By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
President Muhammadu Buhari and Senate President Bukola Saraki are at loggerheads again, and Buhari apologists are erecting annoyingly false Manichean binaries between an “evil” National Assembly and a “benign” Aso Rock!
I’m going to be blunt: Both Aso Rock and the National Assembly are equally evil, corrupt, obtuse, and inept. Saraki is a cold, calculating, corrupt conman who destroys everything that comes in his way and Buhari is a self-centered, insensitive, naïve, and clueless man who has no business being president. The politics and choices of both men conspire to drag the nation to the pit.
Saraki’s astonishingly gargantuan corruption is matched by Buhari’s unparalleled profligacy. We have a supposedly “frugal” president whose first priority upon being sworn in as president was to build a multi-million naira vanity “helipad” for himself in his hometown, a president who spent millions of dollars to travel the world in his first year, and who has spent millions more on both secretive and public “medical vacations” while the people he is mandated to govern starve, die of easily treatable diseases, and writhe in pains. Now Aso Rock is scared to tell Nigerians exactly how much the president spent in his last "medical vacation" in London—itself an unprecedented international embarrassment.
The president’s handlers said it’s “insensitive” to ask to know how much of the public’s money was used to care for the president abroad. But what’s really insensitive is underfunding public hospitals that care for millions of poor people and spending millions of dollars to fly the president abroad for the best care—and emotionally blackmailing citizens into hypocritical silence. I know of no serious country in the world where that happens.
I agree that the National Assembly is useless, but so is Aso Rock. None is better than the other. It used to be said that Nigeria was on auto-pilot. Under Buhari, Saraki and Dogara, the triumvirate of double-dyed incompetence and corruption, Nigeria has nose-dived and come to a screeching halt.
Exactly two years ago today, I said here that Buhari’s election as president was the best birthday gift I had ever received in my over 4 decades on earth. I spoke too soon. In retrospect, it was the absolute worst birthday gift. We elected a president who repudiates his campaign promises with the glibness of an accomplished conman, a man who luxuriates in the perks and privileges of power without a bother for the welfare of the people who put him in power, a man who has no earthly clue how to govern, whose economic policies institutionalize reverse Robin Hoodism, that is, robbing the poor to enrich the rich, and so on.
Buhari’s ineptitude, double standard, mindless profligacy, and insensitivity to the poor actually feed and fortify Saraki’s corruption, pigheadedness, and intolerably brazen arrogance. So stop the false binaries already!
Zamfara Governor, Meningitis, and Conscientious Stupidity
People are understandably getting bent out of shape about Zamfara State Governor Abdul'aziz Yari’s cruelly insensitive claim that the meningitis devastating thousands of poor people in his state is “divine” wrath against them for their moral transgressions.
But the truth is I’m not the least bit surprised. In Nigeria, there is practically no distinction in the quality of mind between most people at the upper end of the social scale and people at the lower end of the social scale. They are equally sunk in crying ignorance, superstition, atavism, and irrationality, causing one British expat to characterize Nigeria as a perversely “classless” society.
Does anyone remember a Professor Chinedu Nebo, former VC of UNN, who, during a senate confirmation hearing in January 2013, said Nigeria’s perpetual power outages were caused by “witches and demons”? “If the President deploys me in the power sector, I believe that given my performance at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, where I drove out the witches and demons, God will also give me the power to drive out the demons in the power sector,” he said. And that’s a professor!
In November 2012, a minister of state for power by the name of Hajiya Zainab Kuchi told a South African delegation that “evil spirits” were responsible for Nigeria’s electricity problems. You can’t make this stuff up!
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” But I think it’s a little too gracious to attribute the backward, superstitious mindset of our leaders to mere “sincere ignorance” and “conscientious stupidity.” Why don’t they attribute their own sicknesses—and the sicknesses of their close family members—to divine retribution? Why do they go abroad to treat the littlest illnesses?
Buhari goes to London to treat his illnesses, including mere ear infections. His Chief of Staff recently went to London to treat “breathing problems,” and his medical bill was paid by the public treasury.
And while northern Nigerian Muslim masses were slaughtering rams and getting rapturous in prayers for Buhari’s recovery, the man was receiving modern, world-class treatment in London at the cost of millions of dollars from the public treasury. He didn’t attribute his sickness to divine affliction. In fact, when he returned home, he rhapsodized over the medical advances in UK hospitals, as if to mock everyday Nigerians who can’t afford the luxury to go to London to treat their illnesses.
In Nigeria, when the rich are sick, they seek the best medical treatment abroad while the poor at home pray for them to recover, but when the poor are sick, the rich tell them they are suffering divine punishment for their moral failings. But between the rich and the poor in Nigeria, who are more morally degenerate? Why are the poor the disproportionate target of “divine” wrath? Does God hate the poor for being poor? For that matter, what sins did children who died from meningitis commit?
Imagine for a moment that Governor Yari was governor of Lagos State when Ebola struck, and he sat back listlessly and said it was a divine affliction about which nothing could be done. Chew over that.