Now that Buhari is back!
For hours on end, the country had a carnival atmosphere and Nigerians momentarily forgot the undeserved pain induced by the recklessness of the Goodluck Jonathan administration. President Muhammadu Buhari was returning from a medical vacation and Nigerians, resilient as ever, trooped out in their millions in a show of solidarity with the Buhari/Osinbajo administration. Never had Nigeria stood still for one individual!
From all indications, it will take a long time to get another Nigerian leader to match the President Buhari’s public ratings. Three facts stand out from the outpouring of love for president. One, it is a reaffirmation of the trust Nigerians have in the president which suggests that, if need be, they will defend the mandate they freely gave the president in 2015. Two, the outpouring of love places a burden on the president; a reminder of the high expectation of Nigerians! Three, if this was dress rehearsal ahead of 2019, it sends a clear message to pretenders to the presidency to stay clear!
Now that the president is back, it is proper to remind ourselves that he is on a salvage mission, the second time in a little over three decades. As it was the other time, Buhari has the onerous task of leading a team to get Nigeria to walk and work again. It is a rare opportunity that could be likened to a race of a lifetime. Only race horses, not the cart breed, are best suited for this kind of race! It is a race for which Nigerians made a valid choice by staking on the right race horse.
The return of the president calls for more vigilance. Good to know that even the most vociferous Saraki-clappers now agree that the Senate president’s scowl at Buhari, right inside a mosque, was a complete giveaway. Of course, tongues have not ceased to wag since the picture of a Bukola Saraki, with a barely-concealed scornful look in the direction of Buhari, went viral. Senator Saraki did not wait for tongues to stop wagging before he made a botched bid for the presidency in the absence of President Buhari!
One of the enduring attributes of Nigerians is their short memory of hate. Honestly, Nigerians who voted for change and who thought Shangri-La would be here the day President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo entered Aso Rock Villa, unrealistic as the thought was, are right to score the administration low. But, it really does not matter now that an expectation of instantaneous transformation, after years of unquestioned looting of the country’s resources, was unrealistic. What does matter is that Nigeria has averted an imminent crash that would have occurred months back had there been no change of baton last year.
It is this legendary short memory of hate that will come to play when things begin to look up for the country. From the look of things, the day should not be too far off. Nigerians clamoured for change. Now, they have change. And, this is not just any change of guard! Here, we are talking of Buhari and Osinbajo. If truth be told, it is the incorruptibility, forthrightness and doggedness of the two top men that continue to inspire confidence in a country best known for throwing up incompetent and clueless leaders. Both men are an indication that there is still hope of salvation for a ‘captured’ people.
Nigerians who voted for the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket never knew the extent of damage done to the country by the Goodluck Jonathan administration and, therefore, had the misplaced opinion that the coming of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration will transform the economy overnight! It is best to remind ourselves that the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has started a revolution by plugging leakages, reducing stealing of public funds, putting treasury-hijackers and confiscating proceeds of corrupt enrichment.
The campaign for Nigerians to change their ways is a step in the right direction. Before now, few Nigerians believed it was possible to investigate retired and serving army generals and their equivalents in other services, judges and justices, privileged members of the political and business classes and have their ill-gotten wealth confiscated! Had the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket failed, nobody would have heard of the embezzled billions to fight insurgency and the billions stolen by top members of the past administration!
The challenge which, for fear of a possible backlash past administrations sidetracked, has been to genuinely diversify the economy. The process has finally commenced and the years of lip-service and outright dishonesty on diversifying the economy has ended as the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has literally taken the bull by the horn. Attention is gradually shifting from oil, the nation’s nemesis, to soil. It has finally taken the Buhari/Osinbajo administration for Nigerians to realise that oil can and, should no longer be used to hold compatriots to ransom.
The transition is going to be painful! No reasonable Nigerian thought the transition is going to be painless, anyway. Much of the credit should go to Buhari who, without doubt, is the leading light of the administration. Say what you wish about him but even his worst enemies concede that Buhari is not a thief, does not condone stealing and will not glorify and celebrate criminals! With an able deputy to complement efforts of the president, Nigerians could never have wished for a better leadership!While the sun shines, the worst damage bellyachers do to themselves is to badmouth a well-intentioned administration!
• Magaji resides in Abuja.
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