Love him, hate him: Why Buhari remains the issue!
….And a legacy under assault
By Jide Ajani
No Nigerian leader, living or dead, has affected the Nigerian nation in the way President Muhammadu Buhari has; let fools contend. Of course, this would generate an open, heated argument – and there already is – about the real and imagined essence of the affectation of Buhari on the political, economic, religious and even social spheres. This, in more ways than one. Some of the points of view would range from the sensible, to the outrightly ridiculous.
A sampler: On social media platforms, there was a joke posted, lately, regarding the true worth of most thought-to-be wealthy individuals in Nigeria. The post suggests, rather scathingly, that whereas most children, who had thought the breadwinners of their families were truly wealthy, had mistaken stolen public or private funds for proceeds of hard work; but that the coming of Buhari and his anti-corruption war has, indeed, put such individuals where they actually belonged: In the category of those who profiteered from corruption and corrupt practices and, therefore, have become comparatively impoverished, after being stripped of their stolen wealth. While this may come across as a joke, it is near a true reflection of the outcome of Buhari’s war on corruption.
Since the first military misadventure in Nigeria in January 1966, when Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu claimed that one of the major reasons for the coup was the need to halt the dangerous spread of the cankerworm of corruption, most Nigerian leaders had almost always insisted that their reign would tackle corruption.
However, never in the history of Nigeria has there been any such anti-corruption war as witnessed in the last two years of the Buhari administration.
Selective, biased, vindictive, malicious, tribal, unfair, jaundiced, nepotic as the war may be described, one thing remains inescapably true: Some of those who are facing corruption charges cannot be described as individuals who had not ventured in the arena or corridors or balconies or gardens where corrupt practices had taken place and, therefore, by association, may have merely become collateral victims. Yet, there may have been others, too, who are part of this administration but who cannot pass mustard.
Love him, hate him, Buhari’s war on corruption has changed the face of Nigeria, the face of doing business, the face of running politics, the face of relating to one another (even at family level) and the face of making money – this, through the whistle-blower policy, where an individual who squeals expects to get a percentage of the funds when recovered.
Make no mistake, the debate is neither about the goodness of the man Buhari, nor is it about his perceived vile ways; but it is about the fact that at no time in the history of Nigeria has any single individual affected the polity the way Buhari has.
Interestingly, on both sides of the political divide, there are those who love him and those who loath him – in equal measure, with passion. Breaking it down, his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, is not without its fair share of lovers and haters of President Buhari. By the same token, there are those in the shambling and shambolic opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, who loath him and love him.
Therefore, when the history of this Fourth Republic is written – without bias, that is – Buhari would enjoy a pride (or shame) of place, which would situate him at the epicentre of the rumblings or stability in the socio-political, economic, religious and tribal spheres of the Nigerian life.
But for a man who sought an office three times earlier, failing in the process, only to succeed at the fourth attempt; an attempt which was practically foisted on him at old age, Buhari suffers a cocktail of challenges, challenges which have all the more accentuated the doubtful propriety of whether in exhuming his presidential ambition in 2014, the decision enjoyed the benefit of yoi-shna (good thinking).
By far the singular, most obvious of Buhari’s limitations is attitudinal.
This point was made last year that the usefulness of education derives from the understanding of its limitations. Mark McCormack, in his book, WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU AT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, explains that ignoring such understanding leads to dangerous arrogance and a lack of knowledge about the way the world works. The lesson here, McCormack went on, is that whatever you know pales into insignificance in the face of your reaction to what you do not know. That is why some of the actions and in-actions of President Buhari have lacked an appreciation of the truly complex nature of the Nigerian nation – in the area of appointments and, in some instances, policies.
For a man who held so much promise (and may still hold so much), his achievements are now being reduced to outcomes which, at best, verge on tokenism, and at worst replicate barefaced propaganda. His once impressive and shining legacy, a legacy of uprightness, focused leadership with immediate effect and automatic alacrity, is under assault, largely from the misapplication of politics.
The views of prominent Nigerians on the following pages suggest a polity divided. But it is a polity divided by one man’s vision of the type of Nigeria he desires. He may not be the best, but the Buhari Nigerians voted for, in 2015, was a man on whom millions placed their hopes of renewal, rebirth and life more abundant. It wasn’t by accident that the APC threw him up as its candidate. Therefore, he was neither an accident of election nor was he one of political error. Whether he has delivered or not, the jury is still having a time out.
Today, however, age, health challenges and the vice-grip hold of politics on almost all matters appear to have conspired to slow him down. Yet, in all this, some people continue to insist that there is no vacancy in Aso Rock Presidential Villa in 2019, and that President Buhari would seek re-election. Yes, the right is inalienable. But one of the best things that Nigerians can do to, and for, President Buhari, is to encourage him further to do that which is good for himself and good for the country. Like his predecessors, the lure of power, oiled by sycophants around its corridor, continue to play yo-yo on a once straight forward and disciplined President. Not that Buhari has suddenly become indisciplined, it is just that he is allowing his legacy to wallow in the cesspit of treacherous politicking, the outcome of which may not be the one he desires.
Nigerians are a very passionate people – even rambunctiously so sometimes. When discussing Buhari, however, the passion engages a totally different gear, one that becomes fanatical. A policeman once swore that should Buhari die, he would be ready to kill some innocent people. He has been reprimanded by the authorities. That is the type of hold Buhari has on Nigerians. Conversely, there are those who also do not believe in him because they paint him with the tar of an ethnic jingoist.
Interestingly, he does not appear to be about ready to leave the stage. Talk about the economy and why it is the way it is today, it is Buhari. Discuss anti-corruption war, it is Buhari. The feud between the Executive and the Legislature, Buhari would be placed at the centre of it. Appointments or lack of same into hundreds of vacant boards in the country, it is Buhari’s call. The release of over 100 Chibok girls from Boko Haram, it is Buhari’s making. Rightly or wrongly, the in-fighting inside the PDP is placed at the doorstep of Buhari. The lamentation of woes by a section of the leadership of the APC, his party, is linked to Buhari’s handling of party affairs. The seeming regression of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, can be traced to Buhari’s non-compliance with the constitutionally stipulated empanelling of the INEC Board. Even the fact that in the political firmament, there is yet any politician of note angling to contest the 2019 presidency is for the fear of Buhari.
Unlike the allegation that a former President once extracted the resignation of the chairman of his political party by putting a gun to his head right inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa, Buhari has not and is not about to do that to anybody. However, with or without health challenges, either when he is inside Aso Rock or in far-away London recuperating, Muhammadu Buhari or the fear of him remains the main issue in Nigeria – and may remain so for a while. Love him, hate him, he remains the issue.