DURING his two-day visit to Edo State last week, President Muhammadu Buhari made two statements, among many others, about serious issues that worried him. In a paradoxical way, however, Nigerians are equally worried about his attitude to those things that worry him. First, he expressed anxiety over the 2019 general elections. His anxiety coincided with a protest led by civil society groups and lawyers in Abuja calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Mahmood Yakubu, to step down for his uninspiring leadership of the electoral body and the shambolic manner nearly all the elections held under him were conducted. Said the president: “What happened in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers States disturbs me a lot. I think we should go beyond these actions. Why do we kill each other? Putting tyres on people and setting them ablaze? I have told the law enforcement agencies, if we can’t conduct an election in one state, then we should forget about 2019.”
He sounded almost helpless. Yet he understands that the elections conducted under him have been less than satisfactory, both in terms of peaceful conduct and in terms of outcomes. The elections, despite undue militarisation, have become wars, as the Rivers State example showed. In addition, and disturbingly too, some of the elections were declared inconclusive, prompting general fears, which the president himself alluded to, that a general election could be difficult to organise and police, even when the money is available. Protesting lawyers and civil society groups indicate that the INEC chairman may not be as assiduous as he should be or nearly as competent as the public and president hoped. They want him to step down. On his own, the president seems to stop at bemoaning the situation rather than stepping in aggressively with remedial solutions that show his understanding of the problems. From the president’s grumbling, not to say his homilies on good elections, it is clear he is chary of addressing the problem.
The second most impactful statement the president made during his Edo visit concerns his view on multi-party democracy as a concomitant of heterogeneous society. Said he: “We believe in multi-party democratic system. It is the best for us. In a country of over 450 ethnic groups, it is not easy to come together, only God can do it. We are doing our best because we have found ourselves as part of this great country called Nigeria.” The statement is truly disturbing. Not only did he fall into the same time-worn mindset of religionising every secular matter, especially things clearly under his purview and control, it is ironical that his own actions as president have vividly repudiated his preconceptions about democracy. The electorate did not vote President Buhari to surrender the issues of fairness, justice and equity to God. They assume his God, if that be it, had equipped him with the requisite qualifications to establish control and lead.
Furthermore, he seems dangerously enamoured of a fatalistic approach to the national question that must horrify the ordinary Nigerian. “We have found ourselves as part of this great country,” he whined. But by now, he and most Nigerians should have gone beyond acknowledging geographical identity; it is important to begin affirming a national identity. Not only that, he seems to think that since Nigerians ‘have found themselves’ within the Nigerian boundary, there is nothing that can be done about it, not even to examine the geographical determinism he does not want questioned.
What is even stranger is that for a president who acknowledges the country’s heterogeneity and the sensible solution multi-party democracy affords the elite, he has not taken a single step to introduce and entrench diversity in his government. His kitchen cabinet and especially security appointments have not reflected his conviction about democracy and diversity. Worse, given his often high-minded approach to governance and the ethical issues of integrity and honesty, it is strange that he saw nothing to be anxious about in commissioning a university established by a serving Governor Adams Oshiomhole in his hometown, Iyamho, on the outskirts of Auchi in Etsako West Local Government Area of Edo State. (The Nation)