“Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you’re moral, saying you’re moral is not the same as acting morally.” — Alan Dershowitz
Many are still in shock over the presidential polls of February 25–farce called an election–and wonder what should be the role of President Muhammadu Buhari in that show of shame.
Is he taken aback like every other reasonable person and unable to act? Is the president acting like the biblical Pharisee, saying one thing and doing the opposite?
The scripture portrays the Pharisees as a largely self-righteous group who, according to the Holy Book, live out hypocrisy, showing off as people with a higher standard when it’s not the case. In one of the several altercations between the Pharisees and Jesus Christ during the Messiah’s mission on earth, he thoroughly examined the way of life of the Pharisees. He advised his disciples on how to deal with them to maximise their relationship.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’s seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practise what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they are not willing to lift a finger to move them.”
The Messiah teaches believers to avoid falling into the trap of over trusting, wrong perception, and or overrating people. Not to heed that teaching is to end up disappointed with what you will see in practical terms when juxtaposed with make-believe.
If Nigerians were privileged, like Jesus’s disciples, to get a hint in 2015 that their incoming president says sweet things but does the opposite, the bickering rampant in the land today over his style of governance would not have been there in the first place.
In about 75 days, Buhari will cease to function as president and C-in-C after completing two full terms. His time in office will leave Nigerians utterly flogged, flustered, and exhausted. However, the peevish quarrelling trailing much of the Buhari era would have drastically reduced if the people had foreknowledge and warning akin to what Jesus taught his followers about the Pharisees.
Had the people been privileged to have such knowledge of Buhari as one who does the opposite of what he says, only a few would have believed when he said at his inaugural in 2015, “I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody.” After that statesmanly speech, many thought an elder statesman had arrived who would not behave like a typical politician. Politicians are always preoccupied with the next election. The patriotic ones think of the next nation-building block. Buhari is not inexperienced, having enjoyed a first in the 1980s chance as leader of his country and was a military head of state. But as it turned out, the man is practising the opposite of what he said in that speech.
Shortly after that landmark inaugural statement, he came up with the 95/5 sharing formula of government patronage which he defended and practised. Despite applause greeting his statement, his regime is leaving the stage as the most biassed, divisive, and nepotistic administration in Nigeria’s history. Since the civil war, Nigerians have never been as divided as they are now courtesy of the governance style of the man who deceived us that he was for everybody.
After eight years, the man who claimed he belonged to nobody, made sure that nobody from the South East, the ethnic Igbos who are one of the three majors, ever held any command position in any military, para-military or intelligence agencies. There are more than a dozen.
There were also many other things he promised to tackle but the opposite happened. He swore during electioneering in 2014 that he would throw away fuel subsidies but after eight years it has gone from ₦23.4 monthly average in 2015 to ₦3.36 trillion in six months of this year’s budget. Not to talk of the strengthening of the national currency which he promised but while it was ₦197 to a dollar in 2015, today the regime is leaving with an exchange of ₦750 to the US dollar. The same situation applies to corruption and insecurity, the twin menace that President Buhari was highly rated, but the two issues have waxed stronger. Corruption in the government has been unprecedented while insecurity quarantined to one of the six geo-political regions, the North East when he arrived at the stage under his watch spread to all the regions bearing various names all engineered by the persisting injustice in the land that necessitated agitations and weaponized poverty, grew unemployment and dragged more citizens into multidimensional poverty.
Perhaps, nothing has exposed President Buhari more than the presidential election held on February 25. Ahead of the election, the President’s misadventure in governance was being erased from the minds of the public because of the assurances from him about the election.
The people believed when he said repeatedly in a series of interviews and statements that his regime would respect the people and ensure that their voice through the ballot is heard.
As far back as December 2021, President Buhari was on record as saying, “As we count the number of down to our next general elections in 2023, we remain committed to putting in place and strengthening all necessary mechanisms to ensure that Nigeria will not only record another peaceful transfer of power to an elected democratic government but will also ensure that the elections are conducted in a free, fair, and transparent manner.”
Even when he brought the redesigning of the national currency up on the eve of the election, he was generally applauded as a measure to check electoral corruption of vote buying. His party leaders led by Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna as well as the presidential flag bearer of his party accused him of undermining them.
Nigerians who were going through severe stress as a result of the redesign policy welcomed it so long as it was being introduced to ensure that the will of the people through the ballot prevailed. The last reassuring move by the president that boosted the people’s confidence was when he met with the security chiefs and read the riot act for a free, fair, transparent, and trouble-free election. This raised the people’s hope and strengthened their resolve to come out and vote for their choice.
But when election day arrived, what the people saw was the opposite of all the massaging from the president. In states like Lagos, Rivers, Kogi, and Kano, violence erupted, and the security operatives were on AWOL.
The direct conductors of the election from the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had a preconceived agenda of violating their laws to meet up with a programmed outcome.
President and C-in-C who had assured us of a free, fair, and credible election led the pack of the new agenda setting when he voted and displayed his choice. That affirmed where belongs, not to everybody, he had us believe in his inaugural speech. Some public affairs commentators interpreted his action of showing who he voted for as a coded signal to the team led by Prof Mahmood Yakubu that this is the direction to go.
So, with all the assurances from the President and the INEC Chairman that free and fair polls were coming, what later arrived turned out to be the worst organised election in Nigeria’s history. And rather than feel ashamed or shocked, both the president and the INEC chair, without blinking an eye, said the aggrieved should go to court.
The duo refused to heed the advice of the revered elder statesman and former President, Olusegun Obasanjo for them to use their legal instrument to halt the charade and save our democracy and nation from imminent damnation.
If Nigerians had tried to study their President very well and critically looked at his antecedents of always doing the opposite of what he says publicly as empirically highlighted in this discourse, they would not have fallen ‘mugu’. We would not have been so brazenly fooled, our disappointment is huge now because hopes were raised and we were expecting much that never came.
President Buhari has shown some consistency enough to forewarn us but we were not circumspect. Instead, we were over-trusting and now paying dearly for it.
In the final analysis, the person to pity is still the president who had all the opportunities to erase his negatives and turn them into positives with just a good election but instead chose to write his name in the black book of democracy. If the judiciary saves our democracy, Buhari would not have benefited from the good story. God, help us.