Buhari’s last duty
Despite the official veil on the auguries, that the nation is on the cusp of a crisis that threatens its survival owing to the secrecy surrounding the ill health of President Muhammadu Buhari is a troubling fact that is clear to the discerning among us. Of course, we take cognisance of the fact that like a phoenix, the nation has often risen from the ashes of seemingly mortal calamities to grow stronger. From the civil war through the June 12 crisis to egregious cases of corruption, the nation has developed a certain immunity to the perils that would have made it suffer a self-inflicted dissolution. But we have taken this resilience for granted. This is why we are at it again, stretching this resilience by refusing to do what is necessary to preserve the unity of the nation.
We must be alert to the tragic character of the current crisis if we must survive it and learn any lessons from it. It is because of the absence of a correct appreciation of the spectre of tragedy that hangs over the nation that there is official levity as a response to the sickness of the president. Such levity is often expressed in the remonstrance that the president is not as sick as portrayed in the public and the alleged purveyors of the canard of his incapacity to wade through the complexities of governance are threatened with dire consequences.
But it is now difficult to deceive the citizens about the health of the president once again. The citizens once fell for the deception when the president was in London for medical vacation. Then the official obscuration was prevalent – he was not sick; he was only on vacation having worked so hard to solve the nation’s problems. But when Buhari came from London, he himself declared he had never been so sick as he was. Thus the citizens can no longer be deceived by the officials of the Buhari government. It is clear now that Buhari is not well and this is why he has not been attending the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings and other public functions. There has not been a clear position from the presidency, thereby leaving room for myriad speculations. Officials are saying that the president is healthy and that he is even fit for the contest for the 2019 election and that he is working from home while most of the citizens are saying that Buhari is medically challenged.
We wish that the president would spend his first four years in office and re-contest for another term if he so desires. But since he has succumbed to sickness which is part of the human condition, we must go beyond the hysteria and come to terms with reality. The reality is that we must not allow ourselves to be victimised by the sickness of Buhari – allowing power mongers to subject us to their whims and caprices under the guise of the president still being hale and hearty to lead. Again, it is part of the reality that we must not keep on praying for the president while holding on to power. If those who want us to keep on praying for Buhari were sincere, they should have told us the nature of his sickness for us to pray effectively. Or how do we pray for what we do not understand? True, we prayed even when we did not understand the nature of the ailment of the president while he was in London and he became well. But we can no longer continue on this path and those who are asking us to pray for the president without first of all declaring the nature of his aliment are only taking us for granted. How can we pray now when we are not even sure that the president is sick? For as Rotimi Ameachi tells us, the president is so healthy that he is ready to re-contest for the presidency in 2019 and defeat all his opponents. This thinking has been further expressed by the reports that the campaign posters of Buhari for 2019 have flooded Abuja.
But Buhari can stop all this confusion by simply handing over to his deputy Yemi Osinbajo. Buhari should not allow himself to be dissuaded from taking this honourable path by those who think that the nation would suffer an irrevocable conflagration that would lead to a breakup if he quits now. Those who think of breakup on account of Buhari handing over to Osinbajo are only slaves to their own fear. Instead of being enslaved by this fear, we must be ready to seize this moment as an opportunity to test our capacity for continued co-existence. If Buhari can still think clearly, it depends on him to engender peace in the country by adhering to the constitutional stipulation of his allowing his deputy to hold the reins of power when he is too incapacitated to lead. For Buhari, this is another test for his sincerity. It is an opportunity to test his famed integrity and patriotism. For it distracts from his integrity if he cannot give up the powers he no longer knows how to use. Since a major plank of the Buhari government is a fight against corruption, he must note that not handing over power to Osinbajo is a major form of corruption that spawns other forms of corruption – governance is neglected while a vacuum is created for a few to steal billions. Such flux in the control of presidential powers in the last days of President Musa Yar’Adua paved the way for some crooks in government to keep on signing budgets in his name and siphoning billions.
We must not allow fear to make us not to do what is right. If we yield to fear, then we have helped those who believe that they have an eternal right to rule others as their slaves. If we believe in one country that is underwritten by a constitution which guarantees the rights of Nigerians including Osinbajo, then he should be allowed to take the reins of power. Any move to stop him from being empowered to lead would not help anybody. And there is no need even reaching any compromise to appease anybody on the tenure of Osinbajo. We have reached a point in the country when we must either obey the constitution despite its many imperfections or cease being a nation. In this regard, nobody should say that for the sake of peace, Osinbajo should agree to only complete the remaining two years of the tenure of Buhari. He must be allowed to express his fundamental right of contesting for election as president in 2019 and re-contesting for another four years if he so desires and the citizens want him.
Buhari is fond of talking about the unity of the nation. He says he fought hard and suffered to keep the unity of the nation. This is why he is ever-ready to dismiss the calls for restructuring which he fears may lead to the dismemberment of the country. Now, here is an opportunity for him to reaffirm the unity of the country. This he can simply do by handing over power to Osinbajo. This last patriotic duty of his would not only seal his avowed love for the unity of the country, it would give him time to attend to his health.