“I belong to everybody. And I belong to nobody”- President Muhammed Buhari.
The above quotation is one the quotable quotes from the inaugural speech of President Muhammadu Buhari at the Eagle Square, Abuja during his swearing in. Since the quotation went viral, there have been several misconceptions or misinterpretation of the quotation. Precisely, many social commentators are still trying to decode its true meaning. If viewed from the context of trying to establish his independence in taking vital decisions in the proper administration of the country and not just trying to play politics with the destiny of the nation, Buhari may well be right. It will be recalled that his first shot at the seat of power came through the barrels of guns as a military dictator in 1984. He is not entirely new to the seat of government. But this is his first as a democratically elected President and Commander -in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. And that is why he is trying to make populist statements like the one credited to him above.
But does the President actually belong to nobody? No, we beg to disagree. In actual fact, President Buhari belongs to somebody or a group of bodies. Apart from God the Almighty who created him and grants him long life coupled with good health to cope with the stress of the electioneering and also protected him from the bombs of some alleged assassins that reportedly claimed lives of some of his bodyguards in Kaduna as soon as he emerged as the presidential torch-bearer of the All Progressives Congress, Buhari belongs to the party that gave him the platform to run for the presidential election and in particular to the chieftains of the party. If the statement is meant to serve as a notice to checkmate them on the overbearing posture that some of them may intend to take that can hinder the dramatic and pragmatic changes that he plans to bring to bear in the governance of the country, he may be right. But as stakeholders in the project leading to his election as the President, Buhari cannot completely rule out the party’s influences on some of his policies. This is because, the electorate and the new opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, will hold him (the President) and his party (the APC) jointly accountable for the fulfilment or otherwise of their campaign promises. So, the President belongs to his party as his primary constituency and to some extent accountable to the party’s leadership. The President himself too knows that he owes his party leadership the courtesy of consulting them before making crucial political appointments or policy statements. The Presidency and the party leadership may not always agree, but it is the duty of Mr. President to carry his party along, otherwise there may be cracks in the system.
Secondly, the President belongs to his friends/loyalists and voters who voted for him and ensured that their votes counted. A majority of these sets of people may not be card-carrying members of the APC. Some of them were protest or sympathy voters who swigged their votes in favour of the APC in response to the hate campaigns mounted against Buhari by the supporters of the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan. And so he belongs to them. He is accountable to them in order to keep their hope alive that the moment for positive change has indeed come. This is the time for action and not just for rhetoric and business as usual that Nigerians are tired of.
And to underscore the fact that the President belongs to somebody especially his kinsmen, the North is reportedly insisting on occupying the sensitive positions of Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the National Security Adviser and the Chief of Staff and that may be one of the main reasons why such appointments have not been made. With that statement, Mr. President intends that everybody will have a sense of belonging in his administration. But in reality, this may not be feasible, if the body language of the Northerners is anything to go by.
- Gbemiga Olakunle, JP General Secretary, National Prayer Movement firstname.lastname@example.org