TODAY’S topic comes from a discussion with an elder statesman who has seen it all, having headed positions at the top echelon of the public service, attending to men of power. He actually used the expression which, unknown to him, forms today’s title. Like King Solomon in the Ecclesiastes, he returned the verdict of vanity of all human endeavours under the sun. We were not ruminating in vacuum; our case study was Nigeria, particularly Muhammadu Buhari as a democratically elected President.

Even as a young man in my early years in the university when Major General Buhari overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari, I was able to deduce that nothing inspiring was credited to his 20-month rule, from December 31, 1983 to August 24,1985, when he too was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida and his boys and for which Buhari confessed he has since not found it in his heart to forgive him.

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There were no comets seen in the firmament of that era dominated by the bravado of “War Against Indiscipline” which required not much of intellectual endeavour but a euphemism for an indignant war against freedom of expression typified in draconian decrees for the detention of pressmen and forceful closures of media houses. Academics “who indulged in teaching what they were not employed to teach”, their students who were receptive of such ‘heretical teachings’ and reflected so in their actions and other members of the civil society who insisted that our country should only be governed in conformity with the ethos of civility were the targets of government.

Either out of sheer ignorance or overwhelmed by orchestrated propaganda meticulously put in place by the ‘Emilokan’ machinery for which the Capun (apology to Governor Akeredolu) now justifiably seeks payback from the siblings of the political family, majority of the Nigerian electorate raved and craved for Muhammad Buhari and ultimately invested him with the rare opportunity of superintending the lives and destiny of his countrymen and women once again.  

This time around, his reign is not subject to the fears of a precarious tenure, through coups, which defined the era of military dictatorship. He now has a predetermined period of a maximum eight years which gives room for articulated plans and painstaking execution of programmes and projects for the good of the people. Of course, we hold the strong view that no leader seeks power without meaning well for the people and Buhari is not an exception. He gave such hope in his inaugural speech, assuring Nigerians he would be for all. His cardinal programmes of security, anti-corruption and better economy were well received by the people who gave him the benefit of the doubt and all the support needed to succeed.  

A thoroughbred General of the Nigerian Army, his competent handling of the security situation was given and majority of the citizens swore that, with him, the days of these armed ragamuffins troubling the nation were numbered.  It was reasoned, rightly, that with life and property secured, the capacity of the citizens for enhanced economic activities would gain ascendancy and life more abundance ensued and assured. The much vaunted but unfounded sweet stories of Buhari’s past anti-corruption exploits was an instant ingredient of legitimacy.

What shall be written of him who was in the saddle between 2015 and 2023. The fabric of the Nigerian society is utterly crushed. In spite of the diversity of tribes and tongues, Nigeria was a beautiful country and a mystery in inter-ethnic relationship among the ordinary folks. Except in the dynamics of political permutations, the ordinary folks, though conscious of the tribe of his neighbours, did not relate with him in suspicion and fears. Until this era, it was a taboo to imagine that places of worship would be trespassed upon in the execution of the simplest form of criminal intentions. Same were the palaces of our traditional rulers. In Yorubaland, such places are christened ‘adimula’, the sanctuary of life where death of any source had no access.

 Now the myth is broken as revered men of God are kidnapped and killed with the sacred altars invaded and destroyed with reckless abandon. The noise of the simplest achievement in the railways pales into insignificance as insurgents make the use of it impossible. University students are permanently out of school, cultism, ritualism and cyber crimes are no longer secret but open business ventures; so also is prostitution among our daughters.

Buhari now counts his days even as it dawns on him and his country people that this son of man is nowhere close to the messiah he was touted to Nigerians as the Joseph who once ruled Egypt. Like we say in Yorubaland, the end of the egungun or umale festival is come and the alapansanpa or arubeji chief masquerade must nilly-willy return to the igbale or ogwa. The rain cometh and the rainbow erased from the firmament.  All leaders have their place on the theatre of power even if as powerful as Pharaoh or Nebuchadnezzar. What counts is the end to which power has been used.

In spite of all, Buhari will go down in history as having not only officially recognised Moshood Kasimawo Olawale Abiola, MKO, as the winner of the 1993 presidential election but has also jettisoned the day of his own inauguration (May 29th) in sacrifice for the historic date of Abiola’s election which he now, by Act of Parliament, recognised as the true Democracy Day.  How I wish he could demonstrate the same courage in restructuring Nigeria as a true Federal State in this twilight of his reign. The ugly past and even present of his tenure may indeed be a story told; his name in the future of Nigeria may yet be written in Gold. Nigeria! We hail thee.

Ebiseni is Secretary General, Afenifere.

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