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On the eve of a revolution?

On May 29, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha, arrived at the Abuja venue of his second term inauguration in in luxury and…

On May 29, 2019, President Muhammadu Buhari and his wife, Aisha, arrived at the Abuja venue of his second term inauguration in in luxury and style: a customized 2019 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class S 560.

Value: over N61 million.

President Buhari, in his decades-long self-advertisement, was not a corrupt man.  Which was probably why a car which inflicted such an egregious assault on the Nigerian taxpayers would have made no impact on his conscience.

61 million naira!!

And that was just the lead car for the event.  The inauguration photographs show part of the large convoy of glittering cars that accompanied him to the event which guaranteed him another four years.  Nigerians never learned how much was squandered on the inauguration and allied activities by those who know how to manipulate power.

Have you ever wondered, for instance, what became of the Buhari Mercedes Maybach of May 2019?  Such vehicles invariably arrive with their odometers only a few ticks away from zero.

In other words, by the time the Buharis returned to the presidential palace after the inauguration (a round trip of some six or seven kilometres), the car probably still had less than 20 kilometres on it.

Now, if he rode in it to the airport—less than 50 kilometres away—50 times on his many travels, it might still have had considerably less than 1000 kilometres when his second term ended last year.  That is such a barely-used car it could pass for new.

So where was it at the end of May 29, 2023, and who owns it now?  Indeed, where are the cars the Buhari presidency bought every year in its eight years, and for that matter, the cars the presidency has budgeted for every year since 1999?

These questions are at the heart of the broiling hunger and social turmoil that is Nigeria in February 2023.  Nigerians—even mainstream supporters of the ruling APC—are demanding that President Bola Tinubu take measures to arrest the drift in Nigeria’s economic fortunes.

Staying on the theme of official cars, let us remember that in December 2016, the federal government announced that it had recovered from one Permanent Secretary, 40 brand-new SUVs that he had taken with him as he left office.

That was just one civil servant, and it is doubtful that he was the only one in Buhari’s first year who had taken advantage of his position.  The Buhari administration did not honour its promise to identify such people from whom various assets were recovered, and in the end it simply claimed that it was selling off everything recovered.


I repeatedly challenged that administration to remember that ambition must be made of sterner stuff, citing the fact that Buhari accepted gifts despite the Fifth Schedule of the constitution (Code of Conduct for Public Officers) prohibiting him from doing so.

Aisha Buhari, no government official, demonstrated the excesses of the then first family when she openly admitted in 2018 that she had been collecting gifts as well.  It seemed to have been a tradition passed on from her predecessor, Patience Jonathan, whom the EFCC first separated from two amounts of $13.5 and N104m she had tried to launder in September 2007.

In 2016, following the introduction of the Biometric Verification Number system in the banking sector, a further discovery of over $31.5m in her accounts resulting in their being frozen.  She claimed that they had come from many contributors.

Only recently, I wrote about a part of Nigeria’s insecurity that I fail to understand: the wealth of equipment that the Nigeria Air Force continues to amass.

Among them were six Turkish Aerospace Industries T-129 ATAK attack helicopters.  On November 7, 2023, Shephard Media reported NAF as confirming “the delivery of the first two of six T-129 ATAK helicopters from Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), with the remainder expected to arrive before Q2 2024.”

Last week, a significant story broke that the Nigerian mass media appeared to be avoiding, with Jackson Ude alleging on X that Mrs. Buhari was a key player in the transaction.

Mr. Ude reported that Aisha had connived with military chiefs and inflated the cost of the helicopters to $45 million each, making over $30million from the deal.

“As soon as the $30million hit her [account] through a contact of hers in Dubai, she took a chunk of it and bought another Villa in the Jumeirah area of Dubai…Aisha now has two Villas worth several millions of Dollars in Dubai and several others in Turkey and the UK.”

This story breaks as hunger and inflation, not a foreign adversary, join insecurity as principal threats to Nigeria as a nation.  In a Post-Financing Assessment statement on February 9, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund described Nigeria’s prospects as challenging, to put it mildly.

“External financing (market and official) is scarce, and global food prices have surged, reflecting the repercussions of conflict and geo-economic fragmentation,” it said.  “Per-capita growth in Nigeria has stalled, poverty and food insecurity are high, exacerbating the cost-of-living crisis. Low reserves and very limited fiscal space constrain the authorities’ option space.”

It said that its latest estimates about Nigeria showed that 25 million (13 percent of the population) to be food insecure, with the poverty rate—as of 2022—to be 37 percent.

The IMF appeared to be playing safe.  On the ground, things are far less attractive.  Speaking last Wednesday, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar III, warned that Nigeria was sitting on a keg of gunpowder, particularly in the North.

“Talking about insecurity and the rising level of poverty are two issues that we cannot fold our arms and think everything is okay,” he said.  “I have said it so many times and at so many fora that things are not okay in Nigeria and of course, things are not okay in the North.”

So, will Mr. Tinubu arrest this drift?  I do not think so.  The collapse of Nigeria did not come out of nowhere: it is the product of the consistent and determined greed and duplicity of our leaders since the civil war.

For Tinubu to postpone the forthcoming collapse, he must break with his predecessor in several fundamental ways.  That includes the continuous and reckless expansion of the government and spending on luxuries.  And then he must lead by example, but he has shown no such inclination.

Consider that only last week, news broke that Mr. Buhari’s signature was forged during his tenure to withdraw $6.3m in federal funds.  Will Tinubu probe an APC government that was littered from top to bottom with such free-form menace?  Can Tinubu, who only this week appointed his son-in-law to lead the Federal Housing Authority, give up the nepotism that is the hallmark of his presidency?

Any public official can invest in speeches and promises, and Nigerian leaders have been champions of the hypocrisy enterprise throughout the Fourth Republic.  But that real estate has run out; the only one left is governance that begins with good example, to permit good policies and officials to flourish.

As atrocious as Tinubu’s personal record has been, it has led only to this option, and there is nowhere to run.

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