Farewell, Buhari, Wike, others


Goodbye  is sometimes easy to say, hard to take. But  not this one. Most Nigerians are happy that, at last, Muhammadu Buhari and some state Governors have exited power. Good riddance!  No tears for their departure. The wish of many as they reminiscence on their tenures is that none of these leaders should ever show up again in our governance process, even their long shadows in the corridors of power in any form. These men will not be missed. Yesterday, indeed, marked the beginning of yet another transition in our fledging democracy. As a matter of fact, 24 unbroken years of smooth handover of power, from one administrstion, to another, is something to celebrate. If that is the good news, it will take some years to forget the 8 years of locust, of broken promises, insecurity,  the unparalleled pains and misery that poor, incompetent and wicked leadership  inflicted on Nigeria and the citizens. Buhari ran a bad race. He knows it. He’s free to have praised himself. He’s a pseudo democrat.       

I believe that the mood aboard the Presidential jet that took Buhari and his family to his hometown of Daura, Katsina state, was sombre. It was not high-spirited. Nothing festive as the former President and his wife sat quietly in their private compartment. No cracking of jokes and laughter among the family members and a coterie of friends and security personnel who accompanied him to his state that he had longed for in retirement. Remember, any disturbance of his peace, Niger Republic is just a few kilometres away to ‘defend’ him. He said that much in the weeks leading to the end of his presidency. That is often the case with a president’s final days in office. There’s always a sense of ennui. It’s often like an invisible force had entered the plane. That’s lesson in power. Power is like a bikini. It reveals more than it hides. As historians will tell us, no one can lead who does not first acquire power, and no leader can be great who does not know how to use power for great purposes. But the combination of the two skills is often the problem with many politicians.                         

From the lavish ceremonies of yesterday, and the departure of yesterday’s leaders, power can be used for great purposes, but the transient nature of power teaches profound lessons, and that is, beyond a vision beyond any leader’s own advancement, he will be forgotten in no time, even paralyzed once the the goal had been achieved. And the question will be: What legacy did a leader leave behind that’s worth remembering? That’s what power always does. As a new president(?) takes over, any lesson(s) learned from his predecessor? It is also important to ask the following questions: why is it that what works in other democracies does not quite work in our country, despite the ledger of failures that litter our political literature? Why are our leaders in constant denials and only realised their mistakes and ask for ‘forgiveness’ at the eleventh hour?                                       

Think of a man who was very humane when he was soliciting for your vote, but immediately he got elected, he suddenly became a tyrant afterwards. What went wrong? Did Satan take over his mind? That’s exactly what happened across the country in the last 8 years. The worst could still be ahead. Let’s take a brief trip to the USA, and make a comparison. Decades after he had passed on, Americans still fondly remember  Franklin Delano Roosevelt, (the  32nd President). Why? Roosevelt raised the edifice of their dreams. He saved the country at a time of great difficulties – the great depression(1933-1945) and World war 11. He gave them reason to believe in themselves again. He gave hope, amid despair. He promised prompt, vigorous action on matters that concerned the people. He asserted in his  Inaugural Address, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Buhari asserted on May 29, 2015, “I belong to everyone, I belong to no one”. Did he really belong to everyone, and to no one?  He promised to lift the economy, fight insecurity and corruption. Did he deliver on any of them? You answer.                                 

No wonder, when Roosevelt died, among the thousands of mourners who graced his funeral, a man was seen carrying his young son on his shoulder as the funeral train passed by.  He asked his son, “make sure you see everything”. The boy enthused, “that’s good Dad” As the funeral train approached where they were standing, amid the sea of heads of dignitaries, the man asked his son again, “my boy, make sure you remember”. Remember what, you may ask? The father said, “because, a great man has just passed on…he influenced many lives greatly”. This is what is called transference leadership, a leader’s ability to connect with his people, take away their doubts, and shape their aspirations, especially during challenges of immediate sort. Can we say that of Buhari, or any his predecessors, or most of the governors that exited power yesterday? It troubles the heart. Is Nigeria jinxed on the leadership scale?  That’s why the outcome of the Presidential election will continue to cause deep bitterness.                                                         

Are you better off now than you were 8 years ago?  Only few will answer in the affirmative.That’s why the tempers of the time demand a different leadership, a leadership that listens, a leadership that doesn’t lie to its citizens.  Sadly, some of our leaders wouldn’t mind to be caught dead in a strip club if that is what it takes to claim some achievements in office that stand truth on its head. As a result, if telling outright lies or defining truth downwards will do it, so be it. Expect plenty of that in the months ahead.  It’s not unkind to say that Buhari years represent an era of gross economic and security calamity in Nigeria. Apart from few infrastructure like roads, rails and bridges. At least he gave us 2nd Niger bridge, even as infrastructure deficit remains wide at $3.2tr.               

All the same, Buhari government did set Nigeria several years backward. He left behind tears, sorrow and blood. Never seen a man who God gave a rare opportunity of a lifetime, to make amends, but squandered it. He admitted during the Sallah homage in April that “I considered myself lucky”. He was referring to his three previous failed attempts at the presidency.  He reminded everyone that he was a former Petroleum Minister, ex-military Head of state and civilian President. As Sir Winston Churchill said in 1920, “politics is almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war, you can only be killed once, but in politics many times”. That’s what Buhari went through before he became president. But he forgot all that. It’s what is called “holiness of second chance”. But many politicians don’t know what it entails.  As Christians and Muslims, Nigerians will forgive him, but history may not. Forgetting his misrule is something time and circumstance will take care of.                                                                             

But Buhari is not alone. In the speech he delivered in 1864, Wendell Phillips, the foremost orator of the abolitionist movement in America in the 18th century, said, that “politicians are like the bones of a horse’s foreshoulder – not a straight one in it”.  Where is Nyesom Wike, Okezie Ikpeazu, Samuel Ortom, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi? Wherever they are, they may not be faraway. Ugwuanyi and Ortom are very humane men that Wike deceived, left them in the lurch in the pursuit of his selfish interest. They chose to be Wike’s servile orderliness( boy-boy).  Bello Matawalle of Zamfara state, is a victim of his own hubris. The law of Karma caught up with him. The EFCC is waiting for him.  Where is Nasir el-Rufai, the “enfant terrible” of Kaduna state?  And Ben Ayade of Cross River State? These are two brilliant men, no doubt. But they suffer from the ‘smartest- in -the- class’ syndrome, the know-it-all occupational disease that afflicts many politicians in Nigeria of today.  Oh, less we forget, what about Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano state?  Where’s he now?  These  men sought and got power to bend people to their will. Always on vendetta mission rather than face the task of governing                 

However, few of them did some wonderful things, and at the same time, terrible things, and they all came out of the same place. Of all of them, as some of political foes have alleged, “Wike’s betrayal, deception and hypocrisy may have been in his DNA”. I don’t know how close to the truth this is, but Wike brought trust to a low level. Wike has made our politics a fun to follow. He will definitely miss his usual live television shows in which he literally throws bombs at his political enemies. Will Rivers state citizens miss his combative nature? It’s for them to answer that. Watching him last Thursday on television, it must have dawned on him now that the curtain is fallen on his 8 years in power. Even though “money is the lifeblood of politics”, according to former U.S Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neal, those who stumbled on the ladder of politics did so, because they failed to realise that trading favours and flattering can give one an oxygen of publicity, in the end,  all things shall pass — every life endeavour has expiry date.                                 

Wike’s style of politics is something students of politics and governance should do research on. But it comes pretty close to Lord Acton saying that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. And lies don’t have a lifespan. The mood of the country today is that of extreme anguish. And the pain that the Buhari government  inflicted on Nigerians is an unforgettable lesson in power. But the new administration may even be worse, who knows? This is because, experience has taught us that what a leader does when he’s trying to get power is not necessarily what he does after he had got it.  The truth is that every government in power is judged by the success or failure of the promises that it made on assumption of office.                                                                               

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