In Defense of General Buhari By Abubakar Evuti
‘We Nigerians know that it is strong individuals that destroyed strong institutions and so,we again need to look for strong personalities to renew these institutions.’~General Muhammadu Buhari
Seeing that, to set things aright, Nigeria needs a leader who will not be afraid to step on toes —big ones for that matter, I have for a long time now been a supporter and advocate for a Buhari presidency because being an old man and a former military dictator, Buhari has no one but God to fear and nothing to lose except his good name. He cannot be bought, arm-twisted or threatened. But that was not why I became angry when, sometime before the 2011 elections, a student of department of Philosophy said, ‘Buhari just dey shout change, change. When dem ask am wetin be the change him wan bring, him no fit talk.’
What angered me was not even because it was a black lie. It was because such lies are always been told and too, that the student was able to tell such a bare-face lie because he assumed, buying into the stereotype about the people of the North, that Buhari (a man from the North, where its people, it is believed, are intellectually inferior) should be incapable of explaining an idea he advocates (something even I, four years ago, would have clearly explained). That was why I asked hotly, where and when did Buhari become mute when asked to explain the change the then CPC said it wants to bring? He said nothing.
In 2014 still and too often, one is forced to endure the ignorance of people who have never ran for any office, calling Buhari names; insisting, blindly, that the General has only been critical of the government without saying what it is he intends to do differently. Buhari has been called a religious bigot, coupist, undemocratic dictator and a terrible politician.
Naturally Buhari is not a man that needs defending but, as A. Aidoo will say, in a world where lies have out-paced truth, one cannot but come out and tell his own truth.
Buhari only Criticizes Government without Proffering Solutions.
Those going about shouting that Buhari has only been critical of the government without saying what he will do differently have not been listening to him or even want to listen to him. Most of the trouble with Nigeria only require concern, will and a commonsensical approach. One needs not be Albert Einstein to be able to solve them if one really wants to. Because of space I cannot be able to highlight every issue and Buhari’s solutions to them. But to falsify the assertion, below is an example: In 2013 the nation suffered ASUP and ASUU strike that lasted seven and eleven months respectively. Businesses slowed to a crawl and to a halt. That tragedy altered forever the destiny of millions of young Nigerians. While Jonathan was busy running after the G-5 governors, there were students who after been fed up with the endless wait, committed suicide. Buhari was asked what he would have done differently:
If APC forms the government, there will be no National Conference, that N7billion they said they spent would have been used to fund education and ASUU strike wouldn’t have taken place. Polytechnics would not have gone on strike for 11 months. Our children would have been in school instead of on the streets.
Buhari as a Religious Bigot
I have previously attempted to falsify the notion of Buhari as a religious bigot by exposing his understanding of how Christians and Muslims should live peacefully in a multi-religious society as Nigeria in my article, Buhari and the Politics of Religion. It has also been said that Buhari said that, at the polls, Christians should vote Christians and Muslims, Muslims.
Once upon a time a man who had just written an Islamic book, traveled all the way from Sokoto to Daura to implore Buhari to be at the book launching. Seeing that it is an Islamic book, those present at the launching were of course largely Muslims. When making his remark, because the elections was at bay, Buhari said to the people present to vote a man who will protect their interest. Now it is the same thing as saying to a gathering of students in a lecture hall or Market women in Gwagwalada market or any group of people anywhere to vote a man who will protect their interest. What is wrong with that? The truth is that when a hyena wants to eat her own young, she complains of the smell of goat. So mischief makers hammered a harmless remark out of shape till it came to mean, Muslims vote Muslim and Christians vote Christians. No politician, however stupid, will wittingly throw away a single vote how much more the vote of the entire Christian population who make up nearly 50 percent of the total population of the country? Haba!
When people attempt to paint Buhari as an unfeeling Islamist (in the bastardized sense of the word) and as a bringer of shari’ah, one will think it is not the same Buhari who as a young man in the army (he himself admitted in an interview) smoked and had girlfriends! As M.I will put it, Buhari sef be human being-o.
Buhari as a Coupist
I have not had the opportunity to ask those who call Buhari a coupist to tell what coup he organized. If they mean the coup that saw him to power, I can only say this: Buhari was not among those who carried out the coup. He was simply invited to rule. Every informed, objective historian knows this. But this not to suggest that it would have made him any less a great man if he had carried it out or that men who have at some point in history seized power are villains. In fact, some great men, like Sankara, Gaddafi, were coupists. When a government no longer promotes justice, why not? Whether the government was democratically instituted no matter. It is like this: once a government ceases to represent the interest of its people, it becomes an illegitimate government and for the Shagari-led government, even Shagari will agree his government at some point no longer stood for the interest of Nigerians. To prove the aforesaid, here is Achebe lamenting in 1983 during Shagari’s government:
Quite recently an astonishing statement credited to President Shagari… to the effect that there was corruption in Nigeria but that it had not yet reached alarming proportions…. Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage; and Nigeria will die if we keep pretending that she is only slightly indisposed. (The Trouble With Nigeria,1983)
Buhari as a Dictator Who Won’t Fit into Democracy
Before anything, dear reader, note this: being a dictator is not a bad thing. Dictatorship is not the same thing as tyranny.
During the Presidential debate of 2011 the moderator asked Buhari if he will be able to fit into a democratic system being that he was once a military dictator. Buhari responded by saying that he had lost in two questionable elections in 2007 and 2003 yet in all those times, he did not take to the street; he went to court. That should demonstrate he recognizes and accept democratic processes. But if that is not enough to demonstrate Buhari recognizes democracy as modern day’s system of governance, here is Buhari in 1998:
It is clear that a global consensus has emerged that democracy, however adapted, is the choice and any country or any institution within a country that rejects this does so at a great risk of international isolation and abuse. (4th Annual Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Lecture Feb15, 1998)
Buhari as a Politician with Poor Understanding of Politics
Why has Nigeria been denied Buhari’s leadership? Several answers to this question will not be far from right but it is not that he has a poor understanding of Nigerian politics (For how hard can politics in Nigeria be where one can become President by insisting he had no shoes when growing up?). For me, it is poverty and poverty of thought that has caused the electorate to become docile, to sell their votes and to give way to election rigging. Another reason is the sectionalism bias. It is not only responsible for denying Nigeria Buhari’s leadership, it is responsible for denying Nigeria good leadership. Buhari puts it more lucidly:
Why is there so much greed, corruption and indiscipline in Nigeria today? Why are all the legacies of the past decaying and crumbling as a result of so much neglect and lack of care? These questions need answers. But they also point to one direction: the quality of leadership…. good leadership eludes Nigeria for… our differences or the peculiarities of our history. We are all children of history; and very often we are prisoners of it as well. Often, also, prisoners of history are imprisoned more by their fears than by reason. Yet, imaginary or real, a prison is a prison and its walls are tough to break out of… There is the prison of tribalism and sectionalism that becloud the view and stop people from recognizing excellence if it doesn’t occur within their own area.
Although this perfectly explains why Buhari has largely not been appreciated in other regions of Nigeria, Buhari was not talking about himself when he said this in 1998!
Nigerians must begin to ask themselves hard questions. For we are tired of incomprehensible things like GDP, World Bank statistics, that even the President will not be able to tell their meaning, claiming that we were better off than we were before 2011. We want to see things on ground, measured by rise in actual standard of living and security of our people. No matter what Dr. Abati will say, Nigerians today are wallowing in fear and painful poverty and death, we are dissatisfied with the present and unsure of the future.
(Please Plant a Tree Today.)
The writer is on twitter @ngugievuti
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