Your Excellency Sir,
There are no better ways to say this: The release of that Eid-el-Fitri message to us through the BBC Hausa outlet, in Hausa language, convinced even those of us who are your diehard supporters that you are no longer sentient; that some people around you are taking advantage of your compromised medical situation to fulfill their own selfish agendas. If you were in charge of all your faculties and firing on all cylinders, you would not have allowed such a message to be used to prove that you were getting better. Because, that audio message, in which you clearly sounded as if you were struggling to breathe – rushing through the reading of a speech in Hausa (for it was clear that you were not speaking extemporaneously) and generally sounding like a man laboring to put things together – just solidified one thing: that you are not well at all.
And if you are not well sir…if you are as sick as you appeared to be the last time we saw you…gaunt and wilting…then as a man I revere for being honorable, patriotic and candid, you need to resign as President of Nigeria and allow Nigeria to move forward. Being unwell is not a thing about which one should be ashamed. What is shameful is forgetting the ephemerality, vainness and transience nature of power, and indeed of life itself by holding on to what you did not bring into this world the day you were born to the detriment of the rest of us. As a devout Muslim, what did you learn about how each of us on earth will go home to our Maker? I am sure you learned that we will all return to Him as ordinary folks…the same way we came.
Another thing that is shameful is this now common thing for our leaders, from the president on down to local leaders, to opt for medical care overseas when we have expert medical personnel and many university teaching hospitals in Nigeria. It is the shame of your administration (and I know you have been there for only two years) and that of all your predecessors that our health sector has been left to degrade to the point that young women routinely die from fibroids surgery and childbirth; that men routinely die from hypertension and prostate cancer, and that while you people spend undisclosed amount of public funds on overseas medical care, we the ordinary folks are left at the mercy of unmotivated medical practitioners who are working in decrepit medical centers, with depleted laboratories and pharmacies.
Before any of your rabid supporters jump all over me sir, for asking you to step aside, please let me remind them that I was the first person to write you after you won the election. In my letter here, which was published before you were sworn in, I exuded hope and goodwill, the kind that all patriotic Nigerians who put our nation above all divisive and destructive strictures felt. I didn’t wait till the #SaiBaba bandwagon came to town before putting my hopes in you as you can see from this piece that I wrote long before the election.
And I didn’t just write. I was not just an armchair critic or Cybertiger. I put my money where my mouth was. I put my family in the air and we all came to Nigeria all the way from California to do whatever we could to get the Clueless One out of there and get you in. You can imagine our disappointment when the elections were postponed and we had to return to the U.S. without voting for you. But when it was rescheduled, guess who came back to Nigeria and to Ibadan to help elect you: me.
So you should understand sir, why I should expect more from you. As president of 180-plus million people, shrouding the nature of your illness in official secrecy is antiquated. There is no national security interest served by not telling your own people what afflicts you and how badly, especially when you are being treated by foreign doctors in a foreign land! How embarrassed were we when foreign intelligence operatives knew more about the state of Yar’Adua’s health before ours did? It is also grossly disrespectful and condescending to the people who trooped out in inclement weather to give you their mandate when they are left in the lurch like this. I am in my mid-50s and I know that my body today is not what it was 20 years ago, or even five years ago. But you are 75 (or more)! Who amongst us does not have a septuagenarian in his family? Nigerians are not idiots. So please, you and your acolytes need to stop treating us like we are. We know you are not without an ailment.
Sir, this idea that without you, the war on corruption will be lost is mute. The war is already lost. With you being out of action for the better part of this year…with nobody providing the moral leadership and the heft and authority of a substantive president to wage the war, the enemies have cobbled the nation into a supine position. We have returned to shopping for judges and buying justice like we used to do before you came to power. Between the NASS and the judiciary, Nigeria and Nigerians are being serially dry-raped and tossed violently between the two. Only a president who knows he is wielding the power of the office in his own name and for his own legacy can stand a chance. With you medically sidelined and chronically so with no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, VP Osinbajo can only tepidly exercise the powers of the office. There is a huge difference between being THE President and being just an Acting President. Nobody should be deceived by the notion that since you handed over to him to act in your behalf, he can go ahead and do everything you can do. I have heard you and your spokespeople say that yours is “one presidency” and the Vice President, acting on your behalf, can conduct everything like you could. Could he, for instance, unilaterally dissolve the cabinet and send new names to the Senate? Could he unilaterally sack any Service Chief and nominate someone else? I bet he can’t. And the enemies of the nation know this.
By many of your actions and the actions of those by whom you are surrounded, you have almost caused people like me to question whether we had not been conned into electing you! Talk about big time buyer’s remorse! I remember vividly how your detractors warned us about handing over Nigeria at the stage we were in 2015 to an old, sickly dictator who was also nepotistic, ethnocentric and vindictive. Do you remember, sir? Do you remember those who said you were brain-dead? We pilloried them for playing God and wishing bad things on you. But no sooner had you become president than their warnings became our realities. I started getting scared when you took nearly six months to put your cabinet together. To come to terms with my disappointment, I chalked that up to the possibility that you were having difficulty finding smart and energetic people with integrity. And you were looking all around the country for such people. But when you finally came out with your list and it was peopled by mostly mediocre entities, I knew something was wrong. Was this the same Buhari we thought we were electing?
Then you started skewing your appointments to the north in arrogant and flagrant disregard for the complaints of folks from other parts of the country. We all knew you suffered from earing infection. But we knew it should not have caused you to have been so tone-deaf. The mother of all surprises to me was when you went abroad and remarked there that: people (northerners) who gave you 97% of their votes should expect to be treated better than those (easterners) who gave you only 5% of theirs. Alarmed by such myopic vindictiveness, I rushed to the press and wrote (this piece).
Were we dealing with a sectional leader with ignoble and parochial inclinations or were we dealing with an altruistic and patriotic national leader who was too sick to grasp the enormity of the harm being done to the country in his name? I hope the answer is the latter rather than the former. I hope that I have not been ignorantly hailing you and defending you from your most virulent critics. I hope I was right in placing my hopes in you. How could I have not been? The choice was between Goodluck Jonathan and you! Nobody in his right mind would have voted otherwise. So, if the answer is the latter…that you are an altruistic leader who is just too sick to function well, then please do the needful; resign honorably today. Even if you get a “clean” bill of health this minute from your British doctors and return to Nigeria on your own feet, the damage has already been done. In our psyche, we will always see you as feeble, maybe even vegetative leader being propped up by a cabal. It is more honorable for you to say to us that you are grateful for the privilege we gave you to serve; for reposing our confidence and hopes in you, and that you would retire to private life to rest and recuperate better, but that you stand ready to offer advice as an elder statesman whenever called upon to do so. That would be classy.
And if the time comes that Allah calls you home as He shall one day call each of us, Nigeria will rise as one to give you a befitting goodbye and immortalize you as a national leader who left an indelible mark in the fight against corruption in our country. If we carve a national day for you as holiday, it will not be too much and you will be a legitimate honoree.
So, please find the strength to release your stranglehold on our country and let us breathe. We are waiting to exhale.