Published On: Thu, Aug 10th, 2017

Getting Buhari out of their lives, by Paul Onomuakpokpo

Muhammadu Buhari

A spectre of more protests against the continued stay of President Muhammadu Buhari in office hangs over the nation as the façade over his health status comes crashing down. In February this year, the government through its coercive security apparatuses was able to stop famous singer Innocent Idibia popularly known as Tuface from leading a protest against the poor governance that has blighted the citizens’ existence under the current government. Just as the government failed to stop the protest which took place without Tuface then, the prospect now of easily squelching the citizens’ expressions of their disenchantment with it is non-existent.

The citizens who are increasingly becoming disillusioned with the government of Buhari have refused to accept all governmental platitudes and intimidation. They have again taken to the streets to protest against Buhari. They are unequivocal about their grouse: Buhari should come back from London and effectively assume the reins of office or simply resign.

The citizens might have delayed these protests while hoping that governance and developments around the health of the president would take a turn for the better. But government officials have kept tantalising the citizens with the return of Buhari. But shortly after the excitement over the assurance of his return fizzles out, there is despondency as the citizens realise that they have been swindled again.

As these protests continue, a seductive option for the government is to unleash its security forces on the protesters. This is the option the government has embraced as a leader of the protests, Charles Oputa, also known as Charly Boy, alleged that a policeman hit his eye with the butt of his gun and tear-gassed him and others. Journalists who were just carrying out their duties at the scene of the protests were also harassed by the police. This was despite an assurance from Oputa that the protest would be peaceful. In the face of this blatant resort to violence by the government, the official pretension that the citizens can protest in the spirit of democracy is exploded. And in its place is barefaced authoritarianism.

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The government should blame itself for these protests. For, it continues to blow the chance to avoid them. If they were sincere, the fact that Buhari is recovering from his ill health is a major opportunity to douse the anxiety of the citizens that is leading to these protests. That President Buhari is recuperating is definitely good news. He has survived a major debilitating illness. If the government had told the citizens the nature of the illness and while the recovery may still keep the president in London, the citizens would not complain. The government refused to tell the citizens the nature of the ailment at the height of its strangulating hold on the president. But must the government also refuse to tell the citizens his triumph over the sickness? What is the government still hiding if Buhari had really survived the aliment that has afflicted him?

It is this secrecy that riles the citizens. They suspect that the government is only acting in sync with its notion of their gullibility when it tells them that the president would soon return home. Worse still, the government continues to give the impression of hiding the truth by declaring arrogantly that the president would not resign instead of adopting a reconciliatory posture. The issue is not whether the president has violated the constitution or not. It is rather that it is clear that the president has vitiated his contract to be in office and ensure good governance that would improve the wellbeing of the citizens.

It is not surprising that the Senate has strongly condemned the protests. Did the citizens not know that the Bukola Saraki’s Senate does not exist for them? Did they not know that their prosperity has been stymied by a leadership conspiracy? The senators must be told that the citizens are aware that they only exist to protect their own interest. The citizens know that as long as the executive does not disturb their larceny, the senators would not find anything wrong with Buhari staying away as long as he wants. Why would the Senate not find it far-fetched that many things are wrong with the nation, with poverty at the head, when each of them is entitled to a vehicle worth M17 million? Or why would they be worried about the absence of governance as long as they secure immunity against being prosecuted for corruption? They would only appear to be speaking for the national interest if the executive poses any threat to their using their positions to amass wealth for themselves, children and unborn generations.

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Rather than accusing protesters of overheating the polity by their demands, it is the lawmakers and other government functionaries who are threats to national stability by afflicting the people with poor governance. Are the senators concerned with the polity being overheated when they have whimsically bungled the opportunity to support the call for restructuring in their phony review of the constitution?

In less than twenty-two months, the Buhari government would come to an end. But in this remaining period, it is either the president would return in good health to be able to effectively run his government or his deputy Yemi Osinbajo would remain Acting President. As long as Osinbajo is acting president while Buhari is still being expected to return, we must guard against the notion that he would be able to take some drastic decisions for effective governance. Osinbajo can only remain in a situation where he would be acting and watching over his shoulder in the consciousness of an ominous return of Buhari or being stalked by those who are fanatically loyal to the president. In this situation, not much good governance that would improve the lot of the citizens would take place.

Yet, the citizens must have good governance. They cannot afford to be dying due to the economic crisis sired by poor leadership while Buhari is cocooned in London. Thus, the option that is open for the citizens in this regard is that they must just get to a place where they must tell Buhari and his accomplices that they can no longer continue with their deception. This is what Charly Boy and his group are doing through their Our Mumu Don Do protests. They do not know when Buhari would return. Yes, Buhari transmitted a letter to Osinbajo before he travelled. Yes, Osinbajo is part of the Buhari presidency and he is to continue from wherever Buhari stopped. But the fact is that for Osinbajo to be fully effective he needs to be his own man.

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The argument as canvassed by the Senate and others that there is no vacuum in the presidency is another attempt to deceive the citizens. If there were no vacuum why has Osinbajo with full presidential powers not released the findings of his panel that probed the allegations of corruption against the suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ayo Oke? Why is he waiting for Buhari to return and decide on what to do with the matter despite the so-much avowed intolerance of financial misdeeds in this government?

If these protests had not broken out, the government and its officials would still be living under the illusion that Buhari remains popular and that even his corpse like that of Zimbawe’s forever President Robert Mugabe would easily defeat their opponents in the next elections. The government does not need to send the police to inflict violence on protesters. Rather, it is high time that Buhari and his camp of self-deluded believers in their popularity and indispensability to the wellbeing of the country realised that the citizens who have been afflicted by their presence in their lives want to get rid of them.

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