SORRY, BUT I DON'T HAVE ANYTHING AGAINST BUHARI
I do not make great claims about myself. I am not the most holy or righteous of all men. And I know if I make claim of being guided by my conscience here, not few people will not be angry with me. What does he mean by conscience? Who doesn't have conscience? But, these few days I have been reading a lot of the allegations against the APC Presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. And the more I read; about his 'going to islamise Nigeria' 'going to bring back WAI', 'going to ostracize my Igbo race from governance', and so on and so forth, I understand how each time, I chuckle when I read these because somewhere in my honest mind, I know these are not true. In fact in that same corner of my mind, I understand that those who write these do not even believe what they write. They do this just because they have nothing else to say against the man that will catch. In essence they do not like Buhari, simple! And they may have their reasons. But those reasons are not any of the above stated, and will never be. And I have kept analyzing my heart since then. I want to be sure of myself, and right as I am writing this, I am certain my heart has nothing against Buhari. He may have wronged some people in words or deeds whom I do not know. But he has not wronged me, my family or anyone I know in my so large Nigerian social circle.
I was a little boy in 1983 when the nation was gripped in the throes of War Against Indiscipline (WAI). I did not know what WAI meant then, nor the dimensions the enforcers of that campaign had gone to beat Nigerians into shape with Buhari's vision of human conduct. From years of reading and listening to parallel narratives I have come to understand that it was indeed hard, and even humiliating for many who lived under Buhari led military regime. Nigerians were not used to that kind of cattle-rearer mode of governance, that brooked no distinction of persons, and treated adults who misbehaved like children. When Babangida threw Buhari out of power, the nation felt a breath of fresh air, as it were. And if Nigerians clapped for Babangida it had been because of his doing away with WAI.
Like I said, I did not understand those years. So I should be forgiven if I state how much I regret that Buhari was ever removed from power. And how much I wish those days returned. Because the Nigeria I grew up to meet, the one I have experienced these years, has been one filled with impunity and lawlessness. The Nigeria we met became a cancer. With its putrefying gashes of corruption, ineptitude, tribalism, all sorts of banality and incredulous loss of soul and conscience, Nigeria left my generation at crossroads. We are a laughing stock among nations. There used to be a time we were laughed at in the streets of London and New York, until we began to ignore it. After all it was UK and USA. Today, we are being laughed at in the streets of Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, even Johannesburg, Nairobi and Accra here. Once Nigeria is mentioned, our record-breaking ironies fill peoples' senses with incongruities, and they begin to made hilarious disparaging remarks and laughter. And funny enough, as a Nigerian, you know they are right, and you just keep quiet. Or out of holy anger, you dare to challenge those aspersions, still knowing deep down in your heart that whatever is said about Nigeria's numerous oddities of today is right. If Buhari had succeeded in stanching that sore he saw that time, perhaps it could have saved my generation from being the “cancer of Africa” if I will borrow the words of a Thai police officer.
Yes, my generation are the cancer of Africa. My generation are the prostitutes in Venice. My generation are yahoo yahoo boys in Kuala Lumpur. My generation are the drug peddlers in Bangkok. They are thieves in UK. They are the illegal immigrants in Norway and Denmark, even Kyrgyzstan. They are asylum seekers in Korea. They are robbers and kidnappers in Nigeria. They are suicide bombers. They sleep at the gates of embassies and being rejected from country to country, because their propensity for running away to greener pastures is well known and documented. They are easy recruits for extremists. 70 percent of them are believed to be living below poverty line. They are disillusioned and frustrated, and they are desperate men and women. Their country runs aground, and their economy cannot support many of their creative ideas, so they are scattering abroad. Anything you say one will do to make it, they are there. And so the waves of crime across the world where Nigerians are mentioned keep increasing daily across the world. Yes, when you have a Nigerian passport, you get far more scrutiny than other passengers in most airports in the world. It is such bad.
But, I will not be like them who tell only the sad and depressing story of my generation and my country. There are still young people of my generation who are harnessing their positive energy into positive action despite the suffocating economic reality and gorge of inequality in the country. These ones are scholars across the globe, they are young entrepreneurs daring the odds at home, traders in street corners, they are writers, movie makers, comedians who utilize our daily trivialities to create rib-cracking jokes that have become a very big industry. They do these despite stifling economic environment, epileptic power supply, and deplorable infrastructure. Yes my generation has positives. But it leaves me wondering what would have been if impunity had not taken over.
What would have been if the hordes of these youths are all marching as a positive force? Yes, it was these things that I think and I regret that Buhari's revolution was halted and impunity enthroned.
I would have had something against Buhari if I was sure he had contributed to making this generation what it is. Rather his' was the last botched effort to redirect the voyage of this generation from sailing into peril. And since the 1980's the sliding has been perpetual and progressive into an awaiting storm. And we are numerous confused captains tearing down our sail even in this storm. Because even when we know what is wrong, with dead conscience now ruling many of us, we can never align where truth stands on how to save the situation.
I am not angry that Buhari is old and instead of resting in his country home, and relaxing as an elder statesman, he is on the road campaigning to rule us again, to become Nigerian President in 2015. Rather, I am angry at the situation that has rendered my generation, though well read and upwardly mobile, incapable to saddle horses for this all important Presidential position. A whole lot of today's Nigerian youth know that only a certain Buhari can match the incumbent. Yes, because the youths of my generation, despite our noisy proclamations of faith, have been so pauperized by the system that we understand we do not have what it takes to compete for Presidency, which Zik, Awolowo, Balewa and their generations competed for when they were younger than we are. Nigeria has broken our wings. We cannot take flight in our peak.
The President of my country scooped 21 billion for three months campaign in an economy that 70 percent of her citizens are so poor; in a country where the soldiers say they lack the right ammunitions to fight insurgency; in a nation facing crisis in the labour market, with hordes of her youth walking the streets of empty belly without job or money. God, if anybody sees this situation and is not angry, then something has happened to his conscience. And I am quite certain that Buhari with all his personal flaws cannot do to us what this gang of men in power are doing. And you say, how are you sure? I say the time for him to do so is even passed. If he would be an o-yes man, Buhari could have been years ago. It takes a lot to dance away from a jolly crowd for only a day, not the least three decades.
I am one of them who hate Buhari for what I understand as his occasional unguarded comments which sometimes inflames embers. Why does he always have to comment on Sharia? At his level he should know how to be political in his replies. But, wait. Who am I? Many of those who ever read me understand that Buhari is better than me in the aspect of speaking my mind. I love to speak hard truths about what I believe in. Because that is where honour is; men whose voices say what is in their heart. Such men; you could hold their words and they do not deny it. Nigeria has just very few of such men. In Nigeria, majority of men put truth in a continuum; they speak only the truth that favours them. To other truths they are either silent or become political with answers. I can dine with an enemy who plays with his cards open, because I can work, live or die by what I see. But that man who is slippery as eel will hit you like viper at the slightest of opportunity. From such men, even bible counsels-run!
So will Buhari islamize Nigeria? I know he will not. He has no capacity to. Not because he chose a Christian as his Vice. No, but because we have a constitution. Also because he has always been a man of his words, and it is sad for me to acknowledge this truth which I cannot acknowledge with many who claim we belong in the same faith. He says he is not running to Islamize Nigeria, and my mind believes this. So if anybody comes to me today to say Buhari will islamize Nigeria, I will tell him to go and sit down, because I know (and I know the person also knows) the person is lying. Whoever he is is one of those who tell the truth in a continuum, the truth that favours their today's interest. I have no problem with Buhari in that respect. Since I grew up, I have always known he is a Muslim, he has never pretended he is a Christian, and he has served Nigeria in various capacities as a Muslim. He never claimed what he is not. So he is an enemy I have capacity to predict more than dear wonderful friends.
Buhari is not anti-Igbo. My sister late Dora Akunyili worked in PTF and it was under Buhari, and not many people reckon that her journey to stardom began with that man—and the returned medical allowance. In his first coming as Head of State, the Igbo were not marginalized. But somehow in his last few presidential campaigns the North had owned Buhari to peril. And even now, not much has happened in thawing the ice of mutual distrust that seemed to matt between him and my tribe. But going into March 2015, I hope Buhari should give the Igbo more recognition than he does now. But even if he fails to do, let no one compare it with the current situation we have that looks entirely like 'Aladdin and the wonderful lamp'. All the promises given to Ndigbo in 2011 are like the palace built in Baghdad last night but glowing in the surburb of Cairo in the morning. This magic spell, I for one has cast it off me. My eyes are clear. I understand now.
I wish Buhari stops making unguarded comments; like the ones that are easily misinterpreted by violence mongers. If he recognizes this concern it will redound to national good and serve our national interest. Let him leave emotions and focus on facts. The facts of mis-governance in Nigeria are all too screamingly clear and are a scar for all men of conscience, from Washington to Abu Dhabi. And I know Buhari is not one of them who did this to us. I do not have problem with him on this.
In the end my problem is will all men who fool my brother and sisters with so called 'religion', and cause them to live in fear of what does not exist. These men know that what they are doing against the masses of this nation is borne out of arrant selfishness and self-aggrandizement, because their ultimate goal is to continue in their positions and continue leeching our commonwealth. These men build us schools and their children are not studying there. They built us hospitals but they never check in there even for slightest headache. They have huge budgets for a lot of nonsense that has not changed any man's life than their cronies and praise singers.
These men have refused to allow us debate on the performance of a government in power for six years with nothing to show. They refer us to religion and tribe, they refuse to refer us to statistics. With the doom of hopelessness (in the midst of opulence) standing before our face, they want us to head into the next four years with the same exacerbating poverty; so that there will be more prostitutes in the brothels, more yahoo yahoo boys traveling to Malaysia, more kidnappers, more robbers, more mad and derelict people who lose sanity out of the hardship of the day. It is this people I have problem with. And I know my God also has a problem with them. They may be Pastors or Imams, Igwes, Obas Emirs, they may be priests, religious leaders of all cadres. But trust me, these people know nothing of God. They know only their belly and ego. They are cows of Bashan of prophet Amos day, who mortgage the nation for their own personal good, trampled on the oppressed and grown fat on the flesh of men. It is such people every sane, God-loving Nigerian will have problem with, not Buhari.
Izuchukwu Okeke Job, is studying Mass Communication (MA) at Pukyong National University, Busan South Korea.