PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was in his intellectual best in his latest live interview on television. He served a potpourri of explanations on his management of Nigeria. A ready, healthy Buhari answered “all questions”.
Some of the takeaways from the interview are that the President is well, knows what is going on, admits he can doing nothing any longer about them, as if he did much earlier.
The new Buhari was annoyingly impressive. You will not deny his candour about his limitations. He was honest from the beginning when he told Nigerians in South Africa in 2015 that he was too old for the job.
Almost at the end of his tenure, he reminded us that age remained a burden to his performance. Who will blame him? What purpose will blame-shifting serve?
Buhari rooted the economy on agriculture. We didn’t know that, and a renowned farmer of his standing shared our ignorance. It took a briefing from Dr. Doyin Salami, newly announced Chief Economic Adviser, for the President to know that only 2.5 per cent of Nigerian land was under cultivation.
He gushed about Dr. Salami, his patriotism and his capacity for work. It is doubtful that tiling the soil was all Dr. Salami told him.
The President’s traducers would be shocked that he remembered names, roles, incidents, and the fact that Buhari had been Governor, Minister, and now President. He played the earlier parts more than four decades ago.
He waxed strong on the imperative of agriculture as elixir to Nigeria’s issues. Insecurity has hampered farming, sent food prices to the skies. Shouldn’t be grateful that Nigeria is exporting rice?, according to the President. Whatever rice costs in Nigeria is immaterial. At worst, we can borrow rice from the Chinese. The President confirmed their eagerness to lend to a willing borrower though he didn’t mention rice.
“All I know is that we have to allow people access to their farms, so far we have achieved some successes and people ought to measure what was achieved so far. The important thing is that the farms produce and we have to use infrastructure and we have identified that the rail needs to be functional, the roads need to be accessible. We need to appreciate what we have done within the time we have been here,” was his famous retort to the question on Nigeria’s foreign debts which he has grown from N12 trillion to N33 trillion.
The President praised his performance in dealing with insecurity, insisted on restoration of grazing routes for herdsmen who had been implicated in deadly clashes with farmers.
He pushed security, his primary duty to traditional rulers. He said they understood the terrain better. With that position the local communities that cannot protected themselves, have no right to direct security operations though they could have intelligence, are to manage the insecurity in their domain.
He is confident of implementing a budget that the National Assembly inserted 6,576 projects. If you expected him to be affronted, he wasn’t. He considered the leadership of the National Assembly “competent”.
“I allow them do everything because I can’t go against my party neither can I go against people that I have absolute confidence in, I know they are doing their best,” Buhari said of the National Assembly. Really?
Buhari’s responses to restructuring Nigeria was dismissive, his position on the electoral bill he rejected, was incoherent.
He would not support anyone in the 2023 election. “It is not my problem, I am not interested in who succeeds me, whoever it is let him come. My concern is nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in any court otherwise whoever it is will be in trouble, because all important things are on record,” said the President.
Buhari has a legacy set out in his great works over the years. He summed it up thus, “My legacy is that I tried to make sure we conducted ourselves with integrity. That is, we stopped all the stealing as much as the system can allow, we also stopped misappropriation and for Nigerians that is very important.”
Stealing, which we should assume is corruption, is determined by what the system permits. Buhari’s fight against corruption has been dictated by the system, not the President’s integrity, not by the anti-corruption agencies.
He didn’t tell us what that system was? The reporter didn’t ask either. Are we permitted to speculate that he fought corruption within the system’s responsive capacity?
“With its young population, the expectation from Nigerians is so high that we must make sure resources are managed properly,” the President said, suggesting that the main thrust of the anti-corruption policies was to ensure the young population did not revolt and cause trouble.
Buhari knows what he doesn’t want to do. His tenure is more about things not to do than how to remove shackles that latch the abilities of Nigerians to navigate their lives away from governments that deem them mere statistics to be lifted out of poverty in eternity.
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues