Baba and his leaking umbrella

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari. PHOTO: Carl Court/Getty Images

President Muhammadu Buhari is back on the beat. For our country, it is great that both the President and Vice-President share common belief in the management of our country’s affairs. Imagine if it has been the other way round or if one of them is regarded, or is indeed, clueless and incompetent. The ship of state is not always a steady one, but it must be kept moving and it requires the steady hands of an able and competent captain all the time. Note that there were no congratulatory adverts in the media when Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo marked his 100th day in office as Acting President.

We know that the chemistry has not always being like that in this country between the President and the Vice-President and between the Governor and his Deputy-Governor. I cannot remember whether any President has ever handed over to his Vice-President in similar circumstance. When President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was ill, Vice-President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan remained Vice-President until other forces intervened. When that brave woman, Professor Dora Akunyuli raised the issue that President Yar’Adua should be declared incapacitated, she was shouted down by loyalists in the cabinet who labeled her a traitor. In deference to them among other reasons, President Jonathan did not bring her into his government.

Despite his being away for more than 100 days, President Buhari’s concern remains the same. “Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable,” he said during his dawn broadcast on Monday. “We shall not allow irresponsible elements to start trouble and when things get bad they run away and saddle others with the responsibility of bringing back order, if necessary with their blood.” Then he sent a message to the self-appointed landlords who have being busy issuing quit notices to other Nigerians: “Every Nigerian has the right to live and pursue his business anywhere in Nigeria without let or hindrance.”

During the Nigerian Civil War, Buhari was one of the young officers who served at the front. It was not an experience that any young person would easily forget. During the agitation for June 12, I had gone to see a retired general in the company of my friend. He was one of the commanders during the war. We were not happy that General Ibrahim Babangida, the self-appointed President, had voided the victory of Chief Moshood Abiola at the June 12, 1993 presidential election. If the election was not de-annulled, we will go to war, we told the general.

“You don’t understand the meaning of war,” he told us. “This is the meaning of war. Trouble is reported in Maiduguiri and you send your reporters there. You sent five of your most brilliant reporters. Three of them are killed, two are wounded and captured by the enemy and only one escaped to come and tell you the story. Then you have to send the next five reporters knowing that you will archive the same result. And then the next, and next and next! That is war!!”

It is apparent that Buhari was directing his speech at the fringe groups who are beating the drums of war. Nonetheless, he was not categorical about the upsurge in the demand for the restructuring of Nigeria, directing those agitators to carry their petitions to the National Council of States and the National Assembly. Yet during the campaign, his party was vociferous in demanding for the restructuring of Nigeria. Many of the leading members of the coalition that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress have been in the forefront for the demand for constitutional reforms for many years. Now is the time to transform their rhetoric into positive action.

The only sop he gave to those who are making demands for restructuring was that these “are legitimate concerns.” Then he threw the challenge: “The beauty and attraction of a federation is that it allows different groups to air their grievances and work out a mode of co-existence.” He believes we already have a national consensus that “it is better to live together than to live apart.”

Buhari is an old man now, but he is still a soldier seeking for the simple silhouette of the enemy on the battlefield. “Terrorists and criminals must be fought and destroyed relentlessly so that the majority of us can live in peace and safety,” he said.

There is no doubt that with Buhari, the country is in firm hands. However, it would be a pity if he should misread the call for the restructuring of the Federation. This is an old campaign that is gaining a new urgency. This is more so because the current 36-state structure cannot be sustained forever. In less than 20 years time, oil would no longer be as relevant as it is today and there would be virtually nothing to share in Abuja. What would be the fate of the Federation then? Are we to wait for calamity before we discuss the future?

Yet our real enemies may not be as dramatic as those shadowy Boko Haram terrorists or the roaming kidnappers and the one-chance armed robbers. The greatest threat to security in Nigeria today is unemployment. Everyday, the army of the unemployed continues to expand and expand. It is from this army that Boko Haram, the kidnappers, the fringe ethnic movements and the robbery gangs are recruiting their own. The APC, during its campaign, promise to confront this monster. The monster is still abroad. It is time to tame it.

That future is already roaming the streets and it is not smiling. All over the country, hordes of youths are roaming the streets looking for jobs, some of them for many years. Sometimes ago, one President of the Republic claimed that henceforth Nigerians would make money from eating bread made from their own cassava. Today, Nigerians are pouring billions of naira on imported wheat to produce bread and other products. All our furniture industries are in danger because our leaders prefer imported furniture from China, Italy, Spain and other countries.

In almost every state, every imaginable contract is given to Chinese, American, Arab, South African and other foreign contractors. Nigerians no longer know how to build roads or bridges not to talk of airports and sea ports. We have become a nation that is out sourcing its future. How are our youths to find jobs when we do not eat our own rice, wear our own cloths, produce our own wine and hail our own football teams? So bad is the situation today that the rich are importing teachers from the United Kingdom and farmers from South Africa. In 1974, Hamani Diori, the President of Niger, was toppled because his wife preferred water imported from France. Such is the abiding inferiority complex that is affecting the African elite class.

So baba is back at his desk to wage war, but he should not miss his targets. His opponents have shown considerable grit and staying power. Some of them are still sitting pretty in the corridors of power despite all the efforts of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and other agencies. It is not going to be an easy task to confront the daemons of corruption and security at the same time, but if Buhari cannot do it, who can? Confronted with the enormity of problems of China after its bloody civil war, Mao Tse Tung, the founder of the Peoples Republic said ruefully: “I am a lonely monk walking in the rain with a leaking umbrella.”

As it was for Mao, so it is for Buhari. The loneliness of power cannot be divorced from its majesty. That loneliness is the lot of Muhammadu Buhari. Those who were rejoicing over the President’s return should not forget that not everyone was happy about the turn of events. It was however graceless to expect Buhari’s traducers to commit suicide, which under our laws, is a serious offence. The heat has been on especially on Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose who has maintained a decorous introspection since the return. Fayose is a brilliant politician and an accomplished marketer of strange wares. With this comeuppance, he may be suspecting that the chickens may soon come home to roost, being an experienced chicken farmer himself.

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Muhammadu Buhari‎
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