The knee on our necks

THE last week of May holds several dates of significance – the one-year anniversary of the police murder of African American George Floyd, the Children’s Day and the 6th anniversary of Major-General Buhari’s current tenure in office. In a curious manner, these trifectas are all somewhat interrelated. Nigeria marked Children’s Day on 27 May. However, in Nigeria children have nothing to celebrate. Rather than being treated as leaders of tomorrow, they are being relegated to the lowly status of leaders of “no tomorrow” — with a barren future in a hopeless nation. As children in the ‘80s, we were deceived that we were the “leaders of tomorrow.” Buhari was Head of State then; just as he is today. The question is: Who stole our tomorrow? We now have children and grandchildren of our own so who is fooling who? Perhaps nothing illustrates the stolen future than the fact that the First Lady who was a child when Buhari was first Head of State in the ‘80s has abandoned Nigeria for refuge abroad not even able to fulfill her designated servile kitchen and oza room duties in peace. Or need we mention Yusuf the presidential scion who is idling riding power bikes at an age when his dad was already rising in power in the military?

Last week in Nigeria, rather than celebrating Children’s Day with march pasts, we saw videos of children fleeing the weeklong rampage of killer Fulani herdsmen in Plateau State that left many dead. Schools and orphanages in which we have placed over half a dozen victims of Fulani and Boko Haram terrorism this year were shut down as government did nothing to guarantee their safety. Sadly, even Nigerian child refugees in Cameroun who returned home to Nigeria are among this displaced again by the Fulani attacks! As Nigeria’s children have nothing to celebrate on May 27, Major-General Buhari has nothing to celebrate on May 29 but abject failure, insecurity, poverty, insensitivity and misgovernance. He has managed to outdo his first stint in power by being far worse than his 1984 advent.  Here are just a few examples of how Buhari has done worse now than as military dictator: He has detained journalists more and longer than in the ‘80s. More protesters have died under him today than did in the ‘80s. The naira has fared worse than in it did in the ‘80s. He has been far more nepotistic than he was in the ‘80s. He has debased and desecrated the judiciary more than in the ‘80s. But apart from the constitutional travesties above, there are even more systemic and economic atrocities inflicted on the nation.

The South-East can no longer use Port Harcourt to import their goods though they’re the biggest entrepreneurs in Nigeria; but the North that imports and distributes beggars and terrorism is getting a $2 Billion railway to Niger at our children’s expense. Incidentally, Buhari cancelled the Lagos Metro Line project that would have eased up Lagos traffic congestion over 30 years ago and considerably improved the quality of life and cost of living.  Boko Haram used to hire mercenaries from Niger to come into Nigeria to kill and go back. Arms proliferation from Qaddafi’s armoury permeated Nigeria through the Niger border (the killer foreign Fulanis as well). The deadliest border front in Nigeria is Niger. Instead of securing it with a wall, we’re rendering it even more porous with a train. One would not be blamed for thinking that Nigeria’s misrulers are developing Niger to escape to if Nigeria implodes as an additional 30 billion in road contracts to Niger is reported while the 2nd Niger bridge in the South-East remains undone.

Buhari exacerbated local factors that have strangulated commerce. The rise of the Bakassi Boys led many traders from the west African subregion to stop coming to southeast markets. Similarly, those from the Sahel area bordering the northeast also stopped coming to buy in Nigeria because of the terrorism. So also, southwestern traders who used to go to northeast to buy goods stopped. So subregional and internal trade was affected. Then Buhari shut the borders and trade across Seme border was again negatively impacted. So, the bad economic situation orchestrated by crime in southeast and terrorism in northeast was exacerbated by misgovernance in southwest! With the unmitigated slaughter of farmers in the Middle Belt, why won’t cost of food go up and why won’t Nigeria import food??? The Igbo in the South-East are the entrepreneurial engine of the Nigerian economy and their apprenticeship scheme has produced more millionaires than any Nigerian university. During my youth service year, I was legal adviser to Aba local government and was so impressed that, years later, I brought a US Government team to research Ariaria market. As of 20 years ago, they determined that Ariaria market was exporting goods worth N18 billion per annum to the West African subregion.The road from Aba to Port Harcourt normally takes just an hour when you drive. Yet,to this day, entrepreneurs from the East have to go to Lagos to clear most of their imported goods.

Four years ago, I came to Nigeria to follow up on a humanitarian shipment we sent from US. I had to take a ferry from CMS to Apapa like I used to do during law school 30 years ago but this time around I had to ride Okada to get to tin can port. Why? My guides told me if I didn’t do so, I would miss my night flight back to US. We saw trucks upon on trucks all along the road – most there for days. When Minister for Transport/Works Babatunde Fashola gave a speech in the US, I asked him how in this day and age, the most valuable road in Nigeria remains impassable.

The value of cargo that traverses Apapa road makes it the highest economic value road even beyond Onne road, as it is finished products as opposed to crude that go and that road!

Fashola replied by saying that the British colonialists had envisioned a railway from the port but it was sabotaged. And to cut a long story short, no good explanation has been given. Now here’s the real issue – every delayed cargo incurs costs. The importers transfer these costs to the end user so the total landed cost in the supermarket includes the trailer languishing on Apapa road. No wonder the cost of moving goods from the port in Nigeria is higher than the cost of shipping a container from China to Nigeria!

However, Buhari borrowed $2 billion for a railroad to Niger Republic for the benefit of Niger, not Nigeria. Meanwhile, Niger itself is not the one borrowing the money and will have no obligation to repay the loan tomorrow. It is extraordinary – bordering on the treasonable – that our government incur huge loans at commercial rates to build a railway leading to someone else’s country and our children’s children will be paying for it!

Rice is being smuggled in broad daylight on bikes from the landlocked nation of Niger into a coastal nation for cheaper. Benin Republic is coastal and smuggles rice and cars into Nigeria cheaper than through Nigerian ports.

Recently the cost of shipping a container from US to Nigeria escalated from $4000 to $13,000 because containers to Nigeria come back empty or not at all!After spending over $16,000 to clear my food aid container which spent months at the port, the cost of returning it to Lagos from the north was so much that it exceeded the cost of our security deposit for the container! For the first time in over 25 years, we’re suspending further humanitarian shipments to Nigeria.

Yet, as nations are building border walls Nigeria is building cross-border rail. While the borders were purportedly closed, kidnappers brought an American hostage from Niger to Nigeria. US Navy Seals had to rescue him from Nigeria. Nigeria now unofficially has a transnational crime corridor with our neigbhouring countries up north.

But more importantly, rather than import underage voters from Niger by trailer, they can now be brought in en mass by train. This is the grand strategy to consolidate the hold of power by one region over and above all others by demographic gerrymandering and electorate re-engineering. Rather than use campaign funds to truck in non-citizen voters like before he has shrewdly utilized loans to fund his hegemonic designs.

In the meantime, Nigeria has become the global Mecca of school mass abductions and Terrorists have graduated from kidnapping secondary students to tertiary undergraduates.

The conclusion of the matter is that our children are the leaders of no tomorrow and Buhari is the non-leader of today. All he has managed to do is to be the knee on the neck, choking the life out of Nigeria, for six years and counting. And Nigeria is the prostrate George Floyd for two more years.

Buhari is undisputed and unrivalled as the destroyer of democracy in Nigeria first from without and secondly from within in 1983 and 2015 respectively.

In his current destructive streak, he simultaneously warred against the heads of the other democratic arms of government and installed his minions essentially rendering him a sole administrator or de facto dictator in chief of Nigeria.

In sum, here’s where Buhari ranks in the pantheon of Nigeria’s three worst rulers of all time:3rd worst – Buhari (military dictator in the 80s); 2nd rorst – Buhari (1st term 2015)

1st Worst – Buhari (2nd term 2019). I am certain that the Buhari of 1983 would have done everything in his own powers to try to overthrow the Buhari of 2015 & 2019 for the same reasons as he did President Shehu Shagari and more so, would have banned himself from ever holding public office again.

  • Ogebe is a Washington-based international human rights lawyer and Managing Partner of the US Nigeria Law Group.


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