By Dele Sobowale
“Under this administration, life has lost its value, and more and more citizens are coming under the influence of criminals. We do not see any willingness on the part of President Buhari to honour his oath to provide security for Nigerians. In civilised nations, leaders who fail so spectacularly to provide security will do the honourable thing and resign” – Northern Elders Forum, December, 2020.
“Nowhere is safe under Buhari, Sultan-led JNI laments” – News Report, DECEMBER 3, 2020, p 8.
Bashing Buhari has now become the national past-time. Individuals and groups who one would have assumed would stay with Buhari to the end are now the most vocal in calling for the President’s ouster. In addition to the Northern Elders Forum, and the Jama’atu Nastril Islam, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, just fell short of asking the President to resign.
Perhaps, the most embarrassing criticism of Buhari is that of Senator Kaita from Katsina and the President’s own senatorial district. Here was what an elected official from Buhari’s home front said: “I totally believe the President is doing his own best, but then doing your best is not enough when we cannot see the result….” Being criticised by a senator from the President’s party must hurt.
“What does corrupting time not diminish…” – Horace, 65-8 BC.
Time appears to have diminished President Buhari – judging from the utterances of groups and individuals who were once fanatically devoted to him. Like a performer no longer entertaining, the audience is heading for the exits.
About two years ago, Buhari proclaimed himself the most unhappy President in the world on account of the intractable problems of the economy and security. Then, the majority of the northern establishment was still supporting him; or keeping their reservations to themselves. The vocal critics were the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Afenifere and Southern-based socio-political groups. It was easy for the President and his spokespersons in Aso Rock to accuse the critics of “bad belle” politics. Now, the President has no place to hide. With only two and a half years to go in office, Buhari is being criticised by people who supported him in 2019. It is bad enough that they are now disenchanted with his leadership they actually want him to go NOW!!
Certainly, just as unhappy are his Special Assistants on Media and other aides charged with reading all the papers and providing cuttings for the President. Hitherto, they could easily find positive reports and comments to present to the President – even if they don’t represent the majority view. Keeping the boss shielded from reality when it is unpleasant is part of their duties. Today, they can hardly find any favourable report or comment to present to Buhari. That on the surface will dictate that the safest thing for a columnist is to join the BUHARI MUST GO bandwagon. That is precisely what I will not do. Writing columns is not a popularity contest. The privilege always carried with it a great deal of responsibility – including finding the courage to be in the minority. Three reasons account for my position on Buhari.
“A journalist should be pursuing a fair rendition of the truth without regard to moods; the journalist must not be swayed by public opinion..”; that is according to US journalist Malvin Kalb in the 1970s. I am not a journalist. But, everyone who is privileged to write regularly must conform to that principle. My current position on Buhari is solidly grounded on that dictum.
Secondly, “It is unthinkable that wisdom should ever be popular” (Goethe). The easiest thing at a time like this is to join the bandwagon while claiming that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. Frequently, those making that statement forget another view which said “Vox populi, vox humbug” (Latin) or “the voice of the people is often nonsense” – US General William Sherman, 1820-1891’. Any leader, who, on very important matters, decides what to do based on the “voice of the people”, which frequently means “the voice of the vocal few”, will ruin his nation. That is one cardinal reason Buhari should ignore the calls for him to step down by, undoubtedly, well meaning leaders and groups. Let me provide reasons – which are inextricably linked.
NO BUHARI; NO APC
“A political party deserves the approbation of [the people] only as it represents the ideals, the aspirations and the hopes of [the people]. If it is anything else, it is merely a conspiracy to seize power” – US President Dwight Eisenhower,
The All Progressives Congress, APC, was never a party representing the ideals, aspirations and hopes of the Nigerian people. Right from its creation by the legacy factions, it was more of a conspiracy to seize power. The party manifesto was nothing more than a deceptive document – which had since been discarded.
The only way that conspiracy would work in 2015 was to make Buhari the presidential candidate. Without that PDP would have trashed them. Now, more than ever, Buhari is the glue holding what is left of APC together. Former Senator Sani of Kaduna State revealed the truth about two years ago when he said “without Buhari, APC will break and everybody will go to his house.” Even with Buhari as de facto leader, the party is already cracking. APC will immediately disintegrate if Buhari, like President De Gaulle of France, should get tired of the caustic criticisms he is now receiving and resign.
Let nobody be deceived about the constitutional provisions stipulating that Osinbajo should take over. The Vice President will be in the same situation as Chief Ernest Shonekan, who was installed as the Head of the Interim National Government, HING, in 1993, by General Babangida as he “stepped aside”. Lacking his own strong political base, Shonekan was an easy push-over for the military who sent him packing in 32 days after assuming office as Head of State.
Osinbajo also lacks a political base. And, it will amount to wishful thinking to assume that he can borrow Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s political machine for two reasons.
First, several forces within the two or three factions of APC are adamantly opposed to allowing Asiwaju’s group from seizing Aso Rock – even if it is done in support of Osinbajo. Furthermore, the VP-turned-President depending on somebody else for his political survival is a good definition for a puppet. The country Buhari will bequeath to Osinbajo cannot possibly afford a weak President – given the enormity of the problems he will inherit.
Second, even Asiwaju’s political machine is no longer the powerhouse it used to be. Acolytes taken up; financed and turned into leaders at state and national levels now have a lot of money and are not easy to lead anymore. Some have even become hostile to their former benefactor. The South-West, which was once regarded as Jagaban territory, is now keenly contested. Asiwaju must now rebuild a new political and machine. Relying on Asiwaju for the monumental support required will amount to two cripples staggering forward arm-in-arm. It will not work well.
By now, it should be clear to those asking for Buhari to be impeached or to resign why it is not in the national interest for him to do so. Only Allah can determine death and sickness. But, ask any insurance professional; and he will confirm that a man 78+ needs a lot of prayers to survive till 2023 and in good health. That is why we all need to pray for Buhari. He alone can still make certain changes which will get us beyond 2023.
MODEST PROPOSALS TO PRESIDENT BUHARI
“I know I shall pass through this world but once…” – The late Dr Tai Solarin,
Buhari is in a small group of people in history worldwide who led their countries at two different times – Napoleon of France 1769-1821, Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia 1922-2012, Juan Peron 1895-1974 of Argentina and our own Obasanjo (real birthday unknown); just to name a few. It is one of the verdicts of history that few leaders who were recalled a second time had a happy ending. In fact, Obasanjo remains perhaps the only happy exception in over 200 years among national leaders worldwide who were recalled from retirement or exile to lead their country again. Almost invariably, those who reached for the former leader in times of new trouble soon discover that he is no longer the saviour they once presumed. Then harsh criticisms follow. Sometimes, like late Milton Obote of Uganda, 1925-2005, he is kicked out twice.
Fortunately for Buhari and Nigeria, there is very little chance that he will be impeached. The votes are not there in the Senate for that to happen. My real fear is that he might quit. Then untold horrors will follow that decision.
Under the circumstances, the best Buhari can do between now and May 29, 2023 is to leave a positive legacy. By now, it should have been obvious to him that his Ministers, Security Chiefs, government officials among others have been lying to him about how Nigerians – including Northerners – think of his government. He is held responsible for the sins of thousands of people. Only Buhari can save his legacy within the short time available.
To do so, he should focus on the following simultaneously: Restructure the polity; right-size the Federal Government, mobilise Nigerians against terrorists, herdsmen included, stop borrowing NOW and be prepared to lead a new political party into 2023 and beyond.
I am limited by space to explain all these fully. But, here are some of the reasons. Restructuring is an idea whose time has come. It is irresistible now. The US President-elect will name less than 20 cabinet members. Nigeria should have no more than 30 instead of 43. Bandits, kidnappers, Boko Haram and herdsmen kill Nigerians. Buhari should move against all of them. We borrow mostly to pay salaries and entitlements of public servants representing less than two per cent of Nigerians. Buhari should stop this economic lunacy at once by refusing to borrow. The Service should either be self-sustaining or be down-sized. Finally, the All Progressives Congress, APC, has become a problem and a major constraint for rapid action. In fact, the APC exists now only on paper. Buhari should take his own faction into a functioning alliance that will enable him to achieve results.
LAST LINE. Buhari has already made history; he can walk away from office. He no longer needs us; we need him. That is why we should pray for him. The President should also endeavour to leave a positive legacy behind. He should seek out and work with patriotic Nigerians who want the country to remain united. The alternative to forging unity is perpetual wars across the territory.