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Monday, 22 May 2017

Tale of a Sick President Governing a Sick Country

MYNATION NEWS correspondent, Osayimwen Osahon George attempts an analysis of the current political climate in Nigeria as President Buhari's ill-health stirs up the still waters.


 
Cartoon depicting President Muhammadu Buhari's ill health
President Muhammadu Buhari's popularity in the heated 2015 presidential election that ousted an incumbent leader, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was hinged on his capability to 'heal' the most populous nation in Africa - Nigeria of an avalanche of infirmities. 
 The country like an AIDs patient was suffering acutely from a string of political ailments ranging from poor leadership, chronic corruption, youth unemployment, inadequate security, menace of Boko Haram terror, inadequate infrastructural facilities, and
doomed economy amongst other national issues.
The victorious emergence of Buhari in the presidential race was seen as coming of the Biblical messiah of the world, Jesus Christ of Nazareth as many believed the seeming saint and Born Again democrat had a secret magic wand that could restructure and redirect Nigeria as soon as the object is wielded like it was painted in the American Television series - Merlin. As the All Progressives Congress ruling party heralded Buhari around town with his image garnished with a degree of falsehood associated with politics, some members of the main opposition party in Nigeria - People's Democratic Party felt Buhari himself needed 'healing'.
The 74-year old appeared as ailing as Nigeria as a whole and logically, such a lanky man ostensibly bereft of strength to withstand the rigours of leadership at such a height wouldn't have been able to sail the ship of a country of 180 million people.
Buhari's faltering health
A perceived candid leader like Buhari who is seen as the faithful custodian of the Nigerian commonwealth alongside his pastor deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has purposely failed in declaring his true state of health and possibly resigning out of patriotism and love for the millions of Nigerians who voted him into power to actualize his seeming herculean vision of 'change' his party promised in 2015.
Buhari has left the masses, opposition elements and other investigative journalists guessing about his health challenges. Notorious online newspaper - SaharaReporters claims the President is battling with Crohn’s disease, prostate cancer, toll of old age and other militating health issues that will warrant his immediate substitution from the ongoing political match to avoid a total system collapse.
Buhari returned to Nigeria this year like he never did after he spent 49 days in London for what some refer to as a ‘medical exile’. His public appearance was scarce ever since due to the alleged persistence of the undisclosed health challenge forcing him to miss the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting three consecutive times. As announced by Buhari on his return, he is back in the United Kingdom to stay indefinitely for a follow-up treatment and no word has been heard from him.
To worsen the already dry political movie, an ex-British Parliamentarian, Eric Joyce claimed Buhari is dead on Friday, the 19th of May, 2017 via his Twitter account.
"Very sad to learn hear of the death of President Buhari, who I campaigned for. Thoughts with his wife @aishabuhari and family. #Buhari"

"The president of one of the world's largets and most sensitive countries died in London today. In our main new bulletins, not a word. #Buhari" he tweeted to aggravate the tension in the polity as hawks are vigilant.
The ailing status of Nigeria as a country
Buhari is certainly not alone in his battle against his ill-health, Nigeria as a country appears to be structurally unwell too. In this 21st century, Nigeria is still wallowing in scathing power problems while the electricity companies continue to advocate for a further increment in power tariffs after the spurious 45% hike the face of poverty, unemployment and a recessed economy.
The road networks still pose as a challenge to productive human and economic activities. For example, the government appears to be taking eternity to rehabilitate the economically-strategic Lagos-Ibadan expressway including other roads in the six geopolitical zones that make up the country. The water project appears dead and gone,  most government hospitals can only treat headache, malaria, typhoid and other minor ailments due to lack of trained and well-motivated personnel and medical facilities. This accounts for Buhari's frequent embarrassing medical trips to the United Kingdom after making bombastic statements about banning medical tourism and allocating over N3.8 billion to the State House clinic, Abuja as provided by the 2016 national budget. 
Quality education which is regarded as the greatest legacy you can give to a child has become a conduit pipe through which successive administrations at various levels of government siphon public funds. Who would have thought that Lagos State which is the economic capital of Nigeria and the entertainment hub of the country like New York, U.S will have a secondary school like Eric Moore Junior High School in Surulere where students lack chairs, desks and standard classrooms to receive teachings? I used to think such cases were peculiar to the northern part of Nigeria alone but I was wrong.
Every other sector in Nigeria is battling with its own unique hassles while others have been condemned to death by poor management, gross incompetence, negligence and organized fraud by self-seeking government officials.
Loss of faith in government
The level of pessimism and cynicism in Nigeria is not only unprecedentedly high but it's also alarming. An average Nigerian who is disconnected from the power bloc has lost faith in government. Leaders are seen as liars and first class criminals living large off the agony of the marginalized people. I am sure it was on this note that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) during a public protest in 2016 against the hike in the prices of petrol tagged the ruling party – APC; "All Promises Cancelled". 
Press statements from the government are regularly welcomed with bitter protestations on social media. Several Nigerians make jokes out of the government's technical defeat of the Boko Haram sect and the incessant death news of the group's popular, dreaded and elusive leader, Abubakar Shekau.
The celebrated release of the 82 Chibok girls abducted by the Boko Haram sect in Borno State in the year 2014 has attracted sponsored conspiracy theories from the same set of people who keep reminding Buhari of his May 29, 2015 inauguration speech which emphatically stated that Boko Haram isn't defeated if the abducted Chibok school girls are not reunited with their family members. Some Nigerians are also of the view that the about N5 trillion loot recovered from corrupt public officials is a farce as well as a grand plot by the Buhari administration to hoodwink the people.
Others who have cut the anti-graft war led by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission some slack believe the recovered funds could have been ‘re-looted’ by the current administration since the impact of the recovery isn't felt by people economically. The cases of distrust detrimentally goes on and on till it envelopes the entire political system.
Corruption fighting corruption
Many political pundits are of the belief that the current anti-graft war is a mere charade, ruse and a disguised plan to muzzle dissenting voices.
The exercise visibly appears partisan as opposition party members on trial get pardoned the moment they are immunized by their membership of the APC. 
Some of Buhari's men namely the Minister of Transport, Rotimi Chubuike Amaechi, Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Minister of Steel and Mineral resources, Kayode Fayemi, Chief of Staff Abba Kyari and others have been linked cases of financial improprieties but they appear immune from investigations and trials due to the presidential anointing covering them. Even the head of the leading anti-graft body, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission - Ibrahim Magi has been indicted by the Department of State Security in two scathing letters written to the National Assembly and the Presidency to hamper his traditional confirmation by the Nigerian Senate. 
Embattled Secretary to Government of the Federation, David Babachir Lawal who admitted to being a member of the ruling cabal has been enmeshed in the cauldron of a 'grass-cutting scandal' involving over N250 million. Buhari's DG of the National Intelligence Agency dragged the covert intelligence establishment into unprecedented limelight by concealing a colossal sum of $13 billion in a private luxury facility - Osborne Towers in Ikoyi, Lagos.
In a rough estimate of the corruption level in Nigeria, one might be forced to conclude that every government ministry, department and agency is battling with different levels of graft. If this is true, the sanitization war by Buhari might be equated with using a robber to prosecute an armed robber just like a case of jungle justice organized by bitter and rugged people.
Comical leadership and clownish followership trend
Nobody appears to be taking his mental health serious in Nigeria. Therapists, psychologists and guidance and counseling as trades don't sell in Nigeria due to stark ignorance. There is a belief that only the person stripping himself in the public needs help but they have forgotten that 'many are mad but just a few are roaming'.
The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC should recommend a psychiatric test for individuals vying for public offices as well as the electorate always swayed and caught on the wrong side during elections. There are indications of acute and rampant mental illnesses in our polity. These are evident in contentious political decisions reached in high and low places in Nigeria. 
How will a Fulani pastoralist leave the northern part of Nigeria for the south armed with an AK47 assault rifle instead of long sticks to direct cattle? Why will such an unwarranted visitor attempt to hijack the farmland of another by killing or maiming the owner? Why will a governor celebrate the commission of an ultra modern medical facility, boast about it, use it to market his name and head abroad for the treatment of common body pains? 
Why will the Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdul'aziz Abubakar Yari who commissioned some mosques of late as 'capital projects' boldly claim the current strain of Meningitis epidemic in Nigeria which has massively hit his state is a consequence of the sins of the people? Who are more sinful between the Nigerian leaders and their followers? Nothing sensible might be expected of the people if their First Man can nurse such shallow thoughts without repentance.
Why will Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State distribute branded wheelbarrows and hoes in his middle-belt state and proudly claim it’s an ' empowerment initiative' only to disclaim the 'achievement' after a social media outrage? Benue might be the food basket of the nation on paper but it’s not completely an agrarian society. Is it true that the Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano also empowered secondary school students with 25 litres jerry-cans with his name branded on it? 
A former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi silently enjoyed obtaining billions of naira as Security Vote from the Federal Government for 8 years despite suspecting its illegality ostensibly but this same person comfortably revealed during a public discuss that there is no constitutional provision for such in Nigeria. The politician was massively applauded by the audience at The Platform event (a Non-Profit initiative of Covenant Christian Centre, Lagos) for saying the truth when it will cost him invariably nothing.
Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State stalled the payment of salaries of state civil servants on a lengthy note with the running of a verification exercise to weed out ghost workers. This further worsened the already sorry plight of the low-earning workers in the confluence state.
One wonders what happened to Osun State that Governor Rauf Aregbesola has been paying the civil servants half salaries from July, 2015 till date. Even the series of bail-out funds issued by President Buhari to prosecute the payment of salaries of civil servant have ended in private pockets. The celebrated N-Power project introduced to reduce the burden of unemployment in Nigeria is nearing a failed initiative as some participants haven’t been paid for 5 months or more.
We also live in a country where Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State soars high by making controversial statements in the media and theatrically engaging in plebian activities to cajole the people. His government is not all about projects and policies anymore but misdirected Nollywood-like drama. In an austerity period, the National Assembly has increased its budget by N10 billion to make it N125 billion as shown in the 2017 national appropriation bill.
 N6.4 billion will go into its yearly rituals of exotic cars purchase, N11.5 billion will be committed into transportation and travels and about N1.6 billion will be used to insure them. Photocopying machines this year will also gulp N777 million and the printing of non-security documents will swallow N779 million as over 110 million Nigerians live below the poverty scale.
The economic hardship appears rife that Nigerians out of disillusion wish corruption could come back in full force as it were during the time of Jonathan under which the masses purportedly strived better. It is now so expensive to attend Churches especially in Lagos State as the new generation pastors demand for money more than full time housewives under the guise of spiritual blessings, miracles and inexplicable wealth.
Nigerian youths have ignored all these problems to stage an outrage on social media over the superiority of Senegalese Jollof rice over that of Nigeria after the Minister of Information and Culture, Laid Mohammed's encounter with CNN's Richard Quest.
I will not forget to mention the fact that Kogi West Senator, Dino Melaye launched a 600-page book titled 'Antidotes for Corruption: The Nigerian Story' and the special guest of honour was former First Lady, Patience Faka Jonathan who is standing trial for the possession of suspected proceeds of crime. 
Senate President Bukola Saraki who is standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false declaration of assets used that juncture to deride Buhari's anti-corruption war which has become a national project through the whistle-blowers policy that incorporated the general public into the fight. Honourable Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara who allegedly padded the 2016 budget also spoke at the book launch about corruption. What an irony!
Northern Elders have been reported to be against the leadership on Osinbajo in utter disrespect to the Constitution. They appear to prefer the corpse of Buhari in power. Sick people everywhere! Some of Buhari's loyalists are currently preparing for his second term bid when he is yet to oversee the first two years of his single tenure successfully. Nigerians are currently living in fear of a military coup following the alarm raised by the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Yusuf Buratai following intelligence reports on the romance between some soldiers and politicians.
Buhari’s first two years have been a melodramatic mix of successes and failures but bright hopes about the future.
The future of Buhari as Nigerian President
Bring Back Our Girls campaigner, Aisha Yesufu has bluntly urged the sickly Buhari to respect himself and Nigerians by stepping aside as President to attend to his health which appears to be coinciding with the debilitating status of Nigeria.
Other reports have it that the woman who has been part of the initiative to rescue the Chibok girls called the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo a 'lame duck' who will not want to outshine his master by taking strong and strategic decisions. In all sense of sincerity, Yesufu hit the nail on the head despite being a northerner - a region where blind and fanatical followership is retrogressively prominent. President Buhari has tried in fairness; he is traveling the road of recovery in a mangled car where every part is faulty.
With the return of some of the abducted Chibok girls, political analysts are of the opinion that a sick president was showing more tenacity than his healthy and younger counterpart, Jonathan. In the absence of a national outrage, one might assume that the masses still believe in him in the face of uncertainties in the country.
Can this recurring sickness deter an aged Buhari from performing? The popular answer is yes but the leader of Fulani descent might be gathering inspiration from some sick past American leaders who made a difference in office in the face of health limitations.
American President Franklin Roosevelt was a paraplegic and he served effectively for 12 years. He suffered from anorexia, massive cerebral hemorrhage and weight loss.  John F. Kennedy had major health issues (He had Addison’s disease - an incurable disorder of the adrenal glands coupled with chronic back pain) during his time, and he did a fine job as president. Woodrow Wilson also completed his 8-year terms and contributed his developmental quota to America despite his health issues. 
He suffered hypertension, headaches, and double vision. Wilson suffered from a series of strokes. These strokes affected his right hand, leaving him unable to write normally for a year. More strokes rendered Wilson blind in his left eye, paralyzing his left side and forcing him into a wheelchair. He kept his paralysis a secret. Once discovered, it instigated the 25th Amendment, stating that the vice president will take power upon the president’s death, resignation, or disability. These stories of these game-changers served as an inspiration to other American presidents dealing with physical challenges.
Can Buhari make history as a sick President who didn't die in power like the late former President Shehu Musa Yar'Adua but concocted the potion that healed Nigeria?
Personally, I think his perceived integrity and resolve to serve makes the difference. This has been severally acknowledged on live TV even by members of the opposing PDP. The combo of Buhari and Pastor Osinbajo at the helm of affairs reeks of the public trust Nigerian leaders never enjoyed since the military regime.
About the author
Osayimwen Osahon George is a political scientist and public affairs analyst. He writes from Festac Town, Lagos State. Email: Smile2georgex@yahoo.com
CULLED FROM:  www.mynationnews.com

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