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As Buhari Returns To Abuja

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OPINION

By Etim Etim

Former President Muhammadu Buhari returns to Abuja on January 16 – the first time since he left in the late afternoon of May 29 – to attend the launch of a book written by his longtime friend and staffer, Femi Adeshina. The book is an account of the former president’s service, and as you might imagine, it is essentially a PR material on the man and his administration. The author is eager to save the Buhari legacy from total obliteration. Buhari has no better loyalist than Adeshina. The former president is arriving an Abuja that is markedly different from the one he left behind about eight months ago. The political environment is now more toxic and unfriendly towards him as the new kids on the block are doing a lot to demonize him and taint his legacy. He has been accused of bequeathing a bankrupted country destroyed by corruption, mismanagement and incompetence. The man who served as the CBN Governor during his time has been hounded as a petty thief and the CBN itself has been probed. Never before in the 66-year history of the apex bank has it been this investigated, probed, examined and excoriated. Buhari’s ministers, notably Sadiya Umar Farouq, who headed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, has been accused of alleged money laundering by the EFCC. But she had strongly denied the allegations and has promised to fight back to protect her reputation. Clearly, the legacy of the former president is at stake.

Prominent members of the new administration, including the Finance Minister Wale Edun; CBN Governor Yemi Cardoso; Dele Alake and Bayo Onanuga are constantly berating the former president, blaming all our woes on him. Even persons like Gov. Charles Soludo, who really have no urgent motivation to join in pummeling the former President, are not sparing him. In a TV interview in November, Soludo said that Buhari left behind a ‘’dead economy’’. He blamed the mismanagement of the CBN under Buhari for much of the damage the economy has suffered. Former CBN Deputy Governor, Prof Kingsley Moghalu recently described Godwin Emefiele as ‘’the worst CBN Governor in history’’. It now seems as if anybody seeking a favour from the new administration, or who wants to be in its good books, must have to attack the former President or anything he did as a condition precedent. This is the mood in Abuja that Buhari is returning to next week, and many are looking forward to what he would say in his speech as the special guest and keynote speaker. I have tried to second-guess the former president, and here’s my imagination of what he might say:

‘’Let me express my gratitude to Chief Femi Adeshina for writing this book which is his own account of the work we did in the eight years that we served this great country. Adeshina was at the ringside seat and so he had a full view of the policies we enunciated, decisions we took and did not take and the contending forces we dealt with’’. (The former President will then go on to talk about the two recessions that buffeted the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic. He will also mention his fight against Boko Haram, secessionists and other violent non-state actors).

‘’Since I left office, I have focused on taking a well-deserved rest in Daura, attending to my farms and receiving visitors. I have kept a respectable distance from Abuja, just to allow the new administration to settle down.

‘’As we can all see, the new administration has settled down quickly and hit the ground running. It has recorded unprecedented achievements. Food prices have come down drastically; a bag of rice is so cheap that Nigerians are no longer hungry; the Naira has firmed up against the dollar and the rampant cases of insecurity that overwhelmed the nation during my time has been drastically curtailed. Ahamdulahi!

‘’You may recall that, as President, my strategy for dealing with insecurity was to introduce RUGA to effectively manage the problem of farmers-herdsmen clashes. But I was misunderstood and accused of being sympathetic to the Fulani herdsmen because they are my kinsmen, from the same Fulani stock as I. All the killings and kidnappings in the country were blamed on the herdsmen and I was castigated for being sympathetic to them. But now, what do we have? Those herdsmen have been chased away since I left office and today, we have peace in the Middle Belt. No more killings on the Plateau! Kidnapers have been dealt a serious blow and today, there is no single case of kidnapping. There is peace all over the nation. May Allah be praised!

‘’On the issue of the Central Bank of Nigeria, I have decided not to say much on this since the matter is sub judice. But I can confirm that the then Governor had obtained my approval for the issuance of new currency notes. It was meant to reduce the volume of cash in the economy and stem inflation. The fact that cash is still scarce and the banks are not paying above certain amounts over the counter is a clear indication that we were not wrong, after all.

‘’My administration also fought a very difficult war against corruption, and we recorded considerable successes in the number of arrests and convictions. But Nigerians do not seem to appreciate the work we did. But corruption is still with us. A young head of a parastatal, a lady, was recently arrested by the EFCC for stealing N37 billion. She also mentioned her supervising minister, another young lady, as her accomplice. As if that is not enough, the minister is also embroiled in another case of transferring a huge sum of public funds into a private account. You see, (he pauses) these young people. They are not too young to do anything, including those things the adults have been doing with reckless abandon. The audience bursts into a prolonged laughter and the former president pauses, takes a long look at them and continues.

‘’On the removal of fuel subsidy, I must also commend the new administration for the courage to take the hard decision. There are many benefits that has accrued to the nation, and for me personally, as I said a few weeks ago, I am pleased that fuel prices have gone up because it had reduced the number of people who visit me, and in addition, Nigerians are now learning to walk to their offices every day. It is good for them, jare! (More laughs)

‘’In conclusion, let me say that the nation is on the right path to recovery. Renew your hope, but continue to tighten your belts. Thank you very much for your attention’’.

A standing ovation. Some people are confused as the National Anthem rings out.

Etim is a Journalist and a Political Analyst based in Abuja

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