By CLEM AGUIYI
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It’s only proper that I begin this postmortem on the Buhari interview by offering him my sincere congratulations on his 70th birthday and also to condole with him on the death of his daughter. May God grant him peace. I can’t tell if my article entitled ‘’2015: Why Buhari will not be president’’ prompted the General to bare it all in his rare but exclusive interview with Saturday Sun of December 22, 2012, but I must however, admit that this week column was inspired by the said interview, hence this attempt at postmortem.
More so, a fellow who claimed to have burnt his voters card because Buhari could not win the 2011 election called me to say that rather than write on ‘’Why Buhari will not be president’’ I should have written: ‘’How Buhari can be president.” Perhaps, this fellow and the Buhari 70th birthday interview added more impetus to my resolve to do this postmortem. In the said interview, Buhari spoke extensively on the N2.8billion missing oil money, 53 suitcases , the War Against Indiscipline, Decree 4, the killing of three drug barons etc.
I align completely with the General on the desirability of the WAI campaign and its lasting impact on Nigerians; many years since after the WAI campaign indiscipline and corruption remain our biggest problems. I also agree with the General that the so-called missing N2.8billion, which Fela Kuti sang about and the 53 suitcases are all stubborn rumours fuelled and sustained by mischief makers. I see no truth in them either . From independence, the Nigeria nation has had the misfortune of having too many ignorant people in power who had no qualms unleashing wicked corruption and plundering of its resources.
Political and military leaders were corrupt, crimes are seen by many as a legitimate avenue for advancement and people in search of solutions turn inwards to ethnic prejudice and religious bigotry. Buhari was an exception; he wasn’t among the brand of raiders who plundered and ruined the nations treasury. I therefore, have no doubt as to whether he was being truthful by his own account of the N2.8billion and 53 suitcases. But I was concerned that in the said interview he blew golden chances and opportunities to expand his political support base, win new converts and present himself as a civilised alternative to inept and incompetent leadership. Some aspect of the interview left me disappointed. the poor attempt to justify Decree ‘4’ fell flat on the face.
Decree 4 remained an ill-conceived law, which his regime could have done without. Journalists as whistle blowers report, inform and educate the public; it is not their responsibility to go to court to prove corruption allegations and cases against public servants. Decree 4 was not just a draconian law targeting media practitioners, it was an anachronistic and unjust law, which ought not to have been formulated. Buhari’s handlers did not do a good job in preparing him for the big future. Nigerians are openly sick and tired of arrogant leaders that sees nothing wrong in their past misdeeds even when such mistakes are obvious and glaring. I expected General Buhari to be able to split between power and moral right; to be able to look back and from hindsight acknowledge that Decree ‘4’ was unnecessary.
I expected him to have used the opportunity of the rare interview to apologise for that obnoxious law that jailed journalists. I had wished to see a Buhari that will in discussing Decree ‘4’ project into the future and advance a case for a more open governance, as against the Official Secrecy Act, canvass support for an expanded Freedom of Information (FOIB), which are a direct opposites of Decree ‘4’. On Decree 20, which resulted the execution of the three convicted citizens, Lawal Ojuolape (30), Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Bartholomew Owoh (26), was nothing but an executive murder.
To put it quite plainly, one of those three – Ogedengbe – was executed for a crime that did not carry capital punishment at the time it was committed. I believed then that the military government was wrong and I remain unconvinced by this recent justification of the sordid and absurd event. For those opposed to the killing, our angst is not because we are unmindful of the established dangers of drug trafficking and distribution to the society but on the moral right of making such a retroactive law that carries the weight of capital punishment. In that execution the Buhari’s government was only in a hurry to prove or score a point rather than resolving any problem.
It obviously does no good to Buhari’s future presidential prospect for him to continue to justify what was wrong simply because it was a collective decision of a junta led by him. An outright apology will not bring back the three killed drug barons but would have portrayed Gen. Buhari as a better enlightened leader who will not repeat the same past mistakes if given another chance. I am therefore, dismayed to see Buhari walk himself right into the same situation with General Ibrahim Babangida (as per June 12 annulment) with the hope that Nigerians will judge him fairly.
Buhari, in the interview, made allusions to his being a deeply religious man without expanding on his tolerance of other faiths in a pluralistic democracy. In Nigeria, the term deeply religious unfortunately connotes different meanings. In recent time the growth of radical Islam has become a major threat to the peace and security of the nation. Every week several members of the radical Islamic sect, Boko Haram, are captured and killed by security forces but the Islamists have no trouble attracting new recruits from within the impoverished Muslim North. In crude terms, the rate of production of Islamists prepared to turn to terrorism is greater than that at which they are being killed and captured.
Whether Buhari is that leader that will eventually quench the deep reservoir of hatred and desire for revenge brewing up across the length and breadth of Nigeria, especially in the North, remain unclear. I nevertheless expect northern leaders like Buhari to be able to speak out strongly against Boko-Haram, that the Boko Haram messages are not Koranic but heretical and does not represent true Islamic fervor. I expect him to be able to lead or join efforts that will dilute the ideology of extremism among Northern youths so as to decrease the support for the Boko Haram model among radicalized Muslims. Generally, the Buhari interview is a welcome development for his supporters and I wish him luck.
As we all say goodbye to 2012 , a year that impressed no one, I wish to urge my fellow compatriots not to lose hope in the future of Nigeria, even though the nation may be ‘suffering from some kind of national psychosis with our social system shattered on its knees like a bruised and battered elephant staggering towards an abyss with the ground crumbling under its feet. Will it fall?’. Yes, the current leadership may not have invented all of Nigeria’s problems but it has helped squander the time and opportunities required to repair its broken state; it is not true that the Nigerian project is so far gone that it cannot be rebuilt or built even better. All that stands in the way is a clear plan and clear resolve on our part and the clear understanding that we have no need for further misplaced efforts. I want to believe, as Goodluck Jonathan said, that 2013 will be better, especially after his single plea that we judge his performance at the end of the 2013 magical year.
For years, we have talked and talked about corruption and poor leadership but many times when we have the opportunity to make a change we fail woefully. Time and again that path forward has been blocked, not only by the corrupt political class and biased electoral umpire but by our lack of political courage and candor to stand by our conscience. The bleak and menacing future beclouding us will not vanish by itself and this is a future we do not wish to consign to our children. To reshape our destiny is not an idea too big or too difficult to achieve if we think of tomorrow, try and work harder for the future. We must sustain the hope and believe in a brighter future for this nation for it is our faith in the future that will sustain us as a people.
The security challenge we face today is not the last battle we will fight as a nation; the corruption we fight now will not be the last time we hear of the epidemic; the bad leaders we have will not be the last of the vultures; we have been through crisis; we have been through many rough roads and through a vicious civil war and we survived them all because we believed in the future of one Nigeria, one nation. Obstacles will come, there will be storm but we must continue to hold on to our unity and unyielding faith that by tomorrow, sooner or later, better and brighter days will come.