Buhari and the looming siege



WHILE  the citizens  are willing to accept  the  plea  of President Muhammadu Buhari and his loyalists to be patient  for him  to prove  that  he is the right person  the nation needs as a helmsman  now,  he is  sadly  not eager  to help himself in this regard. Through his actions so far, Buhari  tends  to ride roughshod over  the people  as though they had been conquered by him.  Obviously, in Buhari’s reckoning, there are no guiding rules  for  partnership  between  him  and  the people. What  matters  is  the dominance  of his warped vision of governance  and  the expression of his  whimsical  dictates  as  the rules  of the land. Thus the citizens  are  confronted  with the likely reality of  the grim warning of elder statesmen like   Prof. Ben Nwabueze  that  the president  is  on the brink of dictatorship.

Or, how does the presidency explain the fact that  under a supposed  democratic government, operatives of  the  Department of State Services (DSS) last week invaded the Akwa Ibom State government  house?  Nigerians are not  troubled  with  the veracity or otherwise  of the allegation that  the attack was meant  to kidnap  the sitting governor. Rather, Nigerians are outraged that this could happen at all at a time that  there is  so much avowal by the ruling party that its  elected officials are agents of change. If this is happening  now, so how much  progress have we made as  a nation in 16 years since the return of democracy.

Under  the administration  of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, it was  the disturbing norm  to use  his  proxies  to  attack  some  state  governors under various guises ranging from anti-corruption campaign to a failure  to pay appropriate political debts. But one would  have thought that the nation had learnt its lessons  through those mistakes.  It is therefore surprising that the DSS operatives drawn from their headquarters  in Abuja  and their state office in Akwa Ibom  could  attack the  official residence of Governor Udom Emmanuel. From the nature of the invasion, it was  clear that the securit operatives were all out to  do extensive  damage to  the state.

In their rampage, the SSS operatives broke into rooms and guest houses within  the government house.  In  the process, they damaged valuables  belonging to the  state government  and the people  of the state.  While  the DSS operatives claim  that huge amounts of  arms and  dollars were found, the leaders  of the state  have insisted  that  this allegation was only a ruse under which the DSS acting  on the directive of the presidency tried  to undermine  the state government. Already, the state House of Assembly has dared the DSS to make public  the incriminating items it claims to have recovered  from the government house.

Before this attack, the  commissioner  of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)  in the state was  allegedly  harassed by  operatives of DSS. In the light of these attacks, we cannot dismiss the fear  of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that  the presidency  has begun a calculated campaign  to lay  siege to  the  states where there are  governors  of the opposition party.  We are not  saying  that the security operatives  should  not be allowed  to do their work and search wherever  they  suspect there is a threat  to the security of the nation. But the manner this is being done is  obviously  ominous. What has clearly lent credence to this perspective is that the invasion of the Akwa Ibom State government house has not provoked  outrage on the part of the presidency.  It is sad that the presidency has not vehemently dissociated itself from  these rampaging security operatives. The only reaction of the presidency is like a whimper that only betrays  its complicity in the invasion.

All Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media,  could say about the invasion was that the PDP was still smarting from the pain of its defeat at the last elections.  His own words betray a lack of  a robust defence by the presidency: “ The PDP has got to a level of paranoia. While we ignore their rantings, we also sympathise with them because they are still reeling from the bloody nose Nigerians gave them at the polls. It takes a long time to recover from such a buffeting, and that is why they imagine vain things.”  Should  this be all the defence of the presidency? Has the PDP imagined  this  egregious  case of  state brigandage?  If  the allegation of  the  Akwa Ibom State government is  false, why has  the DSS not debunked it?

The president and his party have not ceased jarring public consciousness with the mantra of their readiness    to salvage Nigerians from the degradation into which it has been plunged over the years. But definitely the action of the DSS  has not cast the president in the mould of a person who is interested in serving the nation in line with its constitution.  He has been sacking from public service  those he believes have been  involved in activities  that are inimical to the interest of  the nation in so far as they violate its constitution. For instance, just last week, the president  sacked the former spokesperson of the DSS , Marilyn Ogar, two directors and 42 other senior officials  for their alleged political partisanship  under  the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.

But  since this is the reason for the purge, one would have expected  that  the  DSS operatives  would  not  replicate  the perceived  illegalities  that those sacked  have been accused  of perpetrating.  Obviously, there is now the perception that  Buhari is  only removing  those who he thinks  would not be willing tools for the expression of his whims and caprices  and only    replacing them with his  minions  that would be used to thwart  the will of the people.  While we are not supporting any act of illegality, it must be stated that if Buhari had really embarked  on  a campaign  to sanitise  the state governments,  it should  not be restricted to those of the opposition. And as long as Buhari cannot claim  that there are no issues with the governors of  his ruling party that should provoke his outrage,  these attacks  on  opposition governors  and other officials  would  only amount to a condemnable campaign  to muzzle  them.

The Nigeria that Buhari is presiding over now is different  from the one he ruled with jackboots 30  years ago. He is a president of a democratic  Nigeria  where  he has been  elected  to  lead  strictly in line with the dictates  of the constitution.  He cannot bring  positive change to the nation in violation of the constitution. He  must allay  the fear of Nigerians  that  the invasion of Akwa Ibom State government house  and other similar incidents  since  he became president  are ominous  signs  of  the bleak  fate  that  would  befall the citizens  under his  administration.
•Dr. Onomuakpokpo is a member of The Guardian Editorial Board.

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  • Ebaah Odibo

    A Major General in the Nigerian Army, or any other Army, is dictatorial by training. PMB has been a soldier all his life and knows no other profession. He had overthrown a democratically elected government before and got away with it. The hood does not make the monk, so recent conversion (or born again) into democratic civilian is a ‘change’ that is like the ‘change’ Nigerians were promised. It is evidently phantom change. Those who ought to know had told Nigerians before the elections that the real Maj. Gen. (rtd) M. Buhari is no democrat and has no democratic ethos

  • OkwuBndu

    A people get the kind of leadership they deserve. It appears most unfortunate that Nigerians have very short memories or that they woefully fail to learn the lessons of history, which makes it possible for the nation to keep repeating her errors since independence. We have all been complaining about corruption, but have yet to articulate a realistic and sustainable policy of the fight against corruption which most Nigerian Nigerians, if not all are guilty of. Most expect government to perform miracles, but are not willing to take their own responsibility in insisting that the government is held accountable, which in itself is also a form of corruption. That’s why Nigerian governments have taken the people for a ride and always gets away with it. Secondly, parochial and ethnic sentiments becloud the objective reasonings of most Nigerians, thereby leaving an in-articulate citizenry as pawns in the hands of the power manipulators. Unless we grow out of these backward mentality, the nation will continue to falter.