President Buhari, not as black as painted
The fanfare and thumbs up that greeted President Buhari’s electoral victory in many parts of Nigeria in 2015 are fast asserting their diminuendo, as disillusioned Nigerians have woken up to a growing, new realization. Events unfolding in the country, which have elicited comments of diverse complexion from those monitoring these events, corroborate the above-mentioned claim. Plenty bitter and grotesque outpourings have come President Buhari’s way for one to begin to evaluate the situation and the views expressed by his aggrieved phalanx of critics.
At the hands of the press, the social media, Nigerians abroad and at home, President Buhari has been unfairly represented and made to appear like a very heartless, abominable person. The crimes listed against him are so overwhelming that of late, the President has been stripped of his more conventional title ‘President’ by his critics and he is now called a ‘dictator’ and addressed as ‘Major General’ by his critics. With the present kerfuffle from Sowore and the operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) (now on the AGF’s table), the straight-faced and taciturn president is ruffled, shaken out of his complacency.
The multiple ‘counts’ on which President Buhari has been ‘convicted’ by his critics are of interest to Nigeria and the outside world. Notable amongst the ‘counts’ are: his refusal to obey court orders; his refusal to return to Nigerians (especially the poor, unemployed) the assets retrieved by the EFCC; his lopsided appointment; his use of law enforcement agents to subdue opposition; his dictatorial tendency; his failure to revive the ailing economy; his failure to provide stable electricity; end insecurity and Boko Haram insurgency; kidnap; hunger; electoral rigging; unemployment; INEC’s incompetence; recurring workers’ strike; etc. These are of course, major responsibility of leaders who want to avoid criticism.
While the critics’ indignation is righteous, I am of the opinion that President Buhari is not as bad as people say he is. In dissecting the critics’ views, a number of facts readily come in handy. First, President Buhari, being a septuagenarian, exudes discipline, moral and calmness of mind. Second, he occupies the highest position, where attending to all matters is impossible. Consequently, he employs some hands and assigns them portfolios in order to reduce his burden. In some cases, he employs the wrong ones: some are insincere, some have sticky fingers, some are naturally kleptomaniac. They break oaths of office and take the law into their own hands. The president signed the new minimum wage into law but some of his employees (Governors, etc.) have refused to implement it. In an emergency, some of his workers feel they do not necessarily have to get orders from the President before they can act. Sowore-DSS clash cannot have been far from this.
As a Commander-in-Chief of Army Staff, President Buhari’s first duty is to defend Nigeria and prevent a breakdown of law and order. Just as he cannot issue a death warrant against Sowore, Nnamdi Kanu or El-Zakzaky and other innocent citizens so can he not order the operatives of the DSS to wrestle the publisher of Sahara Reporters (Mr. Omoyele Sowore) to the floor in a court room, as seen in Abuja.
No one will deny that what played out in Abuja is a clear manifestation of contempt of the court. This was coming from those employed to be the custodians of our law. Sowore and Nigerian patriots activated a process in August 2019 and it took him and Bakare to detention. Whereas his arrest was justified and necessary for there to be peace in Nigeria, the charges levelled against him are risible and borne out of inadequate understanding of the meaning of the word ‘revolution’. The definitions of ‘revolution’ in good dictionaries feature the word ‘violent, ‘radical’, ‘forcible’, etc. Participants in #RevolutionNow were neither armed with weapons nor did they invade Aso Rock, threatening to overthrow the president. The participants protested peacefully, demanding an end to the callousness, hunger, insincerity, contradictions and anomalies that characterize the APC-led government. They did not brandish any weapons; they brandished Marxist ideological wands, and no violence was recorded during the protest.
Logically, #RevolutionNow is not a revolt. It is a positive transformation, a change for the better: some kind of turnaround. The charges– treasonable felony, cyber-stalking, and money laundering– levelled against Sowore are nothing other than an afterthought and a slip of the tongue waiting to be corrected in the office of the AGF. The charges are meant to divert attention from, for example, what the funds being recovered by the EFCC are used for.
The level of boldness demonstrated by Nigerians who, especially the press, express their dissatisfaction with President Buhari administration is highly impressive. Admissibly, one finds solace in the fact that ‘hate speech‘ has not replaced ‘freedom of speech’ in the present administration. Unlike in Abacha regime, democracy still howls like a poltergeist somewhere in Aso Rock as critics get off scot-free with their criticism. But one wishes Nigerians would let fiery fire of anger burn less in their hearts believing that if their criticism will not pay off while President Buhari is still in power, it will definitely come to fruition tomorrow. While I dare not hate those angry with President Buhari, I advise they direct their criticism at the real criminals and leave the president alone to perform his official duty for the next three and a half years.
One should realize that President Buhari does not want Sowore, Nnamdi Kanu or El-Zakzaky dead but civil war in Nigeria dead. Were the trio still at large, one wonders what would have befallen Nigeria. As usual, the rich would have been evacuating their families from Nigeria while the poor remain victims of an ineluctable fate. More also, civil war authors would have been preparing to retell grisly new narratives on Nigerian Civil War.
President Buhari is on the right track. There is a whole lot of distractions. Despite the in-house conflict in the Villa, intra party fighting in APC, El-Zakzaky odyssey, IPOB quest, ASUU/IPPIS phenomenon, Atiku-APC legal tussle, Xenophobic attack, P&ID debt, and Sowore-DSS clash, President Buhari has regaled the world with his anti-corruption war. He has averted civil war and continued to bring cyber criminals to book. But civil war can erupt if Sowore is murdered in detention.
In conclusion, President Buhari has recorded big achievements though, he has not impressed us in many aspects. His agency is doing a fantastic job but the president needs to return to the masses the assets retrieved so far by the EFCC; he needs to reduce law makers’ monthly pay; he has to ban Governors and Ministers from retiring into the National Assembly; he needs to abolish the law that establishes Ministers and Governors’ pension scheme; he needs to correct the ills Sowore is struggling to correct; and more importantly, the President should lay considerable groundwork for the likes of Sowore, Ezekwesili, and those young charming Nigerians ambitious to set Nigeria free from bondage instead of paving the way for the same old rulers set to worsen the already pathetic situation of Nigeria.
Sola wrote from Department of English Studies, University of Port Harcourt.
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