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Buhari and the Tyranny of Perception
Franklin Otorofani

Published April 14th, 2015


The other day, I casually and light-heartedly sounded out a colleague at work, a well-educated Nigerian, just like me, of Yoruba extraction, what he thought of Buhariís victory in the Nigerian presidential election. And before I could finish the question a seemingly hackneyed answer popped right of his lips like a kindergarten regurgitating some crammed line: Why wouldnít he? His man won and like many he was still basking in the afterglow of victory celebration.

ďHe will fight corruption and insecurity and make the country betterĒ, he gushed, his eyes glittering, with a rather triumphant smile playing on his lips. Like most Nigerians who voted for the APC presidential flag bearer, this educated but seemingly politically naÔve Nigerian, had rooted for Buhari solely on the basis of his perception of the man as an incorruptible corruption fighter, albeit with pretty scanty evidence of that at his disposal.

If my memory serves me well, UPN leaders of the Yorubas, who were herded to the polls by Bola Tinubu had suffered the most from Buhariís Kangaroo special military tribunals that had been pre-programmed by Dodan Barracks, headquarters of Nigeriaís military junta, to return only guilty verdicts against UPN governors while giving a pass or at worst a slap on the wrist not only to former President Shehu Shagari and his infinitely corrupt NPN governors and ministers who were flying around in private jets, but to persecute UPN governors. Rather than deal with President Shehu Shagari who was presiding over the most corrupt administration in Nigeriaís history then, it was Chief Obafemi Awolowo himself, founder and leader of the UPN and UPN governors, such as Chief Bisi Onabanjo and Professor Ambrose Ali that Buhari hounded and pounced on for allegedly funding the UPN from their state coffers.


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Itís interesting to note that contrary to time-honored standard tenets of criminal jurisprudence, Buhariís special military tribunals shifted the onus of proof on the defendants rather than the prosecution to prove their innocence of the charges against them. All the persecutors had to do was to slap a charge on the accused, sit back, and watch the accused struggle to extricate himself from the trap. It was no surprise then that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) boycotted the Kangaroo tribunals working to an answer. Needless to state that both Ambrose Ali and Bisi Onabanjo later died from the traumatic experience visited on them by Buhari, who never executed a single project anywhere in Nigeria during his two-year tyrannical rule.

Iím not here to re-litigate the election but to point out the delusions that produced its outcome. Even the trillion naira PTF program said to be equal to the Federal budget solely administered by Buhari could not produce any lasting developmental legacy worth mentioning save perhaps for earth roads that couldnít survive the rains as everything seemed to have gone away with Abacha leaving only Buhari to permanently fix his gaze on the presidency, which a nation suffering from degenerative dementia and amnesia has so callously handed over to him and his Western backers on a platter.

If I sound a little bitter here it is for a reason. Buhariís election will go down in history as the dumbest vote ever in Nigeriaís electoral history. And to explain it away in terms of his purported anti-corruption disposition is to rob salt into an injury. That might be the perception of the average Joe, but perception is different from reality. The real anti-corruption Nigerian leader known to history, who not only fought corruption to a standstill, but also had a real transition program in place, which his second in command, General Olusegaun Obasanjo implemented by handing over to civilians in 1979, was Gen. Murtala Mohammed of blessed memory, not General Muhammdu Buhari, the pretender with a phony War Against Indiscipline (WAI).

Yet Buhari found time to cause, through his military administrator in Lagos, the cancelation of former UPN Governor Lateef Jakandeís Lagos Metroline project that would have cost the state a mere $4bn at the time under the pretext of fighting corruption. Needless to add that the state is now executing a vastly scaled down version of the project at astronomical costs setting the nation back 35 years. Yet itís these junta template kangaroo trials, which almost every military junta had carried out that earned Buhari his anti-corruption moniker that swept him into office after three previous fruitless tries as if Nigerians suddenly woke up from their slumber and remembered it. This, to me, is a mark of a schizophrenic nation or section thereof.

This is what I called the tyranny of perception, which has ensnared and enslaved many a Nigerian, even supposedly educated ones amongst us into voting for the past rather than the future. Itís an anachronistic mindset of mass delusion that is certain to come back to bite them in their behinds, and pretty soon, too because a vote for the past cannot deliver the future. Before long the scales of mass delusion will fall off their eyes and reality will set in. In moments of national crisis and amnesia, we seemed to have forgotten that a nation deserves the kind of leadership it gets, and it is extremely difficult, indeed impossible, for a nation to rise above its leadership. I dare say that Nigeria will not rise beyond Buhari during his tenure, which means that his poor development records will define Nigeriaís progress in the next four to eight years depending on when he leaves office.

Now back to my brief encounter with my Nigerian colleague on the subject of Buhariís victory. With that hackneyed answer thrown in my face, however, I then asked my colleague how would Buhari fight corruption when the very first person he would award a massive federal contract to would most likely if not definitely be Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the ethically challenged APC kingmaker and former governor of Lagos State? Hmm! What happened? He was mum and looked at me in bewilderment, trying to find an appropriate response that never got out of his lips. The man who only a few seconds ago couldnít wait for me to finish my question about Buhari before throwing an answer into my face suddenly become tongue tied.

Seeing that I had put him on a spot I charged on and went for the kill. And when I reminded him that President Buhari as opposed to General Buhari, would be operating in a democracy, not command and control military regime where his word would be law, he rolled his eyes incredulously, scratched his head pensively and said: ďI didnít think of it that way!Ē

Well he should have thought of it that way, shouldnít he? To transpose military conditions 35 years ago with present day democratic realities is to live in a dreamland. And that is the crux of the matter. Buhari has no democratic experience in governance. Unlike others who started below and rose up to the apex of national leadership democratically, Buhari is starting at the top in democratic governance which is alien to him. He will be forced to learn the ropes while governing at the top with every likelihood that he will revert to his comfort zone of command and control at the drop of a hat!

And his command and control military disposition will not serve him as it did under a military regime. How would President Buhari not compensate APC contractors waiting in the wings for contracts? How would he not take care of the APC political operatives barely waiting for him to be sworn in to invade the State House with demands, some through Tinubu and others through APC governors and power brokers in virtually all the geo-political zones in the country? Is Buhari going to deny the political contractors their dues and political settlements for delivering victory to him and the party? Is he going to order his WAI Brigade to throw them out when they come knocking on his door in the name of fighting corruption? Yes, Iím talking about the army of political contractors in APC much as that of PDP. How would he not take care of the APC lawmakers and sundry political hangers on? Anti-corruption crusade? Out the door! If it ever takes off, it will be tokenistic or else principally directed at witch hunting political opponents!

And more importantly, will he subject himself to the strictures of democracy as Jonathan did or revert to militarism and unquestioned obedience to executive decrees? Will he turn the National Assembly into rubber stamp with threats and intimidation or bribery? Take your pick: these options are available to an undemocratic, tyrant like Buhari. Does Buhari have the political skills to navigate the political minefield? Or are we going to see another civilian Tunde Idiagbon running the show from behind with Buhari again as figure head? Oh is history about to repeat itself in the Buhari presidency?

When I pointed all these out to my colleague, all he could utter by way of an answer was ďWe wait and seeĒ, and walked away sullenly, steeped in thoughts. Wait and see? Wait and see what? Itís already happening with jostling for positions. Itís already happening with the Oba of Lagos threatening Igbos with extinction with Buhari and Tinubu keeping mum and not a word from them. It presages what is coming down the pike. If both cannot dissociate themselves from the outrageous threats coming from the Oba of Lagos how will they be able to handle the excesses of their party men and women much less corruption? These are questions my colleague and others of his like, should have asked themselves and at the minimum endeavored to answer faithfully, before throwing in their political lots with Buhari and Tinubu in the false hope of a better life under Buhari.

I hate pessimism, but Iím sorry folks, better life in Nigeria under Buhari is sheer pipe dream. Itís not happening. Itís a shame that Nigerians could not see beyond their noses and allowed insecurity and anti-corruption perception to becloud their sense of judgement. The price of folly could be steep. The man belongs to yesterday, not even today, let alone tomorrow. Those who sow the past will reap the past abundantly and will have no claim to the future.

Franklin Otorofani is a Nigerian trained attorney and public affairs analyst.

Contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com 


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