By SKC Ogbonnia
Once a dictator, as a military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari sought democratic power, preaching change; and we embraced him, believing that nothing could be worse than the regime of Goodluck Jonathan. But we are finding out the hard way: the obvious change the Nigerian people have seen since Buhari came back to power is a change to a “next level” of dictatorship that is wildly uncouth and acutely primitive to relate to the genius of changing times and its digital age.
Buhari’s freefall, or rather his renewed dictatorship, is traced squarely to the time he disavowed his oath of office by deploying the worst form of political vendetta against the Eastern Nigeria for the simple reason that the people voted en masse for their native son in 2015 elections, similar to the electoral gesture accorded to Buhari himself by his native North in 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, and 2019 electoral cycles. This apparent warpath heightened a call for secession and the tacit support given by the East to the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) led by Nnamdi Kanu. After all, different forms of Biafran movement had existed in every administration in the current Fourth Republic, from Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, to Jonathan.
Instead of dialogue, as accorded other dissident groups, including even the Boko Haram, Buhari isolated the crisis as an Igbo palaver and thence pounced on the IPOB with brute force. I quickly admonished the President that his move was “nothing but a scheme to rekindle the zeitgeist of the Biafran war—hoping to regain his waning popularity within our party and the nation at large.” There I reminded him that the Nigeria of 1967 is not the Nigeria of today.
Yet, General Buhari did not listen. Rather, he declared the Biafran activists as terrorists. It is worth saying, however, that while the president was busy “crushing” the Biafran activists with land army, he gleefully condoned the deadly Fulani Herdsmen, an organization recognized worldwide as a terrorist group since 2014.
It didn’t take long before a legion of Nigerians in the Diaspora, some of who may not necessarily subscribe to the style or visions of IPOB but are conscious of the scale of injustice in the homeland, were provoked to unleash a worldwide campaign that sufficiently painted Buhari as a dictator and bigot. And the world took note! The toll of the IPOB crisis on national economy, particularly with foreign investment, is well chronicled.
Upon his being sworn in for the second term, I followed with an innocent piece: “Second Term: A Leadership Lesson Buhari Must Learn”. Here is an excerpt:
“The days are gone when the Nigerian government can preach justice abroad, while promoting injustice at home. The inconvenient truth is that the country now boasts of millions of independent ambassadors, strategically entrenched in all the nooks and crannies of the world, who tell it as it is. Some of these Diaspora Nigerians have also become Biblical Josephs of sort and thus play influential roles in the nation’s foreign exchange, foreign trade, foreign investment, the media, as well as other socio-economic relationships. Needless to remind us that the same Josephs are the leading block contributors to the yearly amount of foreign money remitted to Nigeria, which is ironically more than the national budget. As they go, so goes the national image and much more.”
But an Igbo adage goes that the sickness that typically kills a dog hardly allows it to perceive the odour of faeces. Thus, the biggest news out of Nigeria since Buhari assumed second term has been the morbid audacity to frame and detain Omoyele Sowore, a renowned anti-corruption and human rights activist, journalist, and his opponent in the 2019 presidential election. Sowore’s sin remains the term #RevolutionNow”, a mere plan to protest against bad governance in his homeland. But the Buhari regime would charge him for treasonable felony.
I warned of the consequences, noting that “Only a poon ignores the potential of the heavily funded but regional IPOB, with a worldwide membership, fusing with a broad-based national outfit like #RevolutionNow” The president countered with a mundane temerity of deploying the trio of Ministry of Information, Ministry of External Affairs, and the Nigerian Diaspora Commission to peddle false information on Sowore to the international community. Not surprisingly, Buhari could not recognize that, besides the Nigerians in the Diaspora and social media; the ever-vibrant Nigerian press and the core of the Nigerian Civil Society now have global reach.
Today, Nnamdi Kanu, the “terrorist”, is celebrated in the international community as a paragon of justice. Today, Omoyele Sowore, the “coupist”, is seen worldwide as a mystical mixture of conviction, courage, and stoicism in the course of the Nigerian liberation. Today, the General and his brigade are on the run, with Buhari once again widely viewed as a maximum dictator and the most lawless leader Nigeria has ever known. The stubborn tsetse fly, we say, follows the corpse to the grave.
*SKC Ogbonnia, is the author of the Effective Leadership Formula.