By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Buhari apologists say I have never praised Buhari since he came to power. Well, that’s not my job. I am a scholar. But I have defended Buhari many times in the past when I thought he was unfairly attacked. For instance, in 2012 when pundits—and Jonathan’s media team—tore him to shreds for saying “kare jini, biri jini ” [Hausa for “the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood”], I vigorously defended him. Read my May 27, 2012 article titled, “Idioms, Mistranslation, and Abati’s Double Standards.”
In 2015, when he was ridiculed for saying “President Michelle of West Germany,” I also defended him with all the resources of logic and erudition I had. I explained to Nigerians that Buhari wasn’t “clueless” but was suffering from age-induced memory lapses colloquially called “senior moments” in America. Read my June 20, 2015 titled, “Criticizing Buhari Over ‘President Michelle of West Germany’ Gaffe is
Ignorant.” (Also read my June 27, 2015 sequel titled, “Obama and Buhari: Comparing their ‘Senior Moments’.” )
Even when he visited the US in July 2015 and made his infamously unwise comment that he didn’t give a hang about people from the deep south who didn’t vote for him, I defended him because I thought he realized his error and retracted what he said in the same speech. Read my July 25, 2015 article titled, “President Buhari’s Grand Moments in America.” As recently as November 19, 2016, I defended him against false charges that he contributed millions of dollars to Hillary Clinton’s campaign (see “Buhari’s Phantom $500M Donation to Clinton’s Campaign” ). I can go on, but that’s irrelevant now.
Here is the deal. If Buhari apologists want my “praises”—and the “praises” of other disinterested, conscientious, and politically unaffiliated people who criticize this administration — let their idol do the following and they won’t be able to contain rapturous applause he’d get not just from me but
from millions of Nigerians:
1. Assemble a sound economic advisory team to help him tackle our economic malaise. You can’t have 6 media aides and have only one diplomat (yes a diplomat!) as an economic adviser (who, by the way, is assigned to the VP’s office) in a time of recession and think people won’t call you clueless and
2. Truthfully declare his assets and not the insincere, half- hearted job his media team did. No one forced Buhari to promise that he would publicly declare his assets. On February 20, 2015, he said, “I pledge to PUBLICLY declare my assets and liabilities, encourage all my appointees to publicity declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment.”
Well, from his partial declaration, we at least know that Buhari has a house in Abuja even though he had always told Nigerians that he had houses only in Daura, Kaduna and Kano. Only multimillionaires and billionaires own homes in Abuja. Perceptive people know why Buhari is scared of publicly declaring his assets: it would give the lie to the image of modesty and frugality he studiously cultivated and promoted over the years. But he can prove us wrong by doing what he promised to do during the campaigns.
3. Sincerely investigate and prosecute the corrupt people in his administration. Secretary to the Government of the Federation David Lawal Babachir has become a byword for unspeakably high-profile corruption. He has been accused of all kinds of shady deals, including callously shortchanging IDPs, prompting the equally sleazy Senate to call for his prosecution.
Abba Kyari has been accused of all manner of corruption. Irrefutable documentary proofs of Buratai’s corruption have been published on Sahara Reporters. Amaechi has been accused of bribing judges. The list goes on. Not a word has been heard from the presidency in response to any of these accusations. But (corrupt) political opponents are hounded, even without firm evidence, in the name of “anti-corruption”
People who know Buhari intimately say nothing will happen to corrupt people in his government as long as he is convinced that the corrupt people are “loyal” to him. Personal loyalty, not national interest, is all that matters to Buhari. That, in my dictionary, is also corruption. An invidiously selective anti-corruption fight is itself corruption.
4. Punish people who “padded” the 2016 budget and not merely transfer them, like Buhari did, to another ministry.
5. Stop the social apartheid that allocates billions of naira to Aso Rock Clinic while public hospitals that serve millions of everyday people are underfunded.
6. Obey his own directive to stop foreign medical treatment for government officials. On April 27, 2016, Buhari said, “While this administration will not deny anyone of his or her fundamental human rights, we will certainly not encourage expending Nigerian hard earned resources on any government official seeking medical care abroad, when such can be handled in Nigeria.”
About a month later, he went to London to treat an ear infection. On December 2, Abba Kyari, Buhari’s ethically challenged Chief of Staff, was flown to London because he had “breathing difficulties.” Even with more than 3 billionnaires a year budget, Aso Rock Clinic couldn’t treat “breathing difficulties.”
7. Investigate and overturn the unlawful, clandestine appointment of the children of politically connected people in various agencies of government.
8. Bring down the price of petrol AND make it available by repairing existing refineries and building new ones from the money saved from the last petrol price increase. Alternatively, he should encourage private sector investment in petrol refining— beyond Dangote.
Nigeria’s economy— and Nigerian life itself—is petrol- dependent in ways I have never seen anywhere. When you increase petrol price, the price of every other thing goes up and never comes down. I warned that the last petrol price hike would “ignite a hyperinflationary conflagration.” I was right.
The “hyperinflationary conflagration” is the immediate trigger of the current recession. When incomes remain stagnant and prices of everything go through the roof, consumption slows or halts, and the economy shrinks. That’s the textbook definition of recession.
9. Increase the national minimum wage so workers can cope with the mounting hardship they are contending with.
10. At least bring back the millions of jobs that have been lost since he came to power. The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, which is a federal government agency, said, as of August this year, 4.58 million Nigerians lost their jobs since Buhari became president.
11. Show some compassion. Most policies of Buhari appear calculated to torment the weak, the vulnerable, and the helpless—the very people who brought him to power. Since its coming into being nearly two years ago, the Buhari government has increased petrol price by a larger margin than any government in Nigerian history; removed subsidies on fertilizer and other critical products; banned the importation of essential goods without developing local alternatives thereby creating scarcity, hunger, inflation, and shadowy, underground networks that exploit the poor; raised tariffs on most things; taxed everything that moves; is unashamedly stealing from people’s bank deposits in the name of “stamp duty”; is helping private companies to engage in price gouging; and is generally deepening the misery of everyday people.
12. Visit Maiduguri to sympathize with the people of the northeast—and to prove that Boko Haram has truly been “defeated.”
There is more, but this is a good start.