Ogbodo: The Buhari’s One Tablet Prescription

THE APC’s candidate for the February 14 presidential election, General Mohammadu Buhari gives the same answer to all the great questions of the day. ‘I will fight corruption and stop Boko Haram’ he keeps repeating. It is a constant response to even questions on dwindling oil revenues and the abysmal state of school enrolment in the far north. He is saying in effect that the corruption in the Jonathan government is making enlistment into Boko Haram far more attractive among northern youths than enrolment in schools. 

   As a retired general, getting the military back on track to contain the Boko Haram insurgency is not going to be a challenge to Buhari. One soldier who broke off from the frontline told a CNN reporter last week that corruption was making the war against Boko Haram appear unwinnable. This shall further lessen the burden of leadership on Buhari if he becomes president. It means he can kill all the birds in the jungle with just one stone –a policy master stroke called ‘war against corruption’ that will fix every national problem including terrorism.

  Buhari is presenting corruption as the problem and not a symptom of underlying structural defect. He is not stating the specific innovations that would be deployed to institute transparency and accountability to stop corruption. He is also not talking of the specifics that will make the difference in education, healthcare, infrastructure and diversification of the economy beyond oil. He is just singing ‘stop corruption, stop Boko Haram’ without deep content.

  The APC may have articulated a manifesto to speak to some of these issues, but nothing from Buhari in the ongoing electioneering is bringing out the intentions of the party. What the rest of us see and feel is that the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan has failed on all counts and a 72-year old Buhari is being resuscitated after three failed attempts to take charge of a restoration team. Part of his credentials is that as a military head of state 30 years ago, he had fought corruption to a standstill with Decrees number 2 and 4 and he is poised to repeat same feat in 2015 if given the opportunity.  Yet another law of Buhari in the period under review was retroactively applied to execute three drug peddlers to stop hard drug business and instil discipline in Nigeria.

   To the Buhari campaigners, he is still the man for today’s Nigeria and Jonathan must go. The Jonathan’s tenure translates to little or nothing. They have simply refused to be impressed by anything. The spectacle in the agriculture sector is not making good sense. A proposal to get some farmers to sell yams to raise N5 billion for the Buhari campaign left out a vital point and the PDP is saying the farmers did not come from nowhere to acquire capacity to raise billions for the APC and Buhari and that it was the Jonathan transformation in the agriculture sector that has lifted hitherto peasant farmers to billionaires and put them in a stead to bank roll Buhari’s presidential bid.

   In the race to make Buhari inevitable in the 2015 calculations, the first casualty is truth. And the media has been most helpful in this regard. Buhari’s weaknesses have been converted to virtues by campaigners. His poverty, for instance, is a very strong point. He is poor not as a result of indolence but the fact that he refused to steal public money while in office. It is a curious reasoning that brands all rich people dishonest and all poor people honest. His well-publicised ethno-religious views are not divisive and parochial as widely believed, but a measure of his provincial patriotism, which can be increased to a national scale to make Nigeria work.

   In all, the man is beyond reproach. His inability to present evidence of having attended a secondary school is not a weakness but persecution by the PDP establishment, which does not want him to survive the presidential polls on February 14. Here is a man applying to be employed as President and Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and his employers, this case Nigerians, are asking to see his qualifications and some people are telling him not to yield! 

   It is the standard practice everywhere in the world, including Saudi Arabia for applicants to present evidence in documented form called certificate(s) of academic claims that qualify them for the position they seek to occupy. Why is Buhari changing the rules in Nigeria? Worse still, his campaigners are making it look as if nothing is amiss. Could it be because certificate forgery or false declaration has become a norm in Nigeria? It is only here that folks, who only a year or so ago were seen with sticks among cattle would emerge on the floor of the National Assembly as Distinguished Senators or Honourable Members with prodigious claims of academic attainments and they would be applauded.

   Maybe I should illustrate the point with myself. I also do not have either photocopies or the originals of my secondary school and university certificates; I only have my results and NYSC certificate, although the fact that I studied to university level has never been doubted. Both documents are still with the institutions that I attended 35 and 28 years ago. But anything can happen especially if decide tomorrow to go into politics and if the question of my qualifications arises, I will not even run to the court like Buhari did to swear an affidavit to re-establish my claim. I will only do a simple letter to INEC referring it to the schools I attended with dates and leave the commission to do the verification. 

  To help my case, I shall call witnesses who may include Governor Godswill Akpabio and Dr. Reuben Abati in respect of my stay in the University of Calabar between 1983 and 1987. If they are still alive, I shall call to testify, all the teachers that taught me from primary school to the university and in my post graduate studies. They shall include Pa George Wanogho, who taught me in primary six, Mr. Austin Avuru of Seplat Petroleum, who taught me in class one at Orogun Grammar School, Mr. Okonjo, my principal at St Patrick’s College Asaba, Prof Kalu Uka, my HoD at the Theatre Arts Department, University of Calabar, Dr Bernard Lafayette of Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, Emory University, Atlanta and Prof David Bradford of the Stanford University Executive Programme.

  This, to me, is a better approach to solving this recurring issue of false academic claims for purposes of participating in politics in Nigeria. We would have been saved the agony of the Toronto and Chicago sagas if this method of certificate verification had been in place right at inception of this democracy in 1999.  Certificate is a mere piece of paper produced by a printer who can be located anywhere in the world, including Oluwole Street Lagos, Nigeria. 

  If Buhari cannot show one to prove that he went to secondary school, he should follow the path I have recommended and do a letter to INEC directing it to visit the secondary school he attended to do the verification. In the unlikely event of the school dissolving into nothingness, Buhari should call some witnesses to help him out. These may not necessarily include his secondary school teachers, many of whom may have passed on, but a number of his classmates that will rally to his defence. 

This seems the only way to discharge this burden of false academic claims. All the gra gra talk by the APC will not work if the PDP means business because the constitution is unambiguous on the matter. And until that is done, it will be convenient for the rest of us to conclude that the Buhari that is being sold is not too real. In fact, the man has been so reworked through series of sponsored newspaper commentaries that he is beginning to lose his very essence. 

  I don’t think he understands himself any longer. From the perspectives created in the papers, Buhari has become more Christian than the Pope and less Islamic than the Sultan. He is more Igbo than he is Fulani. At a rechristening ceremony in Owerri, Imo State capital recently, he earned ‘Okechukwu’ to become Mohammadu Okechukwu Buhari (MOB). More of such renaming ceremonies are expected in the weeks ahead. The Urhobos may add Okpetubesio (it is difficult to resist trouble) to increase the range to General Mohammadu Okechukwu Okpetubesio Buhari.   

  It has been a good job altogether. Buhari has been successfully taught to be right handed at 72. He has been converted overnight from a dictator and extremist to a democrat and a moderate. Like a snake, he has changed to a more glowing skin and the prayer is for him to act differently from a snake, which only changes skin but retains its character.

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