The streets have become an epistemic community where the mood of the country and the direction of thoughts are expressed, moulded, patterned and structured. When one interacts with the streets, one is able to know who is popular and unpopular, which person governs well and which does not; the streets’ engagement is important in sampling the dynamics of thoughts of the ordinary Nigerian who bears the brunt of present mis-governance. Unfortunately, the leadership of the country is surrounded by sycophants who create the impression that without President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria cannot get to the Promised Land. To this set of people, who thought there is no alternative to Buhari, they must be living in fools’ paradise as the President has never been the best for the country but a candidate of circumstance and protest vote in 2015. The same reasons of ethnic sentiments, religious favouritism and nepotism which made Nigerians reject Buhari in the serial election losses of 2003, 2007 and 2011 have now become real in their consequences. All these elements of his characterisation have played out in governance, fighting corruption and management of the economy.
Nigerians have moved from “It must be Buhari” (Sai Buhari) of 2015 to Káì Buhari! From Sai Buhari to Kai Buhari is how ordinary Nigerians have constructed the social reality which confronts them in present day Nigeria. As a trained sociologist, the society is my laboratory and I get data through constant interaction with it. I had gone to purchase brake pad and shock absorber for my ailing car owing to the deplorable state of roads in my state. The spare parts seller told me the brake pad which I bought last year for around N1000 now costs N2,500. When I screamed, he simply shuddered and said, “We are in the season of change, Oga. Na Buhari time. You know na Kai Buhari we dey now. By next year, e go be Go Buhari”. After hearing the submission, I marvelled at how ordinary Nigerians construct social reality and map out strategies to make their life better for the future. Those who suffer bad policy and poor governance are planning ahead while the horse riders and their cronies think they can continue to ride the horse for life. President Buhari as the proverbial horse rider is a big man who is not on the ground to feel the pains of those being governed. The fatalities recorded as a result of the killer Fulani herdsmen have surpassed the record of Boko Haram. Yet, the Buhari government has been incapacitated by clannish considerations while farming communities are degraded. Buhari and his government have shown that man is born equally but some are more equal than others by not arresting and prosecuting the herdsmen who are stretching the limits of tolerance. A seemingly contradictory government wants One Nigeria while tearing it apart by its action and inaction. Peace eludes settlements where injustice is allowed to thrive. How did we get here?
With the woeful performance of Goodluck Jonathan, and the new found alliance with the regional godfather who needed mainstream relevance, a lot of money was pumped into presenting a different narrative of the man, Buhari. Note that the same political characters had branded Buhari bad in three general elections which he lost. In Buhari’s Chatham House 2015 Speech, before his electoral victory, he presented himself as a converted democrat “who is ready to operate under democratic norms”. And for me, rule of law is one of the norms constantly flouted by this government. Many court rulings have been disobeyed. Personal affairs such as health and the accident of his son get jet-speed attention but the health, education needs, unemployment and electricity needs of Nigerians, and carnage of farming communities by Fulani herdsmen get the country’s unification consideration and setting up of a committee and no arrest. He only begs the victims to accommodate their fellow countrymen. Such an approach to national issues is unpardonable as he had promised Nigerians in his packaged 2015 Chatham House speech never to allow problems to irresponsibly fester. Hear him: “Let me assure you that if I am elected President, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently; that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa; and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service; we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunition to work with; we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels; we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas. We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester.”
While successes have been recorded in the area of reclaiming territories from Boko Haram (that still kills) and recovering parts of the looted funds, Buhari has failed to switch on the inner light of his vehicle which accommodates political complicits and untouchable tribal comrades. He should know that those who purport to clean a dirty town must start from within. Unlike Boko Haram that is restricted to the North-East, Fulani herdsmen are present widespread nationwide. Yet, the President and associates want colonies established for herders noted for killing, raping and destroying livelihoods.
As a criminologist, the spread of Fulani herdsmen in virtually all the nook and cranny of the country portend security threats going by their activities in the last decade. Accumulation by dispossession has become their trademark while they sabotage the economy of others to sustain their livelihoods. I should also warn that increasing distrust in the capability of the state to secure lives and property allows people to resort to self-help. This should not be allowed to happen.
In the area of economic governance, we can’t celebrate either. The economy has grown on paper while the masses get choked to death in the same economy that favours the rich. To know if there is development, we should ask the President the same question he asked Goodluck Jonathan then: What is happening to poverty? What is happening to unemployment? What is happening to inequality? As the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Buhari has failed to ensure governance and accountability in that sector. Today, Nigerians buy petrol at N180 per litre or more owing to an unfulfilled promise to fix our refineries. What this implies is that Buhari is not the messiah we are looking for. He can only do his bit while others continue from there. Therefore, Kai Buhari underscores the masses’ period of agonising and warning to Buhari. Certainly, the lice of unresolved problems of unemployment, health, education, economy, Fulani herdsmen terrorism continues to stain our hands. A Presidency that approaches public issues with jet-speed, and bridges inequality gap is desired. But can the leopard change its skin? 2019 presents the opportunity for voters to either say káre Buhari (welldone Buhari) or Go Buhari as my spare part seller rightly puts it.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, sent this piece from Ibadan via firstname.lastname@example.org