— American and Western European experts predicted that Nigeria will disintegrate in 2015. With the political desperation and frenzy that marked the political campaigns of the 2015 presidential election, many thought that Nigeria was at the point of the predicted 2015 disintegration. Surprisingly, the election took place without the much anticipated violence. And following the election, the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat to the victorious opposition presidential candidate, Mohammudu Buhari. This forestalled the anticipated violence and predicted breakup. Refreshingly, the doomsayers were proved wrong.
Disturbingly, Nigeria is still not completely out of the woods; as it may still break up. The possibility of conflict and dissolution of the country continue to loom because Buhari is stoking trouble. He is actively stirring up issues that can lead to serious national conflicts. Nigeria is a very complex country, and its governance is complicated by tribal, religious and sectional rivalries. In my viewpoint, Buhari is insensitive to this complexity and lacks the finesse and dexterity needed to govern Nigeria. With a military background and orientation, and a total lack of a liberal education, he is ill-equipped to preside over a democratic Nigeria. He has no refinement, and as such, only understands the language of force. He also does not understand the world order. Recall that he once referred to Germany as Western Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel as President Michelle. Those were just tip of the iceberg.
There is no doubt that corruption is killing Nigeria, and that something needs to be done urgently to deal with it. But you do not pull the entire house down simply to kill the rats in the ceiling. It demands that you methodically take out the rats one by one, so that, after the rats are gone, you still have a house to live in. He needs to respect the equality of all Nigerians under the law. His 95 per cent formula is naive and counterproductive. A successful war on corruption is not necessarily a function of the number of people jailed. The emphasis should not be just on sending people to jail for corruption, but also, in deterring acts of corruption. In his fight against corruption, Buhari refuses to understand that Nigeria is a representative democracy, and not a military dictatorship or a neo-military dictatorship.
A democracy is guided by the rule of law and not the impulsiveness and arbitrariness of a retired army general. The legal process is usually slow and painstaking. Buhari is impetuous; he does not have the patience and tolerance for the measured pace of the law. He wants, at his whims and caprices, to jail southern politicians and his enemies of northern extraction such as Col. Sambo Dasuki for corruption. He wants to rearrange the judiciary, and reconstruct and expand Kirikiri Prison. He will then fill the prison with his political enemies, as all those he fingered for corruption will automatically be arrested by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) and jailed for one hundred years or more by a compliant judiciary, dominated by northern judges.
Is Buhari’s hypocrisy not conspicuously obvious? To tackle corruption, he must first purge himself of his excess baggage. He must approach equity with clean hands. How on earth can he fight corruption when the likes of Tinubu, Okorocha and former governor, Amaechi are his political allies? Please explain it to me! Amaechi is the man that funded Buhari’s campaign with the money he stole from the coffers of the government of Rivers State. Buhari, of course, knew that the funds were stolen and laundered by the former governor. At the time he was splurging stolen money on the Buhari Presidential Campaign, he was a sitting governor. He was not a multibillionaire in the mold of Dangote. So, the source of the money was obvious to Buhari.
It is understandable that a president appoints people that he is comfortable with to work with him. But to appoint only his friends and relatives to pivotal positions as the Director Generals of the Directorate of State Security (DSS), Customs and Immigrations and the Chairman of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) is nepotism. Nepotism is corruption. And he insulted the sensibilities of Nigerians by justifying the appointments on the grounds that the appointees are loyal to him as friends and relatives. It is wrong for him to give the impression that only his friends, relatives and others from the northern part of Nigeria are competent, and committed to his vision. In addition, his punishing of those regions of the country that did not vote for him in the presidential election is grossly unfair. It is not only setting a dangerous precedent but inflames ethnic fury.
My honest advice to Buhari is to first of all stabilize the economy and embark on institutional reforms that will strengthen the judiciary and the legislature before delving into other major divisive issues. However, he is neither reforming nor strengthening our national institutions. Actually, he is weakening them; he meddles in the judiciary and remote-controls the Senate and the House; thus, undermining the separation of powers. This is posing a serious problem for Nigerian democracy because these branches of government need to operate independently.
What we are experiencing today is a military regime masquerading as a democracy. Buhari’s hounding of his political enemies with Gestapo-styled DSS raids on state government houses, private homes, etc attests to this reality. The lopsidedness of his administration’s actions is causing some silent but powerful and dangerous ripple. Nigeria is boiling. I see 1966 coming full cycle. And if this continues, Nigeria will break up.
Lloyd Ukwu, an international lawyer writes from Washington, D.C. USA. (firstname.lastname@example.org)