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President Buhari and his enemies

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Going by what one reads in the newspapers and hears on radio and television, Buharimaniacs believe strongly that the President, Alhaji Muhammadu Buhari, can solve singlehandedly the problems confronting Nigeria at this time, whereas President Goodluck Jonathan and his subordinates are relentlessly excoriated for running the most incompetent and corrupt government the country has witnessed since independence.

Buhari

According to triumphalist Buharimaniacs, the new President would soon destroy Boko Haram, jail everyone convicted of corruption, reengineer the economy, reduce unemployment to the barest minimum ever, reform the electoral process, probe Jonathan’s administration, rejuvenate the dwindling manufacturing sector, ensure steady electricity and build world class infrastructure, and so on.

On the other hand, those of us that supported Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election effort are still being subjected to vicious obloquy and malicious accusations of taking bribes or seeking for political appointments. Let me make some points clear now. I wish I had been paid handsomely for supporting the former President.

Unlike pretentious Pharisees who commit atrocities behind closed doors but talk and behave holier-than-thou in public, I believe there is nothing wrong in being rewarded for declaring publicly an opinion one is genuinely convinced about, which is analogous to a model who truly enjoys lemonade and gets paid for advertising it. We can deceive others and ourselves some of the time; but we cannot successfully do so all the time.

Craving for political appointment has never crossed my mind, because the vocation of teaching philosophy at the University of Lagos gives me incomparably sublime job satisfaction. Considering certain facts known to me, I preferred Jonathan to Buhari in the last presidential election – and I still do, despite my criticisms of the former over the years. Therefore, if I were paid millions for that, it would have been a win-win situation for me since it means being paid for expressing my genuine preference in the election.

Certainly, no amount of money would have compelled me to support Jonathan if I were convinced he did not deserve to be re-elected, or Buhari because, as already stated, I really wanted his main rival to have a second term of office. Buharimaniacs are fond of hyperbolising the good qualities of President Buhari while unduly neglecting the disagreeable ones. In their jaundiced reckoning, the weaknesses of Buhari should either be ignored or explained away as inconsequential excesses of a military dictator committed to positive attitudinal change by Nigerians.

Anyone that expresses a contrary view or draws attention to his intellectual and temperamental deficiencies is jeered at as an “enemy” of Nigeria. Clearly, superlative descriptions of Buhari and his capability to rebuild Nigeria cannot withstand the harsh searchlight of ratiocinative scrutiny. For, granted that the President has cognate experience as a former military head of state, that experience is severely limited in duration and was garnered during a dictatorship powered by command-and-obey mentality, not by the slow laborious processes of democratic deliberation.

In addition, like every human being, the praiseworthy qualities of Buhari are alloyed by certain personal inadequacies that might jeopardise his ability to make the right decisions while in office. Of course, the President himself, the world in general and Nigeria in particular have changed dramatically since August 27, 1985, when Gen. Ibrahim Babangida unceremoniously overthrew his regime.

Thus, those uncritically parading Buhari’s experience from his dictatorial days as if it is an unblemished magic totem for national reconstruction have not learnt any useful lesson from the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo between 1999 and 2007. If previous experience in office were a guarantee of good performance in future, Obasanjo would have been an excellent President. But he was far from that: most of the important problems Jonathan wrestled with stemmed from Obasanjo’s Machiavellian style of leadership.

Consequently, although there are reasons for believing that Alhaji Buhari might have valuable insights pertaining to the challenges confronting a President because of his experience as former military ruler, experience can also lead to fixation on a particular way of handling issues which require a novel approach altogether. Accordingly, in these days of rampant self-indulgent glorification of President Buhari by a cross section of Nigerians, there are reasons for enlightened pessimism as well.

No matter how well intentioned the President might be, he must rely on others to help him actualise his vision for Nigeria. It follows that Buhari’s lofty but heavily accented pronouncements and triumphalist posturing by prominent leaders of All Progressives Congress (APC) cannot guarantee that the President will always make appropriate choices or put the right person in the right position always. In this connection, whatever might be our assessment of the Jonathan administration, it is unwise to place our expectations of the new government beyond reasonable limits.

It is idiotic to think, as many Buharimaniacs do, that anybody who criticises Buhari hates him or is his enemy. To begin with, President Buhari’s antecedents are not as squeaky clean as his ardent supporters proclaim. Secondly, the task before him is so challenging that the possibility of making mistakes increases exponentially if he listens only to praise singers.

Besides, sycophants are always motivated by selfish reasons, not by altruism. As a result, critics serve as gadflies to leaders by pointing out deficiencies that must be addressed to enhance performance. As long as criticism is based on sound reasoning and facts, it is extremely important that a leader should pay attention to views that conflict with those of his close friends and subordinates in order to have a realistic grasp of the true situation of things.

In my opinion, the greatest enemies of President Buhari are not his critics; rather, they are those praising him to high heavens, uttering sugary insipidities to gain favours from him. Also included are the shylocks who recommend revenge against groups that did not vote for him and narrow-minded Northerners gloating simply because the presidency has returned to their region.

It is very regrettable that some Buharimaniacs from the North are so fanatic, so fiercely irredentist about Buhari’s victory that they seem ready to kill anyone who questions the credibility of the presidential election or the suitability of Buhari to be President at this time. Such an attitude is atavistic and completely unacceptable in a proper democratic setting. Anyway, whether Buharimaniacs like it or not, people will continue to scrutinise and criticise the President and his government.

To me, it is more patriotic to criticise Buhari with good arguments than to eulogise him based on ethno-religious sentiments and exaggerated expectations. Now, I must commend the President for appointing Femi Adesina Special Adviser on Media and Publicity. Adesina is a Buharimaniac no doubt, but he is of the finest breed. He is a thoroughbred professional, humane, urbane, compassionate, but too religious and somewhat conservative for my liking.

The likes of Femi Adesina would add credit to Buhari’s administration by ensuring that government is responsive to the needs and aspirations of Nigerians. That said, we must resist being carried away by the highfalutin promises made by the President, because he has already failed to fulfil one of the simplest among them, namely, the pledge to declare his assets publicly.

Irrespective of the hot air from Buharimaniacs on this issue, Buhari’s failure to fulfil that promise puts a question mark on his reputation as a man of integrity. Being a logician, I know that from a contradictory proposition such as “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” anything follows! Concluded.

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