At the height of the chatter, the current resident of Aso Rock, Major General Muhamamdu Buhari (Retd), had been kidnapped from Sudan by a man named Jibril (or Jubril). sold in some circles. Stories don’t always have to make sense before they can be considered reasonable. Sometimes, what it highlights despite its incoherence is a deeper truth about people’s situations. While not imitating real Jibril Buhari, the President’s Jibrilization and Sudanization illustrated alienation. Given how estranged he was from the people he supposedly rules, the theory that an impersonator replaced Buhari is reasonable. Both “Jibril” and “Sudan” were metaphors of alienation to describe a man no longer recognizable.
This was a man whose limited ability to solve Nigeria’s problems was oversold during the 2015 elections. The image of Buhari they marketed must have overwhelmed the man himself, because by the time he finally won the election, he fell like Humpty Dumpty. He has not been able to recover properly since then. Knowing how little brilliance he would be in office; he anticipated his coming failures with the warning that old age would affect his performance. For a man who came to power as a roar, he wasn’t even officially sworn in before he started beeping. As it has come out so far, his problem wasn’t so much about aging as his sociopathic nonchalance. The problems that his counselors promised to confront with his ‘spartan’ approach have hardly changed. The most fitting photo of his records that describes his records is the one that shows him in his living room picking his teeth. The photo has been meme-fied and used to satirize his aloofness from Nigerians. Whoever released that image of Buhari to the public lacked tact, but they also gave us a powerful visualization of his detachment from the reality of the people he supposedly rules.
On the few occasions when Buhari had deigned to speak to Nigerians, he confirmed both his cold indifference to people and his gross disregard for their sensitivities. A quick example is his statement in his hometown in July that he would leave no possessions for his children. For a man whose children were educated in private schools abroad at the expense of Nigerians and given various privileges that will pay them off for several lives, he sounded hypocritical. One of his children – Yusuf, who suffered a motorcycle accident while overindulging – was even given a turban Talban Daura and was named district head of the Kwasarawa community, despite lacking a personal record of achievement. Despite all the evidence of their generosity, Buhari still saw himself as a disciplinary father whose children pushed their way through nothing but personal responsibility.
On Tuesday, he complained in Imo state that he had not received enough recognition for his administrative achievements. He said: “In terms of time and resources, this government has done extremely well. I have to say it because those who should say it don’t say it. I don’t know why.” Well, those who should be trumpeting his achievements are muted because they are ashamed of his woeful failures. Buhari is probably the only one who rates himself highly. Fortunately, since he’s been deceived, they just let him be. They see him happily scratching his teeth, unconcerned about the fate of Nigeria, and they fuel his constant alienation by sending him selected information about the state of the nation.
Typically Buhari, his speech in Imo showed a man stuck in time. He still spoke like it was 2015. He boasted of the number of local governments that Boko Haram had when he came to power and have now recovered. The man does not seem to have informed himself of a new form of evil called banditry, which had taken over the country and even replaced Boko Haram in malice. Buhari repeated the same old grumbler about his predecessors making so much revenue from oil but failing to provide the infrastructure. “Infrastructure,” long limited to building a few federal roads, a bridge, and railroad services crossing a few towns, has been his biggest boast. With the infrastructure of health, education, energy and rural/urban management still lacking, he and his spokespersons pretend they don’t matter.
You would think that a man whose regime is overly dependent on oil prices would at least make a concerted effort to stop the oil looting, but no. An estimated 108,000 barrels of oil are stolen every day. His selling point in 2015 was his promise to stop corruption, but corruption exploded under his watch. For example, his own accountant general was caught for stealing an obscene amount; the shady amount allocated to fuel subsidies soared. Insecurity in Nigeria turned into a monstrosity; the antics of Boko Haram are now barely distinguishable from the wickedness of the bandits. Due to bad economic mismanagement, most Nigerians went from purely poor to multidimensionally poor. Hardly anything he encountered when he took office improved.
An account of our life under this current administration shows how much we have gone backwards than forwards. One of the most spectacular failures is the percentage of out-of-school children. Due to the combined factors of insecurity and increasing poverty, the figure rose stratospherically in nearly eight years of their reign. When they came to power in 2015, UNICEF estimated the number at a staggering 10.5 million. A few days ago, UNICEF announced that the number has risen to 18.5 million. A more recent update by UNESCO shows that the number is around 20.2 million, roughly the population of entire countries like Burkina Faso or Mali! This regime claims to have spent billions of naira on food projects for schools, but things only got worse. Their social utilities tend to gobble up huge sums of money, but hardly anyone, except perhaps their cronies and corrupt associates, is ever better off.
In a few months, it would have been a full calendar year since public universities across the country have closed. Thousands of students have lost years of their lives to the strike, a period they will never recoup, even if teachers work overtime. But what does that matter to Buhari who has willfully distanced himself enough from reality to give himself a pass? Things have deteriorated for many people and the quality of life has decreased significantly, but the man in charge feels that people are not singing his praises enough. He cannot understand why even his own party members who struggle for power are ashamed of his failures. On September 28, when the elections officially begin, they will distance themselves from their own party failures and campaign as an opposition party.
Most people have given up on Buhari and are already looking forward to the rescue that 2023 may bring. Even Buhari has surrendered. He is only counting down to the day when he returns to his village, the scorching remnants of the land safely handed over to someone else to manage. For a man whose anti-Midas touch turns copper into foam, he is pathetically estranged from the carnage he caused. His memory of his reign will no doubt be different from the reality many Nigerians have experienced, a dissonance that will be further fueled by hagiographers who will not let him come to terms with his ignorance.