Tinubu is right. Buhari has failed spectacularly. But it is highly disingenuous for the APC presidential candidate to just take a walk from the mess that Buhari’s lack of capacity has made of governance in Nigeria because he is vicariously liable.
By Ikechukwu Amaechi
It was obvious to all discerning minds from the get-go that the 2023 elections would be like no other. However, even the most perceptive of political observers could never have imagined the breadth of the incongruities, if not outright illogicalities that are underpinning the contest.
The ironies are as breathtaking as the absurdities are unimaginable. Imagine a situation where 23 days to the presidential and National Assembly elections, the candidate of the ruling party is skewering the president of the country, calling him, literally, an unthinking, good-for-nothing president at every campaign stop; a leading light of the ruling party, a state governor, is accusing the “cabal in the presidency” of sabotaging their own candidate; the opposition party and their presidential candidate are vigorously defending a president that his own people have thrown under the bus. And wait for it, the presidency is telling chieftains of the opposition party to weep for themselves.
This is as bizarre as it can get. On the face value, nothing seems to make sense anymore. But a deeper reflection will reveal that as incredulously absurd as these happenings may seem, when the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, says President Muhammadu Buhari neither thinks nor knows how to run government for the common good, he is being brutally frank.
And that was exactly what he did on Tuesday in Calabar, Cross River State, when he said Buhari met the naira at the rate of N200/$1 when he took office on May 29, 2015, and took it to N800/$1.
Slamming the Buhari-led APC federal government over the depreciation of the naira, the Jagaban of Borgu Kingdom said at the UJ Esuene Stadium: “Today, they moved the exchange rate from N200 to N800. If they had repaired it, if they had arrested this, we won’t be where we are today, we will be greater. They don’t know the way, they don’t know how to think, and they don’t know how to do.”
Tinubu was frontal in his assault. But as it has become the tradition, his spin doctors are spinning this straightforward, unambiguous bombshell.
In a statement on Wednesday, Bayo Onanuga, the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council media director, said the PDP created the current exchange rate debacle.
“The reference to exchange rate was not in any way an attack on the Buhari-led All Progressives Congress administration but an attempt to capture how the economic mismanagement of the PDP created a forex crisis in the country since 2015,” he said.
Of course, that is not only a lie, it is puerile to continue blaming others for today’s state of anomie after almost eight years of the Buhari presidency. Besides, Tinubu knew exactly what he was talking about. As at May 29, 2015, when Buhari took charge of the country’s affairs, the naira-dollar exchange rate was at an average price of N198 to $1 and N220 to $1 in the black market. Whatever has happened in the forex market ever since is entirely the making of the APC government which Tinubu helped to power eight years ago.
The spin doctors deployed the same subterfuge in trying to explain away Tinubu’s recent attack, in Ogun State, on the federal government for the lingering fuel scarcity and CBN’s naira redesign project, which he claimed were efforts by the powers-that-be to sabotage the elections and torpedo his presidential quest.
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Speaking at the MKO Abiola International Stadium, Abeokuta, Tinubu said: “We will take over the government from them, the traitors who wanted to contest with us, they had no experience … This election is a revolution. They are plotting, but they will fail.”
So, when the Campaign Council turns around to claim that the outburst wasn’t targeted at President Buhari, but Atiku Abubakar, it cannot but be a lie.
How can Atiku be responsible for the fuel crisis when the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited is the sole importer of refined petroleum products and Buhari has been the de facto Petroleum Minister since 2015?
How can the APC claim that anyone else other than Buhari and the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is responsible for the naira redesign fiasco even when the president has claimed ownership of the project?
Tinubu is gunning for Aso Rock, the presidency of Nigeria, a position presently occupied by Buhari who authoritatively allocates the country’s values on behalf of the All Progressives Congress. So, if Tinubu is talking about taking over government, it can only be from Buhari and not Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party.
So, the “traitors” who don’t want Tinubu near Aso Rock can only come from within his own APC political family, not outside. Atiku and the other 16 candidates vying for Aso Rock are competitors and not traitors. They are not obliged to him in any way. The traitors are the people betraying the trust he had in them to deliver on their fabled “Emi lokan” promise after Buhari’s stint in Aso Rock.
This is why the intervention of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, is invaluable. Speaking on Channels TV on Wednesday, the same day Onanuga was putting a spin on Tinubu’s Calabar disavowal of the Buhari stewardship, el-Rufai not only tried to distance Tinubu and the APC from the disastrous policies of the Buhari government but also alleged that the notorious Aso Rock cabal – aka traitors – were up in arms against the party’s presidential candidate.
‘’I believe there are elements in the villa that want us to lose the election because they didn’t get their way. They had their candidate but their candidate didn’t win the primary election. I think they are still trying to get us to lose the election and they are hiding behind the president’s desire to do what he thinks is the right thing,” the Kaduna helmsman said.
On the twin issues of fuel and naira redesign crises, el-Rufai, shooting from the hip, indicted Buhari.
“I had a discussion with the president and showed him why it (petroleum subsidy) had to go. Because how can you have a capital budget of N200 billion for federal roads and then spend N2 trillion on petroleum subsidy? This was a conversation I had with the president in 2021 when the subsidy thing started rising. He was convinced. We left. It changed,” the governor said.
Continuing, el-Rufai elucidated why Buhari and nobody else should be blamed. “The second example I will give is this currency redesign. You have to understand the president. People are blaming the Governor of the Central Bank for the currency redesign, but no. You have to go back and look at the first outing of Buhari as president. He did this; the Buhari/Idiagbon regime changed our currency and did it in secrecy with a view to catching those that are stashing away illicit funds. It is with a very good intention. But doing it at this time within the allotted time does not make any political or economic sense.”
So, Tinubu knows what he is talking about and there is obviously a method to what some people might consider his political madness. That also explains why he has tried strenuously to distance his campaign from the Buhari presidency. Instead, he is busy campaigning on his records as governor of Lagos State.
When Tinubu talks about those who don’t know the way, people who don’t know anything about inflation, who ran the economy into a ditch, he is talking about Buhari. Simplicita! And he is right. Eight years of Buhari in Aso Rock are years the locusts ate. Tinubu, the City Boy, knows that for a fact. He is politically smart.
But the question is, can he successfully distance himself from the Buhari presidency? Will Nigerians believe him when he claims he is also a victim of the Buhari political myopia? The answer is ensconced in the womb of time. The outcome of the elections will be a proof of whether Nigerians accepted his veiled apologia on the Buhari fiasco or not.
Suffice it to say that there is nothing Tinubu is saying today about Buhari that he didn’t know when he helped him to power in 2015. He knew that he didn’t have the capacity to superintend over the affairs of the country. And, I dare say it smacks of hypocrisy and lack of patriotism to know that someone would be a disaster for the socio-economic and political wellbeing of your country and still help him to power as a quid pro quo for your own anticipated political coronation.