Soyinka On Buhari: A Blunder, A Weak And An Unnecessary Analysis

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

For several decades now, we have followed the works and words of Professor Wole Soyinka. He and a few others shaped our thinking. And indeed, millions of Africans and millions around the world admires him. Publicly at least, there is very little to find fault in. In times when he has erred or gaffed, we simply forgave him. We overlooked his errors because, like all humans, he too is susceptible to occasional failings, foibles and misdemeanors. Sages, statesmen and scions of high repute, have, at one time or the other, committed one blunder or the other. And so, Soyinka’s submission, regarding Buhari’s presidential ambition, is one of those: a gaffe, a blunder, an unnecessary analysis.

In The Nigerian nation against Maj.-Gen. Buhari, Soyinka erred. His discourse is nothing short of a rehash, a regurgitation of old tales. Nothing new was said. The content of his exposition is known, and has been known to the vast majority of Nigerians for at least two decades. And Nigerians, in their collective wisdom, have come to accept the conduct of Mr. Buhari (and the late Tunde Idiagbon), as the conduct of a government that meant well but made some mistakes.

True, some of the actions and pronouncements of the Buhari regime are inexcusable; in totality however, he gave the country a taste of civility, hard work, accountability and good governance. We — we the people — remember the spark of hope and possibilities.

And so, if Nigerians are today clamoring for Buhari, it is because they have come to the conclusion that he was good for the country. He is good for the country. Nigerians know Buhari. They understand him. They love him. They want him. But Soyinka, for whatever reason, is missing a simple point: At this point in our nation’s life, Buhari is one of a handful of men that can bring sanity, probity, clear direction and accountability to our socio-economic and political landscape. Ukiwe and Utomi also belong in that group.

If Nigerians are today yearning for Buhari, well, that is understandable. We have a country and a system that is rotten and falling off the seams. We have a country known around the world as a place where most things don’t work, and where anarchy and misrule rule. Of what use is western-style democracy when you have a breakdown of law and order? What manner of a country is this where institutions are weak and crumbling; criminals don’t obey the courts; and even the president thumbs his nose at the judiciary. A country where the oligarchy are busy allotting the nation’s resources to themselves and their cronies? Because of these and other aberrations, Nigerians remember what it means to have law and order and equity and respectability in place.

In his analysis of the person and government of Buhari, Professor Soyinka placed too much stock on history. Sure, history is a wonderful tool for a people and a nation to understand where they are coming from, and to guide them in their future dealings. History provides direction and sharpens our conscience; but we must not rely too much on history to the point where we become prisoners of our experiences. History sometimes gives false hope, allows for falsifications, and at times, discounts the context under which certain actions or pronouncements were undertaken. Additionally, our understanding of history is not always clear and profound. History has a way of clouding ones judgment and worldview. We won’t be surprised if Soyinka’s motives and account of Buhari is laced with prejudices.

General Murtala Mohammed, in spite of his alleged “war crimes” turned out to be the “people’s head of state.” Although in recent years, historians and commentators have uncovered some of the unsavories he committed while in office. Yet, the love and respect we have for him have not diminished. In the United States, historians can role out a dozen transgressions committed by Ronald Reagan, yet he is regarded as one of America’s greatest presidents. John Kennedy, as well as Bill Clinton, also has a big tome of moral, ethical and legal offences. Or, if you will, take a look at some of the men who presided over some of the miracles of Asia, i.e. South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Though mostly democratic now, the history of these countries points to one salient fact: there is a time in the history of a country when the end justifies the means.

Yes, it would have been better, and preferred, if Buhari/Idiagbon had not promulgated some of those draconian decrees, or if they had been more humane in the exercise of their duties. Still, their conducts are understandable in light of the times we lived in. If General Babangida had not sacked the Buhari/Idiagbon regime, we probably would not have had Abacha and Obasanjo — both of whom we know are in a class all by themselves. And Nigeria, most likely, would have been in the same leagues with the Asian Tigers.

According to John Kotter, “Leaders establish the vision for the future and set the strategy for getting there; they cause change. They motivate and inspire others to go in the right direction and they, along with everyone else, sacrifice to get there.” That is the manner of man Mohammadu Buhari was: a leader who inspired Nigerians to do the right things at the right time. He encouraged us to sacrifice for the good of the country; telling us to always put the interest of our fellow Nigerians before ours. He made us understand that Nigeria is our country, our only country; and that it is not in our best interest to waste and pilfer our natural resources. He gave us hope and made us believe in our country. What good can be said of the four men that have ruled the country since the sacking of Buhari?

Professor Soyinka’s opinions are highly regarded. But not in this matter. Of all the men getting ready to contest the 2007 Presidential Election, Buhari and Pat Utomi are the best and better candidates. In another time and in another place, both men would have put their differences aside, and then team up against the Obasanjo team. That would have been the ideal situation. Barring any cooperation, Mohammadu Buhari is the only candidate with national reach capable of beating the PDP team. That said; Nigerians want Buhari not because he can beat Yar’Adua in a free-fair election, but because Mohammadu Buhari is the best and right candidate for Nigeria at this point in time.

For the benefit of Nigeria, Professor Soyinka and his party, the ARP/DFPF, should lift their opposition to the Buhari candidacy. They should join force in making Nigeria a better place for all. There should be a sweet surrender…bowing to the wishes of the people.

Without Obasanjoism — theft and abuse of power, the deliberate weakening and bastardization of state institutions, God-complex and the truncation of the people’s will — there probably would not have been the need for Buharism. Buharism is all about law and order in our public and private institutions, transparency and accountability, and the availability of basic human needs and respect for self and country. At this point in our national life, we need a man who can bring sanity, reform, and other imperatives of good government and development into play.

Nigerians remember how things were in the days of Buhari/Idiagbon. More than two decades later, Buharism is still relevant. And needed.

Related article: Muhammadu Buhari: A Giant of a Man

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Sanjo Emmanuel January 19, 2007 - 11:51 am

Buhari and many of his proponents like yourself are campaigning for the presidency on the basis of a certain image perception. However you forget that the name Buhari leaves an unsavoury taste for many like Ekwueme and millions others who were unjustly treated through some of his illadvised methods. If you think that Nigerians will troop out to vote Buhari on the basis of his image alone you are mistaken. That will not happen especially in the light of a hope betrayed by another general whose only qualification was his image. In fact Buhari will loose fair and square if he were to be judged on his image and his not too long ago pronouncements.

Before we forget ourselves in the flurry of the moment Soyinka sought to remind us of the many unsavoury character of Buhari and you call that a blunder or gaffe?

I will say with due respect that your language usage shows certain lack of understanding of the word. How could his discourse be a blunder?. Are we now suppose to forget all the evil deeds highlighted by Soyinka and sing hallelujah. Long live the king. We chose to overlook Obasanjo's many character deficit and here we are 8 years after.

You said his analysis is unneccesary. Well you are entitled to an opinion. I do not see what is unneccessary in pointing out to the people what danger Buharis presidency portend.

Your support for Buhari I suppose is not based on any awareness of his plans for Nigeria but rather on an image of Buhari the no nonsense, fire spitting, war agaist indiscpline waging general. But you forget that the position of an elected president is unlike that of a quartermaster General. Buhari will need to convince Nigerians that he is a convert to the basic tenets of democracy and wean himself of a self righteous postering.

We kid ourselves to think that what Nigeria needs is a no nonsense General. We need more than that. Buhari has not said one bit how he is going to tackle the many problems of Nigeria.

We would like to see him lay out his programs and how he hopes to achieve them. He is currently asking us to vote for him based on his image alone, well we – we the people- find that image admirable and repugnant in equal measure.

Anonymous January 18, 2007 - 9:21 pm

Soyinka has raised fundamental issues which cannot be ignored. Self appointed analyst and experts like Sabella cannot wish the fact of the issues raised away. I do not question Buhari's personal integrity. I do not question that of Yaradua either. But they both have a red flag on their head that raises serious concerns that people should not wish away with the wave of the hand. How can Buhari assure us that he will not turn out to be another Obasanjo? Has he weaned himself of his military mentality? Is he able to tolerate opinions that differs from his own? Has he imbibed enough the culture of democracy including the possibilities of unreasonable criticism of his person? Mr Sabella, the power vested in the presidency in Nigeria is such that the occupant can easily become dictatorial. So why tempt a cat with a fish? It is an established fact that Buhari has a dictatorial tendency but a honest man no doubt. Soyinka is not ungracious not to allow Buhari to redeem himself. All Buhari needs to do is address the issues raised himself rather than deride Nigerians by sending laughable town criers like Tony Mommoh to speak for him. Buhari as Soyinka has said needs to come clean. He should at the earliest opportunity admit to his mistakes of the past and tell us how much he has changed from our first hand experience of him. Himself and other military dictators have refused to apologised for their mideeds while in office. Though well intensioned Buhari messed up big time as head of state. As for the man who the so called balogun of owu ordained to be his successor, forget him. That ordination is the cross he has to bear because that and that alone diminishes him. A vote for him will be a vote for Obasanjo. We do not want an Obasanjo proxy in office. Yaradua should return to his teaching job at ABU as he had planned before he was rail roaded by Obasanjo. Nigeria should start looking for new leaders and change from the old guards in these light I will risk my vote on Pat Utomi. However if I were to vote strategically I will vote Buhari if he can demostrate a new maturity and coming of age as a democrat otherwise Atiku gets it. Anybody but Yaradua/Obasanjo

obi, USA January 18, 2007 - 11:14 am

For me BUHARI IS THE MAN. I have my reasons. Likewise, Soyinka and commentator #1 are entitled to theirs. Our collective goal should be to prevent rigging, in any shade, in the next election.

prince kennedy Iyoha January 18, 2007 - 10:01 am

Mr Sabella Ogbobode Abidde.

I have read your opinion about Mallam Buhari, sometime ago in this page, but I never thought you can as well campaign for him through this medium. I will like to state here, that Mallam Buhari like every other Nigerian, have the fundamental right to contest for the office of the president… Beside, he is no longer a military personal, but a full flagged civilian. One can understand the thinking of our beloved statesman professor wole Soyinka whom I meant sometime last year when he came to Asturias for an award in poesy, and the position of our first commentator. Nigeria is gradually becoming like the state of Israel where almost all the prime ministers are ex-military generals.

Mallam Yaadua has proven himself as a two time governor of katsina state, and according to information available, he seems to be one of the best performing of all the 36 governors of the country. In any case, he has done better than the governor of my state Mr lucky Igbinedion. In my nine country tour of West Africa last year, I was in Nigeria for two week, and though the effort of Mr Olusegun Obasanjo is not felt on the street, one can get the fillings that the country is moving forward. While in Lagos, one can sense the policies in place, and hoping that in a very near future, people will began to rape the fruits of the labour of this administration. What I noticed first on arrival, was that the military boys that use to hang around asking for their share of what you brought, suddenly disappeared, for fear of the EFCC, and the taxi park just beside the airport has improved security for incoming passengers.

I quit agree with you that Mallam Buhari has proven himself to be a leader that have the nation at heart, and would do anything to promote the course of this country anytime and anyplace, I am convinced he will pursue corruption in all level to its grave. That said, many Nigerians, particularly democrats see him as responsible for the more than 15 years of inactivity that brought about people like Babangida and Sani Abachas to power. Mind you, in the early eighties, when our democracy was born. As we were just learning to take a first step like a baby, he came and pushes us down, breaking our legs twenty three years later, he is coming back. Dont you think we deserve the right to be suspicious of him? Knowing how much we suffered in the subsequent regime that followed after him?

Anonymous January 18, 2007 - 5:12 am

Nigeria is two nations – South (where, due to Western Education, democratic ideals etc another military General is unacceptable for 2007 Presidency) AND the far North where "it really doesn't matter". In the civilised world however a man who puts himself up for Leadership should expect an x-ray of his past. That is the democratic way of life. But Nigerians are a wonderful creation of the Almighty! We now have a Nigerian Democracy and "oyinbo Man" never see something. Now, consider this: Nigerians detest Military Rule but would look for many and any excuse to vote for a retired General. They even look for the General that killed Democracy "gan gan gan". Hence our Democratic Tony Momoh and his brother Buba Marwa posited that Generals are best to rule in 2007. (Momoh's candidate chickened out hence he ended up behind Buhari) But Obasanjo, Onaola Sholeye and now Wole Shoyinka have demonstrated superior thought in the matter.Onaolapo Soleye put it more pungently – that we must indeed be a nation of retards if the only suitable material we could find to lead us are retired Generals. Bolaji Akinyemi says SHAME ON FORMER MILITARY DICTATORS WHO WANT TO COME BACK.


I will like to add this to the Buhari Bill of Indictment filed by Wole Soyinka: 1. That he suspended and humiliated the HIGHEST Yoruba and HAUSA Monarchs (and they are still alive) – Ooni of Ife and Emir of Kano. Had igbo culture permitted Monarchy he would have suspended theirs too.

2. That he embarassed Nigeria by attempting but failing to bring Dikko from Britain in 1984. Now, tell me the difference between this disgrace and that of Alamieyeseigha jumping Bail!

3. He "overslept" on August 27 1985 while Nigeria was under his watch.

In 2003, Buhari promised to implement Sharia if elected. As recently observed by the elder George Bush you can evaluate a man by the way he handles victory as by the way he handles defeat. Buhari, was a very bad loser. (But he never claimed that he defeated President Obasanjo) He and his disciples have been chorusing "THE 2003 ELECTION WAS RIGGED". He even went and slept in front of the Office of the US Secretary of State "to protest rigging" and appealed to Nigerians to disregard the Supreme Court Verdict and take the law into their hands.

A Buhari Presidency has serious security implications. Atiku will end up spending the rest of his life in Potomac, Kalu (THE PRESIDENT-IN-WAITING/AUTHENTIC IGBO CANDIDATE) would die in jail and Ibrahim Babangida would suffer "SADAMIC JUSTICE".

THE ROLE RESERVED FOR MUHAMMADU BUHARI BY ALMIGHTY ALLAH (THE MERCIFUL, THE BENEFICIENT) IS TO JUST "SIDDON LOOK" AND ADVICE HIS JUNIOR BROTHER, NOW CHRISTENED "THE PERSONABLE GOVERNOR" AND THE EARLIER HE BRACES UP TO THAT REALITY THE BETTER FOR NIGERIA. Thanks to the writer of this piece for the effort to challenge "the oracle". But 2007 Nigeria is moving in tandem with the rest of the democratic World and we should all join hands with Balogun Owu to ensure a peaceful transition.


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