I'm aware that some Nigerians still consider Mr. Buhari essential, if not indispensable, to our country’s prospect of rebirth. To these, a suggestion that the man ought to quit office must sound heretical—indeed seem like a prescription with a dollop of ghastly mischief. But such people are grandly deluded. Concrete ideas, not the cult of any particular personality, are best for a polity in need of ethical rejuvenation. And two years of Mr. Buhari’s tenure as president are adequate to demonstrate his paucity of ideas.
In place of robust and organic ideas for transforming Nigeria, he has merely offered us the pabulum that his reputation and goodwill are enough.
That idea, of the transformative power of President Buhari’s supposed moral gravitas, is hollow. What significant transformation have Nigerians witnessed, in any sector of their life, in the two years of Buhari’s presidency? The so-called war on corruption, Mr. Buhari’s best calling card, has failed to achieve the conviction of one significant political figure from the recent past.
After all the public drama of Dasukigate, what is the status of the case against former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki? If Mr. Buhari’s government has not been able to prosecute Mr. Dasuki to date, is there much hope of his administration making a noticeable dent in the war against corruption via prosecutorial means? I don’t think so.
Worse, Mr. Buhari’s much-vaunted crusade against graft has neither dampened nor discouraged the appetite for corruption in Nigeria. Police and customs officers still farm out on the road and extort bribes from hapless commuters and traders. Under Mr. Buhari’s watch, the Central Bank of Nigeria and other agencies corruptly handed out jobs to children and wards of the most privileged. Elections are still fraught with fraud, with the police and army rolled out to serve the ruling party’s partisan interests. Judicial processes operate at snail-speed; lawyers and judges collude in using incessant adjournments to derail justice. Mr. Buhari has done little more than yawn when political appointees close to him have been accused of corrupt acts.
If the Buhari brand ever represented antipathy to corruption, that image is now profoundly tarnished. At its core, corruption in Nigeria remains as vibrant and resilient as ever. If there’s a scaling back in levels of embezzlement, it owes less to the Buhari effect than to the significant decline in oil revenues.
As I have argued before, a government that disdains judicial orders, that turns the military on unarmed civilians, whether Shiites or Biafran agitators, is engaged in egregious acts of corruption.
The case for President Buhari’s resignation is unassailable. Any seriously sick president deserves the time and space to focus on his health. He can hardly do so while shouldering the burden of running a complex and beleaguered country. Besides, Nigeria is beset by grave crises that appear to worsen by the day. Nigerians deserve a leader at the height of mental and physical fitness, a president endowed with the agility and energy to wrestle with his country’s deep-rooted problems.