At this early stage of our national journey to stability and monumental change demanded by Nigerians themselves by reposing the very heavy burden of democratic governance on the shoulders of the tested, trusted and the nationalist patriot President Muhammadu Buhari, some ungrateful and wishful Nigerians are trying to prick the nerves of the citizens with unwarranted allegations against proponents of the new positive change that is about to permeate the Nigerian landscape.
My interest was drawn to three articles with the above captioned title. The three write-ups were quite impressive, at least to me as a writer who believes that the art of writing is a difficult endeavour that should be appreciated and encouraged. One of the article appeared on the Tribune Newspapers captioned: “Buhari’s second coming: Dawn of a new era for advertising?” The second which was overwhelming appeared on the Daily Independent Newspapers of April 5 2015, by Ekene Okoro and was entitled: Buhari’s second coming.
On June 1, 2015, the Monday column of Peoples Daily Newspapers carried the article of Mr. Emmanuel Yawe entitled: “Buhari’s second coming”. Mr. Yawe exerted greater energy of his day and a certain level of language control, attempting to provoke, nay convince his readers on issues that many eye witnesses of the Nigerian politics today would describe as a mixture of truth and falsity. The article began on soft notes and ended with the main matter which the author tried to wrap in a black leader bag. Simply, his belief is that President Muhammadu Buhari is a religious bigot. He merely employed the antithesis to distract his readers, saying, “I have met the President briefly on a few occasions between1981 and 2015. I do not believe the accusations of religious bigotry against him, even though our meetings have been brief at each encounter.”
Even while a Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari has never been a tolerant of anti-human and anti-developmental movement, policy and initiative. Let us tell ourselves the bitter truth. In the history of Nigeria, any unbiased Nigerian cannot argue that the best leaderships that have been fairly fair to Nigeria, not selected few amongst Nigerians have been those of Murtala Ramat Muhammad, Yakubu Gowon, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. The democratic era of Olusegun Obanajo can be fixed in between because his was more a nationalist than anti-corruption crusader. Howbeit, I can never condemn the leadership of any Nigerian leader because Nigeria is a complex society and moreover, specifically located in Africa. These were good leaders who did not go into the exalted position as President or Head of State merely to enrich themselves and loot the national treasury.
My stand can be reaffirmed by a piece from the President’s May 29, 2015 speech when he spoke like a poet, “I belong to everybody; And I belong to nobody”. Some political analysts and social critics have picked hole in this statement. But to me, it is the best part of the inaugural speech. It is strange to many Nigerians who strongly believe in the full dependence of political office holders. Maybe, it is part of what made the immediate past president to declare that he was under bondage for the past 16 years of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leadership in Nigeria. Our past leaders have proved that they did not belong to everybody – Nigerians, but belonged to few Nigerian cabal/clique – power brokers, godfathers, godsons and daughters, and probably god-relatives. And that is why they woefully failed the nation and its citizens.
“I belong to everybody; And I belong to nobody”, simple and complex as the two sentences are, are NOT practicable in Nigeria except for people like Muhammadu Buhari and few others. In Nigerian politics of modern days, it is beyond possibility to be a leader for all the people that gave their mandate out without inducement. The Nigerian electorate, say the populace is Buhari’s constituency. As we know him, he cannot belong to his wife, his son or his daughter if they are individually and/or collectively against the interest of Nigeria. He has friends and, surely, mentors. But he cannot accept anything called godfather, as in Nigerian politics. Buhari, history recalls, has tried to be on this path. His friendships, discussions and mindset are on national interest. And for one to be on his book of good record, one must be upright, at least, think Nigeria first. Former President Obasanjo lately realized this but wanted to remain same for his own political boys.
Corruption anytime and anywhere remains so until proved otherwise. So, one can be arrested for past corrupt practices just as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is very belatedly doing with some Nigerian politicians who committed the offences over a decade ago. I am not indicting anybody. A handful of former governors of the Obasanjo-led administration are having questions to answer at the EFCC over misappropriation, embezzlement or looting of public funds meant to develop their respective states. Mr. Yawe wrote, “…Sani Abacha had advised all political office holders to report to the police. Those who did were immediately locked up. Soon a large number of politicians found themselves in prison, some for inexplicable reasons. For instance, some of us could not understand why a man like Balarabe Musa who gave the NPN a good fight and who campaigned vigorously against graft before and after he became governor of Kaduna State would be imprisoned.
Mr. Yawe, as a Christian, was the Chief Press Secretary to the then Governor of old Gongola state, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, who I presume, was a Muslim. This can happen in a northern state against the belief of an average enlightened Nigerian Christian who feels that Christians are denied and marginalized in the north. He paints Mr. President against religious tolerance, saying, “He was Head of State, number one man. Another Muslim from the North, General Idiagbon was Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters, number two man. Yet another Muslim, General Ibrahim Babangida was Chief of Army Staff, number three man. We should now begin to understand the roots of the accusations that Buhari is an Islamic bigot. Can Buhari say that these accusations did not adversely affect his quest for Presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011?”
Here lies the crux of my interest in Mr. Yawe’s writing. Reading between Mr. Yawe’s lines, it could be adduced his hatred and probably that of his former boss against Mr. President, including maybe their venomous attacks and propaganda against Buhari’s Presidential bids in 2003, 2007 and 2011. I think Mr. Yawe’s accusation is personally against Buhari as a Muslim. He seems not to recall the immediate democratic experiences. Why can’t we allow President Buhari to select from amongst Nigerians the men and women of integrity who will assist him in the herculean task of providing Nigeria the required change and development which we all have been yearning for? Former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan were Christians, the Senate Presidents, including Senate leaders largely, and a very large number of the security chiefs during their tenures were Christians. They merely fixed Chief Justices of Nigeria (CJN) from amongst Muslims who fulfilled their bids. That is by the way. Moreover, this was the same campaign weapon of the PDP, which was among the factors that blessed them with concrete failure and probable extinction in future.
Mr. Yawe concluded with this note, “My greatest fear is that I see history repeating itself in his second coming. He is the head of the executive branch; a Muslim. The Chief Justice of the Federation, head of the Judiciary, Mahmud Mohammed, was there before him, a Muslim. As things stand now, I understand Buhari himself is in support of another Muslim heading the Legislative arm of government. This complete circle will reinforce his image as a religious bigot and place a time bomb on the lap of his government. It is a mistake that is completely avoidable and those of us who wish Buhari well will not shy away from saying so now that it is not too late.” And I say to you, my compatriot, it can never be late because government is a continuum. After all, the Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF) and its traditional wing, the Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF), Traditional Rulers have been blowing hot and cool.
I enjoyed the poetry titled “Time for Nigerians to speak out” which the chairman of the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NOCEF), Olaiya Philips delivered at the 59th TEKAN General Assembly in Benue state: “If we do not speak out against terror and intimidation, violence and murder, who will speak out?; And if we are not that still small voice of calm, crying in the wilderness, for peace and progress in our country, who will speak up for the people?; Edmund Burke said: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing; Today, in our country, that simple truth is obvious for all to see; We know there is a terrible price to be paid for silence in the face of violence; for apathy in the face of oppression; and for indifference in the face of injustice.”
In an advertorial titled: “Making Our Many Voices One”, signed by its chairman, HRH (Dr.) Abdububa Maishehu II, JP, OON, (Mal Tangle), vice chairman, HRH Paul Zahki Wyom, (Kpop Gwong), secretary, HRH Barr. Joel S. Aninge (Odyong Nyankpa-Panda) and chair of Northern States Christian Elders Forum, Olaiya Phillips, the Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF), Traditional Rulers opted to closely scrutinize every policy of President Buhari to ensure its fidelity. “We shall stand four square as one in the task of building a just and equitable Nigeria in which citizens are not discriminated against because of faith, tribe or other point of distinction…benefits must flow equally to all Nigerians in need Muslims and Christians alike.”
On this note, my candid pieces of advice to Mr. Yawe and his like-minds are just three: one, if there were an atom of truth in his claims on Buhari’s appointments during the military era despite Buhari’s success then, there is no perfection in human thoughts and actions. Maybe if Buhari had towed the path of Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Nigeria would have gone far in development. However, no man is 100% saint or 100% villain. Secondly, it is unarguable that Nigerians, the populace as well as many repentant politicians, are tired with most of the political, traditional and even religious elites because of past experiences. It is only change that has refused to be static and human life is full of changes. President Buhari has no friend or relation if you talk about indiscipline and corruption, whether in the past or present. Your affinity with him will remain sacrosanct so long you do not involve in the duo that impede societal and national development.
Look at the Boko Haram which the PDP alleged he had a hand in because he failed in the past three elections. Boko Haram has continued its violence after President Buhari’s swearing in. It is still hitting targets and killing Nigerians. Rightly, Mr. President has described Boko Haram as a religious fraud. And we are hopefully prayerful that those behind it will be exposed one day and made to confess before Nigerians and the international communities. Finally, I assure Nigerians that no attempt to distract President Buhari from his laudable vision for Nigeria will succeed. Nigerians are solidly behind him and openly daring the dissidents with the declaration: Forward ever, backward never.
Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org