By Donu Kogbara
LAST week, President Muhammadu Buhari and his Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, appeared on a TV programme that was hosted by Ms Kadaria Ahmed, a talented and gutsy media professional I hold in very high esteem.
Mr. President’s alarming vagueness and spectacular failure to answer Ms Ahmed’s questions appropriately was excruciatingly embarrassing. Prof. tried to cover up for his boss; but his attempts to speak for him were reprimanded and achieved nothing beyond highlighting the huge gulf between a sound mind and a tired mind.
Then there was the recent rally in Warri at which Buhari appeared confused and variously described the Delta State gubernatorial candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, as its presidential, senatorial and “governortorial” candidate.
I voted for Buhari in 2015 because I thought him a tough disciplinarian who would dynamically tackle security nightmares. I had also been persuaded to believe that he possessed the integrity to not tolerate corruption from anyone, including APC members. But I quit supporting Buhari a couple of years ago because I concluded that I’d massively overestimated him; and I’ve subsequently made no secret of my preference for some of his electoral rivals – Atiku Abubakar and Kingsley Moghalu, for example.
However, though I initially gloated when he made a fool of himself in public – because his screw-ups enhanced the chances of his rivals – I am now very ashamed of my unkind knee-jerk reaction to his frailty.
Truth is that the humiliating infirmity that Buhari has displayed has given me a lot of food for thought in the past few days and now brings tears to my eyes in the stillness of the night…because it reminds me of the tragic frailty of the human condition, of the sad fact that none of us will be strong forever and of my poor mother, who is suffering from irreversible cognitive decline.
Mummy is a shadow of her former smart self. She has a Masters degree from Manchester University in the UK. But she’s now so weakened mentally that she can barely recall my name. Buhari is a fine figure of a man – tall and handsome even in old age, his proud, ramrod-straight back reflecting his military training.
He should not be allowed to drown in derision. He should not be paraded on stages on which he will falter and fumble. He should not be exposed to verbal or intellectual challenges and cruel jokes. Friends and relatives who truly love Buhari should protect what little dignity he has left and take him away to somewhere quiet to rest and put his feet up and be fondly remembered by his fans.
BUHARI still has millions of fans, despite recent screw ups; and not all of them are illiterate talakawas (impoverished Northern Muslim masses) who are famously wedded to him for life, regardless of whether he performs or not. Or so we have been repeatedly told.
I know educated Southern Christians – albeit not many! – who are gaining absolutely zero from this administration but still think that Buhari is the bees knees and swear that his policies are heading in the right direction and will eventually land Naija in Jackpotland. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. But I understand the talakawas’ alleged profound and unshakeable devotion to Buhari far more than I understand Buhari acolytes who went to school.
Because Buhari comes across as an admirably austere man who isn’t interested in acquiring lots of flashy mistresses, luxury cars, huge houses, eye-wateringly expensive designer watches or whatever. And if I were penurious and bitter about the blatant excesses of a predatory ruling class that has left me suffering, I’d trust a politician of modest tastes more than a politician who has an in-your-face penchant for the finest things that money can buy.
But Buhari’s educated supporters seem to be living in the past. They are judging him on the basis of what he was in his heyday, rather than on the basis of what he is in his dotage.
And I think it’s depressingly unpatriotic to loudly insist that a man who is clearly floundering should stay in charge of a country that is immensely complex and frequently teetering on the brink of disaster and crying out for good governance.
As for the Northerners who arranged last year for Buhari to carry on, I don’t understand them because if he wins the election and then collapses mentally or physically shortly afterwards – to the point where he cannot even be retained as a ceremonial figurehead who is being manipulated by Northern aides – Osinbajo will take over and stick around in the top job for a long time…until the end of their joint term! And the North will be pushed to the sidelines.
I have a soft spot for Osinbajo, so won’t mind him becoming head of state, but I’m trying to be objective about ethnic balance! Buhari has been under the weather for at least two years; and if I had been in APC Northerners’ shoes, I’d have replaced him with a vibrant Northerner last year, during the APC Presidential primaries…to avoid a repetition of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan scenario.
Talk about not learning anything from history!
Meanwhile, a Northern youth group, Arewa Youth for Democracy, AYD, has issued a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Ishaq Murtala, and the Publicity Secretary, Comfort Shainaan:
“We…feel highly compelled as concerned citizens of Northern extraction to state that those who are pushing our dear president beyond his health limits are not doing Nigerians any good but are merely promoting their own selfish interests which they project as national interest all at the expense of the nation.
“We are very much aware of the sophisticated but covert plans by some political leaders of the APC stock to constitutionally take over power and control of government in anticipation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ill health getting worse and unbearable for him.
“It is their plan to wear him out with strenuous campaign schedules with a view to further weakening his health. It is also their anticipation that once Buhari resigns or anything more untoward happens to him because of his ill health, they(the South West) are positioned to take over from him…And the more President Buhari manifests signs of his failing health in full public glare the more this set of politicians get excited in the hope of what they are to benefit from the sad situation.
“It is based on these reasons, and for power not to slip off our hands prematurely before 2023, that we urge all to strongly implore President Buhari to step down from the race and take good care of his health. We also urge everyone to queue behind an obviously fitter Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who incidentally is from our region…”.