By Bulama Bukarti
An adaption of Charles Dickens’ evocative opening in his 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities aptly describes the sad times in which we live. By toiling and moiling for years to put General Buhari in charge, millions of ordinary Nigerians believed they were ushering in the best of times, but ended up in the worst of times. They were marketed competence, transparency and responsibility, but got sold ineptitude, opacity and irresponsibility. Nigerians elected hope, but were handed despair; they bargained for an epoch of empathy and compassion but got the epoch of insensibility and indifference. The miserable synopsis of the Buhari Presidency is that Nigerians have been conned, swindled and scammed.
Last weekend was yet another gloomy chapter in the depressing tale of Buhari’s presidency. At least 43 farm workers were massacred in the most brutal of ways by agents of Abubakar Shekau – the most vicious man on earth. The victims, for the ‘crime’ of seeking to put food on their, and our, tables, were mercilessly beheaded by devils claiming to be fighting for Allah. Photos of how their severed heads were rested on their backs were among the most gruesome things I have seen. Listening to their relatives’ accounts of their final moments on BBC Hausa left me fighting back tears.
The excruciating pain in the voice of the mother that lost two sons in the massacre was haunting. One of her sons was himself a father to a two-year-old and a 56-day-old. When the woman was asked what her message to the government is, her answer broke me even more; she paused for a moment and then said, “I have no message for them”. There was no greater testimony of her utter contempt for the government’s ability to act. The frustration of millions of Nigerians. Why would she have a message for a government that doesn’t care or listens?
As the whole country is grieving, President Buhari is missing in action. He didn’t fly to Maiduguri to attend the funeral and condole the grief-stricken community. He was too ‘busy’ to spare even five minutes of National Address to calm a devastated people and reassure a petrified nation. He couldn’t even call the Governor of Borno State, the Shehu of Borno and members of parliament representing the state to condole them. His silence was as loud as a bomb blast. Denying, downplaying and ignoring mass atrocities have now become a defining feature of the Buhari administration. This is just the latest example.
President Buhari is ignoring the same problems for which he harshly condemned his predecessor and urged him to resign. The same problems he rode to power. At least, Jonathan declared a State of Emergency. At least, Jonathan fired failed service chiefs. At least, Jonathan addressed the nation and tried to calm it down. Nigerians aren’t expecting a silver bullet. They are simply asking their leader to demonstrate to them that he both understands and shares their pain and is sparing no effort. They want their leader to take responsibility, set out a roadmap and get to work. That is what Buhari has contemptuously refused or woefully failed to do.
Worse still, instead of comforting the victims and cheering the nation, Buhari’s cheerleaders resorted to victim-blaming in the most shameful way. His Minister of Communications, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, accused the victims and their heartbroken families and friends of not cooperating with the Nigerian army, even though Shekau said he killed them for helping the military. His spokesperson, Mallam Garba Shehu, said the victims went to the scene without clearance from the army, despite knowing full well that the army does not issue such authorisations. After all, what is the use of a clearance from soldiers who are struggling to defend themselves? In fact, some officials defamed the victims as Boko Haram informants even as Shekau said he slaughtered them for arresting his members and handing them over to the army.
Buhari has proven to be his own “dopplegänger”, the literary term for two characters with strikingly similar physiques but with very different personalities, who serve as sharp contrasts or antagonists. General Buhari presented himself as an incorruptible man who would stand up for ordinary Nigerians. He claimed to be ready to combat the insecurity, poverty and corruption ravaging our country. He portrayed himself as an austere retired civil servant who would never indulge in luxuries at the expense of all of us.
For past half a decade, we got the complete opposite; a Buhari who is indifferent and insensitive; a Buhari who neither takes responsibility nor listens. A Buhari who flies to London to treat his ear infection while our doctors are on strike; a Buhari whose wife jets to Dubai for neck pain when hundreds of women die daily in childbirth for lack of basic equipment; a Buhari whose children fly around the same presidential planes that he refused to board to Maiduguri; a Buhari who hides himself incommunicado in the safety of Aso Rock while his people get killed, robbed and kidnapped every single day. The Abuja Buhari can’t be in sharper contrast to the Daura Buhari.
It is unsurprising that Buhari’s own base is so disenchanted and angry. The same people who saw him as the messiah now see him as a good-for-nothing, self-centred politician.
That subsistence farmers, Muslim clerics, truck drivers, northern elders and everyday northerners would take to the media to ask Buhari to resign is unimaginable even in the wildest of dreams. But that’s what you get when a leader persists in failing in the most basic of his obligations.
Buhari has got to come to terms with reality and retrace his steps. He has got to take responsibility and work flat out to stop the horror unfolding in the land. Otherwise, his government will face an extraordinary revolt from the north and his party will be defeated in a landslide come 2023. He begged Nigerians in tears to give him leadership and now he must show leadership. If he can’t stop widespread killings, kidnappings, robberies and destruction, he has no right to be president. Buhari must lead ir leave. Period.
Barr. Bulama Bukarti writes for Daily Trust
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