Reclaiming Buhari Before it is too Late ,By Adagbo Onoja

Dan Agbese, our senior in journalism, has done a sociologically unsurpassable piece on one of the rather disturbing signs coming from the APC. That’s their idea of abrogating the zoning principle. I would only, therefore, refer all those who might have missed the piece to Google or locate it in and savour it. But there are three other issues being treated very casually in the same manner APC is treating the zoning principle, only one of which this space can allow.

Within the several universities encased in the University of London, there are three of us Nigerian students who held a virtual national conference on Nigeria as much as time and resources permitted. None of us is a Buhari ideologue or voter in the 2015 election but we all prayed, wished, propagated and did just about everything in our powers and our radius to see Buhari elected. And why was that?

One, we do not see how Buhari, as an incumbent president, would need a rear-guard insurgent group of tribesmen to be reminding Nigeria every now and then of their capacity to hold the country to ransom, including the nauseating assertion that, democracy or no democracy, ‘their son’ must win the then impending election. All three of us are from different regions of Nigeria but we are all embarrassed that an incumbent president would ever descend to that level of utter gracelessness. We didn’t see how Buhari, a retired General of the Nigerian army, would ever degenerate to that level.

Two, we think it would not get to where a Buhari would create conditions for people to kill for power. In a country where politicians kill for power, it would be a major development to have a president who is not into that because if the president doesn’t kill, no one else would. State power is distinguished from all other powers by its monopoly of the power to take life. That is not the kind of killing we are talking about here. Third, Buhari’s person – by which we do not mean he is Messiah but a disciplined and more decent of the pack – should seep into the larger society in such a way that, in no time, a new set of leaders would have started emerging across Nigeria.

So, these three values defined our own Buhari paradigm even as he himself went on with such priorities as the insecurity crisis across Nigeria, the level of corruption and the unemployment overhang. But we didn’t see a contradiction between him and our own paradigm in the sense that his struggle to return to power is an agreement that the quality of leadership is fundamental to the resolution of the Nigerian crisis. The lesson of the last 50 or so years of Nigerian history is that we labour in vain if we do not get more noble and elevated persons into power. The significance of Buhari’s political personality vis-a-vis leadership does not, therefore, lie in whatever he might achieve in fighting corruption and all that, important as these are but more in the fact that, in him, the out-going generation of Nigerian leaders who acquired power by virtue of being those who prosecuted the Nigerian Civil War are trying to atone for the so much that went wrong under them and, hopefully, leave a collective legacy. There can be no better evidence for this than the re-alignment of the Gowons, the Obasanjos, the Shagaris, the T.Ys, the Buharis, the IBBs, the Abdulsalamis for Buhari, itself an evidence that they are collectively alarmed by the current state of Nigeria which has been their playground since 1966. So, the issue of re-peopling Nigerian politics must be Buhari’s real task, both for the big men and we, the small men and women.

This explains our funeral demeanour here the day Buhari declared that he wasn’t going to interfere in deciding the leadership of the NASS. It might have been a tactical thing to say on a tricky thing like that but since every pronouncement carries its own implications, that might not even have been said at all and certainly not by the president-elect, not to talk of carrying it through. This is because to carry it through will completely negate the Buhari essence. In other words, the only question that should have worried him should have been how he would accomplish this without it being traced to him, something he must have worried about much, much earlier if everything is ok with his politics. There is absolutely nothing undemocratic about a party mandarin, which a president-elect automatically is, arguing for a particular candidate to take a particular office. S/he might lose the debate but s/he would have made his or her point. It is strange to hear Buhari or a party government shying away from putting its foot down about who takes a particular task.

Insisting on such is not the same thing as asking for people who would toe the president’s line. It is insisting on individuals whose sense and conscience about leadership will complement what we perceive to be the Buhari essence instead of the grand logic of power in Nigeria characterised by so much nihilism and predation. It is not only very possible but absolutely desirable for the president to openly and categorically state his image of leadership not only at the NASS but at all levels of power in Nigeria. That is what makes him a president also a Philosopher-king. And it is in the Philosopher-king which his power actually resides rather than the material sites of presidential authority. It will be a complete tragedy if the president-elect has been intimidated by the profiling of his democratic past and begins to lose conceptual direction. Should that be the case, he should take a lesson or two from the Chinese and the headaches of non-interference principle in their current engagement with Africa. The last line here is that interference is the ‘absent truth’ in non-interference. So, we should mind our language.

The message here is that if a 72 year old former head of state, an ex-this and ex-that who is not crazy about money, women and pepper soup is not able to make a statement in resolving the leadership recruitment crisis through a strategy of systematic ‘positive discrimination’ right from this moment, we risk losing every other thing we might gain in fighting insecurity, unemployment, corruption and what have you. May God never allow that! Amen!