Buhari’s toothache and a nation in its agony

General Muhammadu Buhari (Retd) will resign from office on May 29 after eight quiet years. We hope this is the last we hear of a man who came to power eight years ago promising to end insecurity, strengthen the economy and fight corruption, none of which he has achieved. Fortunately, he has vowed not to interfere in our national life and expressed his willingness to disappear to Niger Republic when we demand accountability after nearly a decade of disastrous leadership.

It is a fitting testament to the leadership disaster of the past eight years that General Buhari lay in a London hospital two weeks before the end of his eight-year tenure, this time treating a toothache. He ends his misrule in much the same way he started it. While General Buhari (retd.) has been taking care of himself and his health for the past eight years, he has left the country dejected; more corrupt, more insecure and more divided than eight years ago. The only thing that seems to have improved since he became president on May 29, 2015 is his health and his family fortune.

Thanks to Dataphyte, a media research and data analytics organization, we know that General Buhari (retd.) has budgeted a total of N7.7 billion (approximately $16.7 million) since 2016, at the official conversion of N461 to a dollar, for the presidential clinic. A breakdown of this figure shows that N2.027 billion ($4.3 million) was for recurring spending, while N5.6 billion ($12.3 million) was for capital spending. In 2021, General Buhari (retd.) approved the construction and equipment of a 14-bed presidential clinic at a cost of N21 billion ($45.5 million).

Last November General Buhari (retd.) was in London for a “routine medical check-up”. Nigerians have lost count of how many days Buhari has spent on medical tourism since taking office in London. According to Prof. Farooq A. Kperogi, in a November 2022 essay titled “Buhari Misunderstood King Charles – and Burns Nigeria on His Way Out”, Buhari’s frequent trips to London “while pretending to be President of Nigeria” may have been the prompted a question. of the English King Charles III if Buhari had a house in London.

It is almost 40 years since General Buhari (ret.) overthrew the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari and defeated Nigeria’s Second Republic. One of the reasons Buhari and his coterie gave for their treacherous act was to “address the great economic predicament and uncertainty that an inept and corrupt leadership has imposed on our beloved nation for the past four years.”

Brigadier General Sani Abacha (later, military dictator from 1993-1998), read the speech on the coup – supposedly on behalf of the Nigerian armed forces – that formally ended the government of President Shehu Shagari (1979-1983). Abacha spoke of “the harsh, unbearable conditions we now live in”.

“Our economy is hopelessly mismanaged; we have become a debtor and beggar nation [sound familiar?]. There is a shortage of food at reasonable prices for our people who are now fed up with endless food import announcements; health services are a mess because our hospitals have been reduced to mere consulting clinics without medicines, water and equipment,” he told a beleaguered nation.

Less than two years later, another general, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, would give the same reasons for overthrowing General Buhari’s regime.

“There have been no significant changes in the national economy in the last 20 months. Contrary to expectations, we have so far been subject to a steady deterioration in general living standards; and the unbearable suffering of ordinary Nigerians has increased, the scarcity of raw materials has increased, hospitals are still mere consultation clinics, while educational institutions are on the verge of disrepair. Unemployment has reached critical levels,” Babangida said in his August 27, 1985 coup speech.

Babangida reigned for eight years. In 2009, 16 years after ‘stepping aside’, he lost his wife, the ravishing first lady, Maryam Babangida, at City Hope Hospital, California, USA, after years of battling ovarian cancer. Babangida would have been by her side when she died. As military president, Babangida spent time in France for surgery — one of several subsequent overseas surgeries — to treat radiculopathy (pinched nerve), a medical condition in which “one or more nerves are compromised and don’t work properly.”

When you hear or read the reasons these soldiers of fortune gave for overthrowing the constitution and how they ended up violating our fundamental freedoms and devastating the country, you want to cry for Nigeria.

Eight years ago, some Nigerians took a chance on General Buhari (retd.). They were willing to replace a weak and rudderless president with someone who swore he was a born-again Democrat, a man of integrity. He would end up dividing us into a country of 97 and 5%. It is trite to say that Nigerians are terribly disappointed; it is a major understatement to say that the check of tackling corruption and insecurity and building wealth promised eight years ago has been nothing but a dud.

Today, the country is broken almost beyond repair. Corruption is rampant. We are a debt-indebted nation, a deeply broken nation besides. The country is more divided today than ever before, and I am not talking about political division. Since the Civil War, we have not witnessed the degree of division, fear, and disgust that we experience today. We are indeed facing an existential crisis.

Make no mistake, Nigeria’s troubles didn’t start with General Buhari (retd.). The problems have been there from the start.

Part of the solution to Nigeria’s problems is effective and selfless leadership. Unfortunately, the recruitment process for leaders in Nigeria is as polluted as the gutters of the country’s main streets. Professor Chinua Achebe commented in his 1983 book ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’: “I know enough history to realize that civilization does not appear out of thin air; it has always been the result of men’s toil and sweat, the fruit of their long quest for order and justice among brave and enlightened leaders.”

Of course Nigeria can redeem itself. But a nation can only have so many chances to redeem itself. Nigeria certainly has no more opportunities. Time is running out for what some people like to call the Nigerian project. Everywhere you turn you are confronted with poverty, decay, corruption, injustice, lawlessness, impunity, nepotism and insecurity, caused by a bankrupt elite – certified villains in every sense of the word – for whom enlightened self-interest means nothing at all. , who have taken up the political space and are holding the country by the throat. The education system has all but collapsed; health services are in ruins. If our hospitals were “consultation clinics” four decades ago, when the current monstrosity cut short the Second Republic, today they are death chambers.

Unfortunately, there is no stopping in this quest for redemption. The challenge today, of course, is how to take the country off the brink, save its beleaguered citizens, and restore the dignity of Africa and the black race.

We must do it, by any means necessary!

This essay is excerpted from the introduction to a forthcoming book, By Any Means Necessary: ​​Rogue Elte, State Capture, and the Transformation of Nigeria.

Contributor opinions are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

Buhari’s toothache and a nation in its agony

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