over the guinea savanna and forest vegetative belts of Nigeria. There is no clear security initiative to protect lives and properties of farming communities against the marauding Fulani herdsmen thereby making them very vulnerable.
Another issue is the directive by the CBN to all authorised dealers to trade forex at the rate of 197 naira to 1 dollar, as against the official rate of 310 dollars and parallel market rate of 410 dollars, to Muslim pilgrims which is highly condemnable at this time of acute scarcity of forex. This policy will cost the Nigerian federation a whopping eight billion naira as each of 65 thousand pilgrims, will get between 750-1000 dollars as PTA, in a classic case of misplaced priorities. Hajj, as a religious injunction, is only incumbent on those that can afford it and not something to be paid for by someone else. Those pushing this policy are motivated more by sectional and negative religious tendencies which is full symbolism without faith and fear of God.
If they truly fear God, they will know that this policy will encourage massive round-tripping and corrupt enrichment of a few privileged BDC operators at the expense of the country because of the wide differentials between the approved rate of 197 naira and the official rate of 310 naira to the dollar. Religion is a powerful tool in the hands of the ruling class in Nigeria which is deployed for their very narrow self-interest. Illiteracy keeps the people in check; therefore, rather than encourage their education, simply keep them down with tokenism and other similar symbolic religious gestures.
Little wonder education remains in the import prohibition list but Hajj gets a greater priority in forex allocation. Northern leaders appear to relish the perpetual “educationally disadvantaged” status of their people; a status that has become a tool of blackmail against the rest of the nation. This status is blamed for all social vices and ethno-religious problems like the Al-majiri and Boko Haram scourge. Yet they are not doing anything to change this less than dignified condition in the north.
Some corrupt public officers are in the habit of using part of their ill-gotten wealth to sponsor religious activities like building of mosques, payment of Hajj fees and distribution off food items during Ramadan, with the hope of gaining God’s blessings and reward. These unfortunate practices have reduced our people to mental dependency and physical servitude. Rather than subsidise religious activities which are supposed to be personal, government should plough those funds into educating and transform our people from the grassroots to tall trees, so that the grassroots will not turn to weeds and wither the tall trees.
Appointments to public offices by the president should be based on merit and proven competence with qualified individuals drawn evenly from all parts of Nigeria. Emphasis should not be on personal loyalty to the president but on loyalty to the nation, by being faithful to their oath of office, obeying our laws and discharging their duties according to laid down rules and regulations.
Their services are to the nation and not to the president. The Nigerian project is too big to be used as compensation for friends, family and political associates. The president must be above board in all his actions legally and morally in accordance with his oath of office.