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Nigeria: The shattering of the Buhari mythology 0

The reality of leadership has exploded the illusion of Buhari’s messianic abilities and exposed him as a prisoner of power – in other words, as just another politician.

Having been carried to the presidency on a wave of optimism last year, President Muhammadu Buhari’s time in office has been characterised by a trio of crises: an economy on the brink of recession; escalating militancy in the Niger Delta; and worsening power supply.

As the economy has imploded, the only bright spots in Buhari’s first 15 months have been modest gains in the struggle against corruption and the fight against Boko Haram.

The president took amidst a flurry of flamboyant promises, some of them so fantastical and unnecessary that many wondered why Buhari would wrap – and trap – himself in such unsustainable obligations. Elections are about promises, but the now ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) got caught up in its own rhetoric and refused, against all economic indicators, to alter its pledges. As a result the party came to power preoccupied with managing expectations instead of the country.

The unpreparedness that plagued the early months of the Buhari administration – exemplified by the fact it took seven months to name a cabinet – reflected its inability to bear the weight of promises made. And the sense of disillusionment that has now enveloped swathes of Nigeria stems from this unnecessary self-burdening as well as the government’s failure to articulate a compelling vision.

In the course of his short time in office, Buhari’s image as an ascetic and empathetic figure has disappeared, and he has shown a disturbing lack of initiative, creativity and new thinking in government, belying his inspiring pre-election rhetoric.

In momentous elections last year, Nigerians voted the incumbent out of power for the first time ever as millions enthusiastically put their faith in Buhari to transform the country. But sadly, it seems that the optimistic narrative about the former military leader and his first stint of power in 1983-5 these voters were buying into was little more than a myth.

Broken promises

Buhari campaigned on a platform of ending waste and restoring probity, efficiency, and transparency. But when opportunities have presented themselves for him to underscore his professed opposition to the profligacy of the 16-year rule of the now-opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari has failed to seize them.

To begin with, Buhari went back on his pledge to sell off some of the ten aircraft that make up the presidential fleet. That reversal may seem trivial, but it proved to be the start of a more brazen disregard for promises made.

For a president whose calling card was transparency and personal integrity, Buhari’s attempt to abandon his promise to publicly declare his assets within his first hundred days in office was perplexing. The president’s media team tried to disavow, dilute, and postpone the promise before sustained public pressure forced him to fulfill it. Yet the released document was a mere summary of his assets, not the declaration form he had submitted to the Code of Conduct Bureau. His reluctance and continued failure to make the full form public feeds a perception that the president is insincere.

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by Moses E.Ochonu

Photo credits: Saharareporters

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi