Buhari and messianic expectations
CHANGE: A word that has become synonymous with the new Buhari administration in Nigerian political parlance. We are getting to that stage where the expectations concerning the new government are almost messianic in nature.
Nigerians want so much change (and quickly too), that any excuse to the contrary may be seen as not only un-readiness on the part of the new government to plunge headlong into executing a mantra which had catapulted them into power but could also leave the average APC-voting citizen feeling conned.
The challenges are colossal and the time and resources needed to combat them are in short supply. In light of that disheartening fact, I hope and pray that Nigerians would maintain their trademark patience, be faithful and avoid premature disillusionment.
While Muhammadu Buhari is not a Messiah, the situation reminds one of ancient Jewish expectations. They longed and prayed for a Messiah but when he came, they did not recognize him because he wasn’t the messiah of their mold.
The Jews expected someone divinely instrumented to wage war with the colonial forces of occupation, someone who would dislodge the tyranny and re-establish the Davidic Kingdom. For centuries they prayed and hoped; then Jesus the Christ came, the incarnate Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, into the family of Joseph the carpenter.
Jesus the Christ born into very humble background even though of the Davidic lineage, didn’t really fit into the idealised mental image of a saviour. It deepened their disenchantment when Jesus, in spite of the ferocity of his message, his fearlessness and his personal authority, went about performing miracles that had no bearing at all to the political expectations.
He healed the sick, cured the leprous, cast out demons, cured the blind and raised the dead.
Then when he fed the five thousand, (something akin to what a politician would do) and they wanted to force him to become king, he made away from them. Even John the Baptist was forced to send emissaries to Jesus the Christ to ask if he were “the one” to come or they were to wait for another. At the end he was arrested on trumped up charges and sentenced to death on the cross.
Whilst it became a stumbling block for the Jews and a thing of folly to the more philosophical Greeks, the death of the Christ on the cross and his subsequent resurrection, became for all humanity a means of salvation. Although he was viewed from an enclavist, regionalist and temporal prism, he offered rather what was cosmic and eternal.
Recently I stumbled on a book by Francis Fukuyama, the political scientist, entitled, Political Order and Political Decay. Let me quote from a passage in the book : “Nigeria’s real institutional deficit lies in the first two categories: lack of strong modern and capable state and absence of rule of law that provides property rights, citizens security, and transparency in transactions.
These two deficits are related. Rather than having a modern state that can provide necessary public goods like roads, ports, schools, and public health on an impersonal basis, the Nigerian government’s main activities is predatory or…prebendal: it is engaged in extraction of rent and their distribution to other members of political elite.
This leads to the routine violation of the rule of law…” (Fukuyama, 2014). He argued that not only was the Nigerian State weak and without technical capacity, it had gross moral deficit which prevents it from clobbering a nation together. “Why is it that the Nigerian state and rule of law ended up being so extraordinarily weak?” Fukuyama wondered.
The book changed my perspective on my expectations concerning the new administration of Muhammadu Buhari, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The task before Buhari is not an infrastructural one, at least not physical infrastructure.
Thank God oil prices are down so there isn’t as much money as there used to be thereby leading to a drastic reduction in waste and blatant stealing of public funds. I believe that less than 50 per cent of accrued funds were actually ploughed into governance, so the drop in the price of oil levels off to the level of actual expenditure for governance, so there really is no deficit except in bloated figures in the normally cosmetic budget.
The only danger is that most state governors may steal most of what is left over and pitifully little would remain at all for governance. Otherwise, I would pray that the situation remain as it is until a culture of prudence and diligent service is firmly established.
We seem to forget often that there are other tiers of government, or at least another tier of government, since the state governors have refused to allow the local governments function practically as another tier even if it were not theoretically so; and so we have tended to focus more on the Presidency, leaving our governors to remain the most unhindered thieves in our history as a nation; expectedly we have focused on Muhammadu Buhari as if Nigeria is a unitary and not a Federal Government.
The task before Buhari is mostly an ethical one. Ethics is usually based on morality, and thank God Nigeria is possessed of two predominant religious traditions that subscribe to a similar moral code; even our African traditional religion never encourages anyone to murder, steal or take over one’s wife and property or dishonour one’s parents.
There is such a big gap between our moral principles and our current values; over the decades, we have totally corrupted the sense of the common good among our people; we have bastardised nationhood and the sacrifice of service and presented Nigeria to present and future generations as worse than a state of nature where survival is not even about the fittest but for the most corrupt; and where hard work and talent are not necessarily the path to wealth but access to the public till. How can the ordinary citizen regain trust in government?
How does s/he get convinced that government could make an objective needs assessment and site projects or programmes based on such objective criteria and not because it is the paternal or maternal home of the governor or his close associates?
How do we come to the sense that a public servant who steals Nigeria’s money at the headquarters should not be celebrated back home?
How do we regain the sense that our politics should be with principles and that Nigeria’s money is common wealth?
How do we trust that our children could go to our public universities and graduate successfully without having to bribe their way?
How do we trust that the policeman would not twist our case just because of a higher bidder?
How do we give confidence to our law enforcement agencies such that they are bigger than the individuals who are presently ‘bigger’ than the institutions and therefore seemingly above the law?
How do we ensure consistency such that court judgments are not rubber stamps of powerful individuals? How do we make the average Nigerian willing to die to save the nation rather than preferring a whole nation to perish while s/he flourishes? These for me are agenda for Buhari.
Anyone can build a road or a dam. But not everyone can change a culture. I hear Buhari returned from the UK on Economy.
That action alone can build a bridge over a river; because if the head could so do, why would his subordinates do otherwise? And so millions of naira would be saved.
I recently saw government officials flying first class on my way from London and I asked myself, why would anyone fly first class on public funds? I take it for granted that he would put his ministers in check.
Irrespective of what the constitution says, the President has some leverage with governors.
Buhari must really rescue the ordinary Nigerian from these emperors called governors who are mostly a gang of thieves and plunderers.
He should begin with those of his party and not exclude others. A regular chat with them based on security reports can go a long way in putting them on track. Immunity does not preclude investigation; Fawehinmi had obtained a judgment from the Supreme Court that a public official with immunity could be investigated though not prosecuted.
Let Vice President Osinbanjo build the roads, the bridges and the dams. Let Buhari rebuild our bastardized psyche and culture thereby causing a restoration of the pride of the Black man which this nation has been so proficient in damaging worldwide. • Fr. Evaristus Bassey is a Catholic Priest.