For the first time in my life I am finding it very, very hard to write. This intellectual anaemia has nothing to do with my inability to find something to talk about, or that I’d suddenly run out of ideas or that my pen has run dry, no. I’m finding it very difficult to do what comes to me naturally and by training, because of an inertia provoked either from listening to the mountain of specious arguments and vicious attacks being unleashed on some presidential candidates, or that I am reading comments on Facebook or twitter from an army of worshippers of General Buhari. About three things always come across from these interactions with these Buhari believers: one, they believe that Buhari and Buhari alone can take us to our Utopia, and if it is not Buhari nobody else should, could and would. Two, for their Buhari get us to our sugar and candy mountain, they paint everybody out there as corrupt, weak, spineless and clueless but paint their hero as flamboyant and flat, one who typifies and personifies all that is noble, pure and holy, a man of decisiveness who would have dealt with the Boko Haram and marched into Sambisa forest and rescued the abducted girls if he were to be the one there as president; they project the General as a saint and a hater of corruption.
But that is all hype and sexed up character and image subsidy. The dude has all kinds of baggage about him: he was in charge of the petroleum ministry under General Olusegun Obasanjo and while there, a lot of monies got missing: he slammed the only man, Fela, who deigned sing about those missing monies in jail for deigning to sing about those missing monies. He was the PTF boss under Abacha, and while there he remained as mute as a nail while his boss committed all sorts of human rights atrocities – the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the snuffing to death of anyone who opposed Abacha; and by force and under his jackboot, he forced our parents to maintain queues, sing the national anthem and added the enviable epithet of kidnapper to his name when he enlisted some mercenaries to kidnap an Umaru Dikko from the United Kingdom to Nigeria. If he was president today, you and I would all be in jail for deigning to criticize him because of a certain decree he promulgated to gag the press and freedom of expression. By training and by his character, we have a man not suited for civil governance and the promotion of the rule of law. His predecessor, another military man and his senior in the military who became president tried to rule ‘democratically’ but we all saw how he became a bull in a china shop, what with his leveling of Odi, his insults to CAN, his quest to perpetuate his administration in a 3rd term and his general disregard for the rule of law. Even though most of us believe that General Buhari has the gra-gra to force ‘discipline’ down our necks, we are certain that his antediluvian ideas and disposition are no longer relevant to 21st Century governance and politics. Apart from that, the man appears to be senile: there are allegations that he cannot even remember the name of his running mate, that his hands were shaking when he handled the microphone in Calabar, and even worse, because he doesn’t seem to have met the conditions to be qualified to contest the presidency, he is relying on the very undignified option of an equivalent condition to qualify.
At informal parleys wherein I have expressed these fears and misgivings as against the euphoria of his worshippers, they have often exhibited a lot of the intolerance that the general has been famous all these years. In three years and a half, they consistently assassinated the character and person of their hero’s opponent, and continued with very unbalanced and irresponsible criticism. They have given me all sorts of names: that I am an establishment person, a rightist and that I am a ‘Jonathanian’ who has a beef with their patron simply because I have been telling them what they prefer to sweep under the carpet, mirroring their irresponsible kind of criticism and insults. One of them has even said that the basis of my ‘support’ for their hero’s opponent is that he is my ‘brother’. Deep in my heart, I would have loved to deal one or two of these fanatics a blow on their ears to remove that fog of fanaticism from their heads, but I am not be a Jonathanian nor a worshipper of that tyrant, and will not get physical with anyone over a politician – that’s mostly because I know for a fact that nearly all politicians do not have a soul and cannot be trusted, not one – the ones here today can do anything, even hug a leper just so because they want to replace the other politician.
I believe that there is a thinking flying around the market place which seemingly supports the Buhari euphoria. People believe that change is the most constant of all natural and unnatural phenomena – and that if a Solomon has failed, it becomes the responsibility of the electoral process and its engine house – the people- to exercise their right to vote in another person, even if that person is a goat and unfit for governance. But I refuse to tow this path of thought.
Nigeria has a million and one, and very credible persons who can take over from a Solomon if that Solomon has failed to deliver and meet our expectations. I may not be hard put to mention one of them – a Fashola SAN, whose antecedents and record as a governor of Lagos State gives many of us a sense of pride with his achievements; a Fashola SAN, even though not a soldier has managed to sustain the tempo of development in Lagos and enforced the kind of discipline in Lagos that Buhari’s so-called War Against Indiscipline could not enforce. But the reason why I think that we cannot want persons like Fashola SAN, who neither have dictatorial tendencies, and whose intellectual capacity stands at par with any leader of the civilized world, is that we are a people of half measures and half loaves, and we are a people who forget easily.I know that many of the worshippers of that tyrant seem to me to be those born around the time that the tyrant was shoved from power, and did not get to witness the state of siege that our country was subjected after this tyrant shot his way to power. Apart from that, we have played the religious card and played sectional considerations, mostly from OBJ, to shut out a very credible Nigerian, and we arewilling to settle for a man whose only credential for the aspiration to lead is an antecedent of tyranny and despotism.
Therefore, I submit that if the tyrant assumes power, the bubble of the people holding the image of an all-conquering, corruption-fighting general would burst. I say this because the Nigeria of the 80s that the tyrant tried to run is not the same as the Nigeria that he is trying to run. The Nigeria of the 80s was firmly built on the perceptions of a tripod that didn’t give a lot of Nigerians an opportunity to assume to the highest office of service in the land. But what we are struggling to maintain and sustain today is a Nigeria built on the rule of law and doing things right. Our perception of a president is still the perception of the generalissimo, a chap who bestrides our narrow world like a colossus – a general Buhari who is used to doing things gra-gra and who is another OBJ who would ultimately find it extremely difficult to work as a president in a democracy just the same way that OBG found it difficult in his first four years. In addition, we have an electorate that is hardly developed and which is ready tossing hosanna in the highest to every Nigerian leader that emerges – look at what happened to Buhari, IBB, OBJ, Yar’Adua and Jonathan when they came to power: Nigerians took to the streets in joyful adoration only for their hopes to be dashed to pieces. Look at Yar’Adua: after he took over from OBJ, he decided on a 7-point Agenda and decided to do things by the book as against the dictatorial tendencies of his predecessor. In no time, people who were already used to OBJ’s brutishness started to vilify Yar’Adua. They wanted only one agenda and when it seemed as if Yar’Adua was not going to give in, a campaign of calumny began. Nigerians would walk into a restaurant and ask to be served ‘Yar’Adua’ (snail) with their food, an expression of their disgust with him for not being as ‘presidential’ as OBJ.