Fellow Nigerians, I had planned to write on a different topic today, but man proposes and God disposes. Nigeria has become such a rollercoaster that it is very difficult to catch up with news and events. Since President Muhammadu Buhari and his acolytes took power six years ago, our country has known no respite from news of gloom and doom. Where we had looked forward to the easing of our pain, what we got was a dissipation and destruction of our gain. It has been one day, one fight. Even a world heavyweight boxing or wrestling champion who fight for fun and for finance will ordinarily get tired at some point and decide to retire, but not these ones.
Where there is no fight, they will find it and create one, making sure it is bigger and more violent and virulent than the last. There is a sense in which you are made to feel that those in charge of this government thrive only in chaos and confusion. They seem to get off on playing to the gallery and practising dangerous brinksmanship. And so, the country lurches from one foreseen disaster to another unforeseen problem and then back to another foreseen calamity and the orgiastic cycle and circle of a litany of woes continues and persists forever.
We had been warned, long before President Buhari finally won the Presidential election at the fourth attempt, that he was too rigid, pugilistic, dictatorial, vindictive, divisive, venomous, fundamentalist, unbending, unyielding, and all that, but we dismissed all those allegations as belonging in his past. I was one of those who repackaged him as a People’s General, a veritable, certified, dyed in the wool democratic who had become a true friend of the lumpen proletariats, the most honest and frugal gentleman alive. We had good reason for reaching what has now turned out to be a highly fallacious conclusion. We had been led to believe that the President had turned over a new leaf and had imbibed democratic principles and in the process jettisoning everything regimental, military and authoritarian. The General certainly spoke the language of politicians, he even renounced his past toga of a high-ranking military officer and instead embraced politics like one who had always been a politician of the Nigerian hue. He probably had become better than them, playing them at their own game, like the military strategist and tactician that he has always been, when he stooped to conquer. Sometimes this President, feigns ignorance, plays possum or fakes diverse maladies, merely to get out of a tight situation.
Deniability and a willingness to abdicate responsibility are the hallmarks of this regime. I am beginning to think that it is no longer coincidence that the President is always absent when urgent matters affecting the national discourse and the nation’s future and destiny are at stake and being discussed. When it comes to matters which he holds dear and are closest to his heart like the issue of cattle and Fulani nomads from neighbouring countries, the President is astute, engaging and articulate. I do not believe in selective amnesia. It is a mere tool of manipulation and I am starting to feel that the President has worked it out to a Tee. Indeed,, when one critically examines the President’s posture and position on certain matters, it becomes as clear as day that we are being had and taken for a ride. Those matters which directly affect and concern the President and his constituents are usually swiftly dealt with. Outside of this, the President is characterised by snail-like speed, indecisiveness, bumbling and failure to interact with colleagues, and others, with any degree of process and precision.
It was not to say that we didn’t know his major shortcomings, which would always include his taciturnity, bad temper, reclusiveness, modest education, antiquated worldview, and so on. But we were so sure that his deficiencies would be protected and covered by a more cosmopolitan, cerebral, mild-mannered, affable, genial Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Sadly, we were dead wrong, and the error was absolutely brutal and fatal. Not only were things worse than imagined, as these vices held sway and appeared to hold the person and his office with a vice like grip, but they were also beginning to give rise to fatalism and morbidity. Under Buhari’s government, the falcon can no longer hear the falconer and things have absolutely fallen apart.
So here we are begging our leader to have mercy upon us and get a few necessities of life right for the general good of us all. I do not know why it has been impossible to reduce the spate of highly violent insecurity in the land. When Buhari came, insecurity was mainly volatile in the North East but today it has spread, uncontrollably, rapidly, and sporadically, across the length and breadth of Nigeria. What makes it so strange is the fact that Buhari retired as a Major General in the Nigerian Army and he was expected to be more competent than regular politicians in matters of insurgency. But that has not been the case. Instead, insurgency, militancy, insurrection, banditry and kidnapping have been on the rise. The perpetrators have become bolder and more brazen. Their exploits seem to be achieving greater superlative status by the day. Despite this fact, the government appears tepid, even timid, in its response. It is definitely afraid to engage these hoodlums, some say, for fear of offending their beloved kinsmen. After all, the speed and rate at which the Government tries to put down and supress innocent protests in the South East will seem to suggest that the Government can be actively proactive and decisive whenever it pleases the President to doo so.
Anyway, all that have become sorry tales. They have merely given rise to a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness in the people. Nowadays, Nigerians merely shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes as if to say, “what’s new”.
What has made matters worse is the glaring nepotism that exists and the manner some people from certain parts of Nigeria believe they are being treated like second class and third-class citizens in their own country. Many sections of the country have virtually given up on President Buhari ever changing his ways or style. Time and time again, the President is presented with opportunities for directing a new beginning, at least in the area of appointments. At reach turn, the President has spurned the opportunity and instead repeated that which makes it easy for his traducers and detractors to remark that a leopard cannot change his spots.
The most recent is the opening, and avenue, for the President to appoint a new Chief of Army Staff from the South East, or the South generally, with the untimely and tragic demise of the former Chief of Army Staff, the late Major General Attahiru Ibrahim. Instead, President Buhari went back to his tested, tried and trusted method of making such a high-profile appointment from the North. When he appointed Major General Farouk Yahaya, many concluded all hope for any salvation or redemption for President Buhari was lost. All entreaties to change have fallen on deaf ears.
The President has not hidden his disdain for the people of the South East in particular. Any time the Igbo people chose to protest the injustices and marginalization meted to them; President Buhari has always responded with brute force. He sent in the army and crushed any act of rebellion mercilessly. In interviews and in general speeches, Buhari left no one in doubt that he was never a fan of the Igbo people.
As if this was not bad enough, the President made a major gaffe this week when he brazenly and defiantly threatened to deal ruthlessly with the young people who must have been too young during the last civil war. He promised, emphatically, to handle them in the language they understand, thus invoking the sad spirit of a genocidal war that claimed millions of lives. The President’s media team compounded the problem by acting ignorantly, about the social mores and rules of engagement of social media, when they put such a direct act of threat and intimidation on social media: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Unknown to them, the world has since moved far away from the kind of maximum rulership that Major General Buhari enjoyed as Head of State from 1984-85. Nigerians promptly protested against this level of intolerance from their democratically elected President. The terrible news, of ethnic bias and racial intolerance and abuse, instantly attracted world attention. Social media was on fire and there were many protest tweets to Twitter to delete Buhari’s unfortunate tweet and suspend his account. Before one could say Jack Robinson, Twitter had responded in kind by deleting the odoriferous tweet and suspending the recalcitrant account. Of course, President Buhari’s ego was critically bruised.
Of course, it was not in the character of a pseudo-democratic government to let such a simple and straightforward matter pass without rancour or much ado. Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, wasted no time in coming out to offer a blistering criticism of the action of Twitter, naming it as being “suspicious!” My very dear Alhaji must have forgotten that Nigeria’s gra gra has its limitations, and that Twitter is an institution far more powerful than gods with feet of clay. The same Twitter that yanked off the most powerful President on earth, Donald Trump, is the same one that the President of a country, in search of loans from wherever it can get it, wants to take on by embarking on reciprocal activity.
You must give something to us Nigerians. We are good actors; the reason Nollywood is very successful. Vehemently rebuking Twitter for disrespecting our President is folly when you have absolutely nothing to back your sabre rattling. Nevertheless, Lai Mohammed felt that this was the path to thread, in a bid to demonstrate how farcical and unserious our leaders have become. Many people were even surprised the Government did not accuse Twitter of being bribed by some corrupt politicians to tarnish the wonderful image of a saintly leader. I thought the inane press conference would have sufficed. However, trust the Nigerian government to go for the jugular of Twitter, it announced yesterday that it has suspended Twitter operations:
“The Federal Government has suspended indefinitely the operations of the microblogging and social networking service Twitter in Nigeria. The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, announced the suspension in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence. It distresses me that a learned person like Lai Mohammed would make such a feeble, woeful statement, knowing it is a futile one.
The Minister said the Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.
Ironically, the announcement of Twitter’s retaliatory suspension was made on the Twitter page of the Federal Ministry of Information which generated some comic relief for millions of Twitter addicts globally.
This news was greeted with incredulity across the civilized world, wondering why a President Buhari would feel superior and untouchable if President Donald Trump could be sanctioned, and all he could do was to sulk and whine in one corner of the White House. And that was a President whose life was totally dependent on Twitter and who could actually tweet directly without the assistance of aides and did so.
With this draconian development, it is obvious that Nigerians should brace up for full-blown dictatorship which we thought had long been put behind us in 1999. The Buhari government have now come full cycle and is no longer comfortable with criticism. It has started a blistering war of attrition on its critics through the unfortunate retaliation against Twitter. How this would be managed, let alone achieved, would be seen in the days ahead!
Dele Momodu is the Publisher of the celebrity magazine, Ovation International.