There is simply no nice way to speak about the Buhari era.
Under him, the country became of no consequence in the councils of power and diplomacy and even in Africa – except as a grave source of concern and fear of the fall outs of its quite possible implosion.
It also became of no consequence to many of its people except as a source of pain and affliction.
For a man who was so determined to occupy Aso Rock that he became something of a career presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari’s eagerness to leave the seat of power he occupied for eight years says it all: he was a desperately incompetent failure.
Every which way you look there is nothing to hold up as a viable achievement. So pathetic is his record that he was left to declaring open major projects like the Dangote refinery and the second Niger Bridge that are in fact uncompleted. Yet he had all of eight years to do so.
Such has been his indifferent, slothful leadership that the past several months left ample room for a thieves carnival with a scramble to award contracts of questionable value – from multibillion naira fire trucks to resuscitating the flying elephant( the unfortunate symbol of the long defunct national airline and our mothballed hopes).
If a wrecking ball had been applied to the national edifice, it couldn’t have done greater damage than what Buhari managed to inflict on Nigeria. All that his one-time admirers touted as his strong suit proved to be hollow shells. Corruption, nepotism, impunity, indiscipline, callous indifference to pain and suffering, insecurity ran amok under his watch.
Many times in its post-independence history, Nigeria has been on the verge of dissolving in chaos. Under Buhari it came closest such that even those who had long believed in keeping the country together no matter what began to lose faith. Trained professionals- doctors, nurses, bankers, teachers- who are the backbone of any functioning society gave up on the country and joined the exodus to other climes with nary a concern expressed from official quarters.
Appointments were made on the basis of the recipients falling within the rather narrow comfort zone and rather constricted world view of the president even if they were in blatant violation of the constitution and unwritten codes of fairness and equity that helped to keep the country together.
Apart from the economic wasteland that he has bequeathed, the most consequential damage has been the utter devaluation of life such that rising statistics of deaths and kidnapping now barely elicit a shrug.
Nearly every institution has suffered devastation. Procedure, systems,ethics and mores function in the breach. More than ever before Nigeria’s is a case of everyone for himself – and the devil for us all. Apart from policies, programmes and projects being seemingly driven by how they enrich the originators and implementers, individuals seem able to readily procure the services of agents and agencies of government to enforce their private, often nefarious agenda. The epitaph to the tenure of Buhari, a man who his once ardent supporters invested with messianic qualities can well be in the boast of an individual In one reported ongoing case: ” you can get away with anything in Nigeria. It depends on who you know, the language you speak and your sex.”
It was indeed an era of impunity writ large.
To be fair the decay has been progressive for quite a while and through many administrations. Which is why many invested so much hope on Buhari. So why under Buhari did we fall so far so fast and how do we avoid worse to come?
What should be obvious to all is that leadership recruitment based primarily on regional, religious or ethnic considerations often bring all to grief. The whole country has suffered but the devastation of the north has been particularly gruesome. Fortunately, and particularly with the enlightened youth, the repudiation of such proclivities is becoming quite consequential. We saw this flowering with the EndSars protest of 2020 and it again manifested in the undeniable electoral achievement of Peter Obi and his Labour Party in the recent elections.
The next administration has its work cut out. Put an end to the egregious forms of impunity that have ruined the country.
While wholesale probes are probably distracting, no serious administration can move forward without taking stock of the nature and perpetrators of an utterly baleful inheritance. For instance, the borrowing frenzy. The huge Chinese loans that have put us into peonage and ostensibly contracted to modernize our airports and rail system need to be investigated and those who corruptly enriched themselves identified and severely punished. This will provide some form of catharsis for the country, a reiteration that crime does not pay and an early indication that the new administration no matter its antecedents means business and should be taken seriously.
The gravity of our woes means it can no longer be business as usual and with past wrongs swept under the carpet.
If there is one good eight years of Buhari has done it is to bring us to the realization that we are at a tipping point with our very survival dependent on the very next step we take.