It bears telling that the give-and-take that used to be a constant in our politics has been exchanged in favour of the Daura Doctrine – of work with those you know, work with incompetent people as long as they are loyal to the identity agenda and look away if and when they “commit”… As the economy tanks with no policy direction and no coherent initiative from the top, the mad scramble is a zero-sum politics of my gain is your loss.


What problem has Buhari solved in four years? None. Instead, he has created new problems around the politics of identity and of scarcity. His politics and that of the cabal he created to insulate him, has bred a growing culture of distrust and suspicion along the delicate faultlines of ethnicity and religion in the country. It demands reflection, that within four years the hopes and aspirations we invested in Buhari’s presidency have been squandered. Hope has given way to hopelessness and a depressing sense of acute failure.

It bears telling that the give-and-take that used to be a constant in our politics has been exchanged in favour of the Daura Doctrine – of work with those you know, work with incompetent people as long as they are loyal to the identity agenda and look away if and when they “commit”. Under Buhari, it is a death struggle to coral public goods to his people by cleverly attempting to expropriate the resources of others. Instead of investing in shared abundance and prosperity, the ‘federal’ has been removed from ‘federal government’, such that the ‘government’ itself now pick winners and losers. As the economy tanks with no policy direction and no coherent initiative from the top, the mad scramble is a zero-sum politics of my gain is your loss.

No president in the history of Nigeria has promoted identity politics, in which a group can only prosper at the expense of another and fostered a sense of victimisation, like Buhari has done. His politics of ethnic promotion, cultural grievance and political dominance appeal to those who dream of demographic advantage and political hegemony for national resource control.


Other than the ‘I win, you lose’ scenario, there is no easy articulation for the disarticulating developments of the past few months. From the killing fields of Zamfara, the slaughter slabs of Benue and Taraba and the kidnapping on the freeways of Western Nigeria, Buhari’s presidency has become defined by insecurity and death. The president took to quietude in the face of rising fear in the land. He cannot even pretend to have any kind of surface level engagement with Nigeria’s deep structural problems. His ambivalence about the Zamfara killings, equivocation to the violence in Benue and Taraba and his deafening silence on the kidnappings in the South reveal a deep-seated lack of capacity and visioning or a patent resentment of an otherness that defines the sum of Nigeria parts, or both.

No president in the history of Nigeria has promoted identity politics, in which a group can only prosper at the expense of another and fostered a sense of victimisation, like Buhari has done. His politics of ethnic promotion, cultural grievance and political dominance appeal to those who dream of demographic advantage and political hegemony for national resource control. Unfortunately, it is a step backward for everyone in an endless war of all against all, whereby your gain is my loss. Since reelection, there is a growing feeling that the president is not just there. For Buhari, silence is a strategy. He has left us guessing, but we do know that quietude means approval. His strategic silence has boldened his selected “Committee of Public Safety” to play the politics of if you are different from us, you must be cowed and forced to yield “lebensraum” to us or we ruin it all for everyone.

While the politics of identity and scarcity may yield immediate dividends, in the end, nothing works because of deep divisions. Divisive zero-sum politics has created a real dichotomy between those who see a united Nigeria and those who see it as a lie that will unravel. Obviously, people are much more polarised and despondent than they were before 2015.


In 2014, who would have thought we would become this afraid as a people? For a military general who fought the civil war, it is shameful to see the country so disunited and hopeless, with calls for disintegration getting louder under his watch. For many Nigerians, it is hard to see hope. People are angry, afraid and torn by the zero-sum politics of ‘I win, you lose’. They are shocked to find themselves coerced into a win-at-all-costs game, where there is no space for them when the favoured are playing and where any tactic can be deployed to win, in contravention of the rules. While the politics of identity and scarcity may yield immediate dividends, in the end, nothing works because of deep divisions. Divisive zero-sum politics has created a real dichotomy between those who see a united Nigeria and those who see it as a lie that will unravel. Obviously, people are much more polarised and despondent than they were before 2015.

As insecurity mounts, the president seems unconcerned by the incestuous, outdated and leadership deprived security architecture he runs. This is effectively matched by his ambivalence to cultural imposition, turning a blind eye to ethnic chauvinism, incivility and violence, which are all dangerous and irresponsible. He does not care that it is a dangerous development to reduce politics and policy-making to a naked resource war. Well, in a zero-sum game, winners do become losers because of the steep price they pay for their victory. Will Buhari’s legacy be that he dismembered Nigeria, created a culture of conflict or that he steered Nigeria sway from the precipice, and laid the foundation for a virile nation? Time will tell!

Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES. Follow me on Twitter @olufunmilayo