PERSPECTIVE – Buhari’s legacy of morally decadent politics in Nigeria

PERSPECTIVE – Buhari’s legacy of morally decadent politics in Nigeria


By Olu Fasan

No politician ever became Nigeria’s president on pure deception except Muhammadu Buhari. Everything Buhari claimed to represent—and was perceived to represent—before 2015 has turned out to be a sham.

“Sai Baba”, that saintly and incorruptible Buhari, the one who, as military ruler, jailed politicians for hundreds of years for corrupt practices, now fraternises with corrupt politicians.

The Buhari who so hated drug trafficking that he executed eight young Nigerians in the early 1980s now wants someone with a record of drug-related criminal forfeiture to be Nigeria’s next president. Politics in Nigeria was not as morally corrupt and decadent, as it is now, until Buhari created the climate for it.

Yet, Buhari is intrinsically a man with high moral values. But when those values collide with desperation for power, they collapse, as they did when he wanted desperately to become president. Three times, Buhari ran for president on the basis of strong values; twice (in 2003 and 2007) under the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, and once (2011) under the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. These were purist parties that put moral principles on a pedestal.

However, after failing to gain power in three attempts, Buhari abandoned values and principles and adopted a malleable “if you can’t beat them, join them” stance. So, he entered a marriage of convenience with strange political bedfellows, most of whom, as a military dictator, he would have given long prison sentences for grand corruption, and the large-scale transfer of public resources for private interest.

Well, this time, personal ambitions trumped moral principles. But the genie was out of the bottle. The political alchemy that produced the All Progressives Congress, APC, changed Buhari’s attitude to moral issues, totally eroded morality and ethical standards in Nigerian politics, and now puts Nigeria in very great danger if Bola Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, whom Buhari is campaigning for, becomes the next president.

When the history of politics and party formation in Nigeria is told, the selfish interests that conceived, incubated, and birthed the APC will be a defining narrative writ large. Rarely, anywhere, has a political party been formed purposefully and singularly to actualise the personal ambitions of certain individuals. But APC was established purposefully and solely to actualise the presidential ambitions of Buhari and Tinubu.

Both made a shady deal to pass Nigeria’s presidency around like a parcel. Under the pact, Tinubu would help Buhari become president by mobilising the South-West’s votes for him. In return, after eight years in power, Buhari would help Tinubu become president by “lending” him his “12 million bloc votes” in the North. Tinubu claims he delivered his side of the deal: “I made Buhari president.” Now, he and some APC politicians in the North are saying it’s payback time; Buhari should help Tinubu win next month’s presidential poll.

But, as I said, the pact between Buhari and Tinubu was a mucky deal that put personal interests above the national interest. Both knew neither was fit to be president. Tinubu knew Buhari was utterly inept politically, economically, and temperamentally to run Nigeria. Buhari knew and still knows that Tinubu is too morally challenged, with acute character and integrity deficits, to become Nigeria’s president. Yet, both were prepared (Buhari is still prepared by supporting Tinubu) to mortgage Nigeria’s future for personal interests.

Nearly eight years on, with just four months left in office, Buhari is a monumental failure on virtually all fronts—the economy, national security, anti-corruption, poverty reduction, etc. Yet, Tinubu lacks the decency to apologise to Nigerians for foisting Buhari on Nigeria. Instead, he says it’s his turn to become president. On his part, Buhari says he wants Tinubu to succeed him because he “will continue my legacy”.

Of course, if Tinubu became president, he would continue Buhari’s legacy—a legacy of economic failure, of insecurity, of mismanaging Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversities, of paying lip service to fighting corruption, of fostering morally bankrupt politics—name it!—and a Tinubu presidency would, indeed, be a Buhari third term!

Take the economy. Anyone who has read Tinubu’s manifesto pledge to “break the explicit link between naira expenditure and dollar inflows” and to “legislatively suspend the limits on government spending” knows that a Tinubu presidency would, like Buhari’s, decimate Nigeria’s economy.

That pledge means perpetual budget deficits, funded by continually printing money, which would cause hyperinflation, destroy the naira’s value, and trigger capital flight. Just as Buhari did in 2015, Tinubu also promised to ensure dollar-naira parity, making one dollar equal to one naira, if he became president.

Of course, like Buhari, Tinubu is not relying on his outlandish manifesto promises to become president. Rather, he’s expecting APC, the first-ever special purpose vehicle, SPV, in Nigerian politics, created to actualise his and Buhari’s self-interested ambitions, to secure victory for him.

Given that the SPV, nay, APC, twice elected Buhari as President, surely Tinubu should be elected as well, despite the payback time and Emi Lokan arguments. Hence, Tinubu’s loyalists, including his “Jagaban Army”, want Buhari to campaign actively and mobilise his “12 million bloc votes” for him. Well, Buhari is doing that, telling his base to vote for Tinubu.

But where is Buhari’s moral compass, Where are his values? Indeed, where is his patriotism, his love for Nigeria? Does he think someone who forfeited $460,000 to US authorities in a drug-related property forfeiture should be Nigeria’s president? Is he convinced that someone who had bullion vans in his house on election day, and whose response was “if I spend money in my premises, what’s your headache?” should be president?

Buhari says no one can accuse him of “illicit enrichment and inexplicable wealth”, but does he think someone with unexplained and inexplicable wealth should be president? Why did Buhari reject a Muslim-Muslim ticket when he ran for president in 2015, but now support Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket? The questions go on!

Buhari carries a moral burden in next month’s presidential poll. A Tinubu presidency would be his worst legacy—a legacy of the morally bankrupt politics he helped create and foster in Nigeria.

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