Shortly after the coup of December 1983 in Nigeria, in which the seemingly no-nonsense duo of General Muhammadu Buhari and General Babatunde Idiagbon took over by force the government of Nigeria from the corrupt and inept Shehu Shagari-led civilian regime, I was invited by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to their Winnipeg, Manitoba radio station to shed some light on the situation in Nigeria. I was then the President of the International Students Organisation.
One of the issues put to me was that the people of Nigeria and those of us abroad at the time are fearful for ourselves or for our people at home because of the obvious military putsch’s clampdown on freedom. My input to this issue then was “The ordinary Nigerian has nothing to fear; only the corrupt politicians who were deposed have to fear Buhari/Idiagbon”.
Now thirty one years later, I daresay the same applies, or may apply. Only the corrupt and inept people in government, irrespective of party affiliations, now need be fearful of Buhari’s emergence as a Presidential candidate of the APC.
But let us put a few issues in perspective. Mr Buhari has not yet contested and has not won the 2015 Elections. He might not even win the election despite the euphoria of his election at last week’s APC primaries. After all, he has run unsuccessfully for the office of the President of Nigeria in the past – 2003 (All Nigeria People's Party, ANPP), 2007 (ANPP) and 2011 (Congress for Progressive Change, CPC) - his detractors label him a “septuagenarian serial election loser”, and his ethnic background is Fulani, and his faith is Islam; a native of Daura in Katsina State of Nigeria. So how are we sure he’s going to be fourth time lucky; nay, fourth time accepted by Nigerians?
In Nigeria, where corruption rules the roost and is a god to many, fighting it is a damned hard chore and battle; herculean in nature, so when you fight corruption, as I am sure will be the main policy thrust and appealing agenda of Buhari’s manifesto, corruption will fight back a thousand times more powerfully, resourcefully and viciously. We see it every day in our dear corruption-riddled country, such that if you can’t beat it, you join it. Those corrupt Nigerians, and their foreign collaborators, who have been engaging in corrupt practices and have made enormous wealth from it over the decades are not prepared to down arms and flee or surrender. They will mobilise every ill-gotten resources, power and weapons to fight back so they do not lose their illegal source of wealth. So trust these bastards to be vicious in their fight back.
Mr Buhari has been labelled with many uncomplimentary physiognomies too, from being a religious bigot and zealot to an unrepentant ethnic misogynist who being a Fulani, believes in the superiority of the Fulani over any other ethnic group in Nigeria. Many unpalatable quotes have been attributed to Buhari, ostensibly to consolidate the evidences of religious and ethnic intolerance against him. Incidentally, a deep look into all these accusation will produce the fact that they are mostly fabricated by confirmed ethnic, religious and political partisanship who do not have any other things to say to negate Buhari’s noted honesty and sincerity, not to talk of his world-renowned stance against corruption in government and high places in Nigeria.
Allow me say to say here at this juncture, that I have never been ardent of Buhari; in fact, I always believe he was inferior to his then deputy, Babatunde Idiagbon, of blessed memories. I always believe that most of the discipline of Nigeria attributed to Buhari was the handiwork of Idiagbon. I always believe the man is humourless and too rigid in his outlook in life, but, as it is I acknowledge his self-discipline as a man, and that have always been the endearing ideals I have for him. Even I do not really think he was a good leader, probably because, I was not in Nigeria during his military rule to witness first-hand his achievements and secondly because he did not have the luxury of a long enough time to prove he is a good leader.
However, his consequent records in public life were to confirm the honesty of this man, at least according to the fact available to the public. For example, a 1998 report in New African praised the Petroleum Trust Fund , PTF, under Buhari’s Chairmanship, for its transparency, calling it a rare "success story. Another plus for his was the story that he declined to receive the N300 million monthly allocations to him as a former Head of State, instead opting to receive only 2.3 million Naira per month. Shame on Shagari, Obasanjo, Babangida and Abdulsallam for still receiving this huge amount despite the massive expanse of money they allegedly made/stole while in power.
So, you will ask me, why have Nigerians suddenly woken up and enthusiastically (at least from the noise we are hearing) ready to give this “serial election loser” a fourth shot at the prize, and probably even voting him in and getting rid of the incumbent PDP and President Jonathan? Like a friend asked me recently, why are Nigerians euphoric over a “refurbished Messiah”? Whoaa!!
I replied, “But who is calling Buhari a Messiah? I am definitely NOT, anyway. All I can say is Nigeria stands a better chance/change with him instead of what we have now. We must give CHANGE a CHANCE. That's all we can hope for now, or what else do you want? Do we stick with the same rot, and continue to mutter curses on Jonathan and the PDP (and in fact the state governors irrespective of party alliance) or do we give Buhari (no other credible alternative from any of the pseudo-political parties parading themselves as opposition parties have emerged) a fourth chance?
Is Buhari the best man available to rule Nigeria? No, not by a long shot! As far as I am concerned, I am confident that I will make a better leader than him, but of course, I am neither interested nor have been approached nor stand any chance in Nigeria’s brand of politics. So I concede to Mr Buhari that he is better than all those that have crawled out of the woodwork laying claim to the throne. If Nigerians perceive or are given a better choice, I am sure they will discard Buhari immediately.
So he’s 72 and too old? Who said? I am always for the younger generation to be at the forefront of nation-building and to be given a chance to govern and prove themselves, but current evidence indicate that even our youths and their thinking/mind-set have been hijacked by the older useless and corrupting politicians and have been influence by the extremely corrupt society which bore them and which they are growing up in. We can rectify this situation if an incoming set of rulers look at other ways of engaging the youths by provision and creation of employment, freedom of speech, opportunities in government and decision-making, etc.
And this is where I lament the chances Nigeria and Nigerians lost in denying the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo the leadership of this country many times, till the man died, and everybody now wept at his graveside and eulogised him, hypocritically as “the best leader Nigeria never had”, when it was too late, to the eternal regret of this country, take it or leave it, depending on which side of the fence you are, or how truly patriotic and progressively-discerning you are.
It seems to me another chance has yet presented itself to Nigeria, after 3 other failures to grasp the opportunities, to redress the abysmal rejection, get back on the track to attempting (yes, attempting) to save this country from its light-speed downward spiral into chaos, self-destruction and uncertain future for the generations to come.
I think God has presented us with another chance, after all, we are fond, and indeed it is a national pastime, to cry to God to come down and save us. I am one man who is convinced that God will not come down to Earth to save Nigerians (Nigerians being His only favoured people in the world?) but will rather help Nigerian via a mortal who will do God’s will. Maybe Muhammadu Buhari, born December 17, 1942, is such mortal. But then, he’s only a fragile mortal. After all, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was given up to 3 chances, never before done in the history of the world, and what did he do? He blew it.
Mind you, I am not calling Buhari a Saviour or a Messiah or a Saint. He’s definitely not, but this is a man who seems sincerely willing to give it his best shot, with the right people and resources at his disposal. I always believe and say that nowhere in world history have saints, Christian or Moslem or any other religion, ever ruled nations (not caliphates). Saints, messiahs, saviours have no business or are good in politics or governance. And this brings me to one of the many little advices I have for Mr Buhari.
The current APC, of which is the presidential candidate in the coming 2015 elections is not the APC he helped found just a couple of years ago. The current APC has been diluted and suffused with politician from the crumbling PDP of doubtful character and intentions. Not only doubtful characters but some of them are “proven” thieves and corrupt, inept rulers and other public office holders. Such men are dangerous, as Julius Caesar would have said. And if Buhari allows the ilk of party men to dominate in any section of the party, and in government, if he wins the Presidential elections, the will mess him up and hence continue to mess the country up as they had done before.
I am not campaigning for Buhari here; that might probably come later when I have a much clearer picture of what he has let himself in for, and the intentions of the people in his party too. But all evidence point to the fact that Nigerians want a change, are desirous of CHANGE for the better and not for the sake of it.
The faultfinders of Mr Buhari will say the only selling point for Buhari is that his desire to lead Nigeria is all predicated on anti-corruption and nothing else, but how will he tame the corrupt people in his party? I will be honest, I cannot myself answer the latter, but for the former, I have always believed the problems of Nigeria are centred on corruption. Tame or manage corruption, and you have a damn fine country that will realise its full potential within a very short time. How Mr Buhari will marry the two remains a task that everybody must be prepared to do. Good leaders do not rule alone; they rule with the support and cooperation of their people.
I have always castigated my people that they are insincere and hypocritical when it comes to wanting change, that we resist change very vehemently while at the same time desirous of it; but maybe this is the time they truly will vote for a change. We love dragging our feet, and that was why we let Awolowo slip by us. Maybe now is the time; maybe now we have a right candidate for Change. Maybe not, but we might as well give it a shot. We can only lose as much as we have been losing since 1960, or less.
There we are.
Let the Truth be said always.