Whether we like it or not, Buhari has failed the first and most critical test of managing Nigeria’s delicate diversity so early in his supposed change administration, given how his insensitive and blatantly sectional appointments have continued to raise dust and how secessionist forces are gaining currency on account of his perceived bigotry. In essence, Buhari has missed what I call the “Mandela opportunity or option” to position himself as Nigeria’s ultimate nation builder/messiah in line with the change slogan that propelled him to power. As if the suspicion of Buhari’s bigotry, lack of democratic credentials and vindictive mien which many claim is reflective of his nepotistic appointments is not enough, Buhari travelled to America and shamelessly confirmed to a global audience what has long been suspected when in the course of an interview at the National Democratic Institute in Washington DC, he was asked by one Dr. Paulin Baker how he intended to deal with bunkering and inclusive development in the Niger Delta and in response Buhari said “I hope you have a copy of the election result? Literally, constituencies, for example that gave me 97 percent cannot, in all honesty, be treated, on some issues the same way with constituencies that gave me 5 percent. I think these are political realities.
The implication of Buhari’s confession is that there will be official discrimination against those who gave him less votes in the presidential elections, a confession made in America to a crowd that must have been shocked at his intolerance of people’s right to their own democratic opinion in competitive elections which is the single most important defining attribute of democracy. Buhari’s handlers have tried to deny this gaffe which would have cost him his job in saner climes, but the problem is; Buhari’s appointments which was already under scrutiny long before he made that sadistic gaffe already stood as proof of his intent which his confession only confirmed. Buhari obviously doesn’t understand the meaning of democracy, because if he did, he wouldn’t have expected everyone to vote for him, neither would he consider those who didn’t vote for him enemies that should be punished, except his intention is to create an undemocratic one party state through coercion and intimidation.
Not only does discrimination or unequal treatment of any Nigerian under any circumstances, least of all for holding a different political opinion violate the constitution under whose articles Buhari swore an oath and assumed power, it is also an affront on the very essence of democracy that is fundamentally premised on competition. If the Western countries Buhari and other pathetic African leaders are always eager to patronize based their democracy on victimizing groups who didn’t vote for them, would they have the robust democracy everyone including Buhari admires? Former President Goodluck Jonathan already showed the example of a good democrat when even though he got less than 5 percent of Northern votes in 2011, nonetheless had the highest federal investments in infrastructure in the North and had Northerners well represented in key positions all through his administration. Democracy is a competitive contest and under normal circumstances a President should be just as inclusive of those who gave him less votes and likewise invest more in those areas in other to broaden his base in subsequent elections. That I believe was what Goodluck Jonathan tried to do in the true spirit of democracy when he invested more in the North in the course of his administration.
A situation where Buhari now bypasses or downgrades career professionals in the armed forces and other federal parastatals who have put in years of service just because they come from areas where he got less votes and appoints undeserving people from areas where he got more votes, is immoral, repugnant, primitive, vindictive, unconstitutional and thus illegal. It cannot happen in any normal democracy or sane environment. It is an assaulting act of extreme nepotism which represents a very dangerous adventure and a step backward that will further erode what is left of professionalism in the services and ultimately national unity. I still can’t understand why every lofty ideal becomes negative in Nigeria. The simple practice of competitive democracy which has resulted in a change of government for the first time is becoming an instrument of hate, victimization and exclusion against those who didn’t vote for him by Buhari whereas Ghana next-door has repeatedly had changes in government and no one or group was ever victimized or excluded for not voting for the winning party.
The question we must now ask is why is everything in Nigeria negative? Is it not the same reason from military to civilian regimes Nigeria has repeatedly only ended up with bad leadership? If a government that promised change in democratic elections ends up negating the very essence of democracy and becoming a government that victimizes and excludes its own citizens on account of different democratic opinions how then can Nigeria ever prosper? Are we in a democracy or dictatorship? After decades of misrule and the same policies of marginalization against both groups and the general citizenry, what Nigeria urgently needs for a change is nation building and not nepotism. Real change can only come from nation building and not nepotism. Buhari so far is proving to be Nigeria’s nemesis by his hateful, undemocratic, vindictive and nepotistic policies. It is strange that a party and candidate that fronted change as his primary ideology would even allow himself to stand accused of nepotism through a reckless and insensitive disregard of Nigeria’s diversity in his appointments. If this is what the change he campaigned on means, then I hope he has bought a coffin for Nigeria, because with the level of anger and ongoing de-Nigerianisation the country will definitely not last too long into the future and not even the battered, demoralized, disintegrating and runaway Nigerian army can save the situation this time around.
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu