Buhari: Now That Our Abraham Lincoln is Here… By Aliyu Bala Aliyu
“Obstacles are necessary for success because in selling, as in all careers of importance, victory comes only after many struggles and countless defeats.” ~ Og Mandino
The image of Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as he broke down in tears in 2011 while delivering the speech that brought his campaign to a close was the lowest point of that campaign season. It was indeed an emotional moment at the International Conference Centre, Abuja – venue of the international press conference. A lot of people laughed him off, scoffed him, and all sorts of uncharitable and unprintable things were said about this great patriot and lover of Nigeria who had since 2003 been seeking to help liberate Nigeria from the grip of political buccaneers – the establishment. Thrice he ran for the president of the world’s most populous black nation; and thrice he lost.
Having traveled round the country campaigning for votes and seeing firsthand the plight of downtrodden Nigerians, his pain that a country blessed with so many resources and potentials but which had been sentenced to a life of poverty and suffering by the ruling class was enough to bring forth his tears. Unfortunately, the clip of Buhari sobbing and wiping his tears became a propaganda tool in the hands of NTA and AIT.
Like Abraham Lincoln’s story of many trials after defeat and epic falls, Buhari’s story is one of never giving up; being principled and holding on to one’s dream; staying focused and being true to the cause. There are countless lessons to be learnt from Buhari’s political journey. In him, the saying “he who laughs last, laughs best” couldn’t be truer. For the first time since the return to civilian rule, the opposition has defeated the incumbent and broken PDP’s 16yr reign; and Buhari is the face and soul of this historic feat.
But much more significant than Abraham Lincoln’s unrelenting pursuits of his dream and eventual victory as the 16th president of the United States is the fact that he left many legacies that have made him one of the greatest if not the greatest presidents in America’s 239 years of independence. The Miller Centre’s website said of Abraham Lincoln: “His great achievements historians tell us was his ability to energize and mobilize the nation by appealing to its best ideals while acting ‘with malice towards none’ in the pursuit of a more perfect, more just and more enduring Union. No President in American history ever faced a greater crisis and no President ever accomplished as much.” In Buhari’s hand is the golden pen; and upon his laps is the book of legends with a blank page for him. His name is already penciled therein. I am positive that he will ink it in.
When Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela walked free from a 27 year term in prison to become the first black President of South Africa, at age 75, he made history in mor than one way. But most significantly was that while Mandela was constitutionally entitled to seek another four years in office; and perhaps morally entitled to run for life, he quit the stage despite immense pressure to seek one more term. With that singular act, Madiba as he was fondly called secured his place in the pantheon of legends and his immortality in the consciousness of the world assured. And in a continent bedeviled by the sit tight syndrome, Madiba did the unusual – something quite ‘strange’ and ‘unthinkable’.
However, whether Buhari will/should quit the stage in 2019 after a single term and give Africa another Madiba is a debate that will be properly x-rayed hopefully in 2018. Four years no doubt is a long time in politics and Buhari can help Nigeria achieve significant things. That is the frame of mind with which he should enter Aso Rock Villa on May 29, 2015 when he is formally sworn in. What is certain is that Buhari will not have the longevity of tenure which the likes of Deng Xiaoping of China, Muhammad Mahattir of Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore had to transform their countries remarkably, but there is no doubt that May 29, 2015 – May 29, 2019 will be eventful.
Post-Apartheid South Africa and post-genocide Rwanda may not have gotten to the promised land just yet, but their journeys have been remarkable thanks to the leadership of Madiba and Paul Kagame respectively. In post-civil war Nigeria, the blight of terrorism, ethno-religious clashes and other savage and barbaric acts that should ordinarily have no place among civilized human beings have significantly widened the schisms of our nationhood and darkened the country’s map. President-Elect Buhari has a task to help blot out the stains, close the gaps, or significantly bridge them with far reaching gestures of reconciliation, reintegration, rehabilitation, redemption and where necessary, retribution and recompense. Like Buhari said in his acceptance speech, he is now for all Nigerians – including those who did not vote him and those who didn’t vote at all. True to type, Maigaskiya (meaning the honest/ the truthful one), Buhari’s sobriquet, has been magnanimous in victory as evidenced in his speech. I have no doubt in my mind that he will walk the talk both spoken and unspoken. It is interestingly worthy of note that Abraham Lincoln was also known as “Honest Abe”!
There will be no quick fixes and no miracles to be performed. But the near hypnotic cum messianic bond that have bound Buhari’s followers to him since he stepped foot on the path of partisan politics in 2003, culminating in the wave of change that has swept him to victory in the elections of March 28 will need to be fed a steady diet of achievements to make the wait worth the while. Personally, I have no doubt that Buhari will be a success story. The only question we may need to bother about is how soon the diets will be served.
Change is finally here and hopefully, we will sing that song of freedom: “free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last.” From the mountain tops and through the valleys; hand locked in hand; shoulder cemented to shoulder; we shall sing as brothers and sisters; and the echoes shall reverberate through the north, south, east and west. #NigeriaShallBeGreatAgain!
Aliyu Bala Aliyu