How Do You Solve A Problem Like Buhari?

By Ikenga Chronicles February 12, 2019

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Buhari?

—Editi Effiong,

If you have watched the timeless classic, Sound of Music, you are probably familiar with the infamous reproach song “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” Maria was a young girl who had committed to serving in the convent, with great intentions too, but hard as she tried, always ran afoul of the convent rules.

In the end, to solve the problem that was Maria, the convent leadership sent her out into the world. As it turns out, Maria was really never meant to be a nun and went on to live her best life, married to Captain Von Trapp and his 7 children.

This is exactly how I look at President Muhammadu Buhari, a man who came to office with so much goodwill and promise, but now we’re caught in the convent of our collective thoughts wondering what to do with him. Actually, we know what to do with him — send him out of Aso Rock, back to Daura with a hefty pension and full ancillary benefits, to live his best life, without the added stress of actually trying to govern.

Full disclosure, I am voting for Atiku.

I made that decision a long time ago, in February 2015 actually. It was a small meeting at which we were supposed to record a video advert for the Buhari Presidential Campaign. Before the recording began, we talked briefly with the candidates. Someone asked if we could play on the failure of the healthcare system for the death of Buhari’s daughter. I disagreed and the old general agreed with me, saying that his daughter died from sickle cell complications, so implying that the healthcare system killed her would be dishonest. I was impressed by his honesty.

I didn’t like Buhari, but supported his election because I believed the incumbent government then did not deserve reelection. At that meeting, I also did an honest thing. I told the candidate and his vice that if they didn’t deliver on the promise of a stronger, more prosperous Nigeria, I would be voting for the opposition in 2019. So it didn’t really matter who PDP nominated, I have a moral obligation to vote for APC’s main rivals.

Buhari’s failures are well established on several fronts, but what really scares me is another 4 years of sub-2% economic growth. I’m scared of an anti-business president who has zero motivations to drive growth, and indeed, glorifies hardship. I’m tired of the anti-corruption rhetoric with built-in family and friends discounts.

My friends in the APC have tried to frame the election as a moral choice, rather than an economic one, but moral choices will not roll back over 250% growth in youth unemployment. We need more FDI, we need more investment in our economy, we need more jobs. At a time when the global markets are flowing with money, Nigeria’s inability to attract FDI is really weird — Ghana, with an economy smaller than Lagos, is attracting more FDI than Nigeria.

Buhari is the problem. He’s a poorly educated man who simply cannot deliver much needed economic growth. He couldn’t do it in 1984, hasn’t done it since 2015, and won’t magically turn a new leaf after May 2019.

In the end, we have to accept that President Buhari is just a simple, often honest, deeply incompetent man, who has never assembled a competent team, nor taken responsibility for the disastrous failures of the teams he leads.

Every blue moon or so, Buhari’s team will happen upon major pieces of success, often by pure happenstance, benevolent accidents which flatter his perceived abilities. But Everyday Buhari is the real Buhari, the one who has no idea what he is doing, so does nothing and hopes we are satisfied that at least, he is the one doing the nothing.

Now, Buhari as an honest yet incompetent leader is a fairly manageable malaise. His failure to take responsibility for malperformance is terrible, but something must kill a man.

Buhari’s real killer trait is the god factor. For decades, it was claimed against prevailing evidence, that Buhari is the most honest man in the world, the one who could bring an end to all that ails Nigeria by the sheer honesty of his intentions. And he believed it too. This is the most dangerous character flaw which defines the man. In building and accepting this aura of righteousness, Buhari allowed himself to believe he is truly special.

It is possible Buhari is special, a rare species of some sort. But the one dangerous fallacy he truly latched onto and believed is that he is infinitely good, hence beyond reproach. To live for decades above questioning elevates man to an almost godlike state of mind. This explains Buhari’s reluctance to be held accountable — he is a gift, and it is indeed a favour to us that he has made himself available to rule over us, at great cost to his personal comfort. Even when he won an election mostly because the country rejected his opponent, rather than because he was loved, he assumed his mandate with the air of a man who just won a popularity contest by a landslide margin.

This is why Buhari does not believe he has to ask nicely for anything. He deserves it already, you see. It is why he does not have to explain himself. It is also why he can never be responsible for anything that goes wrong around him. Because he is inherently good, it has to be someone else at fault. The fault at all times must rest on some other imperfect being.

Accepting the messianism of Buhari tempts one into believing that he is inherently dangerous on that count. No, that is not the greatest danger of him. It’s much simpler.

Buhari can never be wrong, anything that he does is right, so the people who know this have taken advantage of him, confident that even if they failed at their jobs in a major way, they would never be punished. They lead him down any alley of their desires, and because Buhari, beneath the veneer of his perfection, couldn’t tell between good policy and a bad salad of empty promises, would follow like an enchanted poodle.

In 1985, Buhari was overthrown in a military coup. He spent the next couple of decades grieving about the unfairness of it all, a rant only broken every couple of years after the return of democracy, when General Buhari would come out to run for president.

It is ironic that Buhari, the beneficiary of a coup, couldn’t accept that someone had the audacity to topple his junta. This is why the fear exists, that even if Buhari is voted out on February 16, 2019, he would simply refuse to leave.

So, how do you solve a problem like Buhari?