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.