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Why Buhari Can’t and Won’t Solve the North’s Growing Security Crisis

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D. Twitter: @farooqkperogi The last few days have seen a hypocritical mass awakening to the dire existential...

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The last few days have seen a hypocritical mass awakening to the dire existential torments the people of Nigeria’s northwest face and a dramatic diminution of Buhari’s unearned goodwill in the region. People who had constructed Buhari as an unerring, irreproachable demigod who is worthy only of worship and unquestioned admiration have started to call him insensitive and clueless.

It took the unceasing escalation of kidnappings and the deepening and widening of the oceans of blood in the northwest for Buhari’s erstwhile unthinking worshipers to come to terms with what some of us have known and said since late 2015: that Buhari is an unfeeling wretch who is also irremediably incompetent.

For the first time since Buhari happened on the Nigerian political scene, Imams are now openly preaching against him. Northwestern Nigerian social media, which had functioned as the uncritical fortress for Buhari, is now suddenly viciously censorious of him. Even Daily Trust that plays the role of Buhari’s comforter and afflicter of critics of his ineptitude is allowing critical articles to be published about Buhari on its pages.

Public protesters against government, who are a rare species in the northwest, are sprouting and giving vent to muffled, reluctant, tentative but nonetheless significant anger against Buhari.
There suddenly seems to be an epiphany in the region that Buhari is an inept, uncaring fraud who scammed the people into attributing to him qualities he never possessed— and would never possess in a million lifetimes. Nevertheless, this epiphany is hypocritical and self-centered. Evidence of Buhari’s inattentiveness to and blithe unconcern with the suffering of everyday people has always been there, and some of us have called attention to it countless times.

For instance, amid the tear-jerking humanitarian disasters that the Boko Haram insurgency has inflicted on Nigeria’s northeast, Buhari never commiserated with, let alone visited, the area until he was practically blackmailed into doing so in late 2017. Even so, he only visited soldiers stationed in Maiduguri. When the Nigerian air force bombed scores of internally displaced Boko Haram victims in the northeast in error, Buhari didn’t issue a statement to condole with the people. Nor did he visit them.

In the aftermath of unprecedented bloodletting in Taraba, Benue and other parts of central Nigeria, Buhari was insouciant. It took massive media and social media pressures to get him to visit these states. And when he did visit the places, he exacerbated rather than lessened the crises there by his incendiary, unpresidential utterances. He even chafed at being expected to condole with victims of episodic communal deaths, and used the opportunity of these visits to tout his “achievements in security.” I once called that an example of presidential dissociation from reality.

As recently as during the last presidential campaigns, when Buhari visited Zamfara, he didn’t say a word about the intensification of death and violence in the state. Instead, he incited the people to more violence. “Let us pray for rainfall so can we grow food, eat, and then cause trouble,” he told the people of Zamfara in Hausa in February 2019. None of the newfound critics of Buhari’s callousness saw anything wrong in that at the time.

It took the concatenation of widespread kidnapping in all parts of the northwest and the unremitting intensification of bloodletting in Zamfara for erstwhile worshipers of Buhari to admit that he is a crass, cold, heartless prig. This hypocritical moral imagination is similar to the selective outrage some people in Kano expressed when Abdullahi Ganduje rigged himself back to power while being quiet about, even complicit in, Buhari’s own daylight electoral robbery in the same Kano.

To express outrage only when we are personally affected by injustice bespeaks a defective moral conscience. When other parts of the nation were drowning in rivers of blood and Buhari, as is his wont, turned the other way, many of the people who are excoriating him for his cold detachment from the insecurity in the northwest were his fiercest defenders against critics.

That is why some people can’t help but exult in perverse satisfaction that the enablers and defenders of Buhari’s incompetence and heartlessness are today the victims of the presidential vices they defended, excused, and justified. But to gloat over the misfortunes of the people who defended Buhari when he ignored other parts of the country when they writhed in bloodstained agony is to be indistinguishable from and morally equivalent to them.

For one, there are victims of the bloodbath in Zamfara and other parts of the northwest who detest and didn’t vote for Buhari.  Even those who voted for him don’t deserve the unspeakable cruelty that is their lot today. I admit, though, that it’s hard not to see karmic comeuppance in the kidnap of a prominent fanatical Islamic “prayer warrior” of Buhari’s second term by the name of Ahmad Sulaiman who secured his freedom after nearly two weeks of captivity and hundreds of millions of naira in ransom payment.

Nevertheless, in spite of the heightened, unexampled outrage in Buhari’s natal region over his trademark insensitivity to the total collapse of security there, he won’t do anything substantive to attenuate the horrors that threaten the very life of the people there. There are at least two reasons for this.

One, Buhari is an inherently solipsistic narcissist. In other words, he is fundamentally and unalterably self-centered. The only person Buhari cares about is Buhari. That is why he spends billions of naira of the nation’s resources to treat even his littlest ailments in London while hospitals are denuded of basic medicines and ordinary people die of easily treatable illnesses. It is the same solipsistic narcissism that explains why he has not built a single hospital even in Abuja in the last four years he has been president.

When his son had an accident with a multimillionaire-naira motorbike, he flew him to Germany. Yet, although neither he nor his family members use the clinic at the Presidential Villa, he recently said that henceforth no one outside the immediate families of the president and the vice president should use the clinic. It speaks to the depth of his egocentricity and perverse self-love that he would deny workers of the presidential villa use of a clinic that neither he nor his family members use.

The second reason Buhari won’t do anything about the growing insecurity in the northwest is that the perpetrators of the crimes that have held the region hostage have been identified as Fulani. Buhari, as I have pointed out in several previous columns, is a knee-jerk ethnic jingoist. He has a twisted idea of ethnic solidarity that embarrasses even many educated Fulani people.

For instance, the only time he ever visited Zamfara to intervene in the security situation there was to protect what he perceives to be the interests of Fulani herders whose cattle were reportedly being stolen by bandits. He even donned military fatigues for this expedition. Now, he really doesn’t care because the victims aren’t people he self-identifies with.

The president’s puppeteers have caused him to express faux, impotent outrage to mollify the people of the northwest, but the truth is that he doesn’t care. That’s why his administration’s response has been discordant at best. It said the killings in Zamfara are caused by illegal gold miners in the same breath it said they’re caused by traditional rulers.  The absurdity of these claims are the biggest proof that the government Buhari leads can’t and doesn’t want to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the northwest—or anywhere else in Nigeria.

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  1. Of course I don't laugh or know how to laugh at people's misery or misfortune but, at the same time, I won't blame those gloating over the plight of these Zamfarans. One of the most stupid things to believe is that attaining or retaining "power" solves all problems. An average northerner(especially the ones from northwest and the muslim part of northeast) is ever boastful of power he/she may not be gaining from. The "north" is still in a deep slumber!

  2. Thank you, prof. for your everyday concerns on the betterment of this Nation.
    Hmmm,Only a few knows that this so call our great Nation has been decayed beyond it physical portrait.
    Nigeria only had one problem, which is 'life'.
    Any Nation that pays little or no attention to the life of it people(citizen) can never and never succeed. If compared to other Nations in term of this Nigeria is ranked No.1.
    Any Nation that cherished life as automatically cherished; political, Economical and social well-being of it people.
    Many life are still on the track my blood still going to be shed.
    Sir, Nigeria is millions-time away from be a successful Nation.
    Soon or later we will deliver ourselves. Even a well structured Nation needs revolution much less the anarchy ones.

  3. The killings in zamfara are a punishment from god. Did you know that fourty or so qurans were found in the toilet? The people that kidnapped the preacher fought themselves and vowed to quit the northwest Your only business with almajiri is if you have leftovers or need some child labour. Buhari ever utter almajiri even though it is a foundational problem?

  4. You write with such gusto, that I shudder what will the literary space be like, when you earlier announced you were not going to engage again on Nigeria bad governance issues again.
    Thank goodness, you rescinded that earlier stance.
    Thank you for constantly bringing the issues to the fore.

    1. I only said I'd scale back my social media engagements; I didn't say I'd stop my column

  5. The situation is pathetic. Initially I said I won't pity the victims because they had an opportunity to help themselves but rejected it and chose to support a President who lacks the wherewithal to give orders to his unperforming service chiefs. He can't sack them either. To make matters worse, they are the ones dictating things to him.
    But, I changed my mind after I saw a video of a cleric talking on Zamfara killings. He made several illogical attempts to exonerate the President. It was full of lies. There were no facts, no evidence absolutely nothing to justify his assertions. All the people could do was chorus "Allahu Akbar". Nobody asked any question. Nobody even doubted what he was saying. That was when I understood the mystery behind Buhari's unquestionable support in the north. Someone who use to teach the people about Allah will just say all manner of things to make people support Buhari. He will not use any evidence nor quote any authority, and the people will just accept it the way they accepted religious teaching without questioning anything because it is from Allah . In summary, the people are actually victims of a religious class. Believe me, very soon, the clerics will rationalize the killings as test from Allah. The people will be taught to accept the killings, die in silence and pray. They will be condition to believe that blaming the President or calling on him to act is a sin.

  6. Happily for those of us who ARE in Nigeria, some of your "facts" are very inaccurate. (1) Buhari is not as insensitive to the communal crises in Nigeria as you'd like the world to believe. By your own admission, he had visited some crisis areas and has done as much as he could to support the security agencies to fight crime in the country, including the insurgency in the NE and banditry in the NW. He need not go to every troubled spot in the country. (2) Buhari is not selfish. He has concern for every Nigerian. Vice President Osinbajo has even said Buhari is poorer today than when he first became President. Buhari has pumped huge sums of money to all levels of government for the payment of salaries and pensions left behind by the previous PDP government, despite leaner resources. He's a caring president. (3) The specific problem of Zamfara, like the other crises in the country, predates the Buhari administration. He inherited it. It's absurd to claim, as you did, that he is unconcerned about the crisis there because it's being perpetrated by his Fulani kinsmen. There's no evidence of this. Whether in Plateau, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Zamfara or other states, he's openly condemned the farmer-herder clashes as acts of criminality which must be treated as such.

    I think most right-thinking Nigerians know the real facts about their country more than you do. You may have other grounds to hate Buhari, but not the flimsy ones you present above.

  7. According to 'Dr Sulaiman Shuaibu Shinkafi, an academician and Safkin Shanun Shinkafi’s vituperation. As far as Shinkafi is concerned, Governor Abdul Aziz Yari is “the most useless governor in the world – not even in Nigeria, because he cares nothing about his people’s security, wouldn’t offer the victims of the bandits food nor tell them sorry.”' (The Nation newspaper online, 14 April 2019)

    So, while some blame Buhari for the mayhem in Zamfara State, the people of that state lay most of blame squarely at the foot of the inept governor Yari. Zamfara was the first to declare full Sharia in 1999, followed by 11 other northern states, with the expectation that Sharia would usher in the era of peace, prosperity, justice and development. Twenty years on, the state remains one of the poorest in the country, racked by mostly Muslim-Muslim slaughter, despite huge resources given to the state.

    Gilbert Alabi Diche

  8. I don't, as a matter of principle, gloat over people's suffering but I'm definitely angry with the voters of Zamfara state and it is affecting my attitude towards what is happening there. I find is very hard to believe that with all that was said about Gov Yari in the past four years, the people there still voted for him to go to the senate. And they still voted for APC in the governorship and presidential election. If the people there cannot seize the one single opportunity they got to snub Yari, I don't find it worthwhile wasting my time on their issues and sufferings. The northern masses are doomed because they enable bad leadership all by themselves. Kidnapping is now a scourge of the whole north not just the northwest and rural people are even the worst victims. There is a state of siege at the moment throughout the north. After the next four years, even Buhari's most passionate supporters will realise what a scammer he is.

  9. Prof, you write amazingly. Your writing has great qualities.

    The article is as objective as it can possibly be, given the shape of events.

  10. Well said prof, my uncle had told me about buhari's regime after the 84 coup,how IBB said buhari felt he was the smartest of all,I also know about buhari's days has PTF chairman. Nigeria must suffer for the ill treatment given to Jonathan, the north must also suffer for (power must return to the north), to think of it others are thinking about detaining power in the north come 2023,
    When the stolen mandate of atiku is going the way of abiola.
    Lack of knowledge of our tribal,national history is missing (how do people living on the geographical location called Niger-area) find a way froward.
    Sir I would love to hear your take on restructuring and the 2014 confab.
    Stay blessed and continue to spread truth.

  11. 3 years after, you unlock the comments section?


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