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A Nation Without A Leader

A Nation Without A Leader(I & II) Sonala Olumhense Who leads Nigeria? In nominal terms, President Muhammadu Buhari is, having first been...

A Nation Without A Leader(I & II)

Sonala Olumhense

Who leads Nigeria?

In nominal terms, President Muhammadu Buhari is, having first been produced in 2015 by a largely-credible election.

In practice, however, it has become increasingly clear thatNigeria has no leadership.In five years, Buhari has disappeared deeply into the vapors of power.

By comparison, his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was equally inept, but Mr. Jonathan had a few people around him who neither worshipped nor were afraid of him.  Jonathan swam—and reportedly drank—like a fish, but he did so in shallow waters.

Buhari, we now know, does not know how to swim, and does not wear a navigation aid.  But heappears to believe that if he drifts long enough in the open sea and shouts loudly enough, someone will come along.

In Buhari’s hands, Nigeria is walking backwards.  That is why the most prominent public official is now Abba Kyari, a personal appointee of the president and holder of an office that is unknown to the constitution.

As though Chief of Staff Kyari was not sufficiently disruptive in Buhari’s first term, the president began his second by subordinating members of his cabinet to him.

In this schema, aMinister canstill see the President, but first, he must go to the Chief of Staff and answer one question: “Why?”

That is how Kyari became the nation’s defining figure: the authority figure Buhari was unwilling, and apparently incapable, of being.

Last week, so complete became the Kyari ascendancy that National Security Adviser (NSA) BabaganaMunguno did not attend the latest of those banal meetings of security chiefs Buhari summons daily to give the impression of leadership.

They gave the excuse that the retired general was representing Buhari at a security meeting abroad.  Think about it: with Nigeria on the verge of collapse, there was a meeting for the NSA that was far more important than Nigeria’s security!

The answer is in a memo Mungono had authored early in December in which he drove his stake into the ground, directing the nation’s service chiefs to stop accepting directives from Kyari.  In the strongest terms, he decried Kyari’s meddlesomeness, saying they “ruptured our security and defence efforts…”

The memo, which leaked last month,seemed to explain the growing insecurity nationwide response. The NSA accusedKyari of issuing directives to service chiefs sometimes without the knowledge or approval of the president.

“[Kyari] is not a presiding head of security, neither is he sworn to an oath of defending the country,” the retired general explained, affirming thatthe activities of the Chief of Staff violated the constitution and undermined Buhari’s authority.

The memo unveiled a government in disarray, with different nodes of authority and responsibility—and presumptuousness—but also Buhari’s nonchalance and complicity.

Nonchalance and complicity do not a leader define.

But Buhari’s response?  Silence.  It was the same response in 2018 when his wife cried out that two people had taken her husband’s government from him.

She had further slashed out at some shadowy others: “I am disappointed in men who rather than fight these two men will go to them in the night begging for favour.”

Her husband delivered that robust indifference.  He did not seek to reassure his governmentor the people.

And he has not done so now, at Nigeria’s most insecure and dangerous point since the civil war.

As this column has demonstrated in the past few years, Buhari has now saddled Nigeria with a government which claims it knows what security is but has delivered insecurity instead.

He has delivered even worse on the economy, where unimplemented pledges and plans, along with chaotic policies, half-policies and pseudo-policies, have boosted unemployment and crime.  Consider, for example, that the Trader Moni scheme which preceded the 2019 election has disappeared.

Buhari has delivered his worst performance on the anti-corruption file, where his words have been exposed for their emptiness, and corrupt elements run the show, and are running unchallenged.

Again and again, Buhari and his worshippers have assured the nation of their victory over Boko Haram, but each time the government has been embarrassed as the militants have returned to wreak havoc not just on civilians, but on soldiers.

Only last July, the Wall Street Journal reported how the government has lied to Nigerians about how the war is going with a pattern of secret burials of soldiers in such places as Maimalari, near Maiduguri.

“After dark, the bodies of soldiers are covertly transported from a mortuary that at times gets so crowded the corpses are delivered by truck, according to Nigerian soldiers, diplomats and a senior government official. The bodies are laid by flashlight into trenches dug by infantrymen or local villagers paid a few dollars per shift,” it said.

“Several of my comrades were buried in unmarked graves at night,” one soldier of the MaimalariBarracks told the newspaper, adding, “They are dying and being deleted from history.”

This pattern of deceptiveness and manipulation, where performance and productivity arefar easier and cheaper to deliver, sadly defines the Buhari Era.

Leadership is when the leader can define what a problem and what is being done about it, including adjustments to policy.  For Buhari, power was the objective, and is the end.  Even after five years, cannot demonstrate his grasp of, or response to any Nigerianchallenge.

At best, he presents stock clichés as solutions, and indifference as eloquence.  There is nothing to which Buhari is so committed or passionate that he has clarity or staying power.That is why Kyari is in control.  Nigeria’s problems are not worse despite Buhari’s efforts, they are worse because of Buhari.

That is why Buhari is not fighting insecurity; Buhari—by his indifference and incompetence, to which NSA Munguno alludes—is insecurity.  Buhari is not fighting corruption;he is protecting and promoting corruption.

Nigeria is therefore not just an army without a leader, it is an army with no sight.Under his watch, leaders of the federal legislature leaders are now extending to themselves the forbidden fruit of immunity.  In effect,the same party which said it would combat impunity by reducing immunity is multiplying one by the other.

But a country without a leader has no future.  That is why patriotic media and citizens groups should take a cue from the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Projectand take the fight to governments and government institutions through the law.  The Freedom of Information law is begging to be used, and it is a shame that the mass media is not using it.

Where are you, Public Accountability League?  Where are you, The Patriots?  Where are you, Public Interest Lawyers League?

This vacuum must not last.(Source)

A nation without a leader (II)

“This vacuum must not last.” Those are the words with which I ended my first reflection on this subject just seven months ago.  I was describing a vacuum in the leadership of Nigeria.

Listening to President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to the country on Thursday, I realised he was confirming the assessment that he is not running the country.

What are the facts?  For two weeks, the world had witnessed an unprecedented wave of youth-led protests under the hashtag, #EndSARS, a byword for the termination of bad and corrupt governance.  SARS was the acronym for the now disbanded Special Anti-Robbery Squad police.

The protests spread in many cities and around the world.  The savagery of SARS became international knowledge, with celebrities and organisations expressing support of affected Nigerian families and the protests.

The success of the protests took the Nigeria government by surprise, and it quickly decided that it would do something. But that was not to EndSARS: it was to replace it.

And so, it established the darkly-named SWAT (Special Weapons & Tactics), a cynical “solution” to the protests which merely underlined the nature of governance in Nigeria.  It was swiftly rejected by the protesters.

In response last Tuesday, the government seemed to have decided that it would end the protests by ending the lives of protesters.

Those are the facts. In his address on Thursday, two clear days after the attack, President Buhari was not remorseful about the loss of lives.  A father of social media-savvy children, at least one of whom had expressed support for #EndSARS, he expressed no outrage, only that he was “deeply pained.”

His choice of words seemed to confirm that he at least approved of Nigeria’s military—under cover of darkness and aided by the chicanery of someone turning off the lights and removing public cameras—shooting to kill and maim citizens.

If you are looking for remorse, the only one expressed by the Nigeria ruler appeared to be that he ever approved of the termination of SARS, as he grumbled that the promptness with which it was done “seemed to have been misconstrued as a sign of weakness.”

And so, the same “excessive use of force” of SARS which he said was behind the decision to terminate the group is what his troops brought to the Lekki toll gate protest.

And yet in the same speech the Nigeria leader affirmed peaceful demonstrations to be “a fundamental right of citizens as enshrined in Section 40 of our Constitution and other enactments…”

It is these contradictions that make Buhari’s claim to leadership such a mess.  Personally, I have advocated street protests for many years, including in 2009, 2010 and 2011, as an effective means for compelling change.  Never did I expect that a man who came to power affirming the same premise of change and being elected on it would turn the bullets on his own voters.

In reference to the tragedies, Buhari said there was “no way whatsoever to connect these bad acts to legitimate expression of grievance of the youth of our country.”

Of course not: The violence did not come from the protesters, but from government-sponsored thugs, and he should ask his children.  I am sure they have abundant social media video-evidence which show that the violence was the work of anti-protesters inserted by government officials.

The worst part of Buhari’s speech was the resort to conspiracy theories and suggestions of malice.  According to him, “The spreading of deliberate falsehood and misinformation through the [sic] social media in particular, that this government is oblivious to the pains and plight of its citizens is a ploy to mislead the unwary within and outside Nigeria into unfair judgement and disruptive behaviour.”

This point is amplified in an article by spokesman Femi Adesina hours after the speech in which he blamed churches, mosques [and] sections of the media for “promoting messages of hate.”

According to Buhari, “Both our deeds and words have shown how committed this administration has been to the wellbeing and welfare of citizens, even with the steadily dwindling revenues, and the added responsibilities and restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

In his article, ‘If Nigeria Dies, Hatred Killed Her,’ Adesina expatiated: “The EndSARS campaign began as an agitation against police brutality, in which there was unanimity of purpose. And suddenly, it became a vehicle of hate. Against leadership, against national cohesion, an opportunity to settle political scores, and equally prepare for power grab in 2023. Hatred came into the mix.”

But hatred of bad leadership is not a crime; it is a right. The truth is that if people hate the Buhari government, the government ought to accept that it was perhaps unworthy of its love in the first place and has simply been found out. Hating a bad government is not a sin; being asked to love it, is.

In 2015, Buhari received the keys to the kingdom on a silver gold.  He seems to have thought he became an unquestionable king.

#EndSARS is the code word for “Reject Buhari,” and there is nothing wrong with that.  In a democratic system, people reject and are free to reject those who want to be kings without responsibility or service.

Buhari wasted a section of his speech listing the stock cliches for which he has become infamous.  He called them “measures and initiatives principally targeted at youths, women and the most vulnerable groups in our society.”

Perhaps he thought he could persuade the international community that having given the matter a second thought, he should not have had to #EndSARS.  Or perhaps that he could impress upon them that despite the obvious, he really is a leader.

But it has become clear to the rest of the world, and certainly to Nigeria youth, that most of his claims are fiction.  Some of it is known to have been deployed to win elections.

For instance, I have repeatedly pointed out that Buhari’s claim of liberating 100 million Nigerians from poverty, which he first made in June 2019, is a hoax.  I cited in evidence his inability to produce a strategy for it.  In fact, since Nigeria officially became the world capital of extreme poverty, the World Poverty Clock has established that over 105 million Nigerians now live in extreme poverty, a menace growing at the rate of six persons per minute.

That is an additional 16 million people since Buhari came to power, so where is his master plan?

Worse still, in August 2019 his government falsely claimed to have lifted at least five million Nigerians out of extreme poverty in its first three years.

If Buhari wants history to remember him with kindness, his government must show humility and learn to respect the truth. For nearly 40 years he has dealt with Nigerians who were too weak to say, No.  Now he will have to contend with people, some of them under his own roof, who are strong enough to, “Heck No!”

History tells us that propaganda and bullets will not change that.(Source)

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