Buhari: 1983 in 2015, By Ali M Ali

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Except for the time gap, our nation is more or less stuck in 1983 in 2015. Recall if you may, that in 1983,the politicians had messed up the economy handsomely. Workers were owed salary arrears bountifully.  Our foreign reserved had shrunk to the point where foreign trade was impossible. Corruption was endemic. Public institutions were decaying. Still the ruling party, the defunct NPN, carried on oblivious of the national disenchantment with its rule.

Two years earlier in 1981,late Obafemi Awolowo, leader of the defunct UPN had warned that the economy was in ruins and that it was just a matter of time before it collapsed completely under the weight of the collective avarice of the ruling party. . He was reacting against the backdrop of the Austerity Measures the Shagari regime had taken at the time to stem further slide into economic doldrums. But his counsel was ignored. Some eager.to please   members of the ruling party even pilloried the late foremost Yoruba leader’s timely piece of advice.

Mutant insurgency began to manifest early in the life of the second republic. In December 1980,the Maitatsine   sect whose remnants ,some said , metamorphosed to the vicious and virulent Boko Haram struck in Kano. With nothing more dangerous than bow and arrows and crudely cobbled den guns, Maitatsine   and his brand of reformers held some parts of Kano hostage for nearly two weeks. Anti riot police men sent to quell the mob couldn’t until the military stepped and crushed the sect momentarily. At the time the military   was very powerful and fearful. The might of the Nigerian Military was an uneven contest with the   so-called jihadists.

It was this mangled nation Buhari inherited in the twilight of 1983.Soon   afterwards he and his team set to work fixing the nation. He walked his tough talk. He trampled upon feet. He bruised egos. Some of them are still hurting. He had no tact but plenty of guts and patriotic zeal. He called a spade by its name. It is only a Buhari who will declare before hand that he will ‘curtail’ press freedom and go ahead without batting an eyelid.  He clipped wings. His economic policies were particularly harsh. Buharinomics was unkind to all. Students, middle class, workers and business owners all suffered the brunt of his iron-fisted rule. He spared nobody. He unfeelingly removed subsidy on student meals on campuses. He introduced the counter trade in 1984. He slashed, by half, civil servants leave entitlement.  The service itself was trimmed. Its bloated size apparently bothered him. He reduced to 25 per cent foreigners remittance home. He cut down BTA from N500 to N100.He slapped levies or dormant companies. I could go on. In 1983,Buhari rescued a nation on the throes of death. In 2015,he is inheriting a nation in a coma!

In 1983,Buhari hit the ground running. In 2015,I don’t see that happening. I see him hitting the ground crawling. A number of reasons make hitting the ground running almost impossible. Vested interests helped Buhari mount the saddle. In 1983,the originators of the coup brought Buhari to lead because of his cast iron reputation of integrity. His moral credentials were beyond reproach. In 2015, politicians, some of whom, crooked, helped Buhari to mount the saddle. They did that not because they love his gangling    frame .Not because they find his mirthless pate alluring. It was a self-preservation stratagem. It was an act informed by self-enlightened interest. They know only Buhari could save them from the fury   of the masses. This is particularly so in Buhari’s immediate constituency. In 2011,those who were perceived to have worked against their choice tasted the fury of the massed mired into the ground under the iron heel of rapacious politicians. If Buhari hit the ground running, some of them will have to start running away. They would make sure, in their own interest, that he crawls for at least the next few months, before he fires on all cylinders.

As military ruler, hitting the ground running was easy. Now his powers are shared by the legislature making ‘hitting the ground running’ a   remote possibility. Two, We are a nation hopelessly hooked on the patronage drug. Everyone with the remotest link to the new president will come cap in hand. Thirty-two years ago, Nigeria wasn’t as complicated. Buhari wasn’t   as tempered by years of wisdom .In patriotic terms, Buhari is driven more now to salvage the nation than he was in 1983.Only an ultra patriot will swallow the personal attacks Buhari endured just to serve a nation held captive by a bandits masquerading as servants. Except for a few, most of those who served in the receding order served themselves.

Tomorrow, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari   will transit to President and Commander-in-chief of the nation. For him, it is a familiar road. He will be at home navigating executive authority. He is not the first to return to power after so long a time. Obasanjo returned after 20 years. He returns after 30 years. IBB may return after 40 years. I am confident he knows what confronts him. Over the years and as testified by several of bosses and subordinates, the new president is a systems man. In simple language, he believes in orderliness. He aloofness to who becomes what in the national assembly politics confirms this. There would be interests who would want to teleguide him. To serve there vested interests. He should remember this. The people who voted massively for him supersede any other interest. And in the final analysis, they are the ones that he should pander to.

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