At the height of the chatter the current occupant of Aso Rock, Major General Muhamamdu Buhari (retd.), had been body snatched by a certain Jibril (or Jubril) from Sudan, this column pointed out that there is some sense in the nonsense being retailed in some quarters. Stories do not always need to be logical before they can be considered reasonable. Sometimes, what it illuminates despite its incoherence is some deeper truth about people’s situations. While no actual Jibril was impersonating Buhari, the Jibrilisation and Sudanisation of the president illustrated alienisation. Considering how alienated he was from the people he supposedly rules, the theory of an impersonator having replaced Buhari is reasonable. Both “Jibril” and “Sudan” were metaphors of foreignisation to describe a man no longer recognisable.
This was a man whose limited abilities to resolve what ails Nigeria was oversold during the 2015 electioneering. The image of Buhari they marketed must have overwhelmed the man himself because, by the time he eventually won the election, he fell like Humpty Dumpty. He has not been able to put himself back correctly since then. Knowing how lack lustre he would be in office; he pre-empted his coming failures with the warning that old age would affect his performance. For a man who got into power as a roarer, he had not even been officially sworn in before beginning to squeak. As it has panned out so far, his problem was not so much about advancing years as his sociopathic nonchalance. The issues his handlers promised he would confront with his “spartan” approach have barely changed. The most fitting photo of his administration that describes his administration is the one that shows him in his living room, picking his teeth. The picture has been meme-fied and used to satirise his self-distancing from Nigerians. Whoever released that image of Buhari to the public lacked tact, but they also gave us a potent visualisation of his detachment from the realities of the people he supposedly rules.
On the few occasions when Buhari had deigned to talk to Nigerians, he confirmed both his cold indifference to people and gross disrespect for their sensibilities. A quick example is his July statement in his hometown that he would not leave any assets behind for his children. For a man whose children had been educated in private schools abroad at the expense of Nigerians and have snagged several privileges that will pay them off for multiple lifetimes, he sounded hypocritical. One of his children—Yusuf, who had a motorcycle accident while overreaching himself—was even turbaned Talban Daura and appointed district head of the Kwasarawa community despite lacking a personal record of achievement. Despite all the evidence of their freeloading, Buhari still fancied himself as a disciplinarian father whose children foraged their way through nothing but personal responsibility.
On Tuesday in Imo State, he reportedly lamented that he had not received enough credit for his administrative achievements. He said, “In terms of time and resources, this administration has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who are supposed to say it are not saying it. I don’t know why.” Well, those who are supposed to trumpet his achievements are muted because they are embarrassed by his woeful failures. Buhari is probably the only one who scores himself high. Since he is happily deluded, they just let him be. They see him happily picking his teeth away, unconcerned about Nigeria’s fate, and they feed his continued alienation by sending him select information about the state of the nation.
Typical Buhari, his speech in Imo showed a man stuck in time. He still spoke as if it was still 2015. He boasted about the number of local governments in the hands of Boko Haram when he came to power and which they have presently retrieved. The man does not seem to have updated himself on a new form of evil called banditry that had taken over the land and even superseded Boko Haram in malevolence. Buhari repeated the same old grouch about his predecessors who earned so much revenue from oil but failed to deliver on infrastructure. “Infrastructure,” long reduced to building some federal roads, a bridge and railway services that ply a few cities, has been his biggest boast. Since the infrastructure of health, education, energy and rural/urban management are still lacking, he and his spokespersons act as if they do not matter.
One would think a man whose regime over-depends on oil prices would at least make some concerted effort to stop oil plunder, but no. Daily, an estimated 108,000 barrels of oil is stolen. His selling point in 2015 was his promise to stop corruption but corruption exploded right under his watch. For instance, his own accountant general was fingered for stealing an obscene amount; the shady sum allocated to fuel subsidy ballooned. Insecurity in Nigeria morphed into a monstrosity; the antics of Boko Haram are now barely distinguishable from the wickedness of the bandits. Due to poor economic mismanagement, most Nigerians went from being merely poor to becoming multi-dimensionally poor. Hardly anything he met when he got into office improved.
An account of our life under this present government shows how much we have regressed than progressed. One of the most spectacular failures is the out-of-school children rate. Due to combined factors of insecurity and rising poverty, the figure rose stratospherically in almost eight years of their administration. In 2015 when they came into power, UNICEF put the number at a whopping 10.5 million. Some days ago, UNICEF announced that the figure had risen to 18.5 million. A more recent update by UNESCO shows that the figure is around 20.2 million, roughly the population of entire countries like Burkina Faso or Mali! This regime claims to have spent billions of naira on school feeding projects but things only worsened. Their social relief programs tend to gulp vast sums of money but hardly anyone, except perhaps their cronies and corrupt associates, is ever better off.
In a matter of months, it would have been a full calendar year since public universities have been shut down in the entire country. Thousands of students have lost years of their lives to the strike, a period they will never be recouped even if lecturers teach overtime. But what does that matter to Buhari who has wilfully socially distanced himself from reality enough to award himself a passing grade? Things have taken a downturn for many people, and the quality of life has significantly declined but the man in charge thinks people are not singing his praises enough. He cannot understand why even his own party members vying for power are ashamed of his failures. On September 28, when electioneering officially starts, they will distance themselves from their own party failures and campaign like an opposition party.
Most people have given up on Buhari and are already looking forward to the salvation 2023 might bring. Even Buhari too has surrendered. He is merely counting down to the day he will return to his village, the scorching remains of the country safely handed over to someone else to manage. For a man whose anti-Midas touch turns brass to dross, he is pathetically alienated from the carnage he caused. His memory of his administration will undoubtedly be different from the reality that many Nigerians experienced, a dissonance that will be further nurtured by hagiographers who will not let him come to terms with his cluelessness.