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