General Muhammadu Buhari does not need any introduction in Nigeria and even beyond. His name rings a deafening bell! When in the early 80’s the military struck it was the Daura-born lanky General that became the Head of State ably assisted by a strong-willed deputy, the late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon. During their short-lived occupation of Dodan Barracks in Lagos (the seat of power then) Nigeria witnessed something of a moral revolution as the war against indiscipline imposed by the jackboot became a national phenomenon embraced by all and sundry.
I remember vividly well that fateful day of 31st December in 1983. I was in the village as a teenager surrounded by my late parents, brothers and sisters. We were all enjoying the new year mood having celebrated Christmas days gone by and waiting patiently to bid yet another year goodbye and usher in a brand new one. And suddenly the military martial music began blarring forth from my late father’s old radio set tuned to Radio Nigeria. During the late 60’s down to the late 90’s coup d’etat in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general was a ‘disease’ that we all lived with. Some of the junta leaders brought with each execution of the violent or non-violent toppling of a government anguish while others gave rise to positive ideals.
We were all pleasantly surprised then when a voice came forth and announced audaciously the military take-over of power. Providing solid incontrovertible reasons that justified the coup d’etat Gen. Buhari and his military friends made it clear they came with a mission to sanitize the corrupt system. And position Nigeria for greatness that was eluding her. The speech was a powerful message of hope, one that conferred seriousness a ‘business’ to the coupists. The deep political cleansing had just begun with pride and patriotism combining together to demonstrate what was possible in Nigeria with good leadership.
Ex-President Shehu Shagari was thus swept aside with his corrupt henchmen in tow: the Umaru Dikkos, Richard Akinjides etc. Behold a new nation with great prospects and opportunities was born! From Lagos to Kaduna, Port Harcourt to Enugu people trooped out to the streets to welcome the ‘saviours’ who had come to liberate a suffocating populace under the debilitating effects of high-wire corruption and executive mediocrity. The Shagari fall reminded one of executive powerlessness, one manacled by political forces it ought to control but which turned out to be killing the system by instalments to the President’s dishonour and criminal innocence.
General Buhari and the late Idiagbon of course meant well and dealt a huge blow to those archaic primitive practises that stiffled growth and promoted odious corruption. True, some draconian decrees were rolled out to check certain flaws of politicians and businessmen. True, there were certain cases of unjust incarceration of politicians with clean records. Though victims were made and violation of human rights recorded examples were shown of the efficiency of the new administration; what it served us was a shock therapy Nigeria needed at that point in time!
To be fair to history it must be emphasized that despite the concomitant brutality and overzealousness of some misguided men in uniform things suddenly began to work wonderfully well again — bonding a nation together in unity, discipline and patriotism! Civil servants went to work early and on time, corruption vanished through the window, people began queuing up in bus stops, discipline was the order of the day!
It was during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime that one saw a pure military government in its best military tradition –disciplined, frugal, patriotic, accountable, strict, mean and altruistic. With the coming of the modern barbarians in military fatigues beginning with the ‘evil genius’ Ibrahim Babangida to the late ‘Khalifa’ Gen. Sani Abacha Nigeria suddenly abandoned the jackboot standards embracing debauchery and national paralysis with Generals rumoured to be homosexuals and stealing billions of dollars of oil profits!
Gen. Buhari never reckoned the menacing danger posed to his administration by a lurking Judas within! The fifth columnist, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, then Chief of Army Staff, struck like viper when Gen. Idiagbon went for a holy pilgrimage in Mecca! The IBB coup became an instant success as the Minna-born gap-toothed ‘Maradona’ mounted the saddle with a new hidden agenda, a new crafty mien and a new giddy era in political engineering and re-engineering. IBB ran a government of fraud and duplicity and in the final lap of the lonely long-distance race June 12 was killed with a dictatorial sledge-hammer! Babangida ended up as a failed military leader with an empty legacy!
Sorry folks, let’s be fair to this man with many baggages! IBB did manage to leave some ‘unbeatable’ legacy behind the ‘dividends’ of which we are currently ‘reaping’: martial homosexuality, bastardisation of the polity, decapitation of the military by destroying professionalism within, letter-bombing of Dele Giwa, killing of democracy post-June 12 and “settlement syndrome”, that is, using money to buy over the loyalty and conscience of opponents or using same to blackmail them. Let us not list the massive sleaze he supervised which culminated in the embezzlement of billions of dollars of Gulf war oil windfall! Babangida remains an intriguing polarising figure in Nigeria, a study in kleptocracy!
The poverty of political engineering in Nigeria must be blamed for the situation where a former ‘benevolent dictator’ has become the ‘beautiful bride’ behind whom a lot of Nigerians are queuing and investing their prosperous future. In a nation where scoundrels and charlatans are doing their very best to criminalise the state and corrupt good morals Gen. Buhari stands out tall as an embodiment of probity and personal character. He appears to be the only surviving ‘saviour’, a ‘messiah’ being acclaimed to step forward and reclaim the stolen soul of the nation.
Compared with most of the politicians milking Nigeria dry from the top to the bottom Buhari is indeed a ‘paragon’ and his pedigree places him in a better stead to re-make Nigeria. Sentiments aside one believes a Buhari presidency in Nigeria will step on powerful toes smashing the Mafian bases and bosses and tearing down the wall of impunity and executive indifference. Leadership entails making enemies even though friendship is welcome.
Let us look at Nigeria under President Jonathan from only one significant inevitable perspective: service delivery. If service delivery is the only yardstick with which to judge Jonathan then his administration has failed to ‘transform’ anything tangible enough to change the disastrous course of events back home. If we decide to compare him and Buhari in terms of who would be better placed to fight corruption then the Goodluck scorecard is zero! Corruption remains the single greatest threat to Nigeria’s survival as a nation. And not terrorism or Boko Haram!
And in fighting the scourge a leader must be above board and place his life on the line if need be. A president who has thus far refused bluntly to declare his assets as recommended by the Constitution he swore to uphold cannot fight corruption. A president who is reluctant to take decisions or afraid of vested interests cannot wage war against corruption. A president who believes eating cassava bread in the Villa and pretending to be in charge cannot be trusted to combat endemic corruption. A president who shies away from his responsibilities pleading that he is neither a General nor a Pharoah or that the problems of Nigeria were never caused by him cannot win the battle against entrenched corruption.
Few days ago I read online where a Ghanaian US-based economist Prof. George Ayittey lambasted President Jonathan for his media chat outing on June 24 describing GEJ as a “a joke”! According to the President of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC “Nigerians should not put up with such mediocrity and should moun
t a RECALL GEJ campaign. They should check Chapter VI of their Constitution. See Sections 143 and 144 about removing the President and Vice-President from office other than through elections”. Making the sarcastic comments on twitter Prof. Ayittey declared: “Look, this GEJ guy is a joke – a meretricious mediocrity. Nigerians deserve a better leader”. Though he is right in his criticism (but) it is disrespectful of him to castigate the President of a great foreign country in a social media just like that.
Gen. Buhari’s dramatic political transformation never started with his ‘desperate’ desire to serve his fatherland again through the democratic channel. After Babangida stabbed him in the back a la Brutus the strongman has remained focused looking for some democratic space that would accommodate his ambition to right the wrongs in Nigeria. That is not power-mongering neither can it be said to be a vengeance mission. Buhari must have seen the rot in the land and wished to be given the chance to chase the plunderers away.
The recurring allegations of his being an unrepentant dictator, an undemocratic quantity and ethnic jingoist do not hold water. Many ‘dictators’ had metamorphosed into good democrats turning away from their past. Examples abound to illustrate this point. Democracy remains a learning process and one holds that Buhari must have learnt his lessons as a civilian. Gen. Buhari is proud to be from the north as Jonathan is proud coming from the south-south. When he was in power as a military ruler Buhari was not known to be pandering to any ethnic sentiments.
When the dimunitive former FCT Minister claimed that Buhari was not ‘electable’ because of his temperament and background one wants to know from Nasir el-Rufai if this conclusion is a fair assessment over time. El-Rufai has maintained his controversial status as a rabble-rouser in search of political rehabilitation ever since he came back from his self-imposed exile abroad. With corruption case(s) still hanging over his head is it proper advising this garrulous public commentator to appreciate the qualities of a leader found in Buhari? Or do we conclude here that he has a hidden agenda, that of trying to present himself as a better presidential material in the CPC?
With formidable pedigree spanning decades in both the military and political institutions in Nigeria Gen. Buhari has already made name for himself for his exemplary patriotism and integrity. Though he has ‘lost’ presidential ‘elections’ thrice he still remains a force to be reckoned with, the last man standing in the obfuscated federal enterprise whose head is both afraid of taking decisions and challenging the crooks in the system.
Betraying no sense of trepidation (for Generals don’t fear!) Gen. Buhari has sought to be in the mood of the real opposition leader hitting out against the ruling party and those it threw up (sometimes via rigged elections) for the collective failure to clean up the augean stable. He has remained outspoken feeling outrageously cheated at the polls for right reasons. His anger and apparent ‘frustration’ is understandable given the fact that his well-articulated defined mission has been somewhat misunderstood by some Nigerians.
While President Goodluck Jonathan is, no doubt, a patriotic leader whose intentions could be described as altruistic, his presidential mediocrity is beyond doubt. Nigeria in the 21st century needs a strong leader, a benevolent dictator if you don’t mind, who will knock sense into the senseless federal arrangement that is killing its inhabitants. We desperately need a morally-upright President who is incorruptible and intrepid to knock corruptible elements out of the system. The emaciated giant of Africa is in dire need of a strongman who will establish a strong democracy with strong institutions to check excesses, curb waste and stop the abuse of the system.
President Goodluck Jonathan does not fit into this picture, now or in the future! The Nigerian project appears too much for his immediate understanding. But Jonathan cannot be blamed for his rapid ‘miraculous’ ascendancy to the powerful throne. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo did the same ‘magic’ in 1979 by ‘coronating’ a Shehu Shagari ill-prepared for the huge task ahead. Again by single-handedly pushing the late Umaru Yar-Adua to his eventual death while trying to grasp a complex problem presented by a complex nation in search of greatness Goodluck Jonathan was positioned as a ‘substitute’ in the event of the ‘captain’ getting ‘injured’ in the ‘match’.
When 2015 comes the opposition must organize themselves with a view and vision of presenting a united strong opposition (like in Senegal recently) that will challenge and wrestle power back from the mis-ruling PDP. One believes a strong and united opposition can indeed win power and save Nigeria from the abuse of power and mindless looting orchestrated by the PDP bigwigs and godfathers.
When 2015 comes and a presidential poll holds and the PDP tries to rig themselves into power again then Gen. Buhari’s stark controversial prediction of the dogs and baboons getting soaked in blood should be the last option for Nigerians. May God save us all from reaching that critical point in time when a peaceful revolution would be ignited by the manipulative tendencies of those who see power as their ‘birthrights’ for 60 years and/or beyond. The stinking Augean stable must be cleaned from within — if only for us to reclaim our ailing humanity!