Sanctity of the public trust in Buhari



THIS is Buhari’s second coming as Nigeria’s Head of State, the first time being thirty-two years ago when as a soldier he was instrumental in the removal of a fraudulently elected government.

A government which in the space of three months had lost so much of its credibility that its ousting was greeted with relief by the electorate.

Buhari’s way to power this time is radically different from what it was the last time around, but  separated by the distance of time, the circumstances are so similar as to be worthy of being described as identical.

In the first place, the respective governments in opposition are as similar to each other as Siamese twins in character and disposition having been formed and programmed with the sole purpose of acquiring the power of the Presidency by all means necessary.

Both parties, the NPN and PDP had tentacles in every corner of the country and although tribe and tongue differed within them over a wide spectrum, the hunger to rule remained a constant feature of their character.

The party that lost power to Buhari in 1983 had been in power for only a couple of months beyond four years but so thorough had been their profligacy that it had succeeded in effectively bankrupting the nation and stripping the country bare of all her assets.

The party from which Buhari has now taken power this time around has taken rather a longer period of time to arrive at the same point, not because its pillaging has been any less efficient but because there has been a lot more resources to plunder and in a more aggressively globalised world there are now more places into which their loot could be diverted, hidden or even invested.

Whatever the circumstances surrounding the two governments, the end result was the same in both cases; the Nigerian economy was brought down to her knees and needed to be revived very quickly if the country was going to be dragged out of the dungeon into which it had been dumped.

More than any other consideration however, the main similarity between then and now is the level of corruption which characterized every aspect of  public intercourse, so much so that corruption has become a way of life and everything no matter how wrong became not just permissible but expected.

The PDP government in spite of dubious privatization exercises had however continued to extend the public space, squeezing the private sector in the way of an orange being deprived of its juices so that like the NPN government before it, it was the sole dispenser of all monetary favours within the economy. This is how it was in 1983 when the rapacious NPN government took hold of everything, leaving the country gasping.

It is clear that in terms of quality, the problems facing Nigeria’s new government is identical with what the Buhari/Idiagbon regime had to contend with in 1983. Quantitatively however, the task now is hugely different because the dragon to be confronted has ballooned alarmingly whilst the means of dealing with the beast has shrunk to a similar extent that the monster has grown.

There is no doubt that Buhari hit the ground running in 1983 or more correctly, in 1984 since the now famous coup which decapitated the NPN was carried out on the last day of 1983. He was able to make such a roaring start because he was the head of a military government which ruled through a series of decrees all of which were draconian, all of which were to take effect immediately, some of which were even retroactive.

In addition, he was able to dispense with such niceties of common law as the presumption of innocence until proven guilty and the writ of habeas corpus. This made it possible for all those who were suspected of having government money in their private pockets to be simply locked up and in due course sentenced to long terms of imprisonment as soon as they were found not to be innocent after all.

In the extreme heat of the recent elections, these actions were revisited by the opposition in order to fatally discredit Buhari, labelling him an unrepentant dictator and worse; but the consensus of opinion at the time was that the government was on the right track in its bid to return the shattered country to something close to good health.

In those halcyon days of military rule, corruption was effectively tackled with those draconian decrees which in these days of political enlightenment are as outdated as colonial rule.

This time around therefore the task, the absolutely necessary task of getting to grips with the cancer of corruption which is bringing our country to her knees must be prosecuted with tools which are consistent with the primacy of human rights in which nobody can be locked up on the suspicion, however well founded, that any particular individual has a case to answer. The weapons which are to be used to slay the dragon of corruption must be forged and ruthlessly deployed.

Any talk of not visiting the sins of corruption practised by those living (or dead) when their transgressions are so foul as to be public knowledge must here and now be dismissed as campaign rhetoric to lull the guilty, and their number is legion, into a false sense of security. The future of Nigeria must not be decided by the guilty but powerful minority which has made life a misery for the vast majority.

Any attempt to fight corruption when the patently corrupt are sucking in the sweet air of freedom and living high off the hog on the proceeds of their crime is bound to fail. This is a danger that must be acknowledged and speedily apprehended.  

Buhari is now back in the saddle and as it was in 1984, he has a huge game on his hands and because he fought a good fight then, he is expected to deliver now even if the strategies which brought success so many years ago must now be discarded.  So much has been said about why Buhari won the elections but in my opinion, the single most important reason for that welcome victory is the trust which those who voted for him have in his person and the recognition of the fact that he is one of the few Nigerians who are recognisable only by their personal integrity and iron clad discipline.

The elections were a referendum for the future direction of this country and Nigerians have voted in the majority for an immediate departure from the ruinous path which our nation has trod since the Buhari/Idiagbon regime was bumped off the saddle by those whose only perceived ambition was to satisfy their over vaulting ambition for self aggrandisement.

Our situation has grown steadily worse under an unfortunate succession of venal creatures lacking any sense of responsibility in their exalted positions. They have taken us many decades back from where we deserve to be as the largest and potentially most powerful country in Africa. To compound our discomfiture, they have frittered away our riches, destroyed our potential and held us up to ridicule all over the world.

It is understandable that Buhari II, now older and wiser would flinch at the prospect of what he has to do but he has to have it constantly before him that he won the election because of the public assumption that he would deliver and are prepared to back him to the hilt in his endeavours to build a new Nigeria in which even if tribe and tongue may differ, we stand in brotherhood, a brotherhood imbued with justifiable belief in a brand new future.

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