On March 31, 2015, Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan conceded his re-election contest by telephone.

The man who took that call and received the happy news, General , was stunned but overjoyed: there would be no period of massive anxiety or turmoil, as is the case in most Nigerian elections.

Mr. Jonathan had run an awful administration, which boosted the Buhari campaign and energised his supporters. For Buhari, it was the end of a long journey. His basic message: to conquer insecurity and corruption in Nigeria had resonated widely.

Jonathan was expected to slink quietly into the shadows while the former army general showed the world how to reinvent Nigeria. And he was going to eat corruption—and the corrupt—alive. After all, he had boasted for many years that he was the only Nigerian who could do it.

Jonathan was expected to be consumed by the Buhari conflagration along with his party, the Peoples Democratic Party.

I was one of Jonathan’s biggest critics, particularly after the 2011 election for which I had compiled his campaign playbook. But Buhari’s political outlook tallied with mine, and I supported his candidature.

Note the word, outlook. Outlook, yes: but I had completely misjudged Buhari’s philosophy and capacity. Buhari may have advertised the right words, but within one year it was clear he was only a propagandist. He is no reformer.

Within four years, Buhari had been found out so much he was being rejected even in his hometown of Daura in Katsina State, while Jonathan was receiving invitations to dine with kings, and encouragement to run again in 2023. Within four years, the man who was being stripped naked in 2015 was the one being celebrated by some.

It began within days of Buhari’s inauguration, almost immediately after he affirmed that Nigerians would not regret entrusting national responsibility to him.

Breaking Times, an Abuja newspaper, provided the equivalent of an immediate and robust test of Buhari’s claim to character, reporting that he owned a nearby lake front N2.1 billion mansion in Asokoro.

In Aso Rock, the report was curiously met with silence. Buhari seemed to sneer, “So what?”

And then he ducked the public disclosure of his assets that he had promised.  And then he ducked compelling his ministers to publicly disclose theirs. And he ducked his ‘First 100’ days’ promises and his promise to name the nation’s kleptocrats.

“As far as the constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country,” he had asserted at the inauguration.  “For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”

That was not sincere. Indeed, nothing in the inauguration address was true, the evidence being that there is nothing in it that he honoured. Predictably, he swiftly lost the trust of Nigerians as the reformer who had become the problem. He either lacked policies, forgot policies, chose wrong policies, or simply slept on duty.

While some of Nigeria’s economic misfortunes may be attributable to the pandemic of 2020 and other issues, Buhari’s performance as a man and his shortcomings as a manager are so embarrassing that even in Daura, his hometown, they are asking him to resign.  Last week, Oby Ezekwesili, a former Minister of Education, publicly questioned Buhari’s physical and mental health, and called for an independent medical examination.

On the corruption file, the deepening menace is entirely his, and it was no surprise last week when it emerged that at least one former governor had illegally transferred public funds into Buhari’s personal account. Peoples Gazette, citing newly-obtained bank records, said that between 2011 and 2019, Ogun State governor, (now Senator) Ibikunle Amosun, illegally paid N12.5m into Mr. Buhari’s personal bank account.

Again, Buhari has not contradicted the report.

Similarly, it has also emerged that in Buhari’s 2021 budget proposal, which is grounded in loans, there is provision of N66.6m, for “rent” of the presidential palace.  [The landlord may have offered a pandemic discount, as that figure was 77m in 2016.]

Perhaps the greatest immediate concern is insecurity, with last weekend’s slaughter of 44 rice farmers by Boko Haram militants in Zabarmari, Borno State, drawing the concern of the international community.

Domestically, the Senate reiterated its call on Buhari to change his ineffective service chiefs.  The House of Representatives summoned him to appear before it. Desperate state governor, Babagana Zulum, asked Buhari to hire mercenaries to rout the militants.

But in far less outrageous circumstances in 2014, then-candidate Buhari challenged Mr. Jonathan to resign.

APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu, carpeted Jonathan as a failure and a liar. He described him as a Commander-in-Chief who lacked capacity, vision and creativity. “In any civilised country, Jonathan should have resigned. But if he will not resign, he should wait for our broom, we will sweep him away.”

Mr. Jonathan was indeed swept away and Buhari took Aso Rock where for five years he has superintended the deepest governmental filth and insecurity since the civil war.

Last week, in response, Tinubu offered only a hypocritical whimper. The Zabarmari tragedy was not only callous but Satanic, he said in a letter to Governor Zulum, and the fight against insurgents required “more efforts” to win.

Within the government, the spin doctors deployed a confetti of conspiracy theories.

Information and Culture Minister, Lai Mohammed, said that “global powers,” have frustrated and blocked Nigeria’s efforts to acquire weapons to end terrorism.  Nonetheless, he said his government would fight the menace to a “logical conclusion.”  He did not identify where or what such a conclusion is, particularly when you are allegedly fighting with your bare hands.

Army spokesman, Sagir Musa, blamed members of the international community for sponsoring Boko Haram’s attacks to “cut Nigeria to size”.  But for those unnamed actors, he said, the militants would have been “completely defeated.” Apparently: not largely or technically.

Army Chief, Tukur Buratai, took his fighting to Facebook, where he told Nigerians that terrorism is theirs to endure for at least two more decades, suggesting the military should not be expected to fight it alone. “It only depends on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all stakeholders both civil and military authorities,” he wrote. “Also by both local and international actors.”

The truth is that Buhari lacks leadership, ability or control. Northern leaders, using the Quran, are begging him to resign.  Last February, northern youths had begged him not to turn Nigeria into Somalia.

It appears that Buhari’s plan had been to hide under the umbrella of Nigeria’s problems, blaming Jonathan and the PDP all the way.  But that currency did not last long.  The more incompetent Buhari’s government has proved to be, the better he has rehabilitated and polished Jonathan’s image.

What needs to happen now is that leaders of Northern Nigeria must follow their own words and lead the task of getting Buhari out of power. If they do not, Nigeria faces the prospect of being mowed down by all manner of armed groups, beginning from the North.

[This column welcomes rebuttals from interested government officials.]

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Buhari makes a hero of Jonathan
Buhari makes a hero of Jonathan

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