I write in response to The PUNCH editorial of April 28, 2023, with the title “The Buhari Years: An era of gross economic fiasco.” To my mind, The PUNCH does the country, as it has been known to do undauntedly despite governmental hostility, a great service. In a country where the media landscape is pockmarked by bizarre unprofessional conducts and incestuous affairs between journalists and the principalities in power, The PUNCH continues to call its soul its own, speaking uncomfortable truths to the wonky entities parading themselves as formidable governments.
The PUNCH is a media outlet that understands its duty. The litany of worsened and generated avoidable economic woes that define the last eight “locust years” of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) is aptly captured in this clear and concise editorial. It’s another key chronicle about this regime for researchers and posterity.
While the millions of Nigerians at the receiving end of the escapable economic tragedies this regime engineered don’t need this editorial to understand their afflictions and the government responsible for them, among its usefulness is its invalidation of the Buhari regime’s positive narrative of its activities. If this regime put as much vim into statecraft as it did the costly business of burnishing its unsightly image, it would have more positives to report in those years of its overseeing the country.
This outgoing administration believes good governance is about telling the people what it thinks it’s doing as opposed to doing meaningful things and having the people to bear witness to them. Sadly, this retrograde understanding of governance will not end with the Buhari era; the incoming administration, as I have observed in an op-ed published elsewhere, may be more committed to this backward notion of statesmanship.
I trust The PUNCH to editorialise the absurd scorecards of the outgoing grossly clueless and insensitive regime largely dispassionately in other sectors. The microscopic successes there too pale into insignificance in view of the mountains of failures occasioned by absence of viable leadership. Foremost among the reasons I wasn’t enthusiastic about Buhari’s ascension to power is my understanding of his incapacity to provide bold and visionary leadership for a complex and battered country like Nigeria expected of any nation that takes itself seriously. While not in support of the ineffectual leadership of Goodluck Jonathan, I was clearly opposed to Buhari as a leader exactly because of what The PUNCH editorial clearly and coherently underlines as the failure to “demonstrate any real grasp of modern economic ideas, and [the lack of] the presence of mind or leadership acumen required to turn the ailing economy around.” Moreover, I denounced Buhari becoming Nigeria’s president in 2015 because I stoutly resent(ed) his authoritarian streak!
Buhari is a man who’s deliberately acutely incapable of understanding the basics of a democratic culture.
It should be remembered as well that it is only The PUNCH that sensibly describes and retains till date the character of the Buhari regime as despotic; hence its sustained insistence that the fitting title for Buhari is the one he earned in the military – Major General Muhamadu Buhari (retd). Justifiably, the newspaper argues, there’s nothing democratic about the operations of the man and the government he runs. He might have been propelled to the exalted office through ballots, Buhari maintains his undemocratic credentials. Even when the self-serving lots around him strive occasionally to profile him as a democrat (in fruitless perpetuation of the lie they spawned in the 2015 campaigns that brought him into the presidency), the Daura general maintains his fidelity to autocratic behaviours, disobeying court orders and arbitrarily sanctioning the arrests of judges and persons perceived to be corrupt. The troubling economic statistics The PUNCH captures most unequivocally in its Friday editorial are doubtlessly enabled by Buhari’s tyrannical dispositions. That’s not strange; it’s the lot of every dictator to claim the wisdom it lacks. Undemocratic regimes are not known to acknowledge that they are failing and travelling on wrong paths. As The PUNCH rightly declaims, tyrants such as Buhari “made bad choices.”
As Nigeria prepares for another challenging four years with the Bola Tinubu presidency, may The PUNCH remain undaunted and courageous in lighting up every anti-people dark corner.
Ademola Adesola is an assistant professor in the Department of English, Languages, and Cultures, Mount Royal University, Canada