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Opinion: The Buhari We Know

I know of only two instances when most Ni­gerians have been proud of their government. The first was around July 1984 when the exiled Umaru Dikko was kidnapped and bundled into a van to be smuggled out as “diplo­matic baggage”.

That botched-kidnap, among other incidents, has been used in election­eering campaigns by the ruling PDP with claims including that Muham­madu Buhari plans to con­struct more jails and force Nigerians into exile.

Young people, born into a world of liberal de­mocracy, human rights, American uni-polarity and the Internet, who are unschooled in the knowl­edge produced by Moscow and Havana publishers, or the fist pumping rhetoric of anti-racism, anti-colo­nialism and anti-imperi­alism, may view the inci­dent with contempt; but for many old enough and aware of the context, the Buhari-Idiagbon govern­ment acted heroically.

The government re­sponded in kind to ev­erything the imperialists threw at Nigeria, sanc­tion for sanction, ambas­sador for ambassador and many Nigerians proudly acquiesced. Buhari at the time led a military government, which had overthrown a democratic government very similar in its greed, rudderless­ness, and visionlessness, and for its corruption and impunity, to the current government.

The second instance was a few hours ago when Nigerians across the world jubilated at the victory of the ACP over Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP. Nigerians jubilated in the hope of a restoration of values, and of a better to­morrow.

This hope is not sim­ply because the economy will improve overnight, or that Boko Haram will disappear, or even that our overspent fragile trea­sury will immediately rebound. Unemployment will not disappear quick­ly, and neither will the National Question, upon which tribal jingoists and their militias have fed fat, be resolved. The hope is drawn from a reasonable measure of confidence, that Nigerians know Mu­hammadu Buhari, and they can trust that the “change” he promised will be a sharp contrast to the incumbent.

Buhari’s victory was not on account of the so­phistication of his politi­cal philosophy, the clarity of his manifesto or any coherent programme to solve Nigeria’s many problems. Indeed, if ever there was a political cam­paign lacking a coherent political manifesto, this was it. We can only at this point guess what broad policy direction the new government will pursue, whether it will unroll the inordinate influence of the IMF, whether public companies shared to po­litical cronies as privati­zation will be revisited, or whether free education is doable. Yet Nigerians could look past manifesto or the lack thereof to the single vision of Buhari’s simplicity, discipline, in­tegrity, doggedness, and the most endearing of his attributes, that he loves his country – here is one proud Nigerian.

The form of Buhari’s patriotism is as unprec­edented as it is unparal­leled, and no other Nige­rian in history comes any close. It is such that he does not have to say it, but his patriotism radiates through his quietness and simplicity. Until this elec­tion when it became neces­sary to establish his differ­ence from the ruling party, never had the former Gen­eral openly criticized any previous government or been known to push any sub-national agenda. It is a curious type of patrio­tism, in much distance from the self-serving polit­ical rhetoric of garrulous, so-called detribalized Ni­gerians. It is love in a non-self seeking way, which many might see as a lack of an intellectual capacity to articulate the various ways in which Nigeria is unlovable. Such simplic­ity might excite many es­pecially when contrasted with the incumbent; it is cause for worry for more thoughtful minds who know that a constitution­al, economic and political restructuring of the coun­try is necessary and may­be urgent if the Nigeria will begin to achieve her full potential.

The Buhari we know will not convene a nation­al conference or propose any revolutionary consti­tutional process to change the current stasis. He will not evolve or promote any new revolutionary idea to engage with discourses of racism, imperialism, international terrorism etc., among other isms, which continue to consign our part of the world to the global margins. Yet, we can anticipate what we will get from an adminis­trator-par excellence: no drama. Nigerians can look forward to a much more simple but forthright bud­getary process, at variance with the current system, which is complex because it is overladen with many vested corrupt influenc­es. A budgetary process that does not draw all the energies of the state as government officials, par­liamentarians and civil servants jostle over cuts, but one that goes on to en­sure how budgeted funds are put to use. Nigerians can expect a judiciary conscious of governmen­tal oversight and capable of simply sending crimi­nals and corrupt persons to jail. They expect that the conscientiousness of the President will radi­ate to civil servants do­ing their jobs, simply and effectively; that rescued from prebendalism, pub­lic services will simply work; they hope for some moral order in public life in which despicable char­acters will stop flaunting ill-gotten wealth and posi­tions claiming to be above the law.

Sadly, patience is not an attribute of suffering masses, and rightly so it should not be. GMB con­sciously inherits a liabil­ity government, to resolve problems that simple so­lutions may not solve. It is to this challenge, and with an awareness that the Buhari we know is not capable of grand ideas, that knowledgeable and well meaning Nigerians should offer grand ideas for social mobilization to­wards innovation and pro­ductivity. Congratulations Nigeria.

Dr Oduntan lives in Towson, MD. Maryland, U.S.A.


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