With increasing intensity as the Muhammadu Buhari era hurtles to an embarrassing end, the truth has become inescapable: his government is as much a lie as any other.

I have given him credit for some infrastructure work, but Buhari ought to be insulted that he may be remembered in that light, especially as nearly all his initiatives are still in process.

But even if they were all completed over the next few hours, that would hardly be a cause for pride because it is the business of a government to construct infrastructure. It is not a favor to the people; the governments that Buhari lampooned from 2003 until he won the presidency in 2015 all constructed infrastructure.

What must be kept in mind is that Buhari was not supposed to be just another president. He gained office for something far more fundamental but at which he has failed ingloriously: to infuse character into governance and therefore ensure that the work of Nigerian leadership was never again the terrain of scoundrels and hypocrites. He was expected to provide steel in the backbone of public policy and quality in the bloodstream of the process.

Those old citizens who in 2015 were wheeled to polling stations or carried on the backs of their children to vote for him; market women who stood in the sun throughout the day; the hungry and the sick who set aside their personal welfare to ensure that the votes were counted did not make those sacrifices simply for Buhari to say he signed highway contracts or commissioned someone else’s work.  Those citizens threw themselves in front of every inconvenience for Buhari because they believed his big talk about CHANGE.

Does anyone remember C-H-A-N-G-E?  Buhari won in 2015 because he claimed he could and would change the way Nigeria works.  He would end insecurity because he was a knowledgeable former military man.  He would beat back corruption because he was a man of integrity.

But in Buhari’s eight years what Nigerians received from him has been the deepening of those problems.  And he has done it with the kind of arrogance that has culminated in his threatening to abandon his own “achievements” for Niger, where the standard of political impotence is probably lower than Nigeria.  Nigeriens, he has repeated, will defend him against his own nationals should they challenge him after he has left the buffet.

It is an unprecedented and unpresidential insult traceable to Buhari’s lack of a sense of geography or history.  That is the only reason why he seems to think that there is some vegetation in place or time where he can somehow hide from the anger and indictment of a people he has so wantonly betrayed.

There is none: As much as members of his inner circle try to paint him in colours of glory, Nigerians will remember and dismiss him as a political conman of tremendous insensitivity. Buhari posed for decades as a man of decency and integrity, but where was that Buhari in the eight years he occupied the presidency? Buhari’s principal achievement is the damaging of the Buhari brand.

He claims he has “run a good race” and finished his course. In that case I challenge, ahead of fleeing to Niger, to publish in numbers and statistics, a character statement presenting or explaining to Nigerians and other Africans before whom he advertised as an anti-corruption “champion”:

His 2023 declaration of assets, for a man who has “nothing to hide.”

Public funds spent on his health during his tenure.

The recovered public assets his Ministers, Abubakar Malami and Zainab Ahmed, sold secretly, including whom they were sold to, and at what price.

Spending on the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, and the Abuja-Kano highway, including the Abacha loot infusions.

The 11,886 projects from the Goodluck Jonathan administration that he completed.

The $16bn in the electricity sector he pledged repeatedly to recover from the Olusegun Obasanjo government.

The N21bn he mysteriously spent on the State House Medical Centre in one year.

The $3bn Abuja light rail he launched in 2018 which does not run.

The famous $6bn “investments” from the 2016 state visit to China, and the entire Buhari rail account.

The recovered Abacha loot, as ordered by Nigerian courts, and his borrowing strategy, in the light of what The Economist has called “borrowing to embezzle.”

Unless Buhari is willing to leave an extensive insight of this nature into his tenure, there is no inch of space to hide his infamy, and his family will enjoy no respect.  Certainly not in Niger, where early in 2017, there were 130,000 Nigerian refugees in just one roadside camp near Diffa. Buhari never acknowledged them. Writing in April of that year, I called them Nigerians “with no home, no water, no country and no hope.” By the end of 2022, that figure had almost tripled, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

There are far more Nigerians than these, in countries around Nigeria, displaced not only by conflict but by the indifference, incompetence and hypocrisy that Buhari epitomized.

When he rides off into Niger, literally or figuratively, he will find such Nigerians in droves, or be found by them.  It is only fair that they haunt his nightmares in the same measure as he haunted their hopes and poisoned their dreams.

It is not difficult to see why Buhari’s sycophants think of him as some kind of hero.  He was perfect for advancing individual greed and official pretense.

For a “man of integrity,” however, it is curious that instead of winning the applause of the world because he boosted the public good, he is leaving behind a social echo system in which the worst of the worst have lined up all over Nigeria, succeeding him in assuming control of all levers of power and influence.

What are the odds that an “incorruptible” man, instead of closing the door on the vermin of the neighborhood, would provide them with supplies of oxygen, access, and weaponry?  It does not happen: good does not yield or celebrate evil, only evil does.

Sadly then, but with thunderous relief, we must drop that old greeting, “Sai Baba.”

Shame, Baba.


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