I authoritatively claim to be among those who should know President Muhammadu Buhari more than most people who are today running around and speaking, almost magisterially, about him. At least, I used to work for him. That fact confers on me the authority to declare that he might be many things, but is definitely not a magician.
Last Friday, as I was roasting on a fuel queue, one distraught lady, who after noticing the PRESS sticker on my windscreen, walked up to me and wailed that it was a huge pity that after voting for Buhari in the last election, this fuel problem still persists. I pointedly told her my mind. I sized her up and politely replied, “Madam, when last I checked, I found out that Buhari is not a magician”.
I thought that my answer would put her off or suggest to her that “I don’t discuss politics with strangers”, but she was anything but deterred. She looked me straight in the eyes and queried, “How come you claim to know Buhari more than himself; he was definitely reeling out those promises and pledges during the campaigns like a magician”. She continued: “The Buhari we know is a man of great integrity and is referred to as Mai Gaskiya – a man that has no lies in him; he was making promises like a magician.
How come you are now saying he is not one?” I don’t intend to continue with the trajectory that the conversation took in the more than 15 minutes that it lasted. But what I can say is that it made me wiser and gave me novel lessons on the art of politics. It helped me resolve some of my dilemma over the things that I, like most Nigerians, believe are not quite in order No Comment about the progress of Buhari presidency, 10 days into its life. But most importantly, it confirmed for me the veracity of the proverb of my people that, “the sweet words with which money was borrowed is not the same as that used during its repayment”.
Two main opposing groups that are offering their views on what should have been and/or what should not have been have emerged, and have even gone ahead to proffer their own reasons for their perception of the Buhari Presidency. One group argues that after 10 days in office, PMB should have taken off like a rocket, even if he is going to be eventually slowed down to the velocity of a car by the realities of realpolitik.
This group further argues that instead of that, there is hardly anything that suggests that a new government, especially one that promised instant and phenomenal changes, had come on board to replace the one that it had adjudged indolent, dishonest and incapable. These naysayers, therefore, conclude that because the PMB government – and they swear there is no government yet – has not hit the ground running, it lacks the vision and capacity to do so. They therefore swear that even though it has hit the ground, it will sit there for sometime to come, until, in tandem with the first Newtonian law of motion, something compels it to move. It will start to crawl. The other group insists that things are going quite well and that there is nothing to worry about, as the new administration is taking its time to launch itself, so as to avoid the pitfalls of the past. One of them even challenged me with a proverb he attributed to the Tortoise, who, he alleged to have defended its slow-mo speed, by saying that, “it is good to be going slowly because one might have been going in the wrong direction, and would have less distance to cover if it became imperative to retrace one’s steps”.
The other argument that one hears being aggressively proffered these days is: how do you expect Buhari and APC to repair in one week, the damage that Jonathan had done in six years? (They don’t talk about 16 years anymore, knowing that their new benefactor, Obasanjo, would have been tarred with a putrid brush (or is it broom). In all these, I insist that there is something to be said for each of the sides to the argument but the premise of the woman I met at the filling station keeps gnawing at me.
It is evident that many Nigerians are unfairly expecting PMB to act like a superman or bring out rabbits and pigeons from his hat like Professor Pella because he had promised that he would do just that. Had he not promised that he would convert Nigeria’s tattered economic and social landscapes into an Eldorado – a land of gold, overnight? Had he not castigated everything his predecessor had done as evil, even before having a realistic insight into them? Did he not deride as infradig, Jonathan’s strategic trips to Chad and Niger in search of assistance in the fight against Boko Haram? Did he not thoroughly tongue-lash our generals and their prosecution of the terror war, in which he claimed they were displaying a great incompetence? Did he not promise to wipe out the Boko Haram almost magically?
In fact, in the words of the woman, did he not promise to become a magician in handling of the many problems of Nigeria? My main worry, like that of manyNigerians hoping for better times for our country, has become that the initial acts of omission and commission of our ‘tear leather’ president do not require any magic wand to accomplish, being ordinary things. For instance, one would have expected that a man who had been, since 2003, aspiring to run a democratic Nigeria would have had a blueprint that he would have memorized on every aspect of our enterprise. Again, having been sworn in two clear months after winning the elections would have been time enough to sharpen and fine-tune those ideas and vision that he had built up for the country, and that he would have started offloading them soon after he left the Eagle Square, where he was sworn in.
Even inexperienced governors like the youthful governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Victor Ikpeazu, had on his first day in office mobilized earth moving machines to start the task of cleaning Aba – an indication that he would give the filthy commercial city a battle as a priority. It might have well been that he had, during the transition period, got some companies to come and render those services as a goodwill gesture. After all, perception is everything in governance.
But the fact that the president who had castigated his predecessor for going to Chad and Niger, made going to those places the first activity of his Presidency can never inspire confidence in a hopeful citizenry. Neither would the fact that the president has been unable to appoint his key aides, five days after he had been given the clearance to do so by the National Assembly, a commendable sign. One would have expected that the names of those aides would have been in his front pocket since the electioneering campaign days.
One does not need to be a magician to appoint personal aides! Nigerians are both very patient and impatient at the same time. They are patient with leaders they love, like they love Buhari. But, like in the plays of William Shakespeare, their moods are like that of the Roman mob which swings o “inveterate hate from rabid love”. That is why it is worrisome that more and more Nigerians are starting to wonder whether they had, in fact, purchased copper for the price of gold by electing Buhari.
These days, one starts to hear or read more and more from the social media that Muhammadu Buhari and the APC might not have been psychologically prepared for governance, but might have been readier to form a parallel government as its chieftains had promised. Some of those who make this ‘satanic verses’ argument base their thesis on the fact that while the APC was able to start the test transmission of its Radio Chanji, as a proposed instrument of a parallel government, they are yet to take off with the basic aspects of democratic governance.
All said and done, there is no doubt to those, like me who appreciate and repose great confidence in his personal integrity, that President Buhari would soon remove all the cobwebs that have been obscuring his vision and plunge headlong into the urgent tasks of bringing the much needed change to the lives and circumstances of the long suffering Nigerians. One only hopes that would be as soon as this week.