Muhammadu Buhari started his presidency with “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.” Will he end as a nobody’s man? Sometimes, and for some, it is gracious to maintain one’s lane, listen to your own vision, single, unattached. French statesman, Charles de Gaulle, who holds the copyright of “I am a man who belongs to nobody and who belongs to everybody” deeply said on another occasion that “If Joan of Arc had married, she would no longer have been Joan of Arc.” Whatever that means – Joan was 15th century France’s iron lady of war and vision. Immolated at age 19, she had no time for men and marriage and family but she is remembered forever as a saviour of France and its patron saint. Buhari, from what we’ve seen of his years, is no Charles de Gaulle and definitely not Joan of Arc to Nigeria. And after benefiting from a political marriage, can Buhari be neutral, truly non-aligned in the 2023 presidential contest? Will he? If he won’t, where is he?
I will be shocked if I am the only person who wonders where Buhari belongs between PDP’s Atiku Abubakar and APC’s Bola Tinubu, two bosom friends fighting over the president’s seat. You know Atiku’s party and Bola Tinubu’s party and the zero-sum ground they hold. The two were part of a national coalition that made Buhari’s presidency possible in 2015. There are persons who vow that for that reason, undergirded by reasons of region and religion, Atiku may in 2023 get Buhari’s vote or, at worst, get him not to lift a finger for the APC and its Èmi l’ókàn candidate. Very interestingly, Buhari clocked 80 on Saturday and Atiku, candidate of the main opposition party, not only issued a statement to celebrate the APC president, he instructively placed newspaper advertisements for him. So, what is happening?
Two months to a presidential election, Buhari is not canvassing votes for his party; he is asking Nigerians to vote for any candidate they fancy. That is strange. We saw President Barack Obama with candidate Hillary Clinton throughout the Democratic Party’s campaigns of 2016. One newspaper (New Telegraph) reported two days ago that “Tinubu’s men fret over Buhari government’s aloofness.” Reporters hear stories. That was not the first time I had heard of grumbling and rumbling in the ruling party over presidential social distancing in the APC campaigns. I know the Lagos content of the APC and their supporters are wondering why Buhari has refused to be part of their candidate’s globe-trotting campaigns. I know you would say that the president was at the flag-off of the campaigns at the Rwang Pam Township Stadium in Jos on November 15, 2022. Was his presence real – body and spirit? Someone said ‘they’ begged the president not to disgrace ‘them’ by not being physically there. If that is true, his presence, therefore, may be what the Yoruba call gbà jé n sinmi (take, let me rest).
The newspaper report is worth quoting copiously and I am doing so because it appears to tally with what I have heard in low tones in several APC crevices. I quote the report: “I must tell you that the situation that we (Tinubu’s supporters) have found ourselves is that of an abandoned orphan. It’s unfortunate that we have been left in the cold by government that was elected on the platform of our great party, the APC…We are campaigning like an opposition party just jostling for power and not like a party in power, which is very unfortunate. Though we recognise that the president has a busy schedule that would have prevented him from being at many of the rallies of the party, I don’t think he has demonstrated sufficient interest to know the situation of things with the campaign efforts.” The New Telegraph said that its source, “an influential member of the South-West Agenda for Bola Tinubu (SWAGA)” was sad that ministers and other key government officials had been distancing themselves from the campaigns: “The question is, save for the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, who is one of the spokesmen, how many of the ministers and government officials have openly shown support and solidarity with the campaign since we commenced?” The report, however, quoted Keyamo as declaring that Buhari “is the heart and soul behind the campaign…He wants free and fair elections but he is with Asiwaju more than 100 percent.” He didn’t say anything about Buhari’s men who are not busy like the president but are perpetually absent in the party’s campaign life. Significant here is Keyamo’s friend, Rotimi Amaechi, and similar tendencies in the party. Where are they?
Buhari enjoys being aloof and staying far from the madding crowd. Ironically, it was the madness of that crowd that rescued him in 2015. Today, he is a nobody’s man. What does it mean to be a nobody’s man in this world of ‘help me, I help you?’ Danish singer and songwriter, Tina Dickow, dropped a hint in her love lines with the title ‘Nobody’s Man’: “Take what you want from me/Take what you can/And then hide it somewhere I can’t see/Out of my hands…/Do what it takes to make you feel better/Never forget that you, you’re nobody’s man…” What kind of friend or lover takes what he wants from his partner then hides it where the benefactor “can’t see it” and out of her hands? A friend who saw me struggling with this on Sunday wondered why I was weeping more than the bereaved. He told me: “Did Tinubu not say famously that he was the one who singularly made Buhari president after three disastrous defeats? Let Tinubu now do for himself what he boasted he did for the perpetually unelectable Buhari. He does not need Buhari.” I was tempted to agree with my friend. This is the time for Tinubu’s physician to heal himself and shame the charm of overrated incumbency. Is Tinubu happy not seeing Buhari beside him at his Kaduna and Minna rallies? You are not likely to hear complaints directly from the principal victim because he is a Yoruba man. Wise elders use proxy hands to hunt snakes. Besides, the Yoruba say it is not befitting for an elder to cry for help (Gbà mí gbà mí kò ye àgbàlagbà). More importantly, a chief hunter that comes home with an elephant unaided is the celebrated one. You know the worth of the king of warlords when he captures worthy enemies, muskets and amulets – the ones sewn tight in tiger’s skin and the ugly ones in alligator’s hide.
A rainbow coalition birthed the APC which sired Buhari’s magical presidency. The Jewish Talmud says, “do not throw a stone into the well whose waters you have drunk.” There is a similar saying in Yoruba about water fetchers who do not mind if the stream is polluted after they are done. In day-to-day village dealings, this is wrong; in politics, poisoning the well and the stream may be an act of political goodness. Buhari needs no preacher to tell him that his peace and relevance after a riotous eight years in power depend on who replaces him. The future he envisions for himself and for Nigeria may not align with what he sees around him. If someone dreams of transiting from being a partisan to a real statesman and has read Machiavelli, he will likely say and do what Buhari is up to – refuse to keep friends; refuse to pay back political IOUs; refuse to be mounted to power like a beast of burden; pitch this lion against that lion and set the forest ablaze. Machiavelli in Chapter XV of his ‘The Prince’ says “it is necessary for a prince wishing to hold his own to know how to do wrong, and to make use of it or not according to necessity.” He argues that “if everything is considered carefully, it will be found that something which looks like virtue, if followed, would be his ruin; whilst something else, which looks like vice, yet followed brings him security and prosperity.” A Machiavellian leadership values being practical higher than being morally good. For “if moral goodness is a hindrance to maintaining political power, then a prince must learn how not to be morally good.” And, to the lucky rich who think Buhari owes them for favours of the past and are offended by his rhetoric of enforced fairness in the coming polls, I say sorry.
Is Buhari indebted to any politician in the APC? I recommend a study of the Fulani worldview on luck and fortune and who is destined to use what the lucky acquires. Fortunes spent on making Buhari president for two terms are divinely ordained. He owes the spenders no payback. The Fulani say you are a lucky person (an arsikaadho) when, without hard work, you get whatever you desire, including wealth. For better elucidation, I quote a scholar here: “Luck in this case is a para-natural essence of life, which makes the arsikaadho lucky but not necessarily blessed, in which case the arsikaadho seldom enjoys lasting happiness. What then happens to the fortune obtained by luck? It generally benefits blessed acquaintances. This is what the Fulani mean by ‘ko arsikkadho dhabbhanta barkindho,’ which translates, ‘the lucky accumulates fortunes for the blessed to enjoy.’ “ (See Mohamed Camara. 2008:53: Benediction and Malediction in Fulani Culture. Indigenous Nations Journal, Vol. 6, No. 1). The bullion van people are the ‘lucky’ ones, the arsikaadho; our president is a Fulani, blessed with a destiny to enjoy what the lucky accumulates; he owes no one.
Buhari speaks today as a nobody’s man. Last month after meeting King Charles III in London, the president, in an interview, asked Nigerians to “vote for whoever they like from whichever political party.” A president who said this is not likely to hop from jet to jet campaigning for someone. He has repeatedly promised that he would not be anybody’s fool or tool of interference in the coming polls’ processes. He has said so everywhere he has been in the last couple of months to the sorrow of those banking on presidential sleight of hand to win. I am not surprised that the South-West APC is not at ease at all. They daily read Abuja’s lips and steps and exchange furtive glances. They sigh. Even Buhari’s recent currency change is being seen as a vital component of his war against politics – and against those who won’t succeed him. In the London interview cited above, Buhari vowed that he wouldn’t allow any candidate to intimidate voters or buy them with dirty money. He explained why he approved the introduction of new naira notes: “My aim is to make sure that Nigerians believe that we respect them as an administration…Nobody will be allowed to mobilise resources and thugs to intimidate people in any constituency. That is what I want to go down in Nigerian history for as a leader.” Wahala! Candidates who have mobilized armadas of bullion vans of raw cash for the polls have real reasons to be worried. The old currency notes expire on January 31, 2023 – twenty-five days before the presidential election.
Russia-Ukraine Conflict: A discussion from the African desert, By Isaac Mwanza
“Africa Is not for Sale. Africa is open for business not for sale or looting. We must defend what is ours and make sure that no one takes from us what is ours,” ~ Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera
It was a bright summer Tuesday in the Khomas Highland plateau, Windhoek. As the cool breeze from the rising water levels in the Orange River swept across a city with extraordinarily rich fauna, leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) organ on peace and security gathered on 31 January 2023 to deliberate the political and security situation in the region. While at it, they reiterate the earlier SADC position against the coercive behaviour of the United States of America to use its aid power to hold them at ransom over the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
REACTION TO U.S. LAW ON AFRICA
On 27 April 2022, the U.S. House of Representatives enacted the “Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act” which, once passed by the Senate, would effectively punish African governments and nationals who work with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
The law specifically targets Africa in what the U.S. claims to be a law to counter “malign Russian influence and activities” and states its objectives as including “holding African governments and their officials accountable for aiding Russia’s malign influence and activities in Africa.”
The bigger question is why has America decided to enact a law targeting trade relations between Africa and Russia and not make the same law on trade relations between China and Russia. Is it because our African leaders are pawns in this game?
It can be inferred from the decision to enact this law that the Joe Biden administration intends to use its mighty power to force African nations to choose between the USA and the Russian Federation.
That is a glaring expression of the worst form of colonial and imperial arrogance as well as a jurisdictional overreach by the leader of the Western alliance.
The law has been opposed by Africa’s regional bodies such as SADC as it seeks to unduly influence foreign policies and trade relations by African countries who either support or refuse to denounce Russia in its conflict with Ukraine.
The African Union is taking a firm and conscientious position of non-alignment to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
For close to a century now, African countries that had been freed from the bondage of European colonialism enjoy strong ties with both mega powers, namely, the USA and the Soviet Union which, after the monumental changes of 1989, reverted to its former status as the Russian Federation.
But America is now attempting to dictate to the developing world, Africa in particular, and to the rest of the world at large, that this must change.
Having failed to persuade the world of its noble intentions, the Biden administration is now resorting to economic and military coercion in an attempt to bring about the global political realignment that the U.S. seeks, and which it hopes, will allow it to remain the dominant economic power that it has been since the end of World War II and the resulting economic order.
The Biden administration has placed its hands on foreign aid and sanctions as weapons which they will use, together with its NATO allies, to beat Africa into submission and to crush Africa’s collective sovereign will.
But this pattern by America’s leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – is becoming predictable.
In an address to a joint session of Congress on 20 September 2001, former U.S. President George W. Bush, Jr., superciliously declared, “Every nation, in every region, now has the decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
President Bush went on to brand the three countries opposed to U.S. foreign policy — North Korea, Iran, and Iraq — as rogue states, “the axis of evil” whom he alleged, had harboured, financed, and aided terrorists even though no citizen of these States had ever attacked the U.S.
None of these countries were involved in terrorist attacks on New York and Washington D.C. on 11 September 2001.
President Bush could be forgiven because Republicans are quite well known for bullying other nations and for war-mongering.
But the U.S. Democratic Party has always been seen as being more friendly towards Africa, especially during the term of its previous Democratic President, Barack Obama.
It is, therefore, a very surprising development, that the Democratic administration of President Biden, would single out Africa, which also shares longstanding ties to Russia, for punishment under this rather ridiculous law that ostensibly seeks to counter Russian malign influence in Africa.
The decision to enact the law on Africa is ridiculous as it defeats the very idea of national sovereignty which President Biden purports to be defending on behalf of Ukraine.
It can be inferred that this U.S. law on Africa will require African States to surrender their sovereignty in defending the sovereignty of Ukraine. Do Joe Biden and his colleagues in Congress think that African leaders and we in Africa’s sovereign States are subject to America’s will?
Unfortunately for President Biden, Africa, and its people may not share the goals which his administration, NATO, and western allies may have set for Ukraine.
Africa is aware that Russia has genuine security concerns about the adversarial NATO alliance establishing itself on Russia’s south-western border, just as Africa was concerned when the former Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, attempted to establish military bases on America’s south-eastern coast on the island of Cuba in the 1962 Cuba missile crisis.
Going by previous history of similar military adventurism, Africa has its own misgivings about the U.S. hegemony, as shown in previous articles, which showed that America had been on a similar path in Cuba, Grenada and more recently in Venezuela.
In the Middle East, the U.S. threatens and erodes the sovereignty of the Arab nations by providing billions of dollars in military and other aid to Israel which then acts as an enforcer of U.S. hegemonic policies, suppressing Arab states while ensuring that the Palestinian people do not and cannot achieve the sovereign status of a nation.
The U.S. has subtly blocked every attempt by the Palestinians to achieve sovereign nationhood and has used Israel to keep the Palestinian people under bondage while making a big show of its desire for all people to fully enjoy their human rights, self-determination, and sovereign status.
The U.S. and EU’s coercive, patronizing, and bullying behaviours regarding Africa’s position toward the war in Ukraine, show utter disrespect for our African countries as sovereign nations who have the capacity to make sovereign decisions.
It goes without saying, that sovereign nations get to decide who they are going to associate with or not; that is an issue of international law, state policies, and principles. America is wrong to use its domestic law as if somehow, the U.S. has universal legal jurisdiction.
It is also unacceptable that the U.S. should use its aid which, ostensibly, is intended to assist recipient poor countries in their development as a weapon of foreign policy, preying on the dependence our African leaders have on such aid in achieving their national development goals.
It is morally wrong for the U.S. to subvert African nations’ home-grown solutions by forcing them to take a position with the U.S. and its NATO allies, over Russia or gagging trade relations between sovereign States.
If the U.S. and its NATO allies were genuine about allowing sovereign nations to decide for themselves who to associate with, they should have applauded our position of non-alignment than coercing African countries by threatening them, using a new law, with punishments for trading with Russia.
It is therefore noble that we must commend their Excellencies, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Namibian President, Dr. Hage Geingob, leaders of Eswatini and Lesotho as well as ministers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique for being loud and clear in endorsing the AU position of non-alignment in conflicts outside the continent and against the U.S. law on Africa.
But it is now important for President Hichilema and other individual African leaders to personally come out and defend their position on this questionable U.S. law than hide behind collective decisions made in boardrooms.
The U.S. is known for promoting people’s self-government, free will, and choices. It is a leader in that area. Many of us are attracted to the United States of America because of its founding ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness it has espoused over two centuries.
It is therefore not in the best interest of America to dictate how Africa must make its decisions. Africa must trade with anyone it desires, including the U.S., Russia, and China – all of them having been Africa’s all-weather friends.
The coercive and bullying behaviour to stop Africa and its people from deciding on their own, whether to trade or even side with Russia, is an infringement on the sovereignty of individual States and a subversion of the collective will of the African peoples.
It is even more disturbing that the US House of Representatives would go so far as to threaten punishment for disobeying America’s foreign policy dictates. Probably, this is being done upon realisation by the West that African leaders cannot do without foreign aid, and they value aid as a panacea to their prolonged stay in power and developing Africa.
We the people, not just media, should query leaders on taxes, By Elsie Eyakuze
Former Comptroller and Auditor-General Prof Mussa Assad had some choice words for Tanzanian media recently in remarks about taxes, fees, levies, et cetera. Roughly translated, he said that if journalists took their jobs seriously they would put a lot of effort into querying elected politicians about their taxes instead of issuing a barrage of weak content.
Interesting. I wonder if he knows that Tanzania Revenue Authority’s tweet the other day about their new TikTok account. While he is out there perseverating about how to distribute the tax burden more justly, TRA has signed on to a popular social media platform that has some espionage and security issues.
Prof Assad is right, we should be asking about the taxes paid by our elected officials. To that I would add the entire public sector. I read a tweet from a Kenyan who alleged that big political families in Kenya are not paying taxes, and why don’t they get the kind of scrutiny that the Kenya Revenue Authority is trying to subject other Kenyans to. The KRA’s move to inhabit Kenyans’ phones and garnish taxes off their accounts and mobile money accounts is the stuff of technological dystopia nightmares.
Vote in their own favour
We’re not there yet, but we share the Who Pays Taxes question with our neighbours. I think Prof Assad is aware, as we all are, that legislators vote in their own favour all the time and they will not legislate to increase their tax burden and this is Tanzania. Journalists spend plenty of time with politicians, they tend to know what interviews can yield good information. Asking a secondary school student about their views on progressive taxation is interesting, asking a seasoned politician that question, especially if they know what you are up to, will yield a lot of hot air.
Investigating, documenting and then publicising their income streams and actual tax records, though? Bruh. Is he offering protection? When journalists go off to ask difficult questions of the powerful, they rarely come back. That is a strong disincentive for journalists.
This is Tanzania. We have an economic philosophy of hunger and big bellies. When a person succeeds enough to get a good position in government, the pressure to bend the rules will come from sponsors, sponsees, friends and family, who stand to benefit from patronage. Patronage is a very expensive political system for the patron, requiring access to vast amounts of money. This encourages behaviour that is corrupt, and it incentivises MPs to award themselves fat salaries and very low taxes, which they may avoid with no consequences.
What Prof Assad should really be asking is why the collective doesn’t rise up and ask their MPs about their tax records and tax policies, especially during election years. Why place the burden of inquiry on the media when everyone can be recruited?
We, the people, are the majority, and we have certainly been vocal as consumers about questioning and grappling with and even rejecting fees, levies and taxes before. And yet time and time again we vote for the very same Party and people who are apparently living off the sweat of our brows. A far more interesting story, that, and worthy of the time and effort.
Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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