The Buhari Nigeria needs (2)
PERHAPS, now is the right time for me to put my concern forward –now that the majestic spoils of electoral victory are being carved up by the President-elect and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and while the window of that all-important yearning to make the first impression and codify his administration is still open.
Let me pose it in the form of a question: When Buhari assumes office on May 29 as President, which Buhari will Nigerians be getting exactly?
Will Nigerians be getting the tough, no-nonsense Buhari they know and have recruited into the onerous job of salvaging and re-engineering their nation? Or, will they be saddled with a newly-minted, thoroughly- reconstituted Buhari, “the quintessential democrat” struggling to gain a foothold on an alien political terrain? Did Buhari undergo a metamorphosis of sorts during and since the elections that Nigerians ought to be paying attention to? I ask this question out of grave anxiety.
Honestly, I have been troubled by the kind of ruthless beating he took during the campaigns and how that pounding may have affected his personal confidence as both a leader and Nigeria’s designated change-maker moving forward.
Is it possible for any man to take such hammering during the bruising electioneering campaigns and come out the original man he was going in? Of all that potent venom emptied on his person during those campaigns, none concerns me more than the imputation that he is neither a democrat nor suitable for the times.
This particular challenge received validation from very significant quarters. Unlike other attacks that are easy shake-offs, this is the one stinker that may have staying power and transmute into a game changer.
In trying to ripen into the model democrat some have defied, even dared him to become as the prerequisite for their affirmation of his second-coming and, perhaps, support, Buhari could over-correct in the opposite direction and in so doing, become “watered-down” and totally irrelevant for the difficult assignment Nigerians have enlisted him for.
President Barack Obama of the United States may well have been correct when he insisted in his seminal speech to Ghana’s Parliament that Africa needs “strong institutions” and not “strong men”.
The reality is that, as America’s grand history itself attests, one can’t build strong institutions without strong men. Frankly, Nigeria’s dismal predicament today calls for both.
Thus, democrat or no democrat, a badly-diluted Buhari will not be good for Nigeria. It’s not what Nigerians want. It’s not what Nigerians voted for. It’s not what Nigeria needs.
Not now! Pundits who proclaim Buhari’s electoral victory as a mere artifact of protest votes against President Goodluck Jonathan are dead wrong. Indeed, the folly that any candidate fielded by the opposition would have beaten President Jonathan is equally misguided. Let’s be clear. Nigerians know Buhari – his antecedents and all.
They certainly sought change. They coveted the kind of change only a relatively unsoiled Buhari could engender and that is why they elected him. They had other alternatives. INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, reeled out their names on the occasion of his announcement of the results of the presidential election.
Thus, if he is attempting any makeover and transform into this dream democrat, Buhari must ensure that he doesn’t relapse into a toothless bulldog. If he must mutate into this archetypal democrat, he must make certain it doesn’t come at the expense of Nigerians, their high expectations of him in the next four years, and the sanctity of the sacred mandate they have bestowed on him.
In short, he must strike the proper balance between being a budding democrat and Nigeria’s change-maker extraordinaire. Being a democrat is all well and good.
However, if being a democrat means hiding under the mantle of separation of powers as members of the National Assembly (NASS) cart away the nation’s patrimony in the form of remuneration for themselves, or utter silence when our beleaguered Judiciary can’t conclude a single case of a “big-man thief” and put the looter away, Nigeria doesn’t need such an unserious President.
If being a democrat means deafening silence as chauvinistic state governors loot their states dry, abuse Nigerians under the guise of some unconstitutional indigene licence, and seek to perpetuate themselves in office when every indication is that they’re medically unfit to hold such office, Nigeria doesn’t need that kind of an immaterial President.
If being a democrat means eternal silence as unaccountable billions are funneled into private pockets every month in the name of security votes in a country where mass famishment persists, Nigeria doesn’t need someone with such a moral lacuna as President.
Things are bad enough in Nigeria today that much like his immediate predecessor, President Buhari will not have to do much to impress. To avoid a similar forced and humiliating evacuation of the presidency though, Buhari must, as they say in the U.S., get with the programme immediately – first, on what it means to be a President in a presidential system of government, and then, to Nigeria’s Presidency 101—the ultimate crash course. Here is the core of that curriculum.
Nigeria’s 2015 elections have come and gone. Of all the contestants who have been handed certificates of return by INEC, by virtue of their triumph in those elections, only one man and his deputy, Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osibanjo of the APC in the Presidency, were voted into office with the votes of Nigerians nationwide.
Every other contestant, even in the NASS, was voted for, and will serve, the interests of some sub-constituency or district. By design, the President and his deputy are the true custodians of the national conscience.
Thus, the President is not only the Commander-in-Chief, but also the Policy-Originator-in-Chief. So, Nigeria is Buhari’s canvass for the next four years to affix his imprint on.
The voters have even reassured him of their trust and lightened his burden remarkably by bestowing his APC party with working majorities in the NASS.
This majority means all he has to do is to massage his party’s loyalties and drive his programmes through the Assembly with abandon. Like his immediate predecessor, then there will be no excuses for non-performance this time around.
A miracle worker, he may not be, but there is quite a gap between miracle-making and being an absolute fiasco. Nigerians can discern the difference, and rightly, deserve something in-between. Some post-election graciousness (especially, given the incumbent’s widely applauded grace in conceding victory and doing so swiftly) designed to douse tension and provide a soft-landing for the losing side and its aggrieved supporters is proper.
Also, the typical post-election recalibration designed to aid formation of a new government is necessary. But Nigeria is not a parliamentary system requiring formation of a coalition government.
Ultimately, this much is clear: One assumes the awesome powers of the presidency by virtue of election into that revered office. But how much any President actually achieves depends largely on his or her rallying skills. When a President is a virtuous smooch, no one remembers separation of powers.
When he is a bothersome bully, he becomes a meddlesome dictator. The distinction between a bold President and a non-democratic tyrant remains blurry.
If you think the Jonathan Presidency came down with a bang, imagine the crashing of a colossus the magnitude of an over-hyped Buhari Presidency. Iwould liken it to the cataclysmic demise of humpty dumpty that not even the king’s immense assets could put together again. •Concluded. •Alozie contributed the article via firstname.lastname@example.org