Examining the Buhari Option By Tunde Fagbenle
From the blue, again, a few days ago, came an SMS on my phone from my good old friend, Lawson Omokhodion (Omo Law!) — ex-financial journalist, ex-bank MD, but an entrepreneur and a perspicacious gentleman of integrity.
“Tunde my Senator,” he began, and I must remind my readers that some folks, especially at our club in Ikoyi, Lagos, against my now abandoned protestation, have stubbornly (even embarrassingly) stuck with calling me “Senator” since that time, over a decade ago, I ran for Senate under Gani Fawehinmi’s National Conscience Party in my Osun Central senatorial district. They would have none of it, I remain a “senator” whether I won the election or not — I am their senator!
“A few years ago,” Omo Law continued, “I told you that only Gen. Muhammadu Buhari could bring sanity to Nigeria. I remain resolute in my belief. Have you joined me? Cheers. Omo law.”
I do not know what has suddenly provoked this resurgence of what I call the “Buhari Option” debate in Omo Law’s mind.
True, the country remains a conundrum, a ‘peculiar mess’ (apologies to the late stormy petrel Ibadan politician of the First Republic, Adegoke Adelabu), beset with myriad of conflicting and aggravating problems.
True, Boko Haram insurgents have become more pernicious and more daring by the day, invading and sacking towns in the North-East zone of the country with impunity, even hoisting their flag in damning territorial conquest; raiding schools and homes and abducting innocent children, girls and women into their impenetrable enclave; sacking bastions of Nigeria’s security forces — police and army — almost at will and causing the poorly equipped and ill-motivated law and territory-enforcers to flee.
True, the country wobbles on under the weight of corruption and ineptitude of governance of unimaginable proportions;
But what could be new? What could suddenly have irked Omo Law into inflicting upon my mind, first thing in the morning (at 6am!), the “Buhari Option” at a time it is fast receding into improbability?
“Omo Law,” I began in my reply, “Good morning my brother. Nigeria makes me sad and its conundrum appears unresolvable. A civilian Buhari cannot do much amidst the barracuda politicians we have without being impeached, compromised, forced to resign, or eliminated. He cannot replicate his military time and short-lived order which, even with the then organised discipline and seeming unity of the military still had a contrarian, permissive, Babangida overthrowing the regime for the onset of the rottenness that has since enveloped the country. In any case, it is forlorn to hope a confused and divided opposition party, as presently obtains, can dislodge a sitting president in our clime of unbridled corruption and base ethnic sentiments. Good day, mate. TF”
The “Buhari Option”, it must be said, is a romantic nostalgia of that brief period in 1984 when Buhari as a general in the Nigerian Army became the military head of state from the military putsch that terminated the Second Republic of President Shehu Shagari. Even though Buhari’s regime acted in arrant folly in some ways — imprisoning journalists even if what they published were the truth; killing drug offenders under a retroactive law; etc — it was generally regarded, with its stern order of across-the-board discipline blazoned as “War Against Indiscipline as a welcome sanitizer of a polity going haywire, corrupt and unedifying.
After his overthrow by the gap-toothed, genial Gen. Ibrahim Babangida that saw the country rapidly descending into the abyss of chaos, free-for-all looting, and debilitating shenanigan of leadership, not a few Nigerians began to long for what they had just (then gleefully) lost in Buhari: an ordered and disciplined life!
Not much has changed since then. On the contrary, the country has continued to drift under one government or another, with occasional instances of buoyancy or direction being quickly punctured by the overwhelming force of roguish elite and their freeloaders profiting more in an environment of disorder than of order and disinterested in making sacrifices necessary for developing a nation.
Consequently, the call for a ‘revolution’ has not been a muted call, even by some important personalities. Many believe the only thing that can save Nigeria from total perdition is a revolution either of a bloody type — Rawling’s Option” — that would “clear the deck” or some spring, a dream revolt of the masses! Rawlings, it will be recalled, was the Flight Lieutenant in Ghana who in 1979 led an insurgency that took over power and carried out the merciless killings of a number of Supreme Court justices, military officers and the killings and disappearances of over 300 other Ghanaians in what he described as a “house cleaning exercise.” Ghana survived it and for the better, it is believed.
It is in this vein that the “Buhari Option” is being considered in some quarters — a no-nonsense man who would come and cleanse the country of the immorality that plagues it, even if it means through proclamation of draconian laws and the undertaking of merciless killings, if need be. Were that to be possible in Nigeria, thousands of heads (figures ranging from 2,000 to 5,000) would have to roll to make any meaningful impact and re-order the country.
Surely, Buhari himself, as a latter-day democrat, would laugh and scoff at the improbability of the idea. He is no longer in the army, indeed long out, he commands no troop, and the present climate is unwelcoming of military government of any hue.
Let it also be said, though, that Nigeria experienced such an iron-fisted (semi-demi military) president in Gen. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. It was a rare chance offered on a platter and for which Obasanjo was well suited in grit and guile, aided by a military suppliant to its former (and new) Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately, Obasanjo frittered away the great opportunity to force the pace of development and rebuild Nigeria’s moral and ethical values; frittered away on the altar of personal ego, self-delusion, and compromised integrity.
Perhaps Gen. Buhari could re-enact that circumstance but he lacks in guile and capacity to tactfully engage an exacting democratic structure (and democratic impertinence!) without compromising his integrity the way Obasanjo disappointingly did. A man to whom material wealth apparently means nothing, Buhari certainly fits the bill of the Uruguayan President Jose ‘Pepe’ Mujica of which this column wrote last week.
But, unfortunately, the “Buhari Option” is a dead option. It is a romantic view not worth expending any more time on now. If a revolution would come, it would need to come from a collective of the younger breed — when and if they are sufficiently riled by the mess they see and fired by the determination to have a better future; brighter than one which my generation and Gen. Buhari’s may have condemned them to.
Until then, I am prepared to wager my last kobo that, all things being as they are, the path is clear for a Jonathan’s second term. It is the logic or illogic of our country, some say of our “stage of development”, as if cursed! But, yes, we are cursed — by the oil from the Niger Delta that fuels the greed and corruption of us all.
And that’s saying it the way it is!
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