In case you haven’t heard, former vice president Atiku Abubakar released an open letter to President Buhari last night. This was a letter everyone should have expected, considering Atiku’s own family was one of the first to be affected by the pandemic. There are conflicting reports on how exactly former vice-president Atiku’s son contracted the Covid19 virus and whether he self-reported or was outed by his father/neighbours/siblings to the National Centre for Disease Control, but what is certain is that like Atiku Abubakar understands the crisis in a way most Nigerians don’t.
One would expect that President Buhari, whose chief-of-staff and rumoured close confidante Abba Kyari contracted the virus while in Germany and refused to self isolate on his return to Nigeria, infecting many high ranking politicians and civil service officials, would understand the severity of the crisis and act accordingly. Instead, President Buhari essentially had to be bullied by Nigerians into publicly addressing the country and take stringent measures to slow the spread of the virus. Since his singular address, he has gone silent again, depending on Twitter updates to communicate with Nigerians, even though it is clear that only a very small percentage of Nigerians are active on the platform.
Atiku’s open letter addresses many things, but especially President Buhari’s financial recklessness since he took office. Closing road borders to stimulate the local economy with no real plan for how to achieve this internally, increasing import tariffs on products and hindering small businesses, indiscriminate borrowing and a refusal to slash the salaries of members of government have all led the country into a steeper debt incline than it has ever seen since we returned to civilian rule. The President intends to keep borrowing, even as global oil prices plummet and global economies slow.
For the first time in Buhari’s turn as president, it directly accuses the president of incompetence and nepotism, and demands the presidency change for the better.
Is this the opposition we have been looking for? And why has it taken a pandemic to force this kind of response?