Rethinking Buhari’s canonisation?
QUITE unlike the days heralding the last presidential election that threw up Gen. Muhammadu Buhari as the winner, the staple of interventions in public discourse is noticeably shifting from his valourisation.
In just 100 days in office on September 5, Buhari has been stripped bare of the mystification orchestrated by his diehard supporters.
His All Progressives Congress (APC) has disowned what were thought were Buhari’s campaign promises . And what is left is a stark reminder of how power is easily abused by those who do not adequately prepare for its use.
At first, the believers in the Buhari presidency were befuddled by the illusion of propping up an Oliver Cromwell who would brutally dislodge the throne of corruption and restore probity. And this threw up hordes of sycophants who were never tired of serenading his virtues. Even after the election, this lionisation continued , with the media being awash with the enthusiasm about how he would transform the country in a short time .
Sadly, these people never heeded Sigmund Freud’s warning given many years ago. Cautioning against the pitfall of biographers who are blind to the faults of their subjects, Freud notes that they idealise the hero in a manner that “ thereby sacrifice the truth to an illusion , and for the sake of their infantile phantasies they let slip the opportunity to penetrate into the most attractive secrets of human nature.”
But now that they are beginning to cease living under the illusion that Buhari would engender an Eden that is hallmarked by justice and equality, his supporters are being haunted by a sense of disillusionment .
In line with his messianic complex and the aura of incorruptibility, his supporters had thought Buhari would just come to the office of the presidency and declare to the whole world how much he was worth. They never expected him to prevaricate about the distinction between what the party said and what he stood for.
A spokesman of the president has denied that Buhari actually promised to publicly declare his assets when elected into office, and that it was his party that made the promise on his behalf . But this has not by any means settled the matter. Nigerians who voted for the president did that on account of the perception that he had integrity and that he would curb corruption. They had expected that for the campaign against corruption to succeed , the president ought to have publicly told Nigerians how much he was worth before he was sworn into office. What is the president hiding from the public?
Now, the apprehension is that in the corrupt ways of Nigerians, 100 days in office is enough period to steal and claim later how much one had before one was sworn into public office. If the president still doubts that there is already a question mark on his much-touted integrity, let him wait until he publicly declares his assets. That is if he would do this at all. But if he does, and his fortune surpasses the estimation of Nigerians, he has to tell them the secret of his sudden prosperity. For no amnesia would so soon erase from the memory of Nigerians how Buhari bemoaned his inability to muster enough funds to buy his party’s form for the expression of his presidential interest and how his recourse to a bank loan saved his ambition. Besides, there are doubts that Buhari can really fight corruption since he may not be able to prosecute those on whose political influence and financial resources he rode to office.
Buhari’s supporters’ disillusionment is further seen in their reactions to his appointments so far. They had expected him to make appointments that would fairly represent all the regions of the country. They expected him to live above the warped thinking that some people voted for him and others did not. They thought that Buhari would see himself as the president of the whole nation. But Buhari’s appointments have proved them wrong. They now realise that they have not elected a Nigerian president but a northern president.
For through his appointments, Buhari never ceases reminding them that they are inferior, they are less educated and qualified than his own people. That is why even though the heads of the three arms of government , the executive, legislature and judiciary are headed by northerners, the position of the secretary to the government of the federation and other key ones are occupied by northerners. When Buhari declared during his visit to the United States that those who voted for him would be rewarded more than others , some incurable optimists thought that that could only have been a mistake . But now he is proving those who did not take him seriously wrong.
Now , in just 100 days, Buhari has left no one in doubt that he would keep on using the oil from the south to sustain his administration while at the same time treating the people from that part of the country as not qualified to hold key positions. Buhari may compound the disillusionment of his supporters by proving that he is all out to enthrone cronyism and nepotism by confirming Amina Zakari as the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). And this is despite the fact that Buhari has not defended himself against the charge by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) that Zakari is his relatio Not appeased too are public servants on whom Buhari has foisted retired colleagues. These cannot come to terms with Buhari’s notion of meritocracy that does not reckon with the fact that among those still in service are even better candidates to fill the positions that he has given to those he has rescued from retirement.
In all Buhari’s appointments so far, no cognisance is taken of the need for gender parity. Buhari is set on a course that may take Nigeria to an era when women were treated as second-class citizens. And Buhari’s violation of his promise not to empower the office of the first lady has done nothing to assuage the anger of the womenfolk who now feel neglected.
Buhari has over three years to prove sceptics wrong. Nigerians are weary of a surfeit of a sense of Buhari’s altruism derived from symbolism and body language . It is incumbent on him to convince Nigerians through his actions that he has come to bequeath to posterity a memorable legacy of a selfless service.
• Dr. Onomuakpokpo is a member of The Guardian Editorial Board.