SO, it has finally arrived – the day on which General Muhammadu Buhari will become the President of the Federal Republic for the second time.
The flags are out. Armed forces personnel and police officers have, for weeks, been diligently rehearsing for the swearing-in ceremony that will take place in Eagle Square. I have watched some of their marching-and-music practice sessions and my heart has soared with patriotic pride because they and their brass band and their handsome prancing horses look and sound so impressive.
I will be at the swearing-in ceremony; and, like millions of other Nigerians who campaigned and voted for APC – and will either be in Eagle Square or watching on TV – I will jubilantly cheer The General on and shed a few tears of joy.
But you know what?
I am riven with mixed feelings and will also shed a few tears of profound sadness when Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the first-ever Niger Deltan President of Nigeria, a man I once passionately supported like a sister, takes his final salute and departs the venue for his new life as a private citizen of sorts.
Jonathan’s diehard fans, especially those from our South-South region who have bombarded me with allegations of treachery since I switched my allegiance to Buhari, will no doubt say that any tears I shed for him will be crocodile tears.
But I know in my heart that my regrets about his downfall are utterly sincere… and that I genuinely liked Dr Jonathan as a person when I met him, desperately wanted him to shine like a star and only abandoned him when I morosely concluded, a couple of years ago, that he wasn’t likely to improve his performance or strictly control people – his wife, his Minister of Petroleum and his Minister of Interior, for example – who were ruining his reputation and driving a wedge between him and those who had elected him in 2011.
Why did Jonathan not bother to implement the United Nations Environmental Programme’s recommendations for my area, Ogoniland, which has been badly ravaged by oil-related pollution?
Meanwhile, I don’t understand why Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke decided to carry on like an Empress and totally alienated a whole heap of former fans within and outside our geopolitical zone.
I have known Diezani since childhood and she comes from an immensely respectable home; and I was so happy when she became a Minister because I was convinced that she would do her job stylishly as well as effectively.
Why on earth did she not care more and dynamically invigorate the liquefied natural gas plant in her backyard in Bayelsa – the one that is languishing in Brass? Why did she hold the natural liquefied gas plant in Bonny back?
As for Abba Moro, only God knows why Jonathan bestowed a national honour on him – instead of sacking him – when he presided over a botched Immigration Service recruitment exercise that led to several totally avoidable deaths.
I know from bitter experience that the most painful personal tragedies are those that we foolishly bring upon ourselves. And I’m sure that Jonathan knows, deep down, that he could have done A LOT better for this country and himself.
But we all – myself included – make mistakes and all possess weaknesses; and Jonathan isn’t entirely or solely responsible for every single problem that has dragged this nation down. Many of our most chronic headaches predated his tenure, so let me just wish him and his family the very best in future.
IT is time to put the past behind us and look forward rather than backwards. And I almost pity Buhari because of the Great Expectations that are being invested in him by an emotionally and financially battered population that is yearning for Change and will be disappointed if Change doesn’t happen instantly.
There are also frissons of excited anticipation rippling through the international community. Many foreigners who have interests in Nigeria are harbouring extremely high hopes; and some of those I’ve spoken to are over-optimistically expecting Buhari to make Nigeria MUCH more investor-friendly overnight.
Whenever I am in London, the taxi drivers who ferry me around are mostly expatriate Nigerians who miss Home badly but have stayed abroad, often for decades, because they feel that they cannot make a decent living here.
All of them are HUGELY thrilled about Buhari’s victory. And my favourite regular, a well-educated graduate driver called Tunde who frequently regales me with refreshingly intelligent analyses of the world at large, told me last month that he will sell his UK residence this summer, pack his bags and return to Lagos with his spouse and offspring because he is absolutely sure that The General will completely transform our society and economy within a matter of months.
I gently begged Tunde to give The General time in which to settle down and achieve results; and I advised him to postpone his relocation plans by a year.
Tunde gave me a crestfallen glance and said, in a depressed, subdued tone of voice, that he would take my advice while fervently praying that the renaissance he expected from our new Oga At The Top would not be delayed interminably.
I assured him that it wouldn’t be. And I’m keeping my fingers tightly crossed.
I’ve only met Buhari briefly, so I cannot claim to know him; but one of my senior cousins, Florence Obi, a US-trained engineer, knows him well.
Florence is one of the smartest and most honest individuals I’ve ever encountered. She has worked with and for Buhari for 13 years and has told me so many wonderful things about him.
I love the fact that he is unmaterialistic and lives very simply and only owns one or two modest houses. And I’m hugely impressed by his reputation for loathing corruption and thrilled that his wife, Hajiya Aisha, is not a noisy harridan.
Florence is a progressive feministic Southern Christian woman who has never spotted an iota of Islamic bigotry or off-putting male chauvinism in her Boss; and I totally share her view that he has what it takes to be a great head of state.