Muhammadu Buhari
Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari: The Man and the Mandate

Anyone who has been reading my articles for many years would testify that I have special respect and admiration for General Muhammadu Buhari now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Special respect and admiration because the Katsina-born man of 73 years is incorruptible, frugal and patriotic! He had demonstrated these when he was a military dictator in the early 80’s and continues to exhibit these rare traits found in not many Nigerians. Today as President Buhari comes across as a serious man in search of Nigeria’s elusive greatness. He is dead serious about fighting corruption, dead serious about revamping the battered economy, dead serious about providing an avenue for foreign investment, dead serious about breaking the corruption cycle in the oil and gas sector. By his countenance and demeanour one could read about a man on a mission for change — a change that Nigeria desperately needs if we are to come out of the woods.

Muhammadu BuhariI detest sycophancy and hypocrisy especially one exhibited for the interest of those in power or towards those with bags of money to dole out. I am not rich but I am not poor either! In one of my online articles published some years back (even when Buhari was still in opposition) entitled: “The Buhari/Ribadu Deadly Combination” I had advocated for the Buhari presidency with Ribadu as his running mate arguing forcefully that the two represented a ‘deadly combination ‘ we needed for change to occur in our time, in our generation. In a nation where nonsense was then prevailing we needed forces of change to knock back sense into our national consciousness. Days after the publication of the piece the former editor in the Lagos-based “The Sun” newspaper and now the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, had to do an article in reaction to the piece given the controversy it had generated.

Femi and I are fans of the retired General and we had made it clear through our published articles even when PMB was not yet resident in Aso Rock Villa. So no one should ever accuse us of playing any sycophancy for whatever reason. We dare to speak truth to power and we are determined to continue that course no matter who is taking up residence in Aso Rock. Nigeria and her interest is paramount in our minds and we shall continue to defend her and her people in every circumstance — fearlessly. I can only sing the praise of one perfect infallible celestial Being: Jesus Christ of Nazareth! He alone deserves my praise for laying his life for me on the cross for the remission of sins!

In yet another intervention I had advocated for a Buhari presidency hammering on the need fior a free and fair polls come 2015 which was what we had witnessed! Buhari the man is  definitely the change agent we need at this critical time in our national life to bring about change we clamour for. If he can do eight years in Aso Rock then that would be better for the consolidation and transformation of our country. When we talk about tranformation it is not the kind of “transformaton” GEJ and his gang had in mind; a “transformation agenda” that failed to transform anything positive in the life of the nation but transformed individuals corruptibly into emergency millionaires and billionaires! The Buhari we know for decades is one hot retired General on a mission to transform Nigeria and make her great. He is the man destiny has thrown on our way to build our country into something to be proud of.

I was still a young boy in the village when General Muhammadu Buhari first came to power through a popular military putsch of December 1983. Barely ten years old my brothers and sisters and I were all in the village celebrating Christmas and New Year festivities when suddenly our late father called our attention to the martial music playing on Radio Nigeria. On the eve of a new year 1984 the coup d’etat against the then President Shehu Shagari provoked wild jubilation across the land as the democratic government was stinkingly corrupt and inept — much like what had happened recently during the Jonathan presidency! Buhari and the late Tunde Idiagbon thus swept it aside to pave way for a new beginning. Soon after the war against indiscipline (WAI) took off necessitating orderly decent behaviour by Nigerians. The jackboot in its most strictest imposed certain do’s and don’ts in the public life like queuing up for bus in the bus-stop or cleaning up the environment around homes. Some notorious drug barons and peddlers were summarily executed as a draconian Decree to that effect came into force! Some journalists were incarcerated as they crossed the line and went beyond journalistic limits.
Some critics had lampooned the Buhari junta as brutal and intolerant of divergent views. To sanitise the bastardised society certain measures had to be taken — much to the satisfaction and approval of many Nigerians. As the former Ghanaian strongman, Jerry John Rawlings, had said you cannot make an omelet without breaking some eggs. True Talk, ‘Junior Jesus’! Nigeria then and now needs a strongman of great morals and principles to make her and her people behave themselves. As an undisciplined lot we need a Buhari to bring back discipline and accountability in public affairs. We need him to deal with the corrupt elements using illicitly-acquired funds to undo the economy and play demi-gods.
Two years after, however, a counter coup was staged with the then Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida coming to power in August 1985. IBB as he was popularly called came in guilefully as a benevolent dictator, one whose junta was with the so-called human face. But soon enough the “Nigerian Maradona” dropped the mask and began an 8-year lonely long distance race that terminated ingloriously after the abortion of June 12. Babangida ran a giddy highly-corrupt administration accused of many assassinations (including one gruesomely chilling one too many — Dele Giwa!), massive looting, homosexuality and what have you. The man from Minna tinkered with every aspect of our national lives initiating one bogus or white elephant project after another including SAP, MAMSER, DFFRI, Option A4 etc. He was forced out of Aso Rock in August of 1993 consumed as it were by June 12 and the Abiola saga.

We need a smart President and a smart presidency. Even though Buhari is a septuagenarian Nigeria needs a pro-active president — one responsive, bold and proud of the Nigerian great heritage. The communication laxity of the president ought to be deplored. A mute or taciturn presidency is not one to be encouraged in this new digital age. Buhari must speak to Nigerians at all times like Barack Obama does whenever a tragedy happens or national security is threatened by terrorism. In the US when the occasional shooting incidents take place the President is seen addressing the people and outlining measures to forestall future occurrences. The recent carnage in Zaria involving the military and the Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky-led Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) is a case in point. While it was widely reported that hundreds of members of the movement were massacred by the military the president never spoke officially!

The recklessness and impunity of the security agencies and agents must be checked in this democracy. The DSS especially should be better controlled as they go about reportedly harassing, arresting and intimidating opponents and ‘criminals’ alike. No one should be shot dead or executed extra-judicially without any consequences. No one deserves to be locked up unjustly without trial in accordance with the law. If that is allowed to happen then democracy is being threatened. We are in a democracy where dialogue, diplomacy and patience are the hallmarks of good leadership. The due process and rules of engagement must be followed at all times. In seeking to sanitize the polluted polity caution must be exercised lest this administration be labelled despotic!

The excessive foreign trips of the president ought to be curtailed. Junketing abroad while the country is in dire need of leadership at home does not give a good impression of a serious president. While it is normal and acceptable for leaders to meet and engage themselves it is not always the duty of the president to be present at every fora. That is why there are ministers, special advisers and other officials; they should be sent abroad sometimes to represent the head of state. Buhari reserves the right to travel abroad at his convenience but that must be done when things improve back home; things like security of lives and property, employment opportunities for the teeming jobless youths and the dwindling economy.

The reinforcement of the fight against corruption is called for even though some grounds have been broken and successes recorded. I suggest the appointment of a seasoned legal luminary as the EFCC Chairman; that would go a long way to establishing the EFCC as a stronger institution for the very purpose for which it was created — fighting graft. Besides, the war against terror is paying some dividends, yes, but more needs to be done to completely rout Boko Haram. Yes, they may have been defeated ‘technically’ and ‘conventionally’ but they are still very active in the guerrilla warfare. A new strategy and mechanism should be put in place to check their excesses.

While everybody in the world believes that Nigeria is a blessed country because of our natural resources, the country’s problem remains how to organise itself and her citizens and how to get the right leadership in place. But now that it seems that that right leadership is finally in place it is our considered belief that the man Nigerians overwhelmingly elected President would not disappoint as he goes about the onerous task of righting the ugly past wrongs and succeeding where many had failed.

Nigeria needs both a strong man and strong institutions of state. Buhari, in my reckoning, seems to be the man, that strongman! Strong institutions? Well, we are not there yet (not when Bukola Saraki still remains as the Senate President). And the mandate is clear enough and the job well defined. The next four years would tell if our hopes and aspirations are met or dashed. Happy and prosperous new year 2016 to Nigeria and Nigerians!

Written by
SOC Okenwa
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