The euphoria of 2015 general elections has waned, yet the promises that accompanied it are still veiled in those inscrutable expressions in which hope is not discernible! But the lessons – stark, agonizing and traumatizing – with all their bitterness, hideousness and complete disillusionment will help to shape the country positively or negatively!
Nigerians truly desired a change: change from economic downturn to greater opportunities; change from insecurity to a new haven; from deadlock in education to a nation open to new ideas and experiences; change from a nation steeped in corruption to one redeemed from it; from political darkness to the hope of a new era; and change from a president who found himself in office by default, clueless, and lacked the aura that accompanies great leaders to one whose image would serve as inspiration in contemporary Nigerian politics – a truly charismatic leader with presidential mien who has the eyes of the world upon him and still has the ascetic’s benign indifference to fame! Those were the true yearnings of Nigerians.
In the run-up to 2015 elections, former President Jonathan’s leadership style and ‘body language’ encouraged the growth of cynicism which fuelled demoralization and resentment in the direction of the country. Corruption was wide-spread. Unemployment was commonplace. Poverty was palpable. Insecurity was high. Economy was battered. Hope was deflated! The president had good intentions but did not know what to do. He was honest, very honest and was not skilled in political manoeuvre.
Today, nothing has changed, yet everything has changed. The change is everywhere. Nigerians’ growing distrust with the then ruling PDP and the general disenchantment with Mr. Jonathan’s ‘body language’ made the change possible. They wanted an alternative irrespective of its make-up. The change has come and it is final. Followership should either change or be left in the cold!
President Buhari’s change has continued to move the country progressively backward. His ‘body language’ depicts him as largely – nay, roundly – naive, lacking an idea and a vision – an idea of good leadership and a clearer vision of modern development! After three previous unsuccessful attempts to lead the country, Nigerians saw his resilience as having stemmed from his roots of unshakeable faith in Nigeria shaped by vision and patriotism. But the post-Jonathan experiences have shown that the opposite is the case.
Nigeria today is in a state of calamity or hara-kiri – to borrow a trope from Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon. One cannot but pity the president and sympathize with the citizenry for deferred hope which rots the country from within. The expectations of a stable and economically virile nation at the post-Jonathan era do not materialize. There were reassuring promises that a dollar would trade for a naira; that unemployment would be banished in the land; that oil prices would be stabilized, (though very risible); that there would be no sacred cow in the fight against corruption (but the Tinubus, the Amechis, the Atikus and Obasanjos, the El Rufais walk the streets as kings); that unemployed youths would receive a monthly allowance of five thousand naira; that school children would be fed; that agriculture would take its prime place as the mainstay of the national economy and other mouth-filling promises of change. There were no pointers to doubt the promises especially when the likes of Tam David-West, a professor and revered ex-petroleum minister assured Nigerians that with Buhari at the helm, petrol would sell at forty naira. Buhari’s image as ex-petroleum minister, ex-head of state and ex-chairman of PTF was laundered as the magic wand that would dissolve the nation’s economic logjam. But nobody was there to remind the dull-witted enthusiasts that Obasanjo’s second coming (with prison experience) made no difference!
The Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, just said that the passage of 2016 budget would lift many Nigerians from poverty. No one still doubts his mastery of equivocation. The Squealer of Animal Farm is far more skilled in political propaganda than the FFKs. But it all reminds one of the safe prophecies of Prophet Jeroboam in Soyinka’s The Trial of Brother Jero. Again, when the minister said that the president is working hard to make Nigeria better, the image of Kongi in Kongi’s Harvest comes to mind. Kongi would pose differently for photo-journalists to depict him in sober, pensive mood with such captions as would make him appear committed to his task of leadership. But the grand design is to deceive the people.
Where the nation is today under Buhari’s watch is better imagined than felt. The opposite is true of all the promises and expectations! What has the president achieved to his credit? War against terrorism? And corruption? Globetrotting? This is menu for another day. But the discharge of the corruption case against ex-governor Timipreye Sylva few days after Buhari was sworn in, the poor conduct of Rivers State legislative re-run election, the fraudulent CBN recruitment exercise which the president is a beneficiary, the unlawful arrest and incarceration of Ekiti State law-makers, the politics with Saraki’s trial, the continued detention of Nnamdi Kalu, the silence if not connivance in the Kano market fire disaster, the failure to try Ibrahim Larmorde for trillions of naira fraud are against the cornerstone of civilized affairs and are ruinous to our democracy.
In The Leadership we Want which Nwafor Orizu bequeaths the country, I shall highlight three of the ten qualities of leadership he prescribes. One, the leader must have the ability to represent the collective yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians. Two, he must be able to flaunt a catalogue of achievements based on patriotic motivation. And three, the leader must be spiritually shockproof which will enable him to resist the whirlwind of international diplomacy in the midst of crosscurrents of internal opposition.
Buhari lacks all of these attributes. In a diverse nation as Nigeria is in sectional composition, in cultural definition, in religion and in economic pursuit, he should do more to extract the strands of unity from the tangles of diversity. But he has let reason conflict with emotion. He has shown that his feeling for vengeance still runs deep. He has proved that the psyche of a man does not change! His language, his policy (if any), his government is bland and has no promising disposition!
But Buhari can still redeem his image, not by bringing about the longed-for change (anyone who still waits for it is waiting for godot and cannot be helped), but by bequeathing the country a leader who understands service and who will dazzle the polity with his brilliance!