President Buhari’s Popularity on the World Stage Has Waned

Just over two and half years ago, President Buhari won Nigeria presidency with moral support of leaders of the Western nations. World leaders lost confidence in former president Goodluck Jonathan due to rampant corruption in his administration and his inability to deal with Boko Haram. The World thought president Buhari will decisively deal with corruption and Boko Haram. As soon as it was officially announced that Mr. Buhari won, world leaders congratulated him and some extended state invitation to him. They invested a lot of their hope in him partly because Nigeria is the largest African country and what happens there affects the rest of Africa. Nigeria was also looked upon as a country that can show the world how Christians and Muslims can live together in a functional democracy.

A little over two and half years later, Nigeria economy is still struggling, rampant corruption has not been tamed and Boko Haram has not been defeated. President Buhari’s long absence from Nigeria due to his illness has not helped at all but that is beyond his control. President Buhari and his economic team has not articulated consistent economic policy and has not successfully implemented full year budget. It appears that they are running the economy on ad hoc basis. On the positive side, President Buhari’s administration have stabilized Nigerian currency against foreign currencies. Buhari government has successfully deregulated fuel import and removed subsidies, a feat no Nigerian leader has achieved. They have also successfully implemented Single Treasury Account (TSA) which has led to better accounting of all national revenue. It must be emphasized that TSA was president Jonathan’s idea but he did not have the gut to implement it due to rampant corruption which has become a defining point of his administration.

The issue that has really dealt a significant blow to President Buhari standing in the World community especially in western countries is his handling of Nnamdi Kanu and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement. Most people in Nigeria do not realize how sensitive the issue of Biafra is in the Western world. It is a sensitive issue because the world has not forgotten the pogrom and genocide that took place before and during Nigerian civil war. Most foreign governments especially western nations do not want breakup of Nigeria or secessionist movement which will lead to the creation of Biafra or Oduduwa or Niger Delta Republic. They want a united Nigeria but not at all cost. Certainly not at the cost of massive bloodshed. Western nations will support independence and breakup of Nigeria just like they did in Sudan if substantial blood had to be shed to keep Nigeria one. United Kingdom have secession movement in Scotland but did not send troop into Scotland to quell the movement or proscribe Scottish National Party who are pushing for independence. Spain send police to Catalan to disrupt their referendum for independence from Spain but their effort has backfired. More Catalonians now want independence from Spain than before. Nnamdi Kanu and his movement was not taken seriously in Southeastern Nigeria until his arrest and detention by the federal government. Federal government action drew most Igbos to his side which was demonstrated on May 30, sit-at-home protest. That sentiment by Igbos and some parts of nearby states is still there.

What is bothering Western nations government is President Buhari’s tactic of using military force when people are protesting and airing their grievances. They believe that force is not the solution, that IPOB has a legitimate grievance that needs to be addressed to the satisfaction of all Nigerians. They also think that these agitating groups will take up arms or move toward violence if they are denied the opportunity to protest or air their grievances in a peaceful democratic setting which is the correct assessment. United States has settled all kinds of grievances principally civil right agitation legislatively after Black Americans and other minorities protested for years. It is not an accident that United States and United Kingdom government declared that IPOB is not a terrorist organization. These countries know a lot about Nigeria than some Nigerians know about their country. Read United States Annual Report on Nigeria if you doubt my statement. United States and Britain are trying to convey to Nigerian government that they need to change course and listen to the agitator’s complaints and address them because they believe that it is the only realistic way forward. That President Buhari’s reliance on force will achieve the opposite result in the long run. They are also telling Nigerian government that force cannot work in the long term and that they will not tolerate shedding of blood in-order to keep Nigeria one as they did in Sudan, East Timor and other places.

I think President Buhari must have had an earful during his United Nation General Assembly meeting of World leaders. Foreign leaders usually convey their positions privately to another foreign leader they consider as an allay before they go public. Nnamdi Kanu and his IPOB members public relation propaganda was more effective domestically and internationally than most people realize. Members of IPOB and most Igbos in diaspora who largely share the idea of restructure of Nigerian federation at the minimum, helped to spread the word about dangers confronting the Igbos in Nigeria. President Buhari is no longer the bride a lot of World leaders want to associate with. He is likely to be a pariah soon if he persists in going forward with IPOB crackdown and other organizations in Nigeria. International leaders were not happy also with the massacre of shitte religious sect in Kaduna state and subsequent disappearance of their leader even though some judges have demanded his appearance in their court hearings.

Western leaders appears to be detecting a pattern with Mr. Buhari’s and are beginning to think that he is not a democrat but an autocratic leader who has no regard for rule of law and respect for human life. President Buhari will be better off if he can spend his time in finding peaceful solution to issues raised by these groups before things gets out of hand. Re-organization or restructure of Nigerian federation should take place before most regions of Nigeria will consider it insufficient. Restructure of Nigerian federation need to take place before the next presidential election so Nigeria can move forward. President Buhari’s government need to offer solutions to issue raised by some Nigerians the situation gets worse.

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