Are Nigerians Ready For Buhari?
UP into the wee eighties when I left the country, I gleaned no contradictions. I left Nigeria, an arrogant little Fella, convinced no one, no matter where on earth could be better than me stage for stage in whatever mattered. When I got to England to commence postgraduate training, I thought England should be grateful I came. I really did. When I was told it would help to do some preparatory courses (language cum technical) to increase my chances of passing the compulsory UK qualifying/licensing exams, to break into the UK medical council, I told my handlers I needed no such thing.
Bring the exam I said, I was ready without any such coaching. I was right. When I was told it would help to have driving lessons before going for British driving test, I told my handlers I needed no such lessons. Bring the driving test I said, I was ready. I was right. When half the time into my program, I told them I wanted to sit their fellowship exams, my handlers gave every reason why it seemed too premature to even think it. Bring the exam I told them, I needed no bigger preparations. I was right. If Nigeria told me I was ok and told me so over and over again, as I grew up, why should I want to believe anyone who wanted to doubt my readiness for tasks/challenge. Certainly not where ability or sheer stamina was concerned; barring foul play. That was the sheer magnitude of the Nigerian effect on me…. self-belief. It was, I’m sure, on my generation — the pre-independence generation. Self-assured, self-assertive, self-respecting generation of young men, full of pride and confidence bestowed by a nation, I and so many in that group were groomed to buy into it.
Any surprise not even the UK could hold me back wanting to return to the only paradise I’d known, no sooner I finished my UK program. When in the early nineties I did return home, I had the shock, the kind you get when reality disrobes fantasy, fact erodes fiction and countenance chases imagination. All the while, whilst I’d been away, I had remained inside a bubble, all my own conjuration, hoisted high by a blindening penury of information currency,
I had assumed immutability, that constancy of status that disallows a system to lose its essence. Or ignored “De-differentiation”, that biologic phenomenon in which an organism retrogresses from higher evolution into lower, ekeing a new existence further down the fortune chain. Unbeknownst to me, the Nigeria I knew had vaporized, heated way past its boiling point by entropic forces, the coalition of many misadventurists. Shambles had replaced order.
Universities, once our pride and force majeure had fallen on knees bent supplicantly not crown-wards but heading for the rump, struggling to breath inside its own cesspool. While I was rushing to come home, with the haste of a prince in hot pursuit of a princess, many, some of whom had been our mentors, were scuttling to get out, with the urgency of stampede from a plague.
University departments were hollowing out: the intellectual cadre disembarking from a boat wrong headed into turbulent waters.
The nation was self-decapitating, abandoned to the whimsicalities of a new set of oligarchs who knew not the difference between ruling and governance…the one requiring no more than brawn and decrees; the other, brain, vision and propulsive thinking. Brawn we got; one large dose yielding to larger. The rulers blamed the citizens with nearly as much gall as citizens did the rulers. In the predatorial contests of wits between the ruled and the rulers, one junta in power kicked out by another, the nation, that same nation I had etched in my teenage memory, began to hemorrhage, in time so pale it was tottering. Not for lack of resources, Nigeria’s cup was (and still is) brimming and running over, but it’s wanton misapplication. Too much money, like too much win had gotten each new junta and acolytes either drunk or stone drunk Oil, the black gold, gushing from under the nation’ s feet with nascent pitch was simultaneously pulling the rug. No one any longer wanted to think, or work or plan, just seek your share of the gold and find a place to hide it. Nigeria overnight became a nation of mindless gold diggers; some in uniform, guns on their hips; others, white collars only, pens in place of guns. Some of us, tooled as we had become for the Nigeria we knew before we went away suddenly came to realize how unkitted we now were for the new Nigeria we met on arrival, one we now neither knew, desired nor anticipated.
In one short generation, we had become one innocent peg unable to find any innocent hole. We peeled off again back into the diaspora. This time, the exodus less attended with arrogance or pomposity. Nigerians hate corruption?!!! Only partly true. May be even untrue. What is not untrue is Nigerians hate the kind of corruption that shuts them out of the loop. Give a Nigerian his own share of the loot, crusade morphs into puff.
The new president is also an old president. When he ruled decades ago, Buhari came, not only with a gun but also a proverbial needle, the eye so narrow, not only could crooks not get through even some saints had difficulty. Many Nigerians, crooks and saints alike quickly found the regime and it’s kind of needle too tight. They booed him out of office. Fast forward…. Jonathan, the spent president, on arrival, no guns, merely a needle eye so wide not only could saints romp through even crooks can. Nigerians again booed him out.
There is a dilemma. What kind of needle and what size of eye do Nigerians want of their government; The Buhari kind or the Jonathan’s?
One that seeks to eliminate all kinds of corruption by any means necessary as in the first Buhari regime, Or another, less averse to corruption but skilled at spreading its dividends, so sacred cows
are placated. The air is awash with optimism for the incoming Buhari administration. But are Nigerians really ready for the Buhari kind of needle, one in which the camel will find it easier to go through than the average gold digger on the prowl? I long to see the Nigeria of my childhood again, one that makes her children walk tall and walk honest spine, rodded in self- belief with a precocity that surpasses all understanding. But I’m afraid unless the needle is right, we may all remain stuck on the wrong side of the eye, the nation unable to right itself. No matter what, the question still begs answers; …which is the true Nigeria? The one I knew upstream, stoked by honest hard work and transparent reward system? Or this other one, foisted on us out of the blues, a ‘grab and go’ shambles, too much money, not enough sense, institutional opacities, pervasive, systemic and systematic. Nigerians will soon be put to the test again, a test that began on May 29, 2015. I can only pray for Buhari as I wait to see what kind of needle this time around he has in his tool kit.
• Basil Jide Fadipe wrote from West Indies.