Customs Comptroller General Hameed Ali tears into President Buhari. The president should listen to him.
It is little wonder that when Buhari settled into the task of putting together his kitchen cabinet after the rigours of a 2015 electioneering campaign, he naturally handpicked Ali, a retired Army Colonel, to clean up a corrupt Customs service.
Like Buhari, Ali is austere, taciturn, disciplined, ascetic and possesses a disdain for corruption. Legend has it that after leaving the army top brass, Ali had only one beat up car to his name. Not for him the idiotic accumulation of wealth for which his peers in the army are better known.
Ali only took up the Buhari Customs job because he couldn’t say no to an old friend—someone who shares his values.
He was with Buhari during the President’s CPC and ANPP days. As Buhari lost one general election after another, he could always count on Ali’s shoulders as a place of solace.
But now, like everyone close to Buhari, Ali is disgusted that the president’s government has been hijacked by people with less than noble interests.
“We have won one battle by taking over power. But what we make of this power is essential to us and to humanity. We must agree that we cannot finish our four years without delivering and leaving something to be remembered for in this country for a long time to come”, Ali said at the commissioning of the office complex of the Buhari Support Organisation in Abuja last Friday.
I crave your indulgence to reproduce a substantial part of what Ali said below:
“We have no problem with our president because he is on course. But I must confess here that we have been infused by people who were not part of this journey and these people are the ones that call the shots today. That is why we are derailing. If we had the right people who had the vision and have been there in and out, I believe that we will not be going the way we are going today.
“It is my belief that those of us who have been in the trenches all these years to get good governance will surely be sleeping with bellyache every day, especially in the recent past. Every day, when you wake up, there is a story that makes you shiver. We cannot, as a people who have fought and committed everything we had to bring this government to being, sit back and allow things to happen the way they are happening.
“These people that are calling the shots today were not there and when the chips are down, they will disappear and melt within the system. We are the ones that will be asked to account for what happened.
“Are we willing to face Nigerians and tell them that we have failed? I think this is the time for us to come together, create a system that is very robust enough to fight back and take back government in our hands and ensure that we deliver.
“But let me say here without fear of being contradicted that I think halfway through the journey, we are losing our core values. We are losing our vision and mission and I think that the idea of our being here today is to look critically at what we need to do to get back on track.
“There is no doubt that we have derailed because we are not doing what we say we want to do. Why is it so? We need to find an answer to that. If we do find an answer, then what should we do to get us all back on track? We owe this great nation and the 180 million Nigerians the duty to give good governance. Good governance is what they voted for and good governance is what they expect to get and they deserve that”.
This is a friend calling out another friend in public. This is Ali telling Buhari that his administration is losing its way. This is someone who cares, telling his friend that the APC led administration at the center is failing Nigerians and that Buharists everywhere should be worried because the government they helped enthrone is trampling on the core values they hold dear.
Yet, Ali isn’t saying anything differently from what other persons who are close to Buhari have been saying.
Buhari’s wife Aisha told the world that her husband doesn’t know a chunk of the people he appointed to help him steer Nigeria to pastures new. She has threatened not to campaign for him in 2019.
Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai is a Buharist through and through. He wrote a long letter to the president detailing how the Buhari government has been hijacked by a cabal.
Everywhere Buhari turns, people who love him, people who are closest to him, are telling him to retrace he and the APC’s steps or incur wrath of voters at the ballot in 2019. But the man appears to be past listening. He’s become tone deaf and hard of hearing.
There is always the temptation to slip into an echo chamber when you become a political leader in Nigeria; to only pick what sycophants say and regard criticism as the vitriol of the opposition. Buhari, most of his aides and team members, have reached that place.
However, if he intends to make a success of the next two years--after flunking the last two--the president has got to begin listening to what the Alis, the El-Rufais and the Aishas are saying about his administration.