While the wailing wailers wail and the rest of the pack throw stones at our dear President, Muhammadu Buhari, I’ve decided to look kindly upon him with compassion. At least that is what Jesus would do; I’m Christian. And I hereby invite my fellow compatriots to do same. Before I go on to explain myself, let me play the saint some bit. I actually didn’t vote him. Maybe because I lost my voting rights to the INEC job they ‘used’ us for; I was corps member at the time. Even if I were to vote, I still wouldn’t have voted him. Make no mistakes about this; I wasn’t for Jonathan either. You may be wondering already where I stood. I simply stood on that fine line between Buhari and Jonathan, and those of us on the line where I stood held that until Nigeria is ready to arise and move to the next level of governance experience, either Buhari or Jonathan could still keep the seat, conducting the business of the hell we’ve been in our 55-year-old self-rule. The point is this:
the last presidential election left us in a dilemma and our best bet was the lesser evil, and for all I care evil is evil.
Now, let me get down to the Buhari question. I’ve been in this country long enough to know that things have fallen apart. In Karl Meier’s very own words, “This House Has Fallen” (the title of his book on the Nigerian situation). And this is pretty obvious, as next to everyone is crying, if not complaining – or wailing. The much desired change came to us in its fullness. Much like the Christian Incarnation, that saw God take flesh and turn into a man – like humans in all things but sin – our out-of-proportion clamor for change saw change take pity on us and appear among us as fellow Nigerian. Now, as it were, we’ve the fullness of change; we’re beholding it and we’re feeling it. Good for us.
While the “change” mantra saturated Nigeria’s airwaves, which one of us was quick enough to notice that there was some touch of intellectual dishonesty to it already? Plagiarism, I meant. Did they acknowledge that they copied US Barack Obama? Again, was the time lag between 2007/2008 when Obama employed it to fuel his drive for the White House and 2014/2015 when Buhari copied him too long a time that we couldn’t run a comparative analysis before falling for the latter’s? Little wonder Matthew Kukah described Nigerians as suffering from collective amnesia. We just have this annoying way of forgetting; our apathy towards history is second to none on the planet. Yes, they copied the “change” mantra because it had some talismanic effect on the Americans. Painfully, between Obama’s “change” and Buhari’s “change” was a whopping 7/8 years and we really didn’t think we should consult with the Americans to know how well they’ve faired with “change.” Perhaps Obama actually meant “change” from White to Black, a sort of “change” that is none of our business down here. The bottom line is that we’re gullible enough to believe him.
Again, in our choice of Buhari we went superstitious. And we’re paying for it. Since the number of Nigerians that believed Buhari are so many that calling them irrational would be going too far on my part. If they weren’t irrational, then they must have been superstitious. This leans against the backdrop that certain outrageous promises were made to Nigerians and these promises were believed and celebrated. What was on our mind when someone promised us that he would equate the Naira to the Dollar? That’s mad. If Buhari gets 10 tenures, he wouldn’t be able to do that. Even elementary economics tell us that this is mission impossible. Many believed him. How on earth was he going to pay every unemployed Nigerian N5,000 every month? In a country like Nigeria where there are no reliable records, can anyone say how many unemployed Nigerians we have? Even at that, where will he get all that money from? We usually cow ourselves into thinking we’re rich enough for oil’s sake, but the way we run things here suggests otherwise. And to tell us we’re really fooled, he shows up to deny that promise. He always knew he couldn’t do it. So, if we sincerely believed him at the time of those promises, then we sincerely expected him to do magic. Interestingly, we can already see he’s not the “Merlin” we thought of him.
Furthermore, there was this way we thought so highly of him, especially as it bothers around the promise of corruption eradication. He told us he’s done it before, and we believed him. How and when did he do it before? This is exactly where the problem lies, as Nigerians fall into two categories in this regard:
those that were either unborn or were still too young to know a thing at the time and those that were old enough at the time but have forgotten everything. Funnily enough, our apathy for history didn’t let us consult with the pages that chronicles Buhari’s first time. Both the former and latter categories of Nigerians didn’t check; the former didn’t check to know, the latter didn’t check to remember. And I’m not here to educate us either. But get this straight from me: it wasn’t as great as he made us believe.
I can go on and on stating the many ways in which we let ourselves be deceived, but that wouldn’t save the day. My point, however, is that it is time to claim responsibility. We must take responsibility for our choice. Yes, we, as much as Buhari, made mistakes. Buhari was too desperate that he underestimated the Nigerian situation, and he came in to find that it’s a different Nigeria now and that things have toughened up. We made our mistakes too, by thinking that they could be a quick fix to the Nigerian situation. For instance, the so much expectation we heap on Buhari to deal with corruption is a difficult one, given that we’re all corrupt in one way or the other. He thinks he’s got good men to work with him, and they all shock him with the budget scandal.
As we cast stones on Buhari, I urge us to reserve some for ourselves. But if we think we don’t deserve some stoning for the choice of Buhari, then neither does he. This is a man who was desperate to occupy Aso Rock before he parts earth, tried several times, and then found an entry point when we crazily clamored for change. And given that he wanted it badly enough, he told lies, made bogus promises, and covered up his innate autocratic tendencies. Then we fell for him. We’re now all complaining because while he’s got what he’s wanted, we’re yet to get our fair share of the dividend of democracy.
And so, while we wait and wail, while we complain and criticize, Buhari needs one gift from each and every one of us. Not patience. Not trust. Not understanding. But COMPASSION. For God’s sake, that man is going through the most difficult phase of his life. Or have we also forgotten that the toughest job on the planet is being Nigeria’s president?