One month into a four year term is an inchoate preface to a potentially bulky story. But a growing jury is already spawning harsh reviews. The sober watchers of the commentariat and the intoxicated denizens of the pub are frantically racing to beat some deadline to close the book on the history of the forty something day old presidency of Muhammadu Buhari!
The scramble to declare the end of Buhari’s nascent administration from its beginning creates a split screen contrast: the lightening speed of the chroniclers and Buhari’s fictive administrative paralysis.
The operational principle in the mind of the rushing reviewers is easy to decipher. It’s the scriptural relativity of time: a day is like one thousand years!
The complainants are huge and diverse. Many are beleaguered Nigerians who crave change in their fortune as early as yesterday. They have suffered enough. They count the scourge of the terror cult, corruption in officialdom, miserable power output, the stagnant economy, an ever growing army of the jobless. They want Buhari to be the macho hero of an action film. They need therapy, shocks and special effects.
Another horde whines for a private reason. They would never embrace the fact that ‘’a senile, semi-illiterate, Fulani cattle rearer ’’ presides over their affairs. Their cherished disdain for Buhari’s person finds expression in nitpicking.
In part, the cynics’ haste to damn Buhari too soon represents a struggle against their inability to fast-forward Buhari’s tenure. The relentless focus on trivialities (he has refused to pick ministers on my timetable; none of his first appointees hail from my village!) serve as a proxy for their souls’ protest against the commencement of a Buhari presidency certain to be, for them, an unbearable ordeal. They wish to speed up its end.
They can’t help summarizing Buhari’s tenure in his first month because their fantasy has granted them their wish to have four years compressed into one month!
To an extent, Buhari helped create this dilemma. Unlike his predecessor, he did not serve any notification he would need Patience. He had married an Aisha!
(Bonus quiz: why did they vilify an adult for wearing her hard-earned wrist watch on May 29, 2015?)
The purpose of the preemptory critique shines through. The mischief of labeling Buhari a failure before he settles into his position poses as a duty to police Buhari’s faithfulness to his campaign deliverables. But its true objective is to spread the contagion of despondency.
The gist of the perverse gospel is that the first month was Buhari’s one and only window of opportunity to seal his legacy. He has squandered the decisive period, and so, there is nothing to expect from the remainder of his tenure.
Come, buyer’s remorse!
The narrative of a Buhari presidency that has failed in advance is so ridiculous it shouldn’t fly. Where else would it have been so easy to solder onto the psyche of the people the lie that the fulfillment of campaign promises, especially for a nation that has been more ruined than ruled by its relay of post-colonial leaders, shouldn’t have a time component? The joke travelled as a truism because a fraction of the Nigeria population is endowed with enough credulity to believe that Buhari was elected to function as Magician-in-Chief!
Clearly, this is a quest to bankrupt President Buhari of goodwill before he earns it. It is a bid to rob him of the critical support he needs to succeed, to mobilize the people to rally against a government they installed because the lore says Buhari is more incompetent than the man he supplanted.
It’s the mother of ironies majority of sponsors of this lie miss the import of their antagonism.
Just a couple of months ago, they led the growing chorus that asserted that Nigeria was in its golden era. Jonathan has transformed Nigeria. He has excelled past heads of states. An election is unnecessary because there is no better alternative.
While that period of salesmanship lasted, they dismissed all evidences of Jonathan’s poor leadership. They refuted the veracity of the decline of Nigeria as a global player, the free fall of the naira, the spike of crude oil theft and the multi-billion fuel subsidy swindle.
They have suddenly awakened from their anaesthetized indifference. Those who would not brook the mention any conspicuous failure of the Jonathan administration have resurrected unto activism. They now detest the conditions they relished and labored to perpetuate under Jonathan. They now ask why it was taking Buhari too long to make their newly discovered problems disappear in a twinkling-of-an-eye rapture!
This trial of Buhari to compensate for the pardon of Jonathan says a lot about the fairness of the critics.
It is also a confession of self-deceit. For one, if the hyperbole around which the case for Jonathan’s second term was framed a near approximation of reality, wouldn’t there be such paltry perfunctory routine for Buhari to tend that it would be incongruous to impugn him for not deploying as an agile firefighter?
If the feats they had ascribed to Jonathan were real and that he wrought too many of them as to make us in debt of gratitude and second-term payback, why do they find themselves pillorying Buhari for not solving in one month the problems his predecessor couldn’t tackle for half a dozen years?
The truth is that Buhari’s beginning was bound to be an unfortunate hostage of the context he entered. All analyses that downplay or trivialize the history he met advances falsehood.
Buhari is the ultimate outsider who crashed into Aso Rock. He faces a configuration and mode of operation that makes the presidency dedicated to the implosion of the Nigerian state. He needs reasonable time to reorient Aso Rock into a force for good and inaugurate a new era.
Buhari inherited a presidency whose raison d’être was transmuted to the licensing of criminality. A presidency that sabotages the national economy by randomly distributing import waivers to cronies. A presidency that bribes high risk ex-militants with contracts for securing strategic economic installations. A presidency that punishes reportage of the plunder of state earnings and protects the thieves. He is serving Nigeria better by refusing to rush and be rushed.
It would be far easier for Buhari to pander to the crowd. Some tokenisms here; some precipitate proclamations there. But that would be selling statecraft to effervescent applause.
Our leaders are steeped in the meme of ‘’moving the nation forward’’. There is no place for study and strategy. And that cliché has caused us to expect politicians to salute our appetite for motion and activity from day one. It matters little that all the reassuring feints toward busyness eventually terminate in a scam.
It’s instructive that Buhari, the general, is now called a ‘’snail’’ and ‘’Baba Go Slow’’, the same nicks that greeted the cautious start of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, the urbane analytical chemistry teacher.
We tend to believe we know Nigeria’s emergencies, that we can pyramid them in the right order – they all quickies. That’s hubris. It takes being introduced to the estate of the country to appreciate the true picture. And Buhari did not get that after he won the election.
The transition period did not ready Buhari for ‘’ hit the ground running’’ resumption. The bruised outgoing administration starved him of any actionable information that could have helped him to set his policy direction to match the prevailing situations. When he advised that he could use some briefing, Jonathan’s people censured him for trying to ‘’stampede’’ Jonathan out of office. All they could grudge to indulge him in preparation for takeover was a tour of Aso Rock!
Even in the best of times, the job of a president, the president of any country, is the toughest in the land. It is hardly the job of tackling open-and-shut cases. Buhari’s current job, however, is more daunting.
Yes, Buhari promised to change Nigeria. That was good for a campaign theme. It was sufficient to instigate hunger for a sane way of conducting governance. After the vote, campaign soundbite confronts the imperative of pragmatism.
Buhari promised to change Nigeria based on the assumption that Nigeria was basically a country in dysfunction. He has since realized it’s worse than that. He cannot possibly change a non-country. His mission is to engender the rebirth of Nigeria.
The attacks on Buhari’s beginning thrive on the notion that he could conjure a skyscraper from the ruins of the vandal rulership of the past sixteen years. That goes to prove not just our naivety, but our graciousness in discounting our collective injury.
Changing Nigeria would have been easier. Buhari’s challenge is to midwife another Nigeria and to substitute that born again Nigeria with the farce that currently exists.
I understand why we cannot wait for the twilight of Buhari’s first one hundredth day in office to start querying his capacity for performance. Second-guessing is our second nature. It’s the reason why we contract a coach for the Super Eagles and never pay him the compliment of deferring to his wisdom. Rather, we assign ourselves the task of remedying his crass ignorance, of teaching him football.
Emmanuel Uchenna Ugwu
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