Opinion: Unveiling President Buhari’s mindset – Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I doubt if there is anyone who does not see and feel President Muhammadu Buhari is a complex character. As a matter of fact, that is the veritable hallmark of his persona and super brand. Those of us that supported him voluntarily, and almost blindly, last year did so out of our acute frustration with Project Nigeria.
There were those who hated his guts but still went ahead to vote for him because they expected him to wave the fabled magic wand and bring sanity and succour to our insane clime. What no one bargained for was the repercussion, and reverberation, of such venture and adventure. As always, Nigerians felt their situation could never be worse under Buhari than that of the 16-year rule of profligacy of the PDP and the squander-manic regime of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The APC operatives ran a blistering campaign with active collaboration and connivance from some of us. On the matter of the continuation of the Jonathan Presidency, there was no negotiation. Even now as people pummel us over the seeming inertia or retrogression of the Buhari government, I still stand by my decision to support Major General Muhammadu Buhari, warts and all. Walahi, I would have loved any of the combinations of Donald Duke, Nasir El Rufai, Rotimi Amaechi, Aminu Tambuwal, Mobola Johnson, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Nuhu Ribadu, Oby Ezekwesili, Charles Soludo, Akinwunmi Adesina, Pat Utomi, Kayode Fayemi, and some of our other tested and brightest young stars.
That is why the best of the myriad of Nigerian brains would never be able to win elections at certain levels because of our irredeemable obsession with primordial and parochial sentiments. The import of my preamble is that Buhari was a product of our maddening and inordinate search for a near saint amongst us and he perfectly fitted the bill. Buhari himself must have assumed that the votes given to him were signed off carte-blanche and in blind trust. I’m sure he never expected that the honeymoon would not be an endless romance.
But things and times have changed. It is now sour grapes time. Except for profiteers and/or pretenders who would not tell our President the gospel truth, things are falling apart. The reasons are not because of what Buhari and company are doing wrong but because of what they are not doing right which I hope to enumerate and dissect.
I had chosen to write on this topic before I received the message quoted below from a young, concerned Nigerian reflecting on the “new” rebranding that we have been subjected to. His views mirror the present mood of the nation and the restiveness of our people especially the young ones who fought gallantly for Change and PMB!
“President Buhari, with all due respect to your high office, you are losing me. What’s wrong? What’s wrong with your advisers? Who got you to sign up to the cliché called “Change Begins With Me” and to throw the weight of your office behind it? Did they put together a crack team of psychologists, communicators, sociologists, political scientists, etc? I refuse to believe that this programme, and especially the name, is the product of deep thinking and reflection.
First, the idea that “Change Begins With Me”, renders all our efforts to get you elected in 2015 worthless. Heck, why did we bother? If it’s going to start with us Lilliputs, we might as well have left Goodluck Jonathan in office and allow him and his band of hopeless cohorts to get on with the good job they were doing of raping Nigeria. Don’t you get it? Change began with you! We, the people, already implemented the biggest change possible with turning around this country by electing you on the mantra of change. So why are you now passing the buck? The buck is on your desk. Make the change happen and we will follow from there. It’s over a year and many, sadly, are already suffering buyer’s remorse. Arrest the trend!
Secondly, what change can any single individual put into action that will impact the culture and behaviour of 180m people in double quick time? We are in a hurry, Mr. President. So much has been lost. So to rely on Adeola, Abubakar or Opara to start the change and hope that we will be counting gains in months is delusional. You don’t have all the time. We do not have the time. Start the Change!” – Chris Adetayo
Let me reiterate that I have had the privilege of meeting and interacting with some members of the Buhari administration.
I can confirm that I have held discussions and communicated the feelings of both the rich and poor on the streets directly to them. However, I am not sure that they are in tune with the reality of things on this side of the divide. I believe I have sufficient knowledge of the political history of Nigeria. I’m afraid to say, I see the same symptoms of afflictions that ravaged previous governments and rendered them incapacitated. I’m saddened that no lessons seemed to have been learnt from our beleaguered past. Government appears to believe only in its own mind-set and every complaint or suggestion is summed up in some dangerous conclusions: the wailing wailers; corruption is fighting back; the suffering of Nigerians is exaggerated, etc.
Equally worrisome is the apparent paranoia that has crept into our senior government officials. Every commentator or demonstrator is perceived an enemy of government. I was surprised to read how my childhood friend and brother, Femi Adesina, singled me out in his article yesterday and accused me of insinuating that he was too comfortable in Aso Rock. There are so many occupants in Aso Rock and I know the limits of Femi’s influence on the men of power. I can never blame him for what I clearly know is beyond him. He faces the same dilemma of his predecessors who found themselves defending the indefensible in order to exhibit their hard work, competence and loyalty. It is a delicate and thankless job that leads oftentimes to Golgotha. I love Femi so much that I would rather offer him my sincere prayers instead of hanging him.
Let me go to the next case at hand. I could not believe the shabby treatment meted to Mrs Oby Ezekwesili and other members of the Bring Back Our Girls agitators. Their harmless and defenceless group is being harassed for merely exercising their constitutionally guaranteed rights of expression, association and movement. They constitute no danger whatsoever to society. Even if President Buhari won’t receive or entertain them, a senior member of the Federal Government should have been assigned to meet, pacify and reassure them.
Something is terminally wrong with our crisis management capabilities. Our proclivity for mismanaging and escalating troubles is legendary. This particular case is as disgraceful as it is unnecessary. Once upon a time, in the not too distant past, these were the friends of Buhari. They had pinned their hope on the muscular and military abilities of our President to liberate the Chibok girls in a jiffy. If things were proving difficult as it seems, constant dialogue is the only way out of the debacle.
But the handlers of Buhari prefer to fuel the long held belief or myth that Buhari is a mean and ruthless man. This is not good. It also comes at the wrong time. This administration has been accused of several human rights abuses and, according to the Minster of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, the President is heading for the United Nations on Tuesday to make the case that his administration is not guilty of such allegations. Intolerance for the rights of expression, association and movement cannot be a good way of making out such a case.
Anyone who has met President Buhari would readily attest to his simplicity and humility. His witty jokes are remarkable and legendary, just like his hearty smiles and laughter are infectious. He certainly means well for Nigeria and wants to rid our nation of the debilitating cankerworm of corruption and indiscipline. Why, therefore, would anyone want to remind Nigerians that the Buhari in uniform is not different from Buhari, the born again democrat. Why are they compounding Buhari’s image of an irascible dictator? Buhari needs to make a conscious effort to tear the toga of vindictiveness and irritability that appears to surround him. The biggest image deficit he has today is due to the fact that his biggest pet project, the war against corruption, is believed to be largely uncoordinated and too staccato in outlook.
It is difficult to ignore the cries of so many Nigerians who feel let down by a government that promised so much change but seems to have short-changed the people who saw Buhari as a liberator. Even if some of the most vociferous complainants are being cheeky and outright mischievous, many are doing so out of genuine concern. They do not want Buhari to fail. It is someone who loves you unconditionally that can do this. They are worried that the President behaves like a man who feels he has all the time in the world when in reality he has none. Some believe that he started fading and failing when he took his time in selecting his ministers and advisers. The intractable squabbles in his Party has also contributed to the lacklustre nature of his government. APC does not look or act like a Party in power. There seems to be no serious input from the Party to the affairs of government and governance.
The government has been wobbling and fumbling by doing the same things PDP used to do that led to the disintegration of the biggest political party in Africa, according to their self-glorification. The war of attrition in PDP has been passed on to APC. A house divided against itself is inviting extermination. And whenever politicians fight dirty it affects governance adversely.
The economy is in shambles and the commonest justification is that Jonathan’s gang looted the treasury. All that is well and good. But Nigerians knew this and therefore voted for Change! We promised to make things much better. Fighting corruption alone would not save Nigeria. We must fight endemic poverty. If Alhaji Lai Muhammed likes, let him launch a million campaigns and waste more scarce resources on doing a rehash of what past governments did that led nowhere. The Yoruba have a way of describing this kind of unproductive sermonisation: “Eni ebi npa ko gbo iwaasu!” (A hungry man does not listen to sermons in the church).
What the people want to see are the following: a drastic reduction in the size and budget of our over-bloated governments; a sustained war against poverty; protection of lives and properties; creating a less rancorous atmosphere for businesses to thrive; special concessions and incentives to employers of labour; a stable currency; upgrading our educational system and making the schools’ curriculum more relevant to our communities and society in general; provision of social infrastructure, particularly power, good roads, hospitals and potable water; and so on.
The mind-set of gloating over the fall of some former members of the privileged class is counter-productive. We must be careful of the image portrayed to foreign investors. Let government concentrate urgently on alleviating the suffering of the people. It is obvious that government may never be able to collect enough money back from the brigands and looters to make appreciable impact on our national treasury. We should stop building our castle in the air and start thinking outside the box.