Retired General Muhammadu Buhari is a polarizing figure. You either love him or hate him. But that’s okay. Most statesmen are polarizing, anyway. In so many ways – he reminds me of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo: tough, uncompromising, visionary, tenacious, honest, and loyal. Unfortunately these attributes are not exactly welcome in Nigeria of the last two-decades. And I would posit that it is because Nigeria was unappreciative of men like Buhari, Idiagbon and Awolowo that we found ourselves in the current social-economic and political sewer. Since his forced departure from office, mostly lesser men have been at the helm of our national affairs. Any wonder then that we mistake mediocrity for excellence, stupidity for intelligence, and cowardice for bravery? It is a national tragedy to have shunned men like Buhari who is a patriot, a nationalist, and an embodiment of political and personal morality.
At the time General Buhari and his lieutenants came to power (1983-1985), Nigeria was already swimming in a cesspool of economic and social corruption, laziness, dirtiness and political decadence. The country was in the hands of the inept and was being run aground in an ocean of uncertainty. We had lost faith in our country, in our neighbors, in our leaders and in our humanity. It was a grim and depressing time; and a cloud of hopelessness and dejection was gradually enveloping the country. It was a sad and hopeless era! It was, until Buhari rode into town to assure us that we can do better!
It was also about the only time Nigerians had wished for a Jerry Rawlings treatment; unfortunate, our wish never came to pass.
Buhari was not a perfect head of state. He was not a perfect General. He was human and he had his flaws. But that’s okay. He loved his country and loved his people. General Buhari was unlike any president, military or civilian, Nigeria has ever had.
I remember the Buhari days as vividly as though it was yesterday. It was an era when people were afraid to demand and or to take bribes; it was era when you thought twice before you litter the streets; it was an era when you took turns to enter the bus; it was an era when you sold drugs, engage in prostitutions and other reprehensible moral activities at your own peril; it was an era when the Western world paid attention to us; it was an era when it was chic to be a Nigerian again. Most of all, it was an era when we knew Nigeria was going to turn the corner from decadence to righteousness; from economic stagnation to economic growth; and from decay to prosperity. Buhari restored our hope.
But of course, not everybody was happy for us and for our country and so Buhari was betrayed, arrested and forced from office by those with evil machinations. And truth be told: ordinary Nigerians betrayed Buhari too! We were unappreciative of all he did in the very short period he was in office. We betrayed him by not standing by him then; and we betrayed him again during the last election by not voting and electing him into office. Just as we lost the sage (Awolowo) on three occasions, we lost the messiah (Buhari) on two occasions.
General Mohammadu Buhari has recently become a thorn in the flesh of President Obasanjo and the PDP and on the side of all those who connived to steal the recent elections. I congratulated Obasanjo after he “won” the elections only because I thought it was in the interest of the country that we move on instead of engaging in extrajudicial activities that might lead to bloodbath. Generally, Nigerians do not take election outcome lightly especially if their expectations are dashed. I was worried about that. However, as things stand – Buhari is approaching it from a different angle: from the court of law.
By his actions and pronouncements, he has become the champion of constitutional tenets. He has become the champion of democratization and political liberation. He has become the champion of due process. At the end of day, the Courts may decide there is no statute of limitation on election rigging; or the judgment might be that Obasanjo was rightfully sworn in. Whatever the outcome of the court case, General Buhari would have helped established three precedents: (1) that instead of resorting to hooliganism and violence, we are better off in the courts; (2) that election rigging will not be tolerated and that a just outcome would be pursued no matter how long it takes; and (3) that no political party, no elected or unelected official or government is above the law.
This case, whatever the outcome, is beyond Buhari. And Buhari may yet achieve what the eternally eminent Gani Fawehinmi was unable to achieve in the Courts. This is a case about the fundamental human right of every Nigerian. It is about our right to vote and to know that our votes count. It is a case the United States, France, South Africa, Germany, Russia and Britain and a host of African countries are closely monitoring. If the outcome favors Buhari it will shake Nigeria to its mushy foundation — but I believe Nigeria will survive for the better. At the very least, this case will encourage Nigerians to rely on and to trust our democratic institutions.
I agree with Mr. Peter Opara when he said, “Beyond mere vindication of Buhari’s claim of clearly substantial fraud, irregularities and criminality in the 419 elections, is Buhari’s constant call on citizens to understand the importance of their electoral franchise, the value of their votes, what jewel each of their votes constitutes and the need for them to guide their votes jealously against robbery by any. If Nigerians heard Buhari and acted accordingly, Buhari would have achieved a quiet and dignified revolution.”
Whatever the final outcome of the Buhari’s case, I will forever doff my hat and bow my head in recognition of his tenacity, his democratic ideals, and his zeal to see that justice is done for every Nigerian who voted during the last elections. It feels great to have someone championing our rights! Oh heavens, it feels wonderful…it does!