Buhari and the Hurdles Ahead

Your interest in the office must mean that you are ready for the journey. You do not have another four years to keep complaining about the challenges you met on ground...

President Muhammadu Buhari is in for the second time. For the 20 years that Nigeria has enjoyed democracy, so to speak, he is the second man to hold such privilege. Being a man with history on his side as a former military head of state, he is also the second and most certainly the last who would hold rein as Nigeria’s number one man who served in Nigeria’s 20th century military. If all things go in his favour at the election petition tribunal, he has my best wishes as he gears up for what is, undoubtedly, one of the most daunting and protean tasks in the world. He certainly needs all the prayers and wishes that we believe makes all things possible in this part of the world. He will also need more.

Being the norm, the president has given us an inkling of what is to come in the years leading to 2023 when he will be taking the final bow from government and hopefully politics. He has promised to consolidate on his gains in the fight against corruption, economy and the infrastructure. It is on these gains by whatever metric that preponderance of studies and public reports have disagreed; more a case of re-campaigning on agenda you previously failed on. With the foregoing, Nigerians might be doing themselves a great good if they do not raise their hopes in the possibility of any drastic change.

The Buhari-administration has recorded a number of modest achievements to which kudos must follow for a good job done. The administration has recorded a few highs in agriculture and in infrastructure particularly in the transport sector.

Without the intention of attacking the person of the president, and with profound respect to the offices he occupies, I would like to state my sincere opinion on the leadership credentials of President Muhammadu Buhari. I have always maintained that the president by orientation and outlook cannot reconcile with the realities and complexities of the 21st century Nigeria. At times, when I have raised this with ardent followers of his, the retort churned out at the instance is that Nigeria needs a Buhari in a time like this. A man able to set a good foundation for the future of Nigeria. A man of integrity. A man of impeccable character. A man with a history of abhorrence for malfeasance. I concede that these are indeed remarkable qualities but where is the room for competence and full grasp of the multifarious challenges bedevilling the nation on every side.

As a decorated retired military general, one would expect that security being his forte would be the area where he demonstrates the most strength. Quelling wars and rebellion should be second nature by virtue of his illustrious years donning the Khaki. For all those who voted for him for the sole reason of ‘making Nigeria safe’, my respects of the most profound nature goes to them. Many a fan of PMB as expected would come in his defense with the usual retort that the security challenges did not start in his time and that would be correct. But then, if a military general after four years cannot make a bold statement in his area of expertise, who will?

Often, I have wondered if PMB was actually prepared for leadership. In this regard, I do not refer to holding political office on whatever basis but a purposeful interrogation of the problems of Nigerians, having an informed and systemic answer and working with a reliable to bring the solutions to life. In the over 30 years that he was not at the helm of affairs, how passionately did he keep in touch with the realities of the country? Beyond seeking power routinely in 2003, 2007 and 2011, what were the plans to unite the country far different from an entity a fiat could hold together. Nigeria has evolved in diverse ways but does the president know that? I sincerely doubt it. My conclusion is while PMB may have been genuinely interested in being president for noble reasons, he has proven to be ill-prepared for the job. The leadership he has offered in a trying time like this has been largely ineffective and uninspiring. Like the ones before him, posterity would be the better judge.

As May 29 knocks again for the inauguration ritual, it is trite to congratulate PMB for a second term in office as well as offer a few suggestions that would be useful along the way. For one, no one expects the president to be a magic-working machine. Put together a team with the finest credentials and not the most loyal politicians in the same political fold. This is a call for merit to prevail over familiarity and not in any way to dismiss the possibility of having politicians in the cabinet. If need be, offices of Ministers should be put up for adverts in dailies and qualified Nigerians should be encouraged to take a shot at serving their country at the level. Screening would be in line with the criteria spelt out in the constitution.

The energies of the youth must be channelled towards positive enterprises. If the president is serious about building a Nigeria with a great future, then the youth must take centre stage. The issue of unemployment must be tackled squarely. My advice is that no one other issue should enjoy as much priority with a concomitant focus on education and healthcare. The youth is key to sustaining any enduring legacy. The country has failed us time and over again. Many have lost faith in this country and see it as a nation beyond redemption. A large number are more than willing to put their lives on the line to make it to some other countries. The next four years avail you the rare privilege to correct that.

Mr. President, if you must take decisions which you must, please do with a sense of duty that every second wasted is an opportunity lost to correcting an anomaly. I must concede that we have a long way to go. Your interest in the office must mean that you are ready for the journey. You do not have another four years to keep complaining about the challenges you met on ground, you can rest assured that Nigerians would not take that as an excusable reason. Roll your sleeves or ‘babariga’ and get to work. No more tactless statements. This time around, you must be on top of everything. Nothing like ‘the president is not aware’ or that ‘he is taking his time’. None of that I assure you is going to be considered as reasonable.

Nigerians should be encouraged to speak truth to power. If the president or his handlers fail or pretend not to be aware of the times and harsh realities, it must be the duty of public-spirited Nigerians to remind them. We must remain vigilant to safeguard this country. The writer did not set out to criticize the president but on the contrary, to remind him that Nigeria cannot wait. This is one bit I hope is clearly understood. If we must grow, the next best opportunity to do so is now. I wish him the best in his mission to make Nigeria better than he met things. This is one mission I hope he succeeds in. To be honest, he has no other choice.

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© 2020 Samuel Akinnuga.