It’s Mourning in Nigeria

The Muhammadu Buhari administration exists in a parallel world, where alternative facts rule and reality is willfully distorted. Five years on, their Nigeria, according to them, has turned the corner. It is on the road to becoming “a shining city on a hill”, as President Ronald Reagan once described his United States of America. A million thanks to the ‘vision’ and ‘determination’ of Buhari for this phantom “shining city” we will have in the near future.

But their narrative of Nigeria on the up, despite the clearly incontestable evidence to the contrary, collides violently with our own reality. And the narrative is a confirmation that they live in a giant bubble that completely shuts out the true state of the nation.

It was Adolf Hitler, one of the baddest men the world has ever known, who elevated deception to a fine but very dark art. He said: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently, it will be believed.” That’s how he hoodwinked the Germans and led the country to a disastrous war that killed tens of millions of people and caused unprecedented destruction of most of Europe.

Yet it’s mourning in Nigeria. Even the rich and privileged are crying too. Not just the 100 million who now live in extreme poverty and don’t know when any relief will come their way. So, distorting the facts and bending the truth won’t change that reality.

It’s mourning in Nigeria. Even the rich and privileged are crying.

After all, Nigeria has had the dubious distinction of being the world’s poverty capital for three years in a row. And it is not likely to give up that title very soon. In any case, no other country is seriously challenging it for that special achievement.

Lai Mohammed, information and culture minister, and Femi Adesina, special adviser, media, started the beating of the numbingly familiar drums of triumph. However, they were not celebrating our Nigeria that the rest of us are crying over. They were, as usual, celebrating their Nigeria and their boss, the king whose aura – one that was contrived in the first place – has, very sadly but not surprisingly, diminished beyond any measure.

First to beat the drum was Adesina. Thursday, May 28, he issued a statement littered with inanities. He said, among other implausible things, that: “The three umbrella areas on which government based its interventionist agenda are security, reviving the economy (with particular emphasis on job creation, especially for the youths) and fighting corruption. In these three areas, where we are today cannot be compared with where we used to be.”

Nobody will dispute the fact that where we are now is not where we used to be. Just ask any Nigerian, no matter the social class, if we are better or worse off now than we were in 2015. The answer will unequivocally be that we all are worse off now after five years of the most desultory governance the country has ever experienced.

But the president’s men and fanatical supporters don’t know this or don’t want to know. Maybe they know but are pretending otherwise. Why would they tell the emperor that he has no clothes on when they’re benefiting from his nakedness?

Coming from their reality-distortion field, Lai Mohammed, who has acquired notoriety as champion of alternative facts, said this when he briefed the media last Friday: “With the bold and courageous leadership provided by the President, Nigeria is marching surely and steadily to join the comity of great nations. Change is never easy, and the birth of a new nation comes with pain.”

Wrong, Mohammed! Change is easy when it is deployed for the destruction of an already fragile nation. It’s far easier to destroy than build. And Buhari doesn’t have any history and experience of building anything, talk less of the country. What he has done since 2015 is taking a gigantic wrecking ball to the country’s foundation. He has done so through his nepotism, sectionalism, ethnic irredentism and comprehensive incompetence.

And this is not the first time he has brought the country to its knees. As a military dictator for 18 months (January 1994 – August 1995), he took over a bad situation and made it dangerously worse. He mismanaged the economy to a total shambles. And the people mourned too. His colleagues ended his wrecking ball of a regime and put the country out of its misery.

According to Mohammed and Adesina in their media briefing and statement respectively, Nigeria is more secure today than five years ago. Their audacious peddling of barefaced lies was, indeed, breathtaking. No matter how many times they indulge in bending the truth, we can’t escape being jolted by their mendacity, their lack of self-awareness and utter disregard for facts.

Around the same time they were saying we are more secure now, Governors Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State and Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State were in Aso Rock, pleading with the president to save their states from the deadly grip of Fulani militias known as bandits. The militias had killed over 74 people in parts of Sokoto state last Wednesday night. Before that latest incident of their gory saga of mindless blood shedding, the militias had attacked parts of Kaduna State, killing scores of people.

As the north-east continues to bleed from Boko Haram terrorism, the north-west is being terrorized by the militias. The governors are unable to do anything about it, and the people are helpless and more traumatized.

Senator Ibrahim Gobir, representing Sokoto East senatorial district, told The Punch recently that some parts of his constituency were completely controlled by the militias. He said the people now rely on Nigerien troops (Niger Republic soldiers) to protect them. “They come to our aid because they have some soldiers around the border towns, not too far from some of our villages. They are the people we now depend on to help us. The Nigerian army is not helping us…If we call (them) to come to our aid, they will come but they will not go after the bandits. They will complain that the weapons being used by the bandits are more sophisticated than theirs.”

Obviously, Senator Gobir lives in our Nigeria. And so do Tambuwal, El-Rufai and other governors and all the people in the region. Not in the parallel world of Buhari and his drum beaters, where there is imaginary security and Nigeria is marching to greatness.

The alleged complaint of Nigerian soldiers about their weapons and using same as an excuse not to engage the militias, speak to the uselessness of the president’s often repeated directive to the military and other security agencies to “deal” decisively with Boko Haram and the militias. The directive, always the same and contained in statements issued by the spokesmen, comes after every atrocity by the runaway killing machines of the terrorists.

The irony of the banality of the same directive, which nobody follows, is lost on the president’s men. Buhari has become a commander-in-chief whose command is ignored again and again. And nothing happens. The security situation in the country is getting worse every day. Yet we’re told that what we’re seeing and experiencing all the time and across the whole country is not real.

We have heard so much about the poor equipment the military is forced to use in the war against terrorism, and the lack of adequate funds to take care of the welfare of the troops. Yet the president approved the establishment of two brand new universities to satisfy the egos of the army and air force chiefs of staff. One in Biu, Borno State, Lt. General Tukur Buratai’s hometown, and the other in Bauchi, Air Marshall Sadique Abubakar’s city.

When the new universities were universally condemned as nothing but vanity projects and a slap on those fighting and dying on the frontlines, the jejune justification was that the country needs more tertiary institutions. And that most of the students already enrolled there are southerners.

The new universities are wasteful gifts to two senior military commanders who have failed woefully to tame the terrorists. Since the same Lai Mohammed first declared in 2015 that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated”, a range of excuses have been given for the terrorists’ capacity to fight on and do maximum damage to the military and create mayhem all over the north-east.

Boko Haram have been technically defeated, then technically degraded, and finally defeated. That is the ever changing claim by the government and the military commanders. The state of the war and the timeline for bringing the terrorists to their knees keep changing. The number of Nigerians wasted by the terrorists, including killer herdsmen, in the last five years is over 30,000 and still counting.

Buhari had vowed to see off Boko Haram within three months of taking office. His presumed military experience as a retired general and former commander-in-chief was one of the attractive selling points of his candidacy then. Who better to mange the war against terrorism than the general?

As with everything about Buhari, the perception is a whole world apart from the reality. If he is incapable, as he has proven, of managing the war, how is he expected to manage the economy, an area where he’s a complete ignoramus?

Just as the timeline for taming the terrorists, that for solving Nigeria’s intractable power conundrum keeps getting shifted. In his media briefing last week, Mohammed gleefully announced that power supply would hit 11,000 megawatts by the end of 2023 when the Siemens intervention begins to kick in.

The government has signed an agreement with the German engineering conglomerate to invest in and manage the transmission and distribution chains of the power network. It’s yet to be seen if the agreement will come to fruition and really change the power supply dynamics. But the government is already setting impossible supply targets and inadvertently creating a false hope about the persistently poor situation.

In its 2015 manifesto of so many pie-in-the-sky promises, the APC had assured that power supply would increase to 25,000 megawatts by the end of Buhari’s first term and 40,000 in 2023. The average daily power supply in the last five years has been less than 4,000. That’s exactly where it was before the advent of the APC government.

In the three “umbrella areas” that Adesina crowed about, the government has failed when its performance is measured by all metrics. The country had the first economic recession in 25 years in 2016, and is now in the throes of another. Once again, Nigeria has become a heavy-debtor nation, with our external debt obligations racing towards $40 billion.

However deftly the facts are spinned, ignored or denied, it can’t alter the reality that Nigeria of 2020 is worse than it was in 2015. And the person responsible for the country’s current abject condition is Buhari. He is a president only in name.

While he loves the pomp and circumstances of his office and the sumptuous surroundings of Aso Rock villa, he has neither the energy nor the inclination and learning to do the job. That is why the country has become a failed state and the people are mourning their plight.

It's Mourning in Nigeria
It’s Mourning in Nigeria
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