By Bola Bolawole
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It is not only in Nigeria that politicians speak with their head on their neck when campaigning for votes but turn to something weird once in power. Take, for instance, George H. W. Bush. As the Republican presidential candidate, Bush categorically pledged there would be no new taxes: “Read my lips – there will be no new taxes” he said at the 1988 Republican National Convention as he accepted the nomination on August 18.
Two years down the road, wrote Dan Goodman in the TIME: “As Congress squabbled in search of a budget, Bush during three dizzying days switched his position at least four times on the key question of what additional taxes the most affluent citizens should pay to help reduce the budget deficit. On Tuesday morning he declared that he might accept raising income taxes on the wealthy in exchange for his long-sought cut in taxes on capital gains. That afternoon he backpedalled under pressure from Senate Republicans: White House aides announced that Bush did not favour pursuing such a deal. Two days later, facing counter-pressure from House Republicans, Bush re-opened the possibility. Then about an hour later he closed it again.
“Asked to clarify his position as he jogged in a St. Petersburg baseball park, Bush pointed to his backside and gibed, “Read my hips” Then, literally and metaphorically, he abandoned the playing field. He later said he would wait for Congress to clear up the confusion he had helped engender. Bush’s vacillation confounded his allies and delighted his opponents. Newspapers across the country bannered headlines studded with words like WAFFLE, RETREAT, BLINK and ZIG-ZAK. Bush’s approval rating, which stood in the mid-70s only a month ago, plummeted 10 to 15 points. It was, said a senior Administration official, “the worst week of his presidency”
Clueless! Inscrutable! Indiscernible! Retired General Muhammadu Buhari has had so many “worst week” of his own presidency that I have lost count. Within one week, we have had the slaughtering of farmers in Borno; Buhari’s embarrassing and disgraceful volte-face on his decision to honour the invitation by the House of Representatives to speak on the security situation in the country; and, few days ago, the abduction of hundreds of school boys in Katsina, the president’s home state. The way we are going, a whole state and all its residents will be abducted in the not-too-distant future! To add salt to Buhari’s injury, the abduction took place right under his noise, hours after he had landed in his Daura, Katsina State home-town. It goes without saying that the kidnappers have no respect at all for Buhari. They must have seen – and taken – him as lame duck.
Chibok! Dapchi! And now Kankara! In each, hundreds of schoolchildren were abducted and driven away without the security agencies lifting a finger! Yet, trillions of Naira is expended on them to provide security for citizens; to fight insurgency; and to maintain the territorial integrity of the country. They have failed woefully in these duties. Yet, Buhari keeps the Service chiefs; it is like his presidency depends on their remaining in office. It must be so; otherwise; it does not add up and it makes no sense at all. There must be something known to Buhari, his kinsmen who run his government for him, and the Service chiefs that the ordinary citizens do not know. But what blood flows in these people’s veins! Why are they so bereft of the milk of human kindness? Every blood-chilling disaster is nothing but mere statistics to them. After drab condolences, they move on as if nothing happened! I have, however, stopped worrying about what the North does to the North. If, despite the cluelessness of Buhari, his people still root for him; if they haul insults at those drawing attention to the country’s perilous state of affairs; and if they could still roll out the drums and spread out red carpets for Buhari, then, their good grief whatever befalls them! To hell also with the errand boys and girls down South still rooting for Buhari! Stop spreading the insecurity down South. Stop the bandits, kidnappers, and herdsmen in their tracks. Roll back the dragnet of insecurity and stop the trails of bloodshed already engulfing the South.
Taking a cue from the Bush story above, we can see that it is not only in Nigeria that fumbling and wobbling presidents are called names. Even in the US, such presidents are taken to the cleaners. It did not start yesterday and it is not a product of social media. It is no hate speech either to hold the feet of those in authority to the fire. In democracies all over, the media performs the function of holding government accountable to the people. The Nigerian constitution, as imperfect as it is, recognises and imposes that duty on the media. The Freedom of Information Act is also meant to aid the media in the discharge of its onerous responsibilities.
Lips or hips, what can anyone read about Buhari? In the beginning before Buhari unravelled miserably, his admirers talked of the Buhari body language. They said his body language alone was doing wonders, without Buhari opening his mouth! The corrupt were voluntarily returning looted funds; the economy was responding to Buhari’s body language; the international crude oil market was not left out; and the el-Dorado of our dream was within grabs just because of Buhari’s body language! But it all turned out mere wishful thinking and fake news. A myth and mirage! Sheer propaganda! Buhari and his government have grown progressively worse since 2015. May be this is actually not Buhari anymore!
Like Bush, Buhari reneged on the invitation extended to him by the House of Representatives. First, let me say that the House over-reached itself, not for the reasons advanced by Malami, a political Attorney-General who keeps giving wrong legal opinions on cases involving the Federal Government. He goofed on Amotekun even though Presidency pressure has made the South-west governors abandon their principled stand and kow-tow to the extent that they have virtually killed the regional security outfit even in the face of the dire security challenges facing the region. In the tussle between the Inspector-General of Police and the Police Service Commission, Malami took the side of the IGP and failed. The Court of Appeal gave judgment in favour of the PSC. In saner climes, both Malami and the IGP should have vacated office in ignominy. But this is Nigeria!
Back to the Bush story above: The US president dithered and oscillated between extreme positions because of pressure from members of the Legislature. Here, it is the president that directs and dictates to the Legislature and not the other way round; which is why the invitation by the House to Buhari was seen not only as an aberration but also as an affront and sacrilege. The National Assembly is taken on the cheap by the Presidency because the lawmakers have cheapened themselves. Its leadership was selected and installed by the Executive. Therefore, they should have known from day one that they were meant to be rubber stamp. How dare they, then, pretend to be masters of the game? Worse still, how dare they now raise their head and look their masters straight in the eyes? When the would-be NASS leaders were licking the spittle of the Executive simply to get into office was when they ought to have realized that they would command no respect and integrity in office. In addition, they have lost the respect – and support – of conscienable and discerning Nigerians who knew how the NASS leadership emerged and the consequences of such emergence. Can anything good come out of this NASS?
In saner climes, especially in robust democracies, the Legislature is the signature or poster boy of true democracy. Political theorists posit that sovereignty resides is the Legislature; even in constitutional monarchies like that of Britain where the government is called the Queen’s Government, the Legislature remains the fulcrum of governance. Nigeria is yet to fully exit the shadows of militarism. Its first president, as well as the present occupant, had been military men who never shed the military toga. In the polity generally, especially among the political-cum-ruling class, the military mentality still runs high. The command structure of the military pervades everywhere.
It will take some time before that toga is shed. It will take men of ideas; men of character; and men of strong will to successfully operate the system of separation of powers amongst the three arms of government as well as respect and or enforce the checks and balances needed to keep everyone within its own boundaries. Importantly, the present Constitution cannot deliver the much-needed democratic nuances that will help entrench the desired democratic culture necessary to catapult this country into the rank of the advanced democratic countries of the world.
The North sinks more and more into savagery each passing day. Yesterday’s bestiality pales into insignificance compared with today’s. It is difficult to fathom the depth to which the North is still capable of sinking. It is time, then, to apply the COVID-19 protocols of isolation and lockdown on the North before it irreparably and irredeemably infects the entire country with its deadly virus of insecurity and barbaric bloodletting.
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