By Dele Sobowale
“The graveyards are full of indispensable men” – President (General) Charles De Gaulle, 1890-1970, VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ, p 102.
The late French leader shares some things in common with President Buhari. They were both soldiers before becoming Heads of State. The two led their countries twice; several years separated the first and second periods at the helm of their nations’ affairs.
There, the similarities end. De Gaulle resigned from office after the vast majority of his countrymen disagreed with his government and the direction his leadership was taking them. He left the words above on his way out of office when one of his closest advisers urged him not to voluntarily quit because “Mr. President, you are indispensable to France.” He left willingly and there was no serious political upheaval as a result. But, that was France in the late 1960s. I was very happy to include that statement in my book because, generally speaking, only the Almighty is indispensable.
“Truth shall make you free; but first it shall make you miserable” – VBQ p 253.
However, to every rule there are usually some exemptions. Under certain circumstances, one individual for a brief period could become indispensable. After spending hours sifting through information available in the Nigerian media and history, it has finally dawned on me that President Buhari is now the indispensable person we have from now until 2023. He should not resign as some of his sharpest critics have been suggesting. Despite my own frequent criticisms of Buhari, my instincts suggest that he is still our best option for solving several of the thorny problems on the national agenda. Nobody comes close – much as many of his adversaries would not want to admit that truth. I don’t like it either; but the truth must be spoken.
Having painfully reconciled myself to the truth, which will be discussed at length shortly, I have adopted one strategy – PRAYING. Each morning, during my devotions, after thanking the Creator for sparing my life to see the beginning of another day, I go straight to my request: “Almighty God, spare the life of President Buhari beyond May 29, 2023 for the sake of Nigeria. Furthermore, I pray that on no account will he voluntarily resign from office.”
“Whenever a man prays, he prays for a miracle. Every prayer reduces itself to this: ‘Great God, grant that twice two be not four’” – Ivan Turgenev, 1818-1883, Russian novelist, VBQ p 198.
In Nigeria, where the life expectancy still hovers around age 51, anybody praying that a man over 70 should not die in three years is really asking that two plus two should not be four. I never pray for my own life to be prolonged because at 76+, I am already on injury time. At any rate my own death will not result in any political and social upheaval which will adversely affect the lives of two hundred million fellow Nigerians. But, on Buhari’s life hangs a lot of things. Indeed, it can be asserted that no other Nigerian Head of State – civilian or military — was ever so indispensable as Buhari is right now to us.
For the records, people need to be reminded that our national leaders, since independence in 1960, were Balewa, Ironsi, Gowon, Mohammed, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari again. Balewa (1966), Ironsi (1967), Mohammed (1976), Abacha (1998) and Yar’Adua (2010) died in office. Obasanjo voluntarily stepped down in 1979 and Babangida “stepped aside” in 1993. Nobody lost sleep over the events. It was not the death of Balewa and Ironsi which led to the Nigerian Civil War 1967-1970. It was the genocide targeted against Igbo people in the North.
That is very clear from the records at Aburi. The two sides – Biafra and Nigeria (in alphabetical order please!) – were not quarrelling over the assassinations of Balewa and Ironsi. Ordinarily, that should lead somebody to ask: “Why is Buhari so different that he deserves prayers for long life?” I will explain. Perhaps when I am done even Buhari’s worst critics will understand why we must all pray for him.
THE NIGERIAN CONSTITUTION IS A DEADLY TRAP NOW
“The husband is the head of the household; and pedestrians have the right of way. Millions of husbands and pedestrians have put their rights to the test to their everlasting sorrow.”
“A group without a leader is a mob.”
The Nigerian constitution stipulates that when the President dies or is incapacitated, the Vice President takes over. It is a neat arrangement on paper until we were forced to put the assumption to the test when the late Yar’Adua suddenly disappeared in 2009. It took several weeks before his aides, including former editors, would disclose that he was in Saudi. Beyond that, there were no disclosures. He refused to hand over and the National Assembly, NASS, kept silent until the Saudis shipped him back to us, a vegetable, in a box. Even then, more weeks were wasted before the Doctrine of Necessity was promulgated to hand over to Jonathan. The framers of our constitution had failed to envisage a situation in which an incapacitated President might refuse to surrender power and leave his country in a constitutional limbo.
If Yar’Adua was behaving illegally, the NASS was worse.
The majority of the NASS members were PDP; the Vice President was PDP, the mandate belonged to PDP. Instead of moving quickly to enforce the constitution, they were afraid of the mob outside. The fear of what would happen if they followed the constitution paralysed them – until there was no room for escape. Later when Jonathan became the PDP candidate and won the election in 2011, the mob showed its face in many parts of the North in a bid to make the country ungovernable for him. Four years later, under-aged almajiris provided the margin for Buhari’s victory. There was no riot anywhere in the South. The same thing occurred in 2019. Peace followed elections each time Buhari won. And, that is the point right now.
THE ELITE VERSUS THE PRESIDENT AND THE MOB
“North, worst place to live, bandits operate freely – Sultan” – A national paper, November 27, 2020, p 2.
“Borno massacre: ACF, PDP, others attack Federal Govt; Presidency offers excuses” -A national paper, December 1, 2020, p 1.
The President can dismiss the PDP, the Afenifere and the Civil Society groups which have been criticising his government right from the start. But when the Sultan of Sokoto, the North-East Governors Forum, NGF, the North-Central Forum, NCF and the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, repeatedly voice harsh criticisms, it is a safe bet that most of the northern establishment is speaking with one voice like never before. Hitherto, every northern Head of State, including Buhari, could rely on these elements to at least assume a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” posture regarding his government. Early this year, individually and collectively they shifted to a “wait and see” attitude. But, now quite obviously, they are no longer waiting; because they have seen enough.
“Insecurity: Gunmen, kidnappers on the prowl” – VANGUARD, November 18, 2020, p 8.
And, just in case you don’t believe VANGUARD, here is what the Sultan said:
“People think North is safe, but that assumption is not true. In fact, it is the worst place to be in this country because bandits go around in the villages, households and markets with their AK47 and nobody is challenging them…These are the facts I know because I am at the centre of it.”
Let us pause a moment to make a comparison. The same Nigerian Army and police occupying the same space in the North with bandits openly displaying their AK47s without challenging them went out with “live and blank” ammunitions to dislodge unarmed youth at Lekki a few weeks ago. Our security forces certainly deserve medals for courage!!!
Back to the northern tragedies (because they are too many to recall), we now have the mass murder of rice farmers in Borno for which the FG gave three different reasons for Boko Haram’s success. The army accused the victims and relatives of sabotaging its efforts. A spokesperson for government said the farmers did not get military clearance before going to harvest what they planted. Yet another spokesperson announced that Nigeria was denied weapons to fight the insurgents.
Meanwhile in 2016 we were told that Boko Haram had been decimated by the army.
But now in 2020, the FG is complaining of lack of weapons to fight the insurgents. Where and how did they obtain the weapons used in 2016 to decimate BH?
The Chief of Army Staff, CoAS, on his part, had joined in assuring Nigerians that BH had been degraded. He never accused the people of sabotage. Now that Major General Enenche had said it, one only needs to ask one question: Are Fellow Nigerians supposed to believe that the army is really fighting to protect people it regards as saboteurs or letting them get slaughtered by BH?
“God give me the courage to change the things I can change; the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; and the wisdom to know the difference.”
To be continued