By Reno Omokri
First published in my column, #TheAlternative, in today’s ThisDay.
One of the first things that General Muhammadu Buhari did upon his swearing-in as President of Nigeria in 2015 was to ban foreign exchange allocation to Nigerian students studying abroad.
He later gave an interview to Aljazeera on March 5, 2016, and justified the position he took.
When the interviewer, Martine Dennis, pushed back at him and reminded him that his children were schooling abroad and that “your children will continue their studies, no doubt?” Buhari was taken aback.
He did not know that the reporter was that knowledgeable about his personal affairs. Stammering, Buhari responded thus: “Those who can afford it, can still afford it. But for those who can’t, Nigeria cannot afford to allocate foreign exchange for those who decided to train their children outside the country. We can’t just afford it.”
In other words, he could afford it, because he was in power and has ways to access foreign exchange, but he would not provide it to others.
And then, a few months later, General Buhari banned foreign rice from Nigeria. He followed it up a year later by closing Nigeria’s land borders with her neighbours for 18 months.
Now, the question is this: Why is a man who is so opposed to the citizens he presides over accessing foreign goods and services, is himself so addicted to foreign goods and services? Buhari habitually wears $600 designer Gucci shoes, all his children schooled abroad, and his entire family routinely take care of their social and healthcare needs abroad.
For example, let us examine his wife, Aisha Buhari.
When Aisha Buhari wants to shop, she famously goes to the United Kingdom and it is splashed all over gossip sites and celebrity magazines. When she wants to escape from her bully of a husband, Muhammadu Buhari, she runs to Dubai and takes up residence there. When her daughter, Zahra Indimi, wanted to give birth to her first child, they went together to Spain. But when Aisha wanted to launch her books, she comes to Nigeria and gathered 12 billionaires together. Is it that to the Buhari’s, Nigeria is only suitable for exploiting? Are we just one giant ATM that spits out cash for the Buhari family to spend abroad?
I say this because for the last nine days, the same General Muhammadu Buhari, who banned Nigerians from eating foreign rice, and who stopped Nigerian students from accessing foreign exchange to study abroad, and who closed our land borders, has been in the United Kingdom, patronising foreign doctors.
Ironically, he went there on the very same day that Nigerian doctors went on strike over poor working conditions.
Is this not a case of do as I say, not as I do?
Muhammadu Buhari is undermining Nigeria’s sovereignty and, to borrow Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu’s making us look big for nothing to the international community. And for his long shall we continue pretending that the emperor is naked?
As a Nigerian, how many times have you heard that the Presidents of smaller African nations, like Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda went on medical tourism to England? Why are we independent from Britain only to have our leader dependent on Britain? Does that not make us dependent? And it is the mentality of the Buhari’s. It is not just unique to their patriarch. They are all in it together.
And then there is the modern standard gauge railway Nigeria is building in the Republic of Niger, at our own cost, but to Niger’s benefit. I mean, who does that?
That is an act of economically exploiting Nigeria. That was what the colonial masters did. Building railways directly from farming communities to the ports. Why should Nigeria be going into debt to the tune of $1.9 billion to build a railway for a country whose Gross Domestic Product is not even equal to the GDP of Anambra state, yet, Anambra, and the entire Southeast do not have a standard gauge railway?
Honestly, you could not make this type of rubbish up if you were writing a novel about Mad King George, yet sadly, this just happens to be our reality in modern-day Nigeria.
There is not enough food in your house. Those you call your children are starving. And then you are taking what little food they do have and are giving it to their neighbours, who have already eaten.
How can you justify it? The world headquarters for extreme poverty building a multi billion dollar project for its neighbour. And it does not end there.
Whereas Seme Border-Badagry express road, the only road currently linking Nigeria to other West African littoral nations, remains in ruins and looks as if it has been repeatedly carpet-bombed, General Buhari had spent enormous resources developing road networks between Nigeria and the Niger Republic.
On February 26, 2020, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, announced that the government had awarded a contract for the construction of two roads from Sokoto and Jigawa States up to Niger Republic, at the cost of $81 million.
Nigerians in my age group may remember how, as military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari in 1985, voted against Peter Onu, an Igbo man, who was Nigeria’s candidate for the post of Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity, in favour of Ide Oumarou, a Fulani from Niger Republic.
I have it on good authority that this was the last straw that broke the camel’s back and made his colleagues oust him a few weeks after that.
Which begs the question: Is Buhari from Niger Republic? Because the way he and his family economically exploit Nigeria, while treating Nigerians with disdain leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
In fact, the last official act that General Buhari undertook before jetting off to London to bromance with his doctors was the naming of a very major artery road in Abuja (the Outer Southern Expressway) as the ‘Mahamadou Issoufou Expressway’ in honour of the President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou.
As the creator of the fictional James Bond spy character once noted, “once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”
Is General Buhari a foreign potentate holding sway over Nigeria and exploiting her for the benefit of his home country, as the colonialist once did?
These are valid questions that everyone should be asking, and so few are asking.
That is why I want to end this piece with a call to action. I urge the media to raise this question before General Buhari and let us get a straightforward and direct answer. And the question is as follows:
What is so special about Niger Republic to General Buhari and his cabal, that in this period of a lack of funds, when our foreign debt has risen from $7 billion in 2015, to $34 billion in 2021, and we are the world headquarters for extreme poverty, that he must award a $1.9 billion contract to build a railway in Niger Republic.
- He met Naira at ₦199 to $1. Today it is ₦485 to $1
- He met Nigeria as the third fastest-growing economy in the world. Today, we are the world headquarters for extreme poverty
- He met unemployment at 10%. Today it is 33%
- He met other Presidents using Aso Rock Clinic. Today, he is in London
- He met fuel at ₦87. Today, it is ₦221
- He met only Boko Haram. Today, we have Boko Haram, herdsmen and bandits
- He met one Nigeria. Today, he has divided Nigeria
- He met 50Kg bag of rice at ₦8000. Today it is ₦24,000
- He met a debt of ₦12 trillion. Today, it is ₦34 trillion
- He met Dangote at a net worth of $25 billion in 2015. Today, Dangote is worth $10.7 billion
That is why you should join me to #HarassBuhariOutofLondon
Gospeller. Deep Thinker. #1 Bestselling author of Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years. Avid traveller. Hollywood Magazine Film Festival Humanitarian of the Year, 2019.