By Ignatius Arinze
Recently, on a popular Television show, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’ Abba expressed misgivings about the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari revealing that he would not support his re- election.
Specifically, the former Speaker who is an elder statesman accused Buhari, a well- known disciplinarian of not contributing anything significant to the country’s democracy adding for good measure that Sai Baba is not qualified to be President or to govern a country like Nigeria.
Ordinarily, one should have chosen to ignore the ill- informed comments by the former Speaker especially after the mature and well-articulated response to him by the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu. One is of the view that Honorable Ghali Na’abba might have missed out on the contributions, changes and transformation going on in the country under President Buhari because the changes and improvements are taken place subtly without much noise and fanfare as was the case when people like Speaker Ghali held sway. Thus, one has to be a keen observer of trends and with an eye for detail, to notice what is taking place, a quality described by Mallam Garba Shehu, as ‘beetle- eyed’.
Ironically, contrary to the position of Hon. Ghali, it is in the area of Nigeria’s democracy that Muhammadu Buhari has so far, made a profound contribution. This was done when Buhari showed that he is a believer in democracy and government by the people. Having been a military leader of the country, and desiring to further serve his country at the highest level, Buhari did not waste time to join politics as the era of military takeover of governments has passed.
In this quest, Buhari displayed commitment and conviction, contesting the Presidency a record three times and finally getting elected as President by the Nigerian masses the fourth time, having submitted to coalition building and appeals to the varied political tendencies in the country. By showing faith in democracy and the people and getting the latter to look in his direction, PMB has enriched our democracy as a process that can be trusted despite any imperfections.
Also recently, while holding a meeting of leaders of his party where he commented on the 2019 time-table of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and asked how Nigerian politicians should comport themselves, President Buhari replied that his predecessor in office, former President Goodluck Jonathan has demonstrated the manner of conduct for all and sundry, as we move towards 2019. What PMB meant was that any person who lost election should accept defeat in good faith and congratulate the winner rather than embark on self- help and disruptive behavior that can endanger the nation. This means that as Jonathan would always say, his political ambition and victory is not worth the blood of any Nigerian!
This means that President Buhari subscribes to peaceful politics and politics without bitterness and would want all Nigerians to practice a democracy devoid of violence and killings in the quest of victory at all cost. If Nigerians can listen to Buhari on this score, our democracy would become like a game, a sport and not the warfare which it has been made to be in the past.
Second, the Nigerian society has been energized and made more discerning by President Buhari through the war against corruption and waste in government. Despite its shortcomings and imperfections, the war against corruption and indiscipline which are strong points of the character of President Buhari has opened the eyes of Nigerians to what corruption is all about and how deep it has eaten into the fabric of the Nigerian society, making it unable to realize its full potentials as a nation. The slogan, Nigeria must kill corruption or else it will kill the nation became popular because of Buhari’s war against corruption. Similarly, Nigerians without exception now know who is who among the big people in their country. Many of the men and women of yesterday and today, who move around as rich and accomplished persons including hitherto respected persons in the Judiciary, are actually people who became better than their countrymen by stealing from them denying them of their fair share of the wealth of the nation.
Though critics are right that the anti- graft war has not recorded many convictions but people have been named, shamed and interrogated on account of their misdeeds and no sector of society, including the military have been spared. This means that the high and mighty can be called to account and no more myth should surround those who have stolen from their country or even corporate organisations. The credit for this new reality goes to Buhari and nothing stops future governments in Nigeria from continuing the campaign against corruption and graft until we arrive at a reasonably sane society.
As a civilian President, Buhari has done well to show the Nigerian society the way to go. He has so far shown that he is capable and qualified to lead, as certain truths are now clear to Nigerians because of him. Before Buhari came to power, it was fashionable and romantic for Nigerian leaders to talk of diversification of the economy and carrying out an agricultural revolution. However, only Buhari has made these dreams possible. To a large extent, the Nigerian economy in about two and half years of Buhari’s stewardship has achieved reasonable diversification as the contribution of agriculture to national revenue has increased. The food import bill of the country has also decreased as Nigerian farmers are producing more for internal consumptionand export.
The Nigerian economy was in a sorry state when Buhari took over due to unbridled corruption of his predecessor in office and the collapse of oil price in the World market immediately after he took office. This forced the country into a recession and Buhari was able to bring Nigeria out of recession and towards renewed growth before the present upward movement in the price of crude oil, hitherto the mainstay of the country’s economy.
President Buhari has taught Nigerians the value and need for self- reliance at least in those areas of existence where the people can use their god- given energies and knowledge rather than depending always on imports.
As a former soldier who rose to the rank of a General, it is wrong to say that President Buhari is not educated enough to lead Nigeria. Despite any controversy pertaining to his School Certificate, it should not be lost on his critics that as a young military officer, he was trained in some of the finest military institutions in three different continents. Young Buhari attended the famous Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot in Kent, UK. He also attended Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, India and the US Army War College,
One can go on and on trying to educate incurable critics of President Buhari like Hon. Ghali Na’ Abba, former President Olusegun Obasanjo and others on the many modest achievements of President Buhari and the numerous others still in the pipeline in the areas of infrastructural development and provision of power. It behooves on senior citizens and elder statesmen like Hon. Ghali to follow the advice of presidential aides like Mallam Garba Shehu to tone down their offensive language against the President. It would be better for the nation if people of high standing like them can avail the President of their misgivings and suggestions in confidence while at the same time exert themselves to analyse and appreciate the efforts of the Buhari administration.
Finally, it should be stated that no leader, Buhari inclusive is perfect and can be perfect. And to seek perfection is futile. As an individual, PMB is doing his best. What remains is for those who come after him to strive and continue from where he stopped, in the service of the nation.
Ignatius Arinze is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja