When will Gen. Buhari change his ways?
I was with the All Progressives Congress train that went to Kano Government House to invite Governor Musa Kwankwaso to join the league of progressives in the country, determined to bring about the change we need.
I joined the train courtesy of a friend of mine who was with one of the APC governors present in Kano. I joined the delegation from the airport, at the instance of my friend who insisted I shifted my flight due for Lagos that afternoon.
I felt elated that I was being part of unfolding history. Indeed I still feel happy that I was there, especially after the fraternity I saw, the sign of hope for those looking for change as exhibited that day by the reception accorded the delegation by Governor Kwankwaso. Various members of the delegation spoke very well about the importance of joining hands together to remove the incompetent PDP government.
Alas, the star attraction at the event, former military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), delivered something that was every inch a sectional and even shallow. Addressing the crowd at the packed Government House hall, Buhari spoke of 'strategic plan' to destroy the North, in reference to the Boko Haram insurgency. He took larger part of his short speech to whip up sentiments on why Boko Haram is 'political strategy to destroy us'.
Who then are 'us'? This politics of dichotomy coming from a man of his standing was, to say the least, unfortunate. It sent shivers of shock down my spine as I looked over my shoulders, to a largely Hausa Muslim audience that were really captivated by these remarks coming from someone who should know.
To Gen. Buhari, the excessive bloodshed perpetrated by the insensitive Boko Haram killing squad was not about religion, it was a political weapon. For real? So all the church bombings, all the claims by the sect that it was waging a religious war were not enough for Buhari to realise the dimension of this danger?
How would he want the families of those hundreds of people blown away by accursed suicide bombers to react to this? To put it in another way, Buhari was saying that 'OUR youths are being USED to kill in the name of politics to destroy OUR region'.
This re-echoes what President Goodluck Jonathan said after the 2010 Independence Day bombing in Abuja: 'My people cannot do this'. For that commentary on Boko Haram, Buhari has fallen in the same category as President Jonathan.
With what had happened to him in the three consecutive elections he stood, many political observers, like this writer, thought that Gen. Buhari will change his ways by recanting his slanted views on national issues. The Katsina-born General was roundly rejected by people outside his Hausa-Fulani-Muslim enclave in the elections he contested under various umbrellas in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
The reason is not far-fetched. For a man who fought to keep Nigeria united and later come to head the country as military head of state, Buhari's latter .day comments fall below the lines of a nationalist, more so one who aspires to lead a country as complex and heterogenous as Nigeria. At the heat of the Sharia debate, a time when self-serving politicians moved to cover up their mess by invoking religion to divide people and win over hapless masses, General Buhari came out to join that charade.
His words to the effect that Muslims should vote only for fellow Muslims, came not only as a shocker but eroded the respect many Nigerians have for General Buhari as someone with impeccable personal integrity. That actually set tongues wagging.
However, the perplexing thing is, just as you think the man has abandoned his old ways, he would come with yet another myopic statement that would scare everybody around. And, the reality is no one can help him better than himself. A situation where one offends the sensibilities of people directly touched by such a carnage, there is no one else to remedy the situation. After all, the man is not new to such uncalculated utterances that often lead to needless controversy which also erode public confidence in him.
Since the escalation of the Boko Haram carnage, Buhari has never come out to condemn the actions as being perpetrated by indigenous youths. Instead, he uses almost every avenue to try to find excuses for what has been happening.
The General is so much clung to his theory of conspiracy and the ultimate direction of the conspirators is people from the South or the Federal Government which is being 'controlled' by people from the South. Does the former head of state mean Christian, who are in the minority in the North, are the ones throwing bombs amidst chants of 'Allahu Akbar'? Or, does he mean the hundreds of families whose breadwinners and other members were killed by the insurgents sacrificed their loved ones to 'destroy our region'?
No stranger can go to the forests and deserts of Maiduguri to set up training camps and no government, no matter how heartless can start something that would threaten its sovereignty.
It is indeed unfortunate that a man aspiring to lead this country at this point in time, will showcase not only sectional biases but also flawed understanding of issues. Militant Islamism is a global phenomenon that is worrying countries from the South Pole to the Northern hemisphere. For someone of Buhari's standing to fail to acknowledge that this is a problem afflicting Muslim communities all over the world, is worrisome. Boko Haram, as anybody with fair knowledge of world events today should know, is not an exclusive phenomenon.
It is part of the global uprising that started from such countries as Afghanistan, Algeria, Somalia, Pakistan and others and influenced pockets of other Islamists in far and near countries. Why is it that Muslims in Northern Mali did not blame similar occurrence to their central government or the Christian in the South? Yes, politics is a game but it should not be such a nasty and brainless one.
The formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has given hope to millions of Nigerians who have been completely lost hope in the current dispensation of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). However, if characters with biased minds and flawed thinking like General Buhari are the strongest selling points of the APC structure then I doubt if the ultimate aim of the merger could be really accomplished.
Because while some of us still believe in the process and the personality of General Buhari (who is very unpopular down here, for his utterances and disposition) his statements are weakening our effort in selling him as a possible messiah for our country. Listening to him in Kano the other day cast a huge doubt in my mind if indeed this man can rule over a united Nigeria, devoid of sentiments.
Olaniyi, a chartered accountant wrote, from Ibadan
By Mr Wole Olaniyi