Did Buhari cause Anthony Joshua’s defeat? —Azuka Onwuka

Nigerians take defeat badly. It was not surprising that many Nigerians blamed the heavyweight boxing match defeat Anthony Joshua suffered over the weekend to Oleksandr Usyk of Ukraine on Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), President of Nigeria. The argument was that in January 2020 when Anthony Joshua presented his championship belts to Buhari, he unconsciously attracted some ill luck to himself from the President.

Many said this in jest. Many said it in anger and frustration because of Buhari’s poor management of Nigeria. But many said it with seriousness and belief. No doubt, this is superstition at play. And the problem with most faith-based issues is that they are not empirical and provable. Those who believe them do so with conviction and passion even though they cannot logically explain such to others.

Watching the match between Joshua and Usyk, one could see that the Ukrainian was more purposeful and more determined to win than Joshua. He had the fighting power. He was hungrier for victory. He was faster and more aggressive.

Conceit usually harms most champions and those at the top. In 2012, when Barack Obama was seeking re-election as president of the United States of America, he faced the same problem during the first presidential debate with his challenger, Senator Mitt Romney. As the incumbent, Obama seemed cocksure before the debate. He was known as an orator who held his audience spell-bound. That was what catapulted him from relative obscurity to the presidency. That was what made him to be chosen as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. After his speech, he won his election as Senator in Illinois. Just two years as a Senator, he was already campaigning to become the president of the USA. His more politically experienced opponents initially saw his ambition as a joke. But the more he spoke, the more he swept people off their feet. What he lacked in political pedigree, he had in surfeit in oratorical prowess.

If he had beaten more experienced candidates like Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Joe Biden and Senator John McCain in 2008, how would it be a tough task to beat a less known Senator Mitt Romney in 2012? But when they faced each other at the first presidential debate, all honest and trusted analysts gave the verdict that Romney trounced Obama. For the first time, Romney overtook Obama in Gallup and Pew polls.

It was later revealed that Obama was too busy with state issues that he paid little attention to the preparation for the debate. But after that first debate, Obama took the debate preparation seriously. By the second debate, the fire in him had returned and he won that debate as well as the third one.

That seemed to be what happened to Joshua. As the defending champion, he seemed lax with his training before the bout. Conversely, Usyk said he trained for six months and kept himself away from his family. He was determined to win the match.

Therefore, Joshua’s loss has no direct link to his association with Buhari. However, there is no denying the fact that Buhari seems to have a touch which creates stagnation or backwardness. It cannot be coincidental that the first time he led Nigeria as a military dictator between January 1984 and August 1985 Nigeria ran into a recession. Again since 2015 when he returned as a civilian president, Nigeria has experienced recession twice. Based on the hard times, many have argued that Nigeria has been in recession nonstop since 2016.

Even if there is no consensus whether Nigeria is in recession or out of recession, there is no argument about the status the country acquired in June 2018 as the headquarters of poverty in the world, even boasting of more poor people than India which has over 1.3 billion people in comparison to Nigeria’s 200 million. From May 29, 2015 when one American dollar was exchanging for N199, which many Nigerians found unacceptable, it has speedily degenerated under Buhari to N411 by September 24, 2021. In the parallel market, one dollar exchanged for N572 on the same September 24.

In 2015 when Buhari came in, Nigeria was battling with only the Islamist terror group informally known as Boko Haram. The group was operating mainly from the Borno part of the North-East. Since the coming of Buhari, who was marketed as a no-nonsense military general who would decimate Boko Haram and turn the Nigerian economy around, the security situation in Nigeria has degenerated so fast that other terror groups had sprung up in different parts of the country. First was that Boko Haram was boosted by an alliance with Islamic State West Africa Province. Then, two new murderous groups called Fulani herdsmen and bandits emerged, wiping out communities, sacking military formations, abducting schoolchildren and travellers for ransoms, imposing taxes on conquered towns and villages, and even shooting down military planes.

Ironically, the attitude of Buhari towards them, especially the herdsmen who are of the same ethnicity as he, is that of appeasement rather than confrontation. The more they unleash violence on communities, the more he gives excuses for them and seeks for lands to be provided for them in different states for grazing as the panacea for peace rather than pushing for ranching, which is a tried-and-tested method that ensures that cattle produce more meat and milk that are healthy.

In addition, Buhari has consistently engaged in actions that are nepotistic in all ramifications. As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, Nigeria has been run cautiously with all parts of it given a sense of belonging through political appointments and projects. Buhari has brazenly broken that. For example, for the first time in history, the heads of the three arms of government are all from the North and also Muslims: Head of the Executive, Muhammadu Buhari (Katsina State – North-West); Head of the Legislature, Senator Ahmad Lawan (Yobe State – North-East); and Head of the Judiciary, Justice Tanko Muhammad (Bauchi State – North-East). The same trend is reflected in most appointments Buhari has made, with a fixation on appointing his kinsmen and fellow Muslims into most positions even to the detriment of merit. For example, in September 2020, his nominee to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, Justice Ishaq Bello, was rated as lowly qualified for the job with a report that said inter alia: “… the candidate appeared notably to have a very limited knowledge of the Rome Statute, the practices and procedures of the Court and its jurisprudence.”

This nepotism and seemingly state-condoned insecurity have helped to fuel separatist agitations in parts of Nigeria, especially the South-East and South-West. No Nigerian leader has divided Nigerians along ethnic and religious lines like Buhari has done. Also, there has never been a time Nigerians feel as detached or disconnected from Nigeria as they do under the regime of Buhari.

The result of all this is that there is more anger, more conflict, more bloodshed, more investment distrust, more poverty, more hunger and again more anger. It is, therefore, a vicious cycle.

Most of the Nigerian challenges are tied to leadership. Because Buhari celebrates mediocrity in governance, he has foisted kakistocracy as a style of leadership on Nigeria, which creates bad news from all angles, making him acquire the image of the opposite of Midas, whose touch turned things to gold. Therefore, it was not that Anthony Joshua lost because he received any ill omen from Buhari’s touch. It was a case of many Nigerians trying to vent their anger on Buhari by linking his leadership failures to Joshua’s association with him.

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