One moment last Wednesday, the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, now sadly the centre of the Boko Haram conflict, was dressed up in colours of pomp and power.
President Muhammadu Buhari, facing strident criticism, including calls for his resignation over issues of insecurity nationwide, was flying in from an official visit to Ethiopia.
His visit was billed as a “sympathy” or “condolence” visit over the killing of about 30 persons in Auno on Sunday by the militants, but he was boldly and lustily booed in the streets by the same people who selected him just one year ago.
Worse still, when he returned to Abuja hours later, it was to the news that right after he had departed Maiduguri with the all flashing lights and appurtenances of power, Boko Haram scoffed by brazenly attacking the suburb of Jiddari Polo.
There was even more contempt thrown at Abuja a few hours later: Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau appearing on a new video dispatch warning Buhari never to return to Maiduguri “or else!”.
Shekau, remember, has been “defeated” again and again by the Buhari government: technically, largely, completely, overwhelmingly, officials would announce. He has been “killed” again and again by the same government for four years, Army Chief (and local Borno lad) Tukur Buratai three years ago even demanding his head, dripping with blood.
And yet there he was again on Thursday, laughing atthe government from the top down.
“Buhari came to Maiduguri pretending to be a good man but he is not,” Shekau taunted, and then, addressing him directly, said: “… You have deceived the people by telling them you are a just leader; carry on!”
It is interesting that contrary to two directives in the past three years by Buhari and one by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, ordering the service leaders to repair to the northeast and combat Boko Haram from there, they are all regular party fixtures in Abuja.
On to Abuja then, where the government during the week went back to denying that Buhari ever promised he would publicly declare his assets.
“In a private meeting with the President,” presidential spokesman Femi Adesina recalled, “one of the first questions I asked him was, this promise about public declaration of assets, when are you doing it and then he asked me, can you please show me where that promise was ever made and lo and behold, we searched everywhere, there was no place where the president ever said he will do a public declaration.”
Which unveils a key problem with the Buhari government: that, philosophically, it does not classify incest as a problem. Otherwise Buhari would have posed his “answer” to someone other than a member of his choir.
Even then, Adesina is an interloper on this subject. He ought to have referred the issue to his colleague, Garba Shehu, who has handled it for the government since 2015.
Shehu would have told him that their principal clearly and certainly disseminated such a plan in 2015, and that it was on that basis that he, Shehu, told the nation on June 6 that in fulfilment of that campaign promise, the assets declaration of the president and the vice-president would bemade public as soon as verification was completed by the Code of Conduct Bureau.
But the answer to Buhari’s question is that his commitment received worldwide broadcast in his open letter 10 days before the election in 2015, which we hope he at least read. In it, he mailed his “Covenant With Nigerians,” in the form of specific pledges.
The item about transparency was the first, the clearest and the most important: “I pledge to: Publicly declare my assets and liabilities and encourage my political appointees to also publicly declare their assets and liabilities.”
Among others, former Lagos Governor and now Minister for Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, campaigned with the Covenant, specifically the transparency pledge. Elder statesman Ahmed Joda’s Transition Committee included it in its 800-page report.
Buhari feasted on the acclaim those pledges brought him, never once contradicting it.
That was until it came time to pay the transparency bill, that is: to deliver on the promise. The Covenant was then repudiated. As was Buhari’s 100-day pledge. As was the APC Manifesto—in effect—from which the Nigeria leader said he had derived the pledges.
It would seem, in hindsight, that the entire APC plan was a hoax. I have provideda link to that manifesto, as filed by APC with the electoral commission, so that Nigerians can verify the APC swindle for themselves.
In it, APC promised, among others: 3 million new jobs a year; healthcare for all; and guaranteed free education.
APC said it would “Triple education spending over next 10 years, from the current .5% to 24.5%.” Triple? Five years later, education spending in the current budget is an abysmal 6.7%!
APC said it would: “Immediately increase the proportion of Federal spending on healthcare from 5.5% to 10%, with the aim of bringing it to 15% by 2020.” Well, this is the 2020, and the health sector is receiving an abominable 4.14% of the budget.
To enhance security, the party said it would “Employ at least an extra 100,000 police officers and establish a properly trained and equipped Federal Anti-Terrorism Multi-Agency Task Force to destroy Boko Haram and any form of insurgency.”
To tackle corruption, APC said it would:“Create a functionally independent anti-corruption agency, with adequate and predictable funding and full prosecutorial powers and free from political interference.” Has anyone seen an independent EFCC?
APC said it would: “End immunity from prosecution for sitting politicians.” On the contrary, APC is championing impunity and boosting immunity, as in the case of Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Bagudu.
To protect elections, APC pledged to: Create a functionally independent and well-resourced Electoral Commission which is free from political interference.”(Anyone who thinks there is a free INEC should watch how quickly my hyperlink to the APC manifesto vanishes from the INEC website.)
As with Buhari’s assets pledge, all these promises by the party have also vanished.
The point is that Nigeria is swimming in sewage that is far deeper, sadder and uglier than Buhari’s declaration of assets. APC has committed a historic and comprehensive swindle that never even entered the mind of the PDP.
Now, even if Buhari never stated he would publicly declare his assets, he needed to back up his transparency claims beyond the “don’t give a damn” standard of his predecessor. That(not wisdom, or extensive education, or oratorical skills, or wizardry in matters economic) was the difference—the CHANGE—he was bringing.
But Buhari then declared he never claimed he would be transparent. In effect: that he was not the same Buhari who repeatedly told Nigerians—and Chatham House in London—he would be leading “from the front” and by “the force of personal example.”
But Nigerians know. They know now that Buhari lacks what he claimed and possesses what he must hide.
In the end, that is why Nigeria is now far worse shape, and why Buhari is hearing those boos from his victims.
[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials].