Buhari, Centenary awards and the rest of us,By Danlami Nmodu

buhariFriends ,readers,countrymen, lend me your ears ,I have come to hail Buhari not to hang him.I can’t explain why every single good did of Buhari’s is always twisted and misrepresented or outrightly misunderstood ,or is it misrepresented.First, let me acknowledge my adaption of this opening expression from one of the characters in the Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar .Yes,I have chosen to use to open my thoughts on Nigeria’s Centenary and the presence of General Muhammadu Buhari among others at the awards ceremony in Abuja last week.I must also say,I don’t speak for Buhari neither are my close to him.I had the privilege of interviewing him once along with Osa Director in Kaduna, a few years ago.I just feel for this hugely misunderstood patriot. Hold on a little.You will soon understand why I have chosen to defend Buhari.Whether I will vote for him or not in an election is another matter altogether.
There is no doubt that the rising wave Boko Haram attacks in recent weeks is unfortunate. In the midst of this recent terror, many expected that the Centenary celebrations should have been called off or downgraded as a mark of honour to the dead.Every death is harrowing but the killing of over 50 students of Federal Government College, Buni Yadi, Yobe state, was no doubt particularly painful.

There is no doubt the debate over the recent celebrations by the Federal Government will continue. The reality however is that the government went ahead with an international seminar on security as well as an award night.
The seminar on security was well attended and Nigeria received encouraging assurances from France and Israel among others The support ,solidarity and encouragement from African leaders present too were indeed inspiring.President Goodluck Jonathan used the occasion of the centenary celebrations to reiterate Nigeria’s resolve to tackle terrorism headlong .Many observers noticed that not all past leaders of the country attended the seminar. Even if they were there,most of us watching the event on TV didn’t see them and tongues in deed began to wag.Why?was it to snub the president,or was it to allow him enjoy the full compliments of international solidarity alone?
Before anyone could find the right answers another event came for Nigerians to view whether indeed the past leaders would snub the president again.This time around,those who thought the president would get a thumbs down from the leaders were ‘shocked’. The centenary awards ceremony was by all former leaders of the country alive.
General Yakubu Gowon,President Olusegun Obasanjo,President Shehu Shagari ,General Muhammadu Buhari, General Ibrahim Babangida ,Chief Ernest Shonekan and General Abdul salami Abubakar.Even the late Head of State General Sani Abacha was represented by his wife Hajia Maryam Abacha.Of course ,though it was Nigeria’s centenary even, you might be forgiven if you called it President Goodluck Jonathan’s night of unusual victory as he successfully brought all the past leaders together, a rare feat in deed..But Jonathan’s victory is not my worry here.
Apparently some Nigerians did not expect Buhari and possibly Obasanjo to attend.For Obasanjo one may understand.You may be forgiven if you thought the after effect of his open letter to the president would deter him from attending.But OBJ ,as it is often said, cannot be intimidated.The man was there,kampe!
Monitoring the social media and also listening to some observers too, it became obvious to me that some did not expect to see Buhari at the awards.Let me hazard a guess.They felt that having been in opposition to Jonathan he ,should have nothing to do with the regime .One observer asked: so all these leader have been deceiving us when they criticise Jonathan?
This is the point where I feel I must speak for Buhari from my little corner,unsolicited.I feel Buhari must be defended because his strategic move has been misconstrued .There is no need to allow opposition politics to soil anyone’s sense of patriotism.
Yes,Jonathan is the president at the time of this centenary celebrations .But at times like this ,no one should mistake this for Jonathan’s event.It is national ceremony with historic prportion.It is a patriotic duty for all Nigerians past and present to show national solidarity.If theawards ceremony was all that was needed to give a symbolic sign that we are still one country inspite of politics, so be it.
I believe General Buhari’s patriotism has been further demonstrated by his presence at the event.He has always criticised the regime for failing to solve problems.He has been particularly harsh on the government for failing to tackle the Boko Haram Insurgency, the same way he has consistently condemned the sect .I believe coming to receive a historic Nigerian Centenary award was his loudest statement about his faith in the country and its people.What Buhari has done shows that he knows the limit of opposition politics or even any politics at all.He knows when and how to respond to the call of statesmanship.So let no ne crucify the him.
Of course, the regime has been criticised for celebrating after the gruesome killing of students at Buni Yadi Yobe. That is justifiable anger.But I think it was a Catch 22 situation for the regime.Should it have cancelled ? Or should we shift the dates? These are difficult questions to answer at difficult times.
Lest I forget, one must not end this piece without reflecting on the criticism of the president’s centenary speech by opposition APC.The party said the address was a misplacement of priority.Without doubt, the Yobe killings had shattered everyone.But I also thought the president used the speech to achieve one objective.Assuring us about the future in spite of the difficult times.So while APC’s criticism must be taken seriously, the point Jonathan made in his speech raising hope in the face of despair must also be highlighted.
I recall the statement issued earlier by Professor Chidi Odinkalu,chairman Governing Council ,National Human Rights Commission,NHRC urging politicians to sink their differences and reassure the nation.Jonathan virtually responded to that patriotic call.Of course, our sense of grief possibly made us overlook the import of the address.
Lastly,I can imagine many wondering why can’t our politicians including past and present leaders also unite to help defeat Boko Haram.I will place the responsibly squarely on the desk of President Jonathan.It is his duty to mobilise all forces,goodwill and all to defeat this menace.Sadly, I think they are all playing politics with this.What is urgently needed is for our patriots to unite against Boko Haram now.Over to you ,Mr President.
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