4 Jun 2015

Why Failure Is No Option For Buhari - by Niran Adedokun

In the world view of the Yoruba people of the South-West and part of the North-Central zones of Nigeria, the life of any person or thing is classified into three distinct seasons. These three seasons are signified by the three parts of the day, namely, morning, afternoon and night.

Although they pray for the best for each of these seasons, the Yoruba are united in the conclusion that while the first two seasons of life may be full of thorns and thistles, the last part – the night, should harbour the best for every life. As a matter of fact, that the latter part of life (night) should show more fruitfulness than the earlier parts is one prayer that you are most likely to find on the mouth of everyone of Yoruba descent. If the newly sworn in President Muhammadu Buhari were a Yoruba man, this would no doubt be one major thought on his mind.

Even as Buhari was an accomplished man before this latest journey into Nigeria’s leadership, his first sojourn on the saddle in the 1980s cannot exactly be described as successful.

True, the military regime which he led with the late Brig Tunde Idiagbon showed some character and left some footprint which a lot of people still remember, but it was shortlived and none of the policies which it espoused survived much longer than the termination of the administration in 1984. So, you cannot point to any legacy of that era. But now, Buhari has another opportunity. That seems to me to answer the desire for a fruitful old age described earlier.

At 72, Buhari even without his legendary ascetic reputation, should aspire for nothing more than leaving a legacy of performance for which his generation would be proud of. What’s more, we have a man who is believed to totally understand the ephemeral nature of all worldly acquisitions, the vanity of it all.

We all appear to have come to realise that the crave for lucre has become a major disincentive to creative leadership in our country. That most Nigerian leaders are so entranced in their lustful appetites that they appropriate our commonwealth without care for over 70 per cent of Nigerians who have no idea where their next meal would come from. And we have mostly given up hope that Nigeria would ever attain its potential.

Enter the septuagenarian former soldier who is not likely to contemplate such inanities as he would love to do well for Nigeria, laying solid foundations for its future and retiring to Daura to enjoy a quiet life afterwards. The ultimate ambition of the new President at his age should be etching his name in history as the harbinger of a new Nigeria.

In effect, the President must remind himself every waking day that he has a point to prove and that God gave him this second chance to make an impact. He must also remember that there are a lot of Nigerians who doubted his ability to deliver on the promises that he made and that the onus to prove them wrong and move Nigeria forward entirely rests on him.

I also think that Buhari has come too far to fail in the very urgent need for national revival. Apart from Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari would be the only person who has the unique privilege of being Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria twice in his life.

But the current President yearned for this office more than Obasanjo. From 2003, until he eventually made it in 2015, Buhari ran for office against an assortment of pretenders and serious aspirants to the nation’s Presidency. On most of the occasions, he ran an almost solitary race which left him with bruises. But he was deterred following his failed third attempt in 2011 when he said he was not going to contest again.

Buhari however allowed himself to be persuaded to join the race in 2015 and here we are! It is actually possible to stretch this point further. In Nigeria’s 55-year history, this newly sworn in leader is indeed the only one who had a personal desire to run for office, the other six civilians who had occupied that office were either persuaded, cajoled or lured into the position by circumstances or people who hoped to have them by the strings.

In the First Republic, leader of the Northern Peoples’ Congress and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, should have become the Prime Minister since his party won majority seats in the December 1959 parliamentary election. But he ceded the office to Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

In the Second Republic, Shehu Shagari did not aspire higher than the Senate but he ended up as president, apparently unprepared. Chief Ernest Shonekan was lured out of the board- room by a military politician who still wanted a foot in the door. Before 1999, Obasanjo, in spite of his experience and connections thought all, including life, was over for him until a conspiracy plucked him out of jail and foisted him on us. OBJ as he is known spent the first four years of his administration flying in the dark. In his second term, he sabotaged legitimate and enthusiastic aspirants to succession while he pursued a third term agenda by proxy. When that failed, he persuaded a largely unwilling (and unwell) Umaru Yar’Adua to take over from him.

The immediate past President, Goodluck Jonathan, did not imagine that the heavens could bless him with anything grander than his nomination as Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State but providence soon elevated him into the substantive governorship seat. And before he exhausted his tenure, he found himself in the belly of Aso Rock first as Vice-President to Yar’Adua and then President after the untimely transition of his principal. Jonathan’s ascendancy to national recognition from his provincial endowment was courtesy of a benefactor who gifts you cattle but holds on to the rope to tie it.

Thus, Buhari is the first and only President till date who by himself came to seek the throne. He fought for it a record four times before it happened and I do not think anyone does that unless he has a mission and knows how to accomplish it.

Finally and most importantly, there is a cloud of expectations from Nigerians and the entire world about how much Buhari can accomplish and for this he cannot fail on that score.

Sure, Buhari has more than enough to deal with in his four-year tenure. As he said in his inaugural speech, he inherited a comatose economy where revenue has dwindled but work is much. Power supply is at a miserable low, unemployment is alarming, insecurity is pervasive and corruption has become a way of life.

Tackling all of these problems and more that will surface in the days to come takes more than Buhari’s towering frugality, it would take guts, the assemblage of a good team as well as the continued support of the party on which platform he became President. And this is exactly where trouble might be lurking for the President.

As time goes on, Buhari may discover that his greatest challenge is not necessarily the myriad of problems of past governments, especially that of his immediate predecessor but the change of heart by some of the people with whom he has travelled before now.

Given the pecuniary nature of our politics, the kitchen may soon get too hot for some of those who walked with the President until now. Some would soon stop believing in the dream or the route through which the President wants to achieve the dream that they dreamt together. At such moments of disappointment, which will happen, the President’s self-discipline and incorruptible nature would not answer. He must be ready to withstand and overcome every storm on behalf of Nigerians.

Having pursued this office without relent for 12 years, and having made so many promises hinged on the conviction for change, millions of Nigerians at home and abroad are determined in their conviction that the retired general is one Nigerian able to end the rot and move Nigeria forward. It would be unforgivable to disappoint them.

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