Nigerian journalist, Alexander Thandi Ubani writes on the state of the nation under President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Muhammadu Buhari
It is now over four years since Muhammadu Buhari was democratically elected as president of Nigeria and now in the first year of his second tenure. From North to South, East to West, all we hear in the news is about massacre by bandits, attacks by herdsmen, ambush by Boko Haram terrorists, VAT increase, blocked border, increase in price of rice, WAEC certificate in army custody, corrupt government officials, yahoo boys and xenophobic attacks on our brothers and sisters in South Africa. Indeed, Nigerians are dying.
Barely 5 years ago, there was a glimmer of hope with millions going to the polls to vote for Buhari. As I write today, the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Plateau, Jigawa, Abia, Enugu, Rivers, Osun, Ekiti, Bayelsa and the rest are littered with regrets. That's where we are today under President Muhammadu Buhari.
Personally, I feel a large brunt of this disastrous episode playing out in Nigeria's history. For instance, I earn above N100k monthly but it seems like the money is insignificant. Just spending on food, clothing, transportation and family issues alone renders the pocket impotent to perform its financial duties. At the end of the day, I am forced to engage in other necessary means to survive. Just think of the plight of a Nigerian who earns N18,000 monthly. What will be his/her fate? I can only imagine.
The constant devaluation of the naira by the Central Bank of Nigeria has continued to diminish the currency's purchasing power that someone with over N100,000 can't make a fair living. Cheap articles we bought for N1000 some years back are now being sold at staggering amounts. The cost of living in Nigeria has doubled, if not tripled.
The choice of Buhari as President was indeed a huge mistake that will continue to haunt us. The only people benefiting today are his aides/ministers/party members and all those individuals who hold one political position or the other irrespective of the party they belong. This group of people have immunity and are not affected by the tribulations being visited on the masses as a result of government's bad decisions. The Tinubus, Osibanjos, Gbajabiamilas, Lawans, Orji Kalus, Femi Adesinas, Magus, Gandujes, El-Rufais, Ikpeazus, Aregbesholas, Emefieles etc do not feel a pinch of the suffering the poor masses are passing through daily because they have more than enough millions to go round five generations. These people do not know what Nigerians are passing through under Buhari's administration or maybe they know but do not just care because they do not go the filling stations to buy fuel; they don't go to the market to buy food; they do not know any damn thing happening in the country because they have attendants stuffed with millions to run errands for them.
When I think about the condition of things in Nigeria, it reminds me of my friend who openly condemns Big Brother Naija reality show as being profane, but secretly watches the show with unequaled passion. While Buhari supporters openly shout 'sai baba', secretly in their homes, they have not seen light for six days and counting. Some, their children are starving for days and can't go to school because of no money to pay for their school fees. Yet, they are ready to take N1000 to dance through the streets of Abuja shouting 'sai baba'.
It is this type of hypocrisy that has brought us this 'ugly' far. We have refused to speak truth to our leaders. Sycophants who serve as advisers have refused to tell Buhari that things have fallen apart.
While Buhari picks his teeth after a sumptuous meal in the comfort of his Aso Villa, the war against Boko Haram wages on with soldiers losing their lives almost on a daily basis. Yet, the government has continued to popularize the obvious falsehood that the terrorists have been defeated. Just two weeks ago, over 5 soldiers were brutally killed and 30 missing after Boko Haram terrorists
attacked a military base in Borno state. This is just one out of such several attacks that has taken place since the beginning of this year alone.
While Nigerians are suffocating under Buhari's administration, the government instead of lessening the burden on the poor masses, has cooked up a horrendous plan to increase Value Added Tax from 5% to 7.2%.
The implication of this new development is that prices of goods and services will skyrocket and the new minimum wage yet to be implemented will be meaningless. When companies are charged 7.2% VAT, it doesn't affect them because they pass the burden to the final consumer ie Nigerians. At the end of the day, Nigerians will be forced to pay exorbitant amounts for goods and services they buy. The government of Buhari has consistently brought up ill-conceived ideas that only bring suffering to the poor masses who will turn helplessly in their beds instead of protesting in the streets. It is still this same falsehood that Buhari sold to Nigerians when he increased petrol price while lying that the increase was necessary because he has removed fuel subsidy. It was later revealed by the Senate that Nigeria still pays billions of naira in subsidy
Not done yet, the Central Bank of Nigeria has re-introduced charges on bank deposits and withdrawals. Also, bank customers who use Point of Sale transactions (PoS) will now pay more following CBN's directive ordering banks to begin charging N50 stamp duty on individual transactions. This is as Nigerians have since been complaining of excessive charges by banks. Instead of stopping banks from placing arbitrary charges on Nigerians, it seems like the CBN is partnering with the banks to fleece Nigerians. I have personally noticed that Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) charges me N50 on any transaction to another bank and N2.50 as VAT whenever I use my mobile app to transfer money.
When Nigerians like Omoyele Sowore tries to challenge the status quo and make the government realize that it is straying from the right path, the government wastes no time in calling him a terrorist and locking him away for weeks while life continues.
The Nigerian Army, DSS and the police have become tools in the hands of President Buhari to harass, kill and silence any voice of dissent. The NY TIMES in 2018 shared a frightening video of Nigerian soldiers murdering unarmed Shiites
in cold-blood in Abuja during a protest. The cowardly DSS and Police have on numerous occasions been used by the government to stop peaceful protests contravening section 39, 40 of the 1999 constitution. The question on the lips of Nigerians is: how did we get here?
As bandits, Herdsmen and Boko Haram terrorists continue to lay siege in the north, the government's failure to re-strategize at a time soldiers are now becoming informants of kidnappers and stealing bullion van containing millions of naira, shows Buhari's lack of wit and gross incompetence. The reshuffling of security chiefs is long overdue and it takes no seer to predict that Buhari's boast that he will end Boko haram was just another mouth-whining balderdash.
This is the reason why crime rate in Nigeria has tripled and places in the North known for religious piety have embraced crime with open arms. Herdsmen have now embraced kidnapping as the easy way out of poverty. Bandits are now rustling cattle, invading villages, raping and killing people and leaving mayhem in its wake. It is bloodshed in my beloved country and no one knows when all these will end.
While Buhari junkets from one country to the other, one thing we are certain is that: Buhari does not care. These things do not give him sleepless nights or else he would have taken a proactive action. He would have shown action instead of staying in the comfort of Aso villa issuing deadpan statements.
This is not what Nigerians begged for when they elected Buhari to be their president. Like every other politician, Buhari has shown that he is not different from the lot. For the average Nigerian man, the struggle continues.
Alexander Thandi Ubani writes from Lagos.
He's an editor at Tori.ng