‘Buhari Is Suffering From Political Phobia’
Dr. Kayode Eesuola specialises in Political Behaviour and is a lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka. In this interview with IKECHUKWU ONYEWUCHI, he argues that president Muhammadu Buhari is grappling with the hangover of dictatorship.
Should this democracy be threatened by any means, including the accusation of Buhari not being able to get over the hangover of his past military experience?
THERE are two dimensions to this. The first one; that Nigerians may be threatened by so-called sole dictatorship style adopted by Buhari if — and I should emphasis this — all they want is democracy, a system which allows popular participation. Whether it gives what they want or not, is a different ball game. And democracy does not equate good governance. Democracy is a system; good governance is the end. If all Nigerians want is democracy — and that’s all they are interested in — then we should all be threatened. And we should begin to address the situation.
However, if what the people want is to correct the contradictions of past administrations, then it should be clear now that such cannot be corrected through mere democratic rituals. There must be some dictatorial ideological, philosophical touches. In other words, I am being dialectical in my analysis. What do Nigerians want? If they wanted democracy so badly, Buhari probably wouldn’t have been the option, because he was anti-democratic. As a matter of fact, he was the one who truncated the democracy of 1979. If all we wanted was democracy, Buhari would not be a choice; he would have been in jail by now.
But because the popular sentiment is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) government, for a period of time, destroyed the economy, the social orientation and corruption was flying about—although all these are debatable—it was the popular sentiment and that was what made Buhari become a saint over night. When we called him to come and correct the anomaly, we should have known that he was some form of a dictator to be able to correct errors. If one allows everybody to say everything in a country where majority is very corrupt, one would only be perambulating and not move. So, it really depends on what Nigerians want.
They should be more vocal about that. Do they want democracy or good governance?
Judging from Prof. Ben Nwabueze’s accusation, would you say the delay in constituting his cabinet is symptomatic of Buhari’s dictatorial style?
Prof. Nwabueze is a lawyer. With due respect, lawyers are trained to look at things from the legalistic point of view. As a political and social scientist, I read behaviour and analyse issues, not what the rule or law says. We all created major problems for President Buhari, by giving him those challenges that only God could solve. That is where the problem is. For Christ’s sake, Buhari rode into presidency under the illusion that he had all it took to address Boko Haram in one night; eliminate corruption in two weeks; address issues with road network, electricity and water. That was the illusion that gave us the Buhari saga, the Buhari sentiment, the Buhari craze. At that time, Nigerians were creating more problems for Buhari than was realistic. When he got there, he realised that if he was going to continue with the popularity that brought him to power, he needed to be very careful in selecting those who would work with him.
I am sure the man must have opened his books and seen everybody’s dossier, and his thinking would now be, if there are 100 people qualified for this job, 97 of them are already corrupt, and three would not be enough for me to work with. He has developed what I call a political phobia. He now has phobia for appointing anybody; he doesn’t trust anybody anymore. Even the big stars in his party, he doesn’t trust them any longer. He must have seen a lot of things and is now wondering if they are the people he should put in his cabinet. It is only the society that can help him in resolving the situation. But that explains his behaviour, not because he wants to do anything alone; nobody wants to do anything alone.
He rode into office on a particular sentiment. He must do everything possible to sustain that sentiment. Otherwise, people who praised him yesterday would plunder him today. It was APC change, now he is careful so that people would not begin to say change APC. That is what explains his behaviour. He is better pitied than condemned now, because we all created that quagmire for him.
Do you think the constitution of and posture of the Buhari government so far, with the hindsight of him declaring at Chattam House that he was now a converted democrat, betray his initial posturing; what does this portend for Nigeria’s democratic development?
There are distinctions between what people call themselves and what indeed they are, and again, what the society perceives them as. The Nigerian society has never perceived Buhari as a democrat, because, historically, he is not one. He, in his own wisdom as a Leviathan, said he had become born again. And Soyinka described him as a born again democrat, I can’t place exactly what the Prof. described him as, but it is something like that. It is now left to the society to allow time to access him, his activities and his behaviour to be able to conclude whether he is what he claims to be. If you ask me, he is not and cannot be one. He may claim to be. One can build two bedroom flat in Bariga and say he wants to start a school and pick the children of market women and start teaching them. He may write Aunty Binta International School in front of his building, but that doesn’t make the school international.
That is the distinction between what people think they are and what indeed they are. It is the society that would judge him, that indeed, he is a democrat. I pardon him for this slowness, this slow, snail-like character in appointing ministers. Rather than condemn him, I would pity him because he is now caught up in a quagmire. He only needs to get out of his political phobia.
So what would you suggest?
I would suggest that we learn one lesson and then we can begin to correct that of Buhari. Never again should we as a people take politics into the hands of a man. We must always look at the system. The system is what makes a political setting work, not an individual. Tomorrow, when a person says he wants to do something, the society should demand for his methodology. If we had asked this question from the beginning, when he was making all the promises, we would have probably seen his errors and misconceptions.
One leg of Buhari’s argument for the delay of his appointments is that he wants to, in a manner of speaking, clear the cobwebs, so that the new ministers would be assessed on fair and fresh parameters, devoid of the frictions; is he justified in this reasoning?
Who cleared the cobwebs for him to be able to do what he is doing now? Nobody did. Why is he now hell-bent on clearing things for his ministers to come in, which means he doesn’t even trust the ability of the minister to sustain whatever system they would be operating?
That to me is fallacious, highly illogical. Buhari would tell anybody that because he has been accused of being too slow. PDP is on his neck, members of his party who are expecting one appointment or the other are on his neck. He must say something, which is a political statement, but the society must look beyond that. He has a phobia and cannot do anything as he is now, because he promised too many things that individuals would not be able to achieve in Nigeria. He told us that soldiers would continue to rule Nigeria, and properly, for that matter.
With the likes of Olusegun Obasanjo and Abdulsalam Abubakar flocking around Buhari, would it be wrong to reason that the country is being run by a pseudo -military arrangement?
Nigeria is a kakistocracy, which is a political system that is controlled by the worst human beings in the society, either in military or police uniform, or in suites of pastors. Our society is controlled by the worst human beings in the society.
What is the political pedigree of Obasanjo that makes him the strategist and adviser to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and now the president of Nigeria?
If Nigerians are people who take records, right from 1974, nobody would have continued to talk to Obasanjo, considering the quantum of destruction he did to the psyche of the Nigerian people, from killing of students during Ali Must Go protests, to raids at KalaKuta, to Odi, to Zaki Ibiam. Or the attempt to go third term, scuttling democracy? He has a political and social history that is suicidal, if I am allowed to choose that word. And you have such a person around the president. Then you have Abdulsalam Abubakar and Yakubu Gowon, it has always been an affair of soldiers.
Leadership is about the mindset, the philosophy. People must be qualified to rule before they ascend political offices. Before this elections, I was alone with my opinion because I was warning Nigerians that we were about to go into another mistake. Not because the personality of Buhari to fight corruption was not real, if one looks at things and is objective, Buhari is about the least corrupt of all military men who have ruled Nigeria. But the question is that we are also trying our luck. There are no theoretical underpinnings that would position anyone to say that the man would perform. It is a risk. We took that risk against Obasanjo; he came and turned Nigeria camera obscura; we did the same, and we are going to get the same result with this man. His emergence was not scientific, he was part of the military cabal that destroyed Nigeria. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom.
Do you think that it would be hypocritical for the president to keep such company, and still be committed to probing the Jonathan administration only, knowing full well that some of those in the circle have at one time or the other been linked with corruption, particularly with the Siemens and Halliburton deals?
That would be the case. It is not new to the public. As far back as the 1980s, Fela said which head of state never steal. He came back to say that the same old politicians who destroyed Nigeria before are in the corridors of power. It is a paddi-paddi system. When one is in government and discovers that a friend is involved with something criminal, he blocks the area. If this area would open an opportunity, he opens it. And if it is the enemy that falls into that trap, it becomes a trap for him. The Nigerian ruling class takes political power to protect themselves from the evil they have done and to deal with their enemies and opposition, so that they would keep quiet and not be able to challenge them on the status quo. That is the simple explanation and it is not new; it has been with us since 1960. I don’t like reading things on scandals because I know these people cannot do without stealing. Glorifying a human is what we have been doing, saying that that man is the one to solve Nigeria’s problems. Fela calls it perambulation, moving left, right, front and center and yet not going anywhere.
Corruption is not the problem of Nigeria. It is the manifestation of the general problem. One doesn’t fight it; rather it should be made unattractive. Then anyone who is corrupt becomes a deviant and is punished. 97 percent of Nigerians live through corruption, which means it is the norm. And you can’t fight the norm. Fight deviants. But if the country is organised in such a way that 10 per cent are corrupt, then they become deviants. Government employs someone and gives an employment letter with a basic salary as N53,000; housing allowance, N620; transport allowance, N1200, all per month. Is it possible for anyone to get a room apartment for N620?