In a week in which five serving state governors, (Borno, Zamfara, Katsina, Edo and Akwa Ibom), raised the security alert to very scary levels by saying they themselves do not feel safe as in the case of Katsina, for example, and in which the Minister for Defence is heading to Chad again, it is curious President Muhammadu Buhari’s self-scoring excluded any mention of security. Rather, infrastructure and agriculture were privileged. “In three and a half years, we have improved tremendously on what we met. We are trying to do infrastructure. No matter which part of the country you come from, you will see the efforts we are making in terms of roads; we are trying to fix rails, we are trying to do power, through the use of gas and solar. If you note what we have done in these three and a half years, you will not regret voting this administration into power”. And, as far as he is concerned, Nigeria is doing very well in agriculture and set to attain food sufficiency and security.
He told leaders of the National Association of Nigerian Students, (NANS) who called on him in the Presidential Villa Thursday that he is totally loyal to Nigeria and everything he does is in the interest of the majority. He expressed expectation that the elite would understand the position of the government on certain issues. “Whatever I do is in the interest of the ordinary people especially those who do not have the benefit of being educated like you, and are just trusting whoever is leading them”, said the president in apparent response to criticisms of him being at the service of a cabal.
Being one of his earliest opportunities to put in perspective the security disasters that have dogged the nation in the past week and calm the nation, the silence on the situation sends a message that the president either has a different assessment of the situation from the one available to the public or thinks he is doing enough already. But, aside from the totality of the statements of the governors, new diffuse wars seem to be upon Nigeria in Zamfara and Katsina. These are aside from unease across central Nigeria where violence dominates everyday living. Fear of the 2019 elections transforming into a transition fiasco is also strong.
Rather, President Buhari argued he had been in positions of leadership at various stages in life as to mean well for Nigerians and be believed to be capable of taking Nigeria out of the poverty cycle by fixing the infrastructure. Fixing his gaze on the obvious anxieties of students, the president gave assurance of speaking with the academic staff union “so that they don’t encroach on your efforts to qualify in time”. He, however, cautioned the students against “the tendency for you to think that you can do better than anybody, but it is very good for you to know the facts that leadership entails” by preparing themselves to lead the country. Sending a message to the central labour unions through the students, the president asked them to allow his administration to concentrate on fixing infrastructure in the country rather than distracting it.
Different proposals are beginning to emerge on what is to be done. Earlier today, Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the June 12 electoral fiasco in 1993 suggested in a massively circulating Whatsapp message that Nigerian statesmen had better intervene before it is too late. He invoked images of Rwandan genocide in the piece. Interestingly, in the management of the June 12 crisis, President Buhari was part of the Association for Good Governance floated by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Tofa’s concern might have been that no such platforms have come up in the current uncertainty and anxiety, marking a gulf between the elite and the masses. In crisis situations such as this, elite are expected to close ranks and ease tension. Tofa’s argument in his piece is that they too would be consumed if they do not come together quickly in search of sanity. There does not appear to be any such meeting in sight as the president is telling some unclear and unconstituted students what he ought to be telling fellow elite.