Recently the federal government put a final stop on the activities of #IStandWithBuhari group for various reasons, In this piece, MIKE ODIAKOSE x-rays what led to the ban of the group.
About a week ago the presidency nailed the coffin on a racket packaged by some political contractors and sycophants operating under the hash tag #IStandWithBuhari. The group has been very visible, especially in social media where they bombarded Nigerians with their arrangements to organize a mobilise a whopping 9 million Nigerians to a rally in support of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The group said in several media interview that their primary aim is to mobilize support for the programmes and policies of the Buhari administration. According to Mr. brahim Wala, Director of Media and Publicity of #IStandWithBuhari, “it was intentionally conceived for the purpose of building a platform that will help in sensitizing Nigerians on the importance of effective governance. It is through such interactive platforms that Nigerians can easily be informed on the policies and programs of the administration of Mr. President. We must not continue with the ‘I don’t care’ attitude. If we do care in the process of choosing our leaders, we must also care when they are in office.”
However, millions of Nigerians are not swayed with the purported intention of the sponsors of the group. This cynicism is not unconnected to the fact that several such groups had emerged in the past with the ulterior intention of using the platform to enrich the sponsors of the groups.
The fad gained currency during the transmutation era of late military dictator, General Sani Abacha, when Daniel Kano organised the two-million man march with a group called Youths Earnestly Ask For Abacha, YEA, in support of the self succession bid of the late maximum ruler. The two-million man match died natural death with the demise of General Abacha.
Taking a cue from Daniel Kanu, other political jobbers organised similar dubious groups throughout the 16 years rule of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP from 1999 to 2015. The last of such groups during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s era includes #BringBackGoodluck; Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN); Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT); Neighbour To Neighbour (N2N).
While the #BringBackGoodluck; Ifeanyi Uba’s Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN); Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT); Neighbour To Neighbour (N2N) were all sponsored by people who have benefited immensely from the Jonathan administration and only floated the support groups for future benefits and patronage, the #IStandWithBuhari group operated like YEA and that used the name of General Abacha to squeeze out huge sums of money from government ministries, parastatals and agencies.
There were several unconfirmed reports that promoters of the #IStandWithBuhari group wrote to APC governors, federal ministries, parastatals and agencies requesting for billions to mobilize 9 million Nigerians that will attend the match in support of President Buhari. It was gathered that for several months the #IStandWithBuhari has a field day almost N2billion went into its coffers as agencies, parastatals donated. They mounted huge billboards in strategic locations in Abuja, branded posh cars, shirts, posh offices, etc. They market was moving for the promoters of the group until the bubble burst over power tussle and sharing of spoils of war within the organisation.
The internal wrangling within the group boiled over when the crisis led to the sudden resignation of its National Coordinator, Mustapha Ramalan.
In his letter of resignation Mr. Ramalan said he had to step down because he was not convinced on the path being toed by the organisation.
“Having led the organization these past couple of weeks, I have reached a hard and inevitable decision of stepping down as its national coordinator with immediate effect,” Mr. Ramalan said. “If I must lead the organization, I must be convinced more than anyone, on the path we chose for ourselves.”
Prior to the resignation of Mr. Ramalan, several letters from the group soliciting for funds to government ministries, agencies and parastatals leaked to the media and that was cause of huge embarrassment to the presidency. It is widely believed that the Presidency enabled scam, pretended it was put together by patriots.
In a bid to extricate federal government’s complicity in the scam, the presidency quickly backed off and issued a statement dissociating it from the group.
In the statement signed by Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to the President (Media and Publicity), the Presidency demanded that the group should immediately stop claiming any alliance with the Buhari Administration.
The Presidency also demands that the persons behind the controversial #Istandwithbuhari group should stop using President Muhammadu Buhari’s name and that of his wife, Mrs. Aisha Muhammadu Buhari to promote themselves and their activities.
According to the statement, “among other reasons, we have found it necessary to distance the Presidency from the #Istandwithbuhari group because it is premature and ostentatious celebration of the present administration’s achievements is totally inconsistent with President Buhari’s philosophy of service with humility.
“While the present administration has indeed recorded significant successes in its priority areas of improving security across the nation, ending the Boko Haram insurgency, curbing official corruption and revamping Nigeria’s economy, President Buhari is well aware that his government still has a lot of national challenges to overcome.
“The President prefers to give his fullest attention to addressing those challenges without the unsolicited and unwelcome distraction of untimely praise-singing from groups with dubious and questionable motives.”
The decision of the presidency to distance itself from the group came as a huge shock to the political opportunists that were feeding fat on the scam. Some of the promoters of the advocacy group had long abandoned every other thing they were doing to concentrate full time on the project which was akin to a gold mine.
Several Nigerians believed that nothing good could ever come out of the #IStandWithBuhari group as some of their promoters were also very vocal in support of former President Jonathan and only switched camp after Jonathan lost the last election. For instance, the Director-General of #IStandWithBuhari was one Engineer Chinedu Okpalanma, was the co-founder of a pro-Jonathan group that goes with the hash tag, #BringBackGoodluck2015. Chinedu Okpalanma was also the National coordinator, Goodluck Initiative for Transformation (GIFT) through the last election year.
He was forced to quit as Director-General of #IStandWithBuhari when the media exposed his immediate past activities. After his resignation, Okpalanma declared that he took the step to show that the #IStandWithBuhari initiative is sincere and not about him. He said that following the backlash which greeted the news that he was the DG of the organisation, he felt the need to resign so that the group can achieve its lofty ideals without being bogged by distractions about his personality.
Political observers are of the view that apart from the huge embarrassment the leaked letters soliciting for funds by the promoters of #IStandWithBuhari caused the presidency, the matter was worsened by the revelation that one of the pillars of the group was someone that campaigned for Jonathan and believed to have only switched camp after Jonathan lost the election. Those that applauded President Buhari from distancing himself from the group argued that it is dangerous to trust or do business with characters like Okpalanma who has a tendency to switch alliance at will. This, it is believed, was one of the major reasons the presidency took the irreversible decision to throw away the baby with the bathwater.