Buhari – When the Abnormal Becomes the New Normal

Buhari – When the Abnormal Becomes the New Normal

By Azuka Onwuka

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari is a lucky president. Nobody knows what magic he uses. But under his tenure, what used to be seen as abnormal has been accepted as normal with few or no complaints.

For example, for many months now, it has become normal to witness long queues of trucks on different roads in Lagos leading to the ports in Apapa. One of the queues runs from Apapa through Ijora and Western Avenue (now known as Funsho Williams Avenue) through Ojuelegba and reaching as far as Fadeyi Bus Stop on Ikorodu Road: a distance of 12 kilometres.

Another truck queue runs from Apapa through the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, stretching beyond Mile 2 and reaching as far as Ijesha and Cele Bus Stops: a distance of about 17 kilometres. From the Berger area to Apapa, rather than leave a lane for other vehicles, the trucks block all the lanes going to Apapa, making it clear that other vehicles should not drive to Apapa through that route.

From these two major queues, there are other queues that run like tributaries. For example, from the Berger junction on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway, a queue veers off into Kirikiri Road in Olodi-Apapa towards Tincan Port. From Ijora, another queue veers off the bridge close to the National Arts Theatre and runs to Orile. From the same Ijora, another queue veers off towards Eko Bridge on Lagos Island. Yet there is another queue that runs towards Lagos Island from Costain before veering off towards Apapa from the bridge at another part of Ijora.

These trucks spend weeks on the road and on top of the bridges before getting to the ports to get petroleum products and other goods or to return the containers with which goods were taken out of the ports. The drivers sleep in these trucks and ease themselves beside the road day after day until they eventually crawl into the ports.

In addition, other road users bear the brunt of the traffic jams created by the trucks. Police traffic wardens, Federal Road Safety Corps officers, and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency officials are regularly posted to different sections of these roads to help ease the traffic. There is also the risk that such traffic jams caused by the trucks and the covering the trucks provide present opportunities for crimes like robbery and rape.

One cause of these queues will be the increase in vehicles going to the ports for services. But it is also clear that it is caused by inefficiency in port operations, which has increased the time it takes to attend to one truck, leading to a build-up of vehicles.

In the past, the long truck queues stretching beyond Apapa appeared once in awhile and disappeared again after some days. But since last year they have become a permanent feature. Interestingly, they have been accepted as part of life with no complaints.

In addition, petrol scarcity that started around November 2017 has persisted, despite the assurances from the Presidency and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. It is only in Lagos and Abuja that people queue up to get petrol at the control price of N145 per litre. In other parts of Nigeria, filling stations sell at different prices, with its peak being during the Yuletide when petrol sold for as high as N300 per litre.

Unlike in the past when petrol scarcity was seen as abnormal, many Nigerians have accepted petrol scarcity and purchase of petrol above the official pump price as normal. There are no strong complaints against the situation.

Then there is the case of massacres in Nigeria. The rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria made mass killings a regular occurrence. Nigerians began to get used to hearing that 40 people were killed in coordinated bomb attacks. The Nigerian military has battled the terror group for years and has downgraded it. Even though there are claims from the military and the government that Boko Haram has been “defeated,” the terror group continues to attack civilians and the security forces, killing and injuring many on a regular basis.

However, while Nigerians have got used to the killings orchestrated by Boko Haram, other killings orchestrated by the Fulani Herdsmen and cult groups like the Badoo or Don Waney group continue to occur. Somehow Nigerians have also become used to hearing that herdsmen killed 70 in Benue or Taraba or Kaduna or Zamfara. It has become like a normal way of life.

It has also become normal that when these killings occur, that President Buhari does not visit the scene of the disaster. In most cases, the governor of the state where people are massacred has to travel to Aso Rock to see the President rather than the President visiting the state to console the bereaved and traumatised. In the case of Boko Haram attacks, one could understand the security risk of the President visiting such spots. But for a place devastated by flood or a place where herdsmen killed people and burnt their houses and disappeared, one wonders why the President usually does not visit.

It is definitely not because of ill health, as the President has shown that he is strong with his recent visits to Kano State and Nasarawa State and other countries. Even if it were because of ill health, the President should have delegated Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to visit such places. But there seems to be a new way of reacting to disasters by the Buhari administration. Such disasters usually do not receive official reaction through words of consolation or physical visits. They are ignored as if the lives of the dead do not matter. We have become used to seeing such as normal.

Curiously while the bereaved are mourning their dead in different parts of the country, the President is usually receiving the state governors or his classmates or another group that praises him and urges him to contest the 2019 election, with no sensitivity towards those who are bereaved or injured.

The usual practice by Nigerian elected politicians is to make all efforts to satisfy the electorate in their first tenure to ensure that they are re-elected. But in the case of Buhari it is different. Buhari seems not to bother about trying to listen to the complaints of the people or even trying to worm his way into their hearts with his words and actions. The more people complain about his actions, the more he takes the same actions.

There is an attitude from the presidency that the feelings of the people don’t matter, that whatever anyone says against the President will not make him not to win the 2019 election.  And one of the reasons for this attitude from the presidency is that most of the abnormal things that happen in Buhari’s presidency (that should make the people protest) are treated as normal.

It may be because many people have resigned to fate about the Buhari presidency, thereby deciding to wait for it to run its course and leave. It may also be that many of those who helped to install Buhari don’t want to be seen as opposing him by criticising him. It may also be that many of those who rated him highly have been surprised at the performance he has given that they don’t want to complain and be blamed, while those who did not believe in his leadership capabilities are not keen on antagonising him, so as not to give him any reason to argue that if he had been given enough time and space, he would have achieved a lot more.

Whatever the reason, it is dangerous for the abnormal to be accepted as normal. It is not a sign of growth but a sign of retrogression.

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