In 2016, one year after Jonathan Goodluck left power, his press secretary Dr. Reuben Abati, advised the Nigerian Government to abandon the Villa and turn it into a spiritual museum. This is because, according to him, there are evil spirits in the Villa who overcome Nigerian presidents and prevent them from taking good decisions. He ascribed the disconnect between the decisions of their government and public opinion to the influence of those spirits.
Abati concluded that “the APC folks now in power are dealing with the same demons. Since Buhari Government assumed office, it has been one mistake after another. Those mistakes don’t look normal the same way they did not look normal under President Jonathan.”
One year later, after PMB’s prolonged medical vacation in the United Kingdom, Garba Shehu, told Nigerians that rodents had taken over the office of the President. That, according to Shehu, had forced the President to be working from home. While Nigerians were discussing the issue of rodents, a politician who claimed to know what was happening in the Villa told me that, “those are not ordinary rodents. The fact is that any time the President entered that office he will start feeling as if some rats are jumping up and down in his head.”
Politicians can lie. That is why I didn’t take my politician friend seriously, even though what he said made sense. How long does it take ordinary Nigerians to clear rodents from their compounds? How did that now become difficult for the presidency of an oil-rich country like Nigeria that can afford the best rat repellents in the world?
But as governance continued under PMB, Nigerians have been wondering what is wrong with their choice leader. Of recent, PMB has been getting it wrong on security and acting contrary to popular public opinions that make sense. If in 2016 it was one mistake after another, in 2020 it is a series of blunders as Nigerians continue to be killed under his watch; and he remains adamant on positions that have failed to yield results.
Take the issue of Service Chiefs for example. The position of the majority of Nigerians including the APC-controlled National Assembly is that the Service Chiefs have overstayed and vividly outlived their optimal performance and should go. Their going will give them time to retire honourably with the feeling that they have contributed their best to their country. It will also give room for growth in the Nigerian military and bring fresh blood and ideas on board. But the President has refused to listen for no reason reasonable thinking can grasp. If the President wants to retain them because they are Northerners, there are many qualified Northerners on the line. For whatever good reason he is retaining them, there are handy replacements around.
One thing that has kept me wondering whether or not there is a link between Buhari’s decisions and Abati’s spirits and Garba’s rodents is the Auno massacre. Auno is a popular settlement very close to Maiduguri. Not far from Auno is a famous checkpoint where all travelers going in and out of Maiduguri are asked to show their identity cards. A school/office identity card, a driving licence or a National identity card will suffice. Those who cannot present ID cards are asked to step out of their vehicles and see Oga who is usually sitting in some shade a few metres away. The meeting with Oga is usually very brief unless the traveler cannot talk to Oga “correctly”.
All that is during the day. Once it is time to lock the gate at Auno, it is locked and all the security people will leave the scene. But when is the time of closing the gate? That is determined by the officer in charge. The 6 pm can change at the discretion of the commander who doesn’t have to explain to any of the travelers struggling to enter Maiduguri but locked out by a delay that can be as little as less than one minute. Few months ago I saw a commercial vehicle driver being flogged by a soldier because he pleaded to be allowed to pass through the other lane after his lane was locked at 4 pm. That was at the other gate around Damaturu. Of course there are two such gates on the Maiduguri-Damaturu highway.
The question here is: is PMB not aware of all these? Certainly he will not be aware if he only relies on regular security reports to know what is happening in the North East. This is why it was easy for Boko Haram to attack innocent travelers last week.
The reaction of the President is grossly disappointing, with due respect to His Excellency. The expected decision any good leader would take is to order an investigation. Our President who could not go to Auno to see for himself only blamed the traditional rulers of the state. But the infallible Nigerian military is beyond reproach as far as my beloved President is concerned.
As all of these are happening, Reuben Abati must be somewhere saying, “Sebi I told them”.
But PMB should not abandon the Villa yet. He is a good Muslim who has been praying five times a day. He is also very lucky to have close to him Islamic scholars of the likes of Dr. Ali Pantami. The President should first and foremost put his trust in Allah and continue to pray and take necessary action against all “rodents” and “evil spirits” around him. The Buhari who led Nigeria in the 80s and the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund in the 90s is too good to continue to rule Nigeria this way. Something is wrong.
Professor Jibia is of the Department of Mechatronics Engineering, Bayero University, Kano.