June 3, 2023

As the baton changes…

As the baton changes…

Buhari meeing with Tinubu at Aso-Villa

By Muyiwa Adetiba

On Inauguration Day, the rains came early, preceded by gutsy winds in many parts of Lagos. The optimistic would call them showers of blessings. The pessimistic would however, read ominous signs to the early morning downpour.

According to folk lore, rains signify birth. They signify renewal. They signify cleansing. Many people would be hoping that these positive things took place on May 29. Yet, few people would want it to rain when they have important events because rains can also be disruptive. The fury and intensity of rains can cause untold damage to lives and properties.

Many people would therefore be hoping that the things we know as ‘shelter’ in our lives were not blown away due to the event on Monday. We can take solace in the fact that last Monday’s rains were not furious and intense, and should not therefore, be a prophetic foretaste of political and economic damage to livelihood that a bad regime change could cause.  

I had prepared myself to watch the event live on TV. I even took the trouble to find the expected time of broadcast. My reasons were simple. This regime change has been perhaps the most contentious the country has had. There were divisions up till the last minute. There were threats of violent protests. There threats of violent counter protests. Some protests were to be peaceful yet disruptive in nature. Legal disruptions went on unabated till the last working day.

Some people were desperate enough to want Buhari to hang on so he could conduct another election. Some opted for an Interim National Government. Even our prophets were seeing different visions of the head to be anointed President on May 29. Would the system which was boasting of a maturing democracy capitulate to any or all of these pressures? That was indeed the question. It was something I wanted to see. Another reason is the ticking of the clock.

An old friend and classmate sent a text to me on Sunday to the effect that our generation might not witness too many regime changes anymore due to age. That added another dimension! The sudden death of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi lent credence to this. I had met him a few times during our younger, freestyling years. I even went to his Alagbado site at the beginning of his venture into broadcasting. It was at a time people my generation were doing incredible things in the media and elsewhere and he personified it. May his soul rest in peace.

Yet I almost didn’t watch the event. I didn’t factor in the early morning rains which temporarily caused loss of signals. Such is the frailty of man that our best laid plans can easily be pushed aside by forces beyond us. When we think we are in control, God shows us otherwise. Tinubu was destined to be the 16th President of Nigeria. And it happened. It didn’t matter if it rained or not. It didn’t matter who watched or didn’t. As it turned out, there was no rain on Tinubu’s parade.

As far as I could tell, the sky was clear and the event was colourful enough. His acceptance speech was also good enough even if the delivery was not. We will have to get used to the fact that Tinubu is not an orator. He should not pretend to be one. But the direction of his administration on security and the economy was made clear. He is inheriting a lot of challenges; luckily, he doesn’t seem fazed by the fact. 

The lowering of one flag and the hoisting of another, signified a change of guard. At that precise moment, those who were watching the two men of the moment would have noticed an almost imperceptible change. It was like the wind went out of the sail of one and filled the sail of the other. From that moment, one started deferring ever so subtly, to the other. And the handshake that took place after that captured it. The baton had changed.

One would ‘be reducing’ while the other would ‘be increasing’ to quote John the Baptist. Tinubu had become the most powerful man in Nigeria whose simple body language could cause ripples in the polity. Buhari had become a yesterday’s man whose sphere of influence has shrank and will continue to shrink. The plane that took him out of Abuja would return empty. It would never again be at his beck and call. The mood inside the plane would be reflective and somber.

The conversation would not be about State matters. It is not easy to relinquish power. Those who do so willingly have my respect. Three Presidents have successively relinquished power and by so doing, deepened our democracy. Both Jonathan and Buhari had options but they chose the more dignifying one in spite of voices urging them to do otherwise. We should not take their actions for granted.

What do people miss about power? It is the authority to effect changes at the sleight of hand. It is the ability to alter the course of history with very little effort. For example, Tinubu saying fuel subsidy was gone has caused ripples across the country. That simple statement could cause the loss of millions of Naira and the loss of lives if not well managed. It could also change the course of Nigeria for the better. Only he could have done that in Nigeria at the moment. Another thing people miss is information. Powerful people are always in the loop of things. Not only about their country but other countries. As strange as it sounds, another thing people miss is work. Someone who has worked under pressure for years could find not having much to do depressing.

Time stretches on infinitely, especially since it would be spent mostly alone with thoughts and inner demons. And this leads me to what powerful people miss most. It is people; the way colleagues, allies, friends and even family members react to their loss of power can have a telling effect. However, nobody can adequately prepare one for the loss of the accoutrements of power. Even Buhari who had been in that position before would still suffer from withdrawal symptoms.

Former President Buhari will now have more than enough time to think of decisions taken and not taken. Of advisers who had misled him for selfish reasons. But it is too late to effect any change. The days of ‘I have instructed’ are gone. The time now is for his legacy to be summarized. Tinubu on the other hand should make hay while the sun shines. Only God knows how much time he has. But whatever time he has is already less a week. Time is fleeting. Power even more so. Only how you utilize both will endure.