Understanding MLB, Muhammadu Leko Buhari
Before arriving at something of a consensus after much hair-splitting, which was that only in negation of perspective and justice can this President be so soon assessed, one participant in the debate, an architect, had been so gung-ho in his belief in Buhari and his style. Not only is the so-called slow pace a style Nigerians will soon come to appreciate and celebrate, it is a cardinal part of a plan, according to him. “There is a plan!” our architect friend would shout as he thumped the table with the authority of a man who had the head-of-desk seat at the sessions where the plan was crafted.
This position, of course, can no longer be dismissed as either mere wishful thinking of Buhari apologists or an exercise in self-delusion. For even if there is any doubt in the man, there is no doubting the faith of majority of Nigerians in Buhari.
Which is why this President has a lot to lose should there be no plan or even a diligent execution of one.
Certainly, President Buhari carries very heavy burdens. The comatose economy, the insurgency threatening the corporate existence of Nigeria as well as general insecurity; an immediate past in which the country was practically bled to near-death by locusts and, now, a devious and manipulative political elite loathe to change. None of these, however, is as heavy as the faith of the people in him, a faith that is at the root of their impatience the President himself claims he understands.
As Nigerians grapple with the new era even with a direction only as clear as a fog, with most states in virtual bankruptcy and Boko Haram on the rebound, despair would seem the easiest recourse. But I am beginning to share the optimism that there is a plan if only to retain some sanity and because despair is no comfort. Besides, Buhari is work in progress.
From eternity, people in eminent domains are known to use their privileged position to advance themselves, even at the expense of the people whose votes put them in power.
But from Buhari, the promise was that position for its own sake or power for aggrandisement would not be at the heart of his administration. He must stay to this promise.
As time flies by, the President needs to be reminded that the fight for positions and power or offices will be more intense and become a needless distraction. He would therefore need to bring down the temperature so he can train his focus on things that matter by taking sides only with the people, with the best and with the rules and the law.
Dubbed “Baba go-slow” or accused of moving at snail’s speed after seven weeks would sound a bit unkind. But there is nothing exaggerated about the demand for greater action, faster pace and more re-assuring signals from substantive or substantial actions.
Clueless was a word that stuck on the immediate past President like a badge on account of his sometimes befuddled style. So far, Buhari’s style may appear to contradict or even undermine the change he promised but the luck is that nothing has provoked and probably never can compel nostalgia for the Goodluck Jonathan years. Indeed, it can be said that as far as patience of Nigerians is concerned the man is enjoying greater good luck than the man with that name.
Contrary to what the ousted Peoples Democratic Party would have us believe, elegies cannot be written yet about a seven-week-old presidency and Buhari’s actions so far certainly are no evidence of any potential entombment in inertia.
The seeming failure so far to show a clear direction on the economy even as the national currency slides perilously, foreign trips without a cogent foreign policy or domestic actions on a hunch may be worrisome. But as he has said, the journey to Nigeria’s current sorry pass has been long, a destination out of which the nation cannot simply snap but the way has to be meticulously plotted.
Buhari’s character, discipline and forthrightness are being enhanced in no small way by such symbolic gestures as reducing his salary by half and shunning ostentatious living. But he must let his words and deeds compel greater faith in his capacity for the job at hand.
When he speaks, his message must be clear. His performance should not have intimations of the same shoddiness for which Goodluck Jonathan was renowned and so mercilessly pilloried.
Over the Sallah holiday, I had the privilege of talking to two of the President’s very good friends, Isyaku Ibrahim, the businessman, and Professor Abdulkadir Dandatti, a former vice chancellor of Bayero University, Kano and former envoy to Libya who was in secondary school with Buhari.
And a little story told by Dandatti offers so much comfort as it illustrates how the seed of Buhari’s integrity, even rigidity was sown and his capacity for inspiring trust was evident early in life. In their secondary school, there was only one boy unto whom both junior and seniors could entrust their money or belonging: Muhammadu Leko Buhari or Leko Daura as he was fondly called. Even at age 12.
Dandatti owned a bicycle. Something happened and he had to go home to Katagum in present-day Bauchi State.
So it was that Dandatti handed the bicycle to Buhari for safe-keeping. When he returned weeks later, he found the bicycle chained with locks to a stand and its tyres deflated. What happened? Buhari, of course, had kept the keys so meticulously away so no one could access them.
He was not immediately available and the bicycle’s owner needed to do a few urgent rounds and play some catch-up. It was a frustrated Dandatti who couldn’t live down the spectacle of his inability to use his own bicycle when he needed it most. Leko! Leko! Leko! After screaming and shouting himself hoarse in search of Buhari, he got the standard Leko answer when he eventually found the boy who is now president, bicycle’s keys in hand: you asked me to keep your bicycle while you travelled, not to use it or give it to anybody to use.
I bought locks and grounded it so no one, including me, would be tempted to ride it as you instructed. If I needed to ride, I would have sought your permission to do so before you departed.
Leko Buhari may seem slow, but he is a man you can trust.
Whether it is a nickname or a real name, Leko, Fulani for a child born after a set of twins, as in Gambo in Hausa or Idowu in Yoruba, is Buhari’s middle name, a name that connoted trust when he was young. And Leko Daura to whom all his secondary school folks loved to entrust their belongings should be the same Leko in whose hands the destiny of Nigeria has now been entrusted.
Perhaps to remind him of how much trust has been and remains his unique selling point, the name by which he was so well known in the early days should return to prominence. For the romantic who loves acronyms, the President, Muhammadu Buhari is neither GMB nor PMB. A middle name, Leko, which resonates with trust, an attribute Nigerians voted for in him and by which history will judge him, should return.
Muhammadu Leko Buhari. MLB. Should that sound like America’s Major League Baseball, it is certainly more romantic than PMB, as if the President who declared he belonged to everybody and to nobody is actually someone’s private mail box.
In Muhammadu Leko Buhari, Nigerians have reposed a huge trust. If, indeed there is a plan and the style so far is a sign of meticulousness in execution, then he deserves the patience of the trusting. Even so, as he takes his time to keep the trust of the people, MLB will do well to remember and commit to heart, the weighty words of the African-American poet laureate, Maya Angelou, in that poem, On the pulse of morning, read at William Jefferson Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived
And if faced with courage, need not be lived again…
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
The horizon leans forward
Offering you space to place
New steps of change…
• Adesina is Editor -in – Chief of Guardian Newspapers.