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Beyond Buhari’s Inaugural Speech

By Ikeogu Oke
07 June 2015   |   1:54 am
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari may not have written his inaugural speech. And no one who appreciates the enormous responsibilities a leader in his position faces would quarrel with that.

INUGPRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari may not have written his inaugural speech. And no one who appreciates the enormous responsibilities a leader in his position faces would quarrel with that. It is generally acknowledged that leaders of nations hardly write their speeches.

Usually, they engage the services of speechwriters who are meant to know or predict their thought patterns and reflect those in the speeches they write on their behalf.

Such collaboration explains the occasional use of the first person pronoun in such speeches, resulting in such a gem of self-definition as “I belong to everybody; and I belong to nobody,” which we find in President Buhari’s inaugural speech.

This profound remark conveys Buhari’s confidence in his independence as well as his infinite capacity for identifying with others. It can be interpreted as his having declared: “I am a man of the people; but I am also my own man.”

And that component of his being his own man bears a message for whoever presumes to be his godfather, who may be expecting to turn him into a presidential lackey.

This is an admirable stand in our politics, in which the meddlesomeness of godfathers has repeatedly proven to be an impediment to good governance.

Need I cite the examples of their victimisation of Chris Ngige (as Governor of Anambra State) and Goodluck Jonathan (as President) to buttress this fact?

However, the Shakespearean quote (from Julius Caesar) is inapt because, through it, Shakespeare urges us to take full advantage of periods of good fortune such as the oil boom of the 1970s, as such a windfall can be temporary, and investing it judiciously can make the difference between economic stability or uncertainty in the future.

But the speech Buhari uses it to conclude dwells on the need to reverse conditions he sums up thus: “At home we face enormous challenges.

Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns.” Such is what Shakespeare would describe as “outrageous fortune” in Hamlet.

So if the speech had to end with a quote from Shakespeare, an apt choice would be this passage from Hamlet (arguably his most famous): “To be, or not to be, that is the question:/Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, /Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing end them.

” Or who cannot see Nigeria’s condition, as portrayed in the speech, as comparable to suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”?

Who cannot recognise Buhari’s task, and by extension Nigeria’s, even if he did not suggest that during his electioneering campaign and in the speech, as “to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing end them”? In effect, the Shakespearean quote in the speech reflects a contextual shortcoming.

By contrast, the quote from Hamlet would have served to complement Buhari’s attitude to the challenge he believes is facing him and our nation, summarised by his assurance that “Daunting as the task may be, it is by no means insurmountable.”

However, the goodwill that can truly redeem a nation from great tribulations and develop it must originate from its people. We once counted on such foreign goodwill, with one of our governments promoting the concept of “technology transfer” as a result.

Was technology transferred to us in the end? Yet some self-driven Asian nations have transformed into technological giants since then.

We must face the reality, beginning with our new President, that, in the intriguing world of international diplomacy, goodwill from foreign nations is one of the ways in which such nations seek to advance their interests even against nations to which it is expressed, and therefore seek internal solutions to our problems.

To develop, Nigeria must stop thinking like an entity with a rudimentary mind, unable to grasp how the world works. We should ask how we can make Nigerians more nation-loving, such that they do not, for instance, persist in vandalising our gas pipelines as an excuse for poverty and through such acts of sabotage deprive our nation of electricity, considering that poor citizens of other countries do not vandalise their country’s gas pipelines.

We should ask how we can make Nigerians more patriotic, so they can desist from looting and offshoring public fund. And so we do not have such situations where some foreign countries, with their “unprecedented goodwill,” may return some of such fund like the “Abacha loot” while continuing to receive similar funds from our other leaders.

Need I add that Mr. President’s promise not to validate some people’s fears that he “shall go after them” – regardless of whether he has credible corruption-related evidence to do so – contradicts his commitment to fight corruption? And that this contradiction is amplified by his having said repeatedly that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria? Or ask if it no longer bothers him that corruption could kill Nigeria after his electoral victory? His analysis of the origin of Boko Haram is correct.

And I have elsewhere condemned the summary execution of the sect’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf, as a reckless, unjust and provocative act to which its members reacted with excessive, misdirected violence, as though two wrongs can make a right.

Finally, I congratulate Mr. President for a good inaugural speech.  • Oke, a poet and public affairs analyst, wrote from Abuja.