Buhari The Overhyped Messiah
Franz Fanon was the one who coined the phrase 'Every onlooker is either a traitor or a coward,” to which I may add that to remain silent in the face of serious national political discourse with the prospect of instability and crisis is not golden. Since I do not want to belong to either of the two categories mentioned by Fanon , I've decided to write this article which is a sharp departure from my usual area of interest which is the gubernatorial elections in my home state of Abia where my support for the candidacy of the APGA flagbearer Dr Alex Otti is an open secret. All through the advent of the present presidential campaigns, I've kept an open mind, not knowing for sure who to extend my unsolicited support, my inability to vote by virtue of my place of residence notwithstanding. As a Nigerian living in diaspora, I must confess that at some point I was almost swayed by the propaganda against GEJ and briefly taken by the anti -corruption antecedents of General Buhari, until I started reading about some of accomplishments of the president. I then began to realize that despite all the hue and cry about his inability to destroy Boko Haram or stem the tide of corruption, two intractable issues that were there before he became president, the man has actually been a transformative leader.
As much as I was enamored by the corruption busting, lock them up credentials of the ex General, I have also become deeply disappointed by a number of things, namely , the presence of the likes of Asiwaju Tinubu, Atiku and host of other discredited and aggrieved former PDP stalwarts around him, the issue of his West African School certificate, which the army denied they had in their possession, his continued refusal to participate in a presidential debate, the lack of any detailed articulation of his plans for the country, the lies surrounding his state of health, the bellicose statements he has made, predicting violence and bloodshed should he lose etc. the list goes on and on. Again as I examined his performance in office when he was military ruler for 18 months I could not point to any defining achievement except that he locked up without due process over a 100 Nigerian politicians, a majority of whom were from the south east and south west, while Shagari was left to luxuriate in the comfort of a villa in Ikoyi. A selective prosecutorial discretion that was not lost on the late Fela when in bemoaning the treatment of Ekwueme wrote the following lyric in one of his songs, 'driver commit accident Buhari lock conductor”. As much as I do not want to question his motives, I believe he should have been more even handed in his corruption crusade.
As he campaigns for the presidency once again with his corruption busting bonafides as his trump card , one begins to wonder if once again he will be selective in not prosecuting all the crooks around him, who are now financing his campaign. Which brings us to the issue of his methods and if they actually worked. As we can see every successive administration after Buhari have struggled with the issue of corruption and failed , including Obasanjo who despite all the public fanfare and publicity driven arrests and prosecutions left office himself richer than when he came in from prison as a bankrupt Otta farmer. As GEJ said in a recent interview , our practice of shooting armed robbers by firing squad has not in any way stopped people from committing armed robbery, hence a better and more effective method will be to deny people of the opportunities to steal, just as he did by eliminating the
fertilizer middlemen, handing over NPA verifications to a third party, the utilization of a single treasury account which saved the federal Government over 500 billion naira and the reorganization of our payroll system, thereby removing over 46,000 ghost workers, with a promise to tackle corruption in the oil sector after his re-election.
It was Napoleon who once wrote that “the best attribute of a leader is to define reality and give hope”. Which is exactly what Jonathan has done. The reality is that Buhari's lock them up approach did not work and will not work even if he wins and tries it again. Besides, times have changed. We are now practicing a democracy with democratic institutions, a constitution and set laws. All those who think Buhari will just come in and lock up people the way he did without due process are living a pipe dream. If that is his only calling card in deceiving the electorate to vote for him , those who end up voting for him because of his overhyped messiah status are in for the greatest disappointments of their lives. The down side is that by the time they discover that the king has no clothes it will be too late.
As one of the main issues of concern in this election other than Boko Haram, corruption in Nigeria is an endemic problem. Truth be told, the average Nigerian has a very creative mind when it comes to thinking of ways to make money. Even here in diaspora where most Nigerians are hardworking and law abiding, those who commit crimes are usually so creative that the law enforcement officials are amazed at the sophistry of their methods. I guess most Nigerians subscribe to Oscar Wilde's mantra that, “anyone who lives within his means suffers from a lack of
imagination”. Maybe that explains why everyone seems to be on the take , from the customs officer at the airport or border crossing, to the Immigration officer at the passport office, to the policeman at a road checkpoint, the clerk at the ministry who demands a bribe before your file can be located and even the bathroom attendant at the airport whose palm need to be greased before she hands you some tissue paper. The list goes on and on. The question is , how many of these people will Buhari lock up?. Our methods of fighting corruption has to change, which is why I think GEJ's method deserves a try.
Contrary to all the talk of this presidential election being about corruption and the eradication of Boko Haram, in my opinion it is about power acquisition and the protection of ill gotten wealth by some powerful Politicians. Having read a lot of the Nigerian newspaper reports, it has become apparent to me that with all its fertility of conjecture , not one media outlet has conceived the real reason behind the mass movement of some politicians from the PDP to APC. Truth be told, most of them as the economic minister Ngozi Okonji Iweala rightly pointed out are people who being aware that GEJ will vacate their oil block licenses are scrambling to the APC hoping to protect their source of wealth. Others like Tinubu are hoping to benefit from the next oil block sweep stakes. Sometimes when people talk about corruption in the oil sector they fail to mention that most of those oil block licenses were awarded by Abacha , Babaginda and Obasanjo. Again if you look at the top 20 most lucrative oil blocks , you will discover that they were awarded to people from the north, including retired army generals, most of whom recently declared their support for Buhari.
Despite all I've said about Buhari, I still commend him for being one the few ex heads of state who left office without enriching himself, unless he was more careful in hiding his loot. But that alone does not qualify him to be president, hence he has some personal flaws in temperament, vindictiveness and religious fanaticism. It is pertinent to point out that Nasir El Rufai who now follows Buhari around like an idol worshipper once said this about his new boss, “Buhari remains perpetually unelectable as a result of his insensitivity to Nigeria's diversity”. Which brings to mind, Buhari's comment during a recent BBC interview when in response to a question as to why the Ibo's will not vote for him said “the Ibo's dislike him because of his role in the civil war and that he will be willing to kill more Ibo's to keep Nigeria together”. Even though his comment may not have reflected any literal intention, it was nevertheless the wrong answer to give .It was as asinine as it was irresponsible and unbecoming of someone who aspires to be the leader of a multi ethnic polity like Nigeria. It was in my opinion a cheap clap trap , revealing a disturbing display of ignorance or of humbug, perhaps of both unworthy of an ex-president Fully aware that some people from the south east may not be favorably disposed towards his candidacy he should have been more conciliatory , instead his response was less charitable, wretchedly botched and not statesmanlike.
At that moment he was the nullifier, whose comment was couched in the cool unimpassioned deliberate language of a fanatic, pursuing the promptings of fanaticism even to the dismemberment of a major ethnic group. I guess he spoke under two supreme illusions, that people from the south east will not vote for him and secondly with an anticipated 12 million votes from the North and the south west , he probably will not need the Ibo votes to win, hence he was quoted also as saying that if the Ibo's will not vote for him they are free to vote for any of the other mushroom parties. This , to me is not the quality we seek in someone who wants to be president. Like Abraham Lincoln once said, “there is something in meanness which excites the species of resentment that never subsides and something in cruelty which stirs up the hearts of the highest agony of human hatred'. I doubt if Buhari, by those comments have made any new friends from the south east. My impression , and I may be wrong, is that he has not and does not give a damn.
I am not a betting man. However if I was to wager a bet on the outcome of the presidential elections come march 28, I will bet that Buhari will not win. His many vulnerabilities are very obvious. His profound and elevated sense of ambition, which is full with bitterness, malice and prediction of bloodshed should he lose are not admirable qualities Contrary to the inevitability narrative of many APC stalwarts, my prediction is not based only on hindsight but the facts on the ground. Once again I do not believe this supposed new political alliance between the south west and the north will yield the dividends envisaged.. It has never worked from the time it was first tried in the post Independence elections ,again by Obasanjo and now with Tinubu. We tend to forget that the Yoruba's are not good at playing second fiddle to any other group. With the extension of the voting date, people are beginning to learn and appreciate the accomplishments of Jonathan which are impressive in the sense that he has tackled some long standing issues which previous administrations had shied away from. They include just to name a few, the revitalization of our railway system, which I am told has offended a lot of people in the haulage business. He has built or established 14 new federal universities, began construction of a new Niger bridge, modernized 22 others, constructed of a few power generating plants , kept the inflation rate at single digits and the budget deficit at one percent, one of the lowest in the world etc.
In terms of personal qualities, Jonathan is said to be an embodiment of good temper and affability. Those who have met him have emerged from his presence favorably impressed with his general disposition. Does that make him a very forceful leader ? No, but he is the kind of leader as the Americans will say , “you will want to sit down and have a beer with”. In a continent that is full of dictators we, in Nigeria are lucky to have a leader who respects freedom of speech and of the press. We are lucky to be blessed with a leader any citizen can verbally abuse and still be able to go home and sleep peacefully without being arrested.
I honestly believe the result of the March 28 elections involves consequences, vast and momentous that we the electorate must bestow on it mature reflection before making our choices. This is going to be an election fraught with consequences, immediate and remote, such as human foresight could not penetrate. Like Wole Soyinka recently opined, it may be a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea. Its just that with the devil you can dine with it, using the proverbial long spoon, whereas even the best swimmer can drown in the deep blue sea. If I have to choose I guess I will choose the devil which to me will be Jonathan, hence the saying “the Devil I Know”.
Nnanna Ijomah : A Former Assistant To Emeka Ojukwu Teaches Political Science in New York . [email protected]