Charles Onunaiju argues that personal integrity and discipline in addition to broad mindedness and rigour are needed criteria for the next president
Even President Buhari’s most inveterate supporters know that he has no magic wand to wave off the accumulated problems that have besieged the country. But no one expected that under his oversubscribed leadership things could remain the same or even worse. His long-drawn campaign for the presidency and what appeared as the desperate conspiracy of the established political elites to make him perpetually unelectable, turned him into a mythical, messianic figure destined to help the long oppressed and over-duped masses from the reckless brigandage of the elite.
Peasants, artisans, workers, professionals and even left wing intellectuals especially those untainted by ethnic and religious bigotry saw in the clean resume of President Buhari’s service in the various branches of public life as a launch pad to re-take the country from the cesspool of debilitating corruption to which the shameless elites have plunged it. With no title, except one genuinely earned, and not traditional or honorary easily bought and sold across the country, Buhari came across as a harbinger for something genuinely new, during his long years of struggle for the presidency. With a fairly long political odyssey dotted with recriminating electoral losses, he evoked the images of such figures as America’s Abraham Lincoln, and even the Chinese reform patriarch, Deny Xiaoping who fell from power several times and was banished to remote village to pick fruits in order to be “re-educated” by peasants. He returned to power in 1978 to orchestrate the trajectories of China’s economic modernization that has culminated in the country’s awe-inspiring development.
Despite the elite’s perennial bluff of Buhari’s un-electability, the swath of Nigerian working people, including peasants, artisans and radical intelligential kept faith in his electoral prospects. At the time the traditional political elite and their surrogates were completely discredited, and their political cup full and running over, they made a quick dash to President Buhari who had enormous popular good will and was about the only bridge between the rotten discredited elites and the angry Nigerians. The hybrid political formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) was actually a mutual trade off in which Buhari brought his street credibility and acceptance, while the drowning political class invested their money to finance the expensive logistics of presidential campaign.
However, most observers and optimists in the Buhari’s traditional camp saw Buhari compromise with the discredited political class as a tactical maneuver only to achieve the strategic goal of attaining power on behalf of the people, after which he would compel the elite to commit suicide as a class and be re-born again as genuinely patriotic Nigerians, totally weaned off from primitive accumulation and wholly dedicated to building an inclusive healthy and wealthy nation in which no one is left behind. President Buhari’s strong forte of securing the country and making corruption unattractive were the central pillars of his candidacy and on which a new Nigeria was to spring forth. Even his supposedly then, strong nationalist credential was considered an effective antidote to the resurgence of ethnic and religious bigotry.
But, seven years into the saddle, the Buhari’s over-subscribed brand is on a free fall. The same elite that hounded him and not only caused him to shed tears but insidiously mocked him as “cry, cry Generals are his inner circle confidants. Workers, peasants, radical intelligentsia are the primary casualties of President Buhari’s rule. Contractors, rent collectors, speculators, front and middle men and women decked in suit, ties and Agbada, circle all over the places, pocketing humongous unearned profit, while the Nigerian people groan. Basic services like electricity, water supply are unavailable despite huge investments in the sectors.
The ordinary Nigerian’s have known the empty and deceitful demagoguery of democracy as only an alibi by which the elite perfected their “white” crimes, and did not stick their heads to elect President Buhari for the ritual of democracy demagoguery and chicanery.
But, today and unfortunately, Buhari offers in double dose the empty slogans of democracy. Around him and with him, in his presidency are some of his former long-term traducers, a banal clique of self-serving political profiteers dashing hopes and causing the Nigerian people to lose faith in their country.
The security challenges have multiplied while corruption has bounced back as the enabler and sole criteria for public office. The disgraced faction of the political elite domiciled in the so- called opposition party have found their voice and as if yesterday never existed, are desperately marketing themselves as messiahs in the waiting.
The question that critically begs for answer is why President Buhari’s seemingly personal integrity and honesty failed to translate to radical program of political change. President Buhari’s fatal flaw was in obviously believing that perceived personal honesty and loyalty of associates and even relatives, unrelated to political affiliations, orientations, worldview or political convictions or ideologies are of nominal or no consequence at all to regime character and performance. That fatal flaw of President Buhari has made his administration despite his personal discipline, an incoherent and acrimonious bunch with regular infighting. Because Buhari’s personal integrity did not translate into a political program, with organizational framework, it simply dissolves into rudimentary personal attributes and easily brushed aside by the assorted political journey men and women, who tapped from its previous popular appeal. Had president Buhari made serious effort to translate his personal attributes of integrity, honesty and discipline into a key and major political program, he would find from across the breath and length of this country, men and women in various branches of life, who would deliver adequately on the transformational agenda of such program. He would not need a clique of associates, friends and relatives, who are generally disposed to feathering their own political nest,
The lessons of President Buhari’s tenure will not be lost to discerning Nigerians.
Personal Integrity, honesty, even character and discipline will not be the only criteria to judge but critical political indices as political orientation and conviction, sagacity, broad mindedness, rigor and depth of thinking will be top notch in consideration for the next president of Nigeria.
Mr. Onunaiju writes from Abuja