•Buhari deserves the applause, but…

By Jide Ajani





 Whereas President Muhammadu Buhari has successfully removed the monkey on the back of many administrations since the June 12, 1993 presidential election and has  corrected an injustice that has lasted for 25years, there are, however, some who see in the redemptive move a Greek gift. But because even if a good deed is done with the worst of intentions, it remains a good deed, the President deserves an applause. However, coming at a time when some observers insist the goodwill of President Buhari appears to be suffering a discount, that he has chosen to endeavour to toe the  path of inclusiveness may be the beginning of a  change of narrative. Yet, the President would need to be genuinely committed to doing what is right, if his legacy of change would not turn out to be a fool’s errand. This report examines Buhari’s latest body language and the ends to be served. 

Late Chief Moshood Abiola and President Muhammadu Buhari

The only way to do what is good, is to do what is good. Simple!

That, perhaps, captures the essence of what President Muhammadu Buhari did, last week, when he announced the redemption of what had always been a sore issue in Nigeria’s political firmament.

For a people with a knack for rendering otherwise simple, patriotic and altruistic engagements discombobulate, it is not surprising that President Buhari’s decision to honour the memory of the late Bashorun Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola has attracted different shades of opinions, both positive and negative.

Because today has become yesterday’s tomorrow, good sense should compel every leader to sow good seeds today, in the strong belief that when today becomes yesterday, people can look back and appreciate good deeds.   It would, therefore, be safe to say that most Nigerian politicians appear to lack that good sense; so, good deeds in politics in this Fourth Republic have been far and between – even in this Muhammadu Buhari administration.

However, after all said and done, credit must, of necessity, go to Mr. President for doing what others before  him refused to do. He acknowledged the importance of that day, June 12, a day Nigerians conducted themselves decently by holding an election considered freest, fairest and most credible in the nation’s history. He then acknowledged the acclaimed winner of that election, MKO Abiola, gifting him a deserving but posthumous award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR. Buhari said June 12 was more important than May 29, inauguration day, and October 1, independence day. Whether the proclamation of the primacy of June 12 over October 1 was the outcome an effusion of overzealousness, one may never know.

What is known is that without October 1, there would never have been any June 12.   He then said the date would become the new Democracy Day in Nigeria.

Beyond the hoopla of the Public Holiday Act – which has been laid to rest as the Federal Government of Nigeria has said there would be no public holiday on June 12 – there are some symbolism that should not be lost on observers.

Firstly, was it good that Buhari honoured Abiola? Of course it is good.

Therefore, those arguing that the honour was political and in bad faith fail to understand that a good act, even if done for a bad reason remains a good act.

Oh Obasanjo!

Perhaps, for those imputing motives, they would need to seek and ask former President Olusegun Obasanjo why, for eight years as president, he refused to honour Abiola.

In his defence, mischief makers would simply have insinuated such an act coming from Obasanjo into the realm of tribal politics for, it would be deemed to be an  Egba man honouring a fellow  Egba man.   But even that would have been  strange because many know and still know that  there was never a love lost between both men.   Had Obasanjo acknowledged Abiola on May 29, 1999, when he benefitted from the struggle and death of Abiola in pursuit of democracy for  Nigeria, such an insinuation would  never have held water.    Obasanjo would have been hailed as a good man.

But Obasanjo, never known to fully support causes where his ego would not be massaged, did not feel comfortable doing the good act.

Therefore, placed within the context of his recent tiff with President Buhari over poor performance in office and the  resources  poured into the power sector without meaningful outcomes, it is very easy to see where Buhari is going with this award for Abiola.

But Obasanjo, never one to back down, on Friday, sought to pour cold water on the gesture when he dropped his  bombshell that he feared for his life because information reaching him pointed to a calculated plot to deal with him.   He accused Buhari’s government of being the mastermind, to which the latter has refused to join issues.

The Agenda

Indeed, it is just dawning on President Buhari (or, more appropriately, his handlers) that he could not  continue to run Nigeria as was being done – the manifest tardiness in government affairs as well as the obvious and painful lack of inclusiveness.

On inauguration day in 2015, his statement that  “I am for everyone and I belong to no one” carried a lot of weight.   However, Buhari himself, consciously or sub-consciously, had serially thwarted this intention.

Creating cultivated chaos, the Buhari administration, at some point, carried on as though it came to power on the steam of just a section of the country.

Almost all entreaties to do the right thing fell on deaf ears, as appointments after appointments kept validating a perception that was at once disturbing and unhelpful.

Yes, Muhammadu Buhari inherited quite a mess.  What compounded Buhari’s problem were the number of things he could not change.  As at the time he was being sworn-in, all he had were 1,461days to run his first term – one of the four years was a leap year. He could not have changed that. But there were many more things he could have changed.

One of such that would have presented Buhari as being mean, but which could have demonstrated to Nigerians that he meant business, was to have disinfected himself from some political contaminants.   That way, he would have signposted the seriousness of his commitment to fighting corruption.

The President could also have taken decisions and stick to them in so far as he was convinced that such decisions would guarantee the utmost good for the largest number of people without going outside the law to do those things.   That was why he was elected anyway.

Unfortunately, Mr. President allowed so many things to go wrong.   Conversely, Obasanjo, who carried himself as though it was his birthright to be avuncular to all administrations, suddenly realised that things were not going well and, as usual, picked his pen and wrote a stinker against the Buhari administration.

That has since opened a flank of contestation between the two Army Generals.   Obasanjo followed up with a call on Nigerians to rise and coalesce pursuant to flushing Buhari out next year.

But Buhari’s handlers have since woken up to the reality that so much goodwill had been lost, elections are less than eight months away and the South-West was slipping away – as is the Middle-Belt.

Therefore, to re-engage the people of the South West, one of the most important issues very dear to them was the hanging issue of the June 12 presidential election and the place of Abiola in Nigeria’s history.   There are views in some quarters that the process of redemption may not be tidy, butwhat should be recognised is that a first step has been taken.  And Buhari can do better by ordering the release of the result of that election, and then cause INEC to pronounce Abiola winner and, thereafter, be addressed as former President and Commander-in-Chief, even without prejudice to the fact that he was never sworn-in.

Whereas it is very meet and proper that Buhari has honoured Abiola, the more strategic value of this can be located in the very obvious amputation of Obasanjo’s ego on the one hand, and the viral infection of his much touted consensus movement on the other.

Just before the June 12 redemption, Buhari signed into law the ‘NOT TOO YOUNG TO RUN Bill’, garnering, in the process, valuable traction from youths.

And just on Friday, he signed some four important bills into law, easing the assignment of the judiciary and the legislature at the state level, as well as the determination of pre-election litigation so as to avoid interference after the fact. Also, the appointment of Folasodun Shonubi, as Deputy Governor of CBN, pending Senate confirmation, would also serve as another act in inclusiveness.  These are noble moves that should be commended.

The narrative is already changing on the face of it as the daily surfeit of negative, horrific news is beginning to take a back seat for the first time in a long while. It is hoped that this would be sustained, while the very sensitive and murderous rampage of killer herdsmen in some parts of the country would be worked on.

Sources inside Aso Rock Presidential Villa confided in Sunday Vanguard that in the coming weeks, an olive branch would be extended to some other geo-political zones of the country with a view to demonstrating more inclusiveness.

What, perhaps, some of the critics of this move fail to realise is that no other Nigerian leader could have honoured Abiola in this manner and enjoyed the type of near-universal acceptance that has greeted it. Which is why President Buhari must begin to do better good. He is on record as promising to ensure that his second term would generate more traction for inclusive governance.

It is hoped that those who have crowded Aso Rock Presidential Villa will allow Buhari to be himself and deliver on his promise of good governance.

The Kingibe conundrum

Well, there are a few dissenting voices who feel strongly that the inclusion of Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, Abiola’s running-mate, for national honour leaves a sore taste in the mouth. The argument in some quarters is that whereas Abiola was arrested, kept in detention where he died, Kingibe was a minister in the regime of Sani Abacha, Abiola’s jailer; and that whereas some political leaders went into hiding and exile in their bid to mobilise and actualise the validation of the result of that election, Kingibe was serving in Abacha government. This is the view coming from some fanatical supporters of Abiola.

Yet, with the position of   some in the Senate that the result of the election should be declared and Abiola and Kingibe pronounced as beneficiaries of their mandate, would there not be a constitutional burden to be discharged because Kingibe would be deemed not to have exercised his mandate as running mate, in the face of the death of his principal?

Again, for those calling on Buhari to pay all the salaries and entitlements to Abiola and Kingibe, would such a payment not make it compulsory for Kingibe to pay back the salaries received as a minister during the Abacha years?

In any case, Kingibe is seen as a strong member of the present administration and is believed to have played a role, along with a few strong voices like the Ogun State governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, in pulling this through.   In fact, Amosun has been a very strong advocate of honouring the memory of Abiola on a grand national scale. Amosun’s dream appears to have come through.

What Buhari must do

Therefore, we offer Buhari a strategy of hope, as contained in a Washington Post Bestseller,  POWER PLAY (Win or lose – how history’s great political leaders play the game), written by Dick Morris, Fox News Channel Political Analyst.

The book is a compelling read for President Buhari not because he must do as it says, but because he can learn to avoid the slipshod which ruined not a few men of power.

Examining 20 leaders as “early as Abraham Lincoln and as recent as Junichiro Koizumi, George Bush and Tony Blair”, Morris examines “how Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Winston Churchill succeeded and Lyndon Johnson failed in mobilizing their nations at a time of crisis”.

Noting that “politics as the pursuit of power and history is the story of that pursuit”, Morris explains that “there is nothing new in politics; there are only ingenious reinventions of the wheel”.

Therefore, Buhari would need a heavy dose of introspection in dealing with the multi-faceted challenges on the way to enthroning a regime of real change. This is so because, in the final analysis, there is a world of difference between a desire to accomplish and the capacity to deliver.

Buhari  has demonstrated, in recent days, that he can deliver. But will he, in the face of some entrenched interests, that perpetuate what Pa Awolowo referred to as  “dialetic processes which have been at work for some twenty years now?”

Again, the only way to do what is good, is to do what is good.

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