By Bola Bolawole
firstname.lastname@example.org 552 5533
“After the uprising against Fulani herdsmen all over the land/Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, issued a statement from the Presidential Villa/Stating that the Nigerian elites had forfeited the confidence of the Buhari government/And could win it back only by forfeiting their fundamental human rights/Would it not be easier in that case/For the Buhari government to dissolve the Nigerian elites /And fill their place with Fulani herders?” – adapted from Bertolt Brecht.
We must not be ignorant of the deeper meanings and significant underpinnings of Femi Adesina’s sound bites of last week against Nigeria elites whom he accused of working to undermine the Buhari government. We witnessed that sort of dangerous profiling during the Abacha regime when innocent Nigerians (doctors, lawyers, journalists, students, Labour leaders, military men, etc) were accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Were it true and were the people so criminally framed in a position to overthrow Abacha and they did, that, in itself would have been a patriotic act! But it was a lie from the pit of hell, meant to purge the military and the civil society of real as well as perceived Abacha opponents. Adesina’s statement falls within that genre.
It prepares the ground for an imminent clampdown or crackdown on critics of Buhari’s wobbling and fumbling administration. Adesina is one of many presidential spin doctors that have tried with varying degrees of success to pull the wool over our eyes concerning the glaring failures of the Buhari/APC government, especially in the area of security. As is characteristic of dictators, the elites (especially the media and intelligentsia) are mortal foes usually on the first line of fire – and who must be crushed by all means fair and foul. Dictators seldom can stand the argument; they hate debates and usually buckle when the searchlight is turned on them. Being propagandists, they flee before facts and figures, turn truth on its head, and cannot stand their feet being held to the fire. Increasingly, however, Nigerians are asking critical questions and are insisting on having sensible answers – not the gibberish that presidential aides and party faithful are adept at. For Buhari and his co-travellers, the chickens are coming home to roost.
Adesina’s statement cried wolf where there was none. Nigerian elites are merely expressing their frustration and disappointment with Buhari. In 2015, the same elite showed the exit door to PDP/Goodluck Jonathan and ushered a gleeful – and grateful – APC/Buhari into the presidential seat. The elites were no traitors then! In four years, however, it became glaring to all that APC/Buhari had failed. Still, in the spirit of not rocking the boat, they were allowed another four years, the belief being that second term would not be as bad as the first – but how mistaken! Nigerians have now seen that he that is down – which that nursery rhyme says “fears no fall” – can actually fall further than the ground! This is why cries for the dissolution of the country, which have reached a crescendo, get louder still by the day. If this is what Adesina is referring to, then, blame yourself and mend your ways! No elite is framing up Buhari; rather, every step, action, and body language of Buhari gives him up as a crude and unrepentant ethnic jingoist. His appointments alone are enough to nail him!
Adesina’s statement is an attempt to give a dog a bad name to hang it. But the evidence is everywhere present – and glaring – that the people, and not the government, are the victims of the cluelessness, incompetence, nepotism, and stinking corruption of the Buhari administration. This government peddles brazen lies and wallows in grievous double standards. What it has not done, it claims to have achieved – and even more! But when you say there is no hunger in the land, the person who is hungry knows that he is hungry! Could it be that Adesina is not aware that, more than any of their other failings, the Buhari government has come to this sorry pass as a result of its kid-glove treatment, even criminal complicity, mind-rending duplicity, and hand-in-gloves posturing over the horrendous and bestial criminality of the Fulani herdsmen?
Adesina’s statement flies a kite and tests the waters to see how well their next moves might possibly go with the public. The feedback they get will tell them if the time is right for them to strike. Otherwise, they may return to the drawing board to re-strategize and bide their time for a more auspicious moment. Truth be told, Buhari is being flayed all over the place, even in places where such was sacrilegious a few months ago. Only a few once-upon-a-time die-hard supporters are still available to carry Buhari’s can for him. Those who cannot speak out openly against the president are keeping sealed lips. It is the silence of the graveyard. And it is ominous. It is silence that speaks louder than actual speaking. Tell Jimmy Cliff, some silence speaks louder than action or words!
Adesina’s statement is panicky, just like Jonathan’s months before his expiration in 2015! When they start threatening people; when they insult everyone in sight; when they initiate clampdowns, know that they have lost control. Remember when Ibrahim Babangida blurted that he was still in office and in power? Governments flex muscles when they have lost relevance – they recourse to brute force when they have lost the confidence and loyalty of the people.
Adesina’s statement signals that knee-jerk reactions to issues that demand sober reflection are coming – or, better still, will now become more commonplace. Expect this administration to take precipitous actions that will sink it deeper in a horrible pit and miry clay. Frustrated leaders are dangerous – very dangerous – like a rampaging bull in a china shop. Leaders who no longer care what the people think, feel or say about them; who have resolved to force themselves on the people willy-nilly rather than engage them in robust discussion and dialogue – such leaders become a critical part of the problem.
Adesina’s statement warns us to get ready for a clampdown on our fundamental human rights – freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of movement – even freedom to life. But we have seen all of that before! During his tenure as military dictator, Buhari violated Nigerians’ fundamental human rights. He clipped the wings of liberty and freedom. He criminalized speaking and writing the truth and sent two journalists to prison for doing so. He made retroactive laws that got three Nigerian youths executed. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti also tasted of the bile served by Buhari’s military junta.
Interestingly, Adesina’s statement did not say anything new. The “sins” he accused the elites of committing have also been committed by all and sundry; with foreign dignitaries and international organisations not spared. On corruption, a former British PM called Buhari’s Nigeria “fantastically corrupt” and Buhari did not offer as much as a whimper. Trump called Nigeria a shithole and used unflattering language to describe Buhari himself. Buhari did not stir. Since the coming of Buhari, trumpeted as “Mr. Clean”, Nigeria has fallen deeper into the cesspit of corruption, according to the Transparency International’s global corruption index. Yet, “War against corruption” is topmost on APC/Buhari’s agenda.
Buhari pledged to promptly end insecurity but six years down the road, the Boko Haram monster has not been tamed. When Buhari apologists say Nigeria is safer today than it was in 2015, reasonable Nigerians laugh them to scorn. The evidence that nails their lies is there for all to see! In 2015 there was only Boko Haram; since Buhari’s coming, Fulani herdsmen have been added to the plate; not to talk of the bandits. In 2015, the South-west was safe; today, the same South-west has become the theatre of insecurity threatening the very fabric of the polity. Yet, security was, perhaps, the number one reason Nigerians felt Buhari would make a better commander-in-chief than Jonathan.
In the area of the economy, just consider the galloping foodstuff prices and transportation costs; the skyrocketing cost of living; the prices of items that have hit the roof since 2015, such as cement, rice, petrol; the various high tariffs (such as electricity) without commensurate improvement in services; and the worsening exchange rate of the Naira, to mention but a few. Massive unemployment leads to an alarming spiralling of crime rates and the fleeing abroad of Nigerians, young and old. What, then, is the sin of the elite that Buhari would have them hang out to dry?
Finally, Adesina’s statement – or the fact he was the one the Presidency assigned the distinguished honour (!) of rolling it out – may mean he has now come to the end of his tethers in his presumed standing in the gap for his professional colleagues and staying the hands of the hawks in government all this while. For whatever this is worth, thank you, Femi! Nevertheless, everyone can guess your candid advice to your professional colleagues in these dire times! And to your Yoruba people who have their back to the wall, buffeted on all fronts by Fulani herdsmen! You were once reported as advising the Middle Belt to forfeit their land for their life! Not ready to do either is the real “sin” of the Nigerian elite against which this government is “raking”, as they say!