BACKLASH: Buhari: Between Poverty And Integrity
WE have been told to exercise patience. It is not a problem, although I would have loved to have another name to replace patience. That word or name had overplayed in the Villa and not too many people were happy while the performance lasted for six years.
Yet, patience is not the only name that describes what President Muhammadu Buhari is asking Nigerians to offer. ‘Patience’ is a noun, which can lexically mutate to an adjective as in ‘patient’ and adverb as in ‘patiently.’
It cannot come as a verb, which commands action. What Buhari wants is simply good action. There is a word that gives that action. There is action when we ‘endure’ than when we are ‘patient.’ And so, and at least for a change, PMB should ask for endurance or simply tell Nigerians to ‘endure.’ That sounds a lot more appropriate than ‘patience’ which Presidency has been preaching.
In fact, ‘patience’ does not capture the national ethos as such. I mean Nigerians are not a patient lot, but they can endure even beyond breaking point. Their capacity in this regard is globally unmatchable. They endured IBB for eight years, the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential election, Abacha for five years and Obasanjo twice over; between 1976 and 1979 and between 1999 and 2007. They had endured 16 years of democracy and misrule under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now they are enduring the conversion of the Presidency into a sole proprietorship. But it is six days into the month of September and so much can still happen in the remaining 24 days in the month of September.
In fact, so much is already happening. Although the APC spokesman called Alhaji Lai Mohammed and a presidential spokesman called Mallam Shehu Garba had proclaimed that nowhere on earth did Buhari, for instance, even pledge to declare his assets publicly, there was a dramatic turn of events when the President and his deputy woke up last Thursday and publicly declared their assets. This is a most honourable thing to do except that it has opened a vista for new worries.
I cannot tell for now if other Nigerians in the euphoria that will definitely follow this public declaration of assets in the days ahead, will see the bigger picture.
I, for one, I am not impressed and unless we choose hypocritically to pamper the point, the totality of the declaration does not place PMB on any high moral pedestal. Accolades will pour in his direction if we elect to equate stagnation and material poverty with virtue. The man was forced out of office the same way he had entered about 30 years ago at the active age of 41. Given his station, exposure and everything about him, Buhari ought to have done much better than just owning N30 million; some five homes of which two are inherited mud houses and another two built with bank loans; 270 heads of cattle; 25 sheep; five horses and sundry livestock. A good carpenter could have done better in 30 years. More or less, according to the declaration, Buhari has run substantially as a young man of 40 years to his present age of 72 years, on public charity and hands-out.
This is not good enough. Except there is more to what has been put in the public space, the President cannot be celebrated on this score alone. Ability to create wealth cannot be synonymous with corruption. I was in the university when the man came in 1983 and left 1985. I have not seen any record where it was said or written that Buhari in the period under review did things like involvement in NGOs and other charity efforts to improve the lot of society.
My take therefore, is that Buhari can only add value when he operates in the public space as head of state or some other high designation like when he was governor, petroleum minister and chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). The correlation between capacities in the private and public spaces cannot be discountenanced on the expediency of seeking one good man in a country of 170 million people to give new direction. The entrepreneurial spirit is killed when due application of competencies to enhance material wellbeing is interpreted as corruption.
Just as it may be right to say many retired military generals are corrupt, it may be wrong to conclude that all retired generals who are successful in post service endeavours are corrupt. If a general at the point of retirement stole N10million (stealing is corruption please!) and added same to his retirement package, it is corruption. But it is industry and ingenuity if a retired general by reason of wise economic choices turned N10million to $10billion in 30 years. The two must be separated and dealt with separately so that we do not slip into the fallacy of branding all retired generals, including T.Y Danjuma, the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and even Olusegun Obasanjo, who have created value with their post service engagements as corrupt.
To me, the Buhari’s story is not any different from the biblical servant who refused to venture for gains for fear of being chastised and returned his master’s money as he was given. Instead of commendation, which he had anticipated, the self-righteous servant was condemned by his master for being unresourceful. If every capable man embarks on the type of Bohemian restrictions of PMB, who will invest to create job opportunities and other multipliers to sustain a robust economy? We cannot therefore in all sincerity say ‘well done’ to Buhari for perennially remaining materially unimpressive. It is a weakness and it would be fraudulent to promote same as strength. He is a bad example for entrepreneurship, to put it mildly.
It was not known anywhere that the Great Nelson Mandela was corrupt. He was released from the notorious Robben Island Prison on February 11, 1990 without a rand or dollar, but after his death on December 5 2013 and the family sat to hear his will, it was announced that the grand old man had $4million cash outside fixed assets. What it meant was that Mandela had created huge value outside the Union Building in Pretoria, which he occupied as president of South Africa between 1994 and 1999. He received royalties from his books and product endorsements.
For one thing, we are already in the Buhari’s boat and there is no going back until perhaps after four years. And so my prayer is that in the matter of value creation, Buhari should do well to manifest differently as a public administrator because it will be incalculable catastrophe if he remains himself. It is the reason we have to endure instead of being merely patient.
For another thing, the APC is getting increasingly slippery and it is difficult holding it down to its promises. The party had canvassed certain ideals in the build-up to the March 28 presidential election and on the basis of which, I want to believe, Nigerians chose the APC over the PDP. Two documents titled “The 100 Things Buhari Will Do In 100 Days” and “My Covenant With Nigerians” contained mouth-watering promises of socio-economic transformation should the APC win the presidency. Nigerians held their own side of the deal after which they had endured for 100 days, by yesterday, for the APC to follow up.
Instead of the APC to apologize for the none transmissions of the promises to the people as agreed, it has gone on air to say both documents are heresies smuggled into the party’s works by enemies to cause it corporate embarrassment. It added that the only document that is binding on PMB is its manifesto.
Good! The 31-page manifesto divided into 28 sections also said so much. To make it less unwieldy, the 28 sections were compressed into an eight-point agenda showcasing the following: War against corruption, food security, accelerated power supply, integrated transport network, free education, devolution of power, accelerated economic growth and affordable healthcare in four years of which 100 days have been used up preparing to form government.
Even so, I would love the point on devolution of power to achieve true federalism to be tackled first.