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President Muhammadu Buhari

(Opinion) My Man of the Year 2015

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

By Bolanle Bolawole

All over the world, individuals and organisations pick their “Man (or woman) of the Year. There are no clearly defined rules or specific criteria for picking man or woman of the year. The motives for, as well as the objectives of, the exercise vary from person to person and from organisations to organisations. Media organisations are particularly noted for celebrating man or woman of the year. Most times, you have as many man or woman of the year as you have appointing authorities. This is clear evidence that the criteria for the choice are as subjective as they are objective. Any time he acts as compere and ushers in Pastor EA Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, to deliver his sermon, Prof. Fola Aboaba is fond of speaking of “the moment we have all been waiting for is here”; meaning, then, that there is also man or woman of the moment. There are league matches of the week; star player of a match while work-places also have employee of the week or month. In all of these, the motive, most time, is to identify stars and talents and encourage or compensate them.
Conversely, however, there is man or woman of the year award for villainy. If such an award is to be given in Nigeria today, it will almost certainly go the retired Colonel Sambo Dasuki, erstwhile National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan. Not minding that we admit Dasuki to be deemed innocent until pronounced guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction, revelations so far regarding what has come to be known as DasukiGate are benumbing enough to warrant jumping the gun, as it were. The diversion of 2.1 billion US dollars meant for the purchase of arms for a military battling Boko Haram has left many citizens aghast. The money became a bazaar that was shared out as campaign and slush funds even as soldiers were left to battle well-armed insurgents virtually with bare hands. The puzzles in this matter are many. One: Dasuki was a senior Army officer and the military, thus, was his primary constituency. Ordinarily, one should expect him to have empathy (esprit de corps) for the military and be able to defend their interests. Two: Dasuki is a northerner and the insurgency is ravaging the North in a way that galls even outsiders, not to talk of someone who has affinity with the victims. That he could stand the continued pummelling of the north-east, watching soldiers scattering before Boko Haram, and still pandering to other interests shocks me to the marrow. Three: Dasuki became NSA because of the perceived failure of his predecessor to win the war against Boko Haram. Therefore, one should ordinarily have expected he would not allow anything come between him and the successful prosecution of the war. Without doubt and regardless whether he succeeds to escape censure, this man wins my Man of the Year 2015 Award – Villainy Category.
Many people will pick President Muhammadu Buhari as Man of the Year 2015 not necessarily for anything that he has done or achieved so far but for what the vast majority of the people expect him to do. So much hope is heaped on Buhari to stop the rot in the system; arrest and discipline the looters of the nation’s funds; and turn things around for good. What made many to be so confident that Buhari will deliver include an antecedent that shunned ostentation; a Spartan lifestyle; and the commitment to the life of a disciplined military officer who shunned corruption and stood stoically on the solid rock of principles. In and out of office, he is seen as belonging to a class of its own, quite different from the corrupt leaders all over the place. This must be the quintessential biblical Job of our time who, despite the pervasive rot and the deprivations he had to suffer, maintained his integrity. Should Buhari win the prize of Man of the Year 2015, however, he will wear the badge not only for himself but for a lot of other interests. Buhari was not self-made; put differently; Buhari was not made by Buhari alone. Buhari was vintage political failure turned to glittering success story. This must be the Abraham Lincoln of our time. Buhari as a roaring brand that he is today is the efforts of so many people. To start with, we must salute the man himself for the austere lifestyle he deliberately chose to live. He could have been stinking rich; in this wise, he could have soiled his hands and stank to high heavens. Nothing would have differentiated him from the coterie of Nigerian leaders who flagrantly abuse the trust and confidence reposed in them by the people on the altar of selfish interests. Next, we have the solid band of supporters who elevated Buhari to the pedestal of a folk hero. This support, not waning, not waxing cold but solid and steadfast, was what made Buhari tick.
Important as this support was, however, it amounted to little for more than a decade; until political realignment favoured the emergence of Buhari as the arrow head of opposition forces intent on seeing off the government in power. Hitherto antagonistic forces found common cause and purpose to jettison age-old rivalries to forge a united front. Without this political engineering, Buhari would not have had the privilege of the bridges that allowed him gate-crash into zones hitherto firmly shut in his face. The people, who, for once, decided to take their destiny into their own hands, must be saluted for being resolute this time around; so also an electoral umpire that bent over backwards to distance itself from the impunity of the past. You can now see that my Man of the Year 2015 is a pot of soup professionally superintended by a handful of expert chefs. Buhari, as he steps unto the podium to receive my Man of the Year 2015 Award, does so as the representative of the forces that coalesced into bringing him this far. Just like the late MKO Abiola was the symbol of June 12, so also is Muhammadu Buhari the symbol of the forces that not only chorused CHANGE but also ensured that they brought it to pass.
If Buhari fails…
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that any of his ministers and, by extension, other officials, caught in the act of corruption will not only be relieved of his or her post but be charged to court. Good, and we wait to see because I know some will be caught pants down. Call me a pessimist if you will but I believe corruption is ongoing right now in the Buhari administration. Corruption has become so endemic that it will take more than a threat by the president to stop it. Until we begin to make scapegoats, the required change in the psyche and orientation of our people will not take place. Mr. President should, however, behave like a sub-editor who is trained to have eagle eyes that spot errors in any copy. Who authors a script notwithstanding, a good editor or proof-reader must believe there are errors lurking somewhere in there and be diligent enough to fish them out. Buhari must adopt a similar mentality. Wiping out corruption is essential if progress is to be made on all fronts.
I shudder to think what will happen if Buhari’s administration fails to live up to the expectations of Nigerians. If power supply remains erratic and we have more hours of darkness than those of light, then, this government fails. If we continue to import fuel and endless queues remain a recurring decimal, then, Buhari fails. If fuel does not sell at the fixed price but people have to pay black market price for it, then Buhari fails. If prices of foodstuffs keep sky-rocketing, then, Buhari fails. A return to agriculture is sine qua non both to provide the people with adequate nutrition as well as have another important foreign exchange earner. If Buhari fails to achieve these, then, he fails. Ours have been a mono-cultural economy for so long with successive governments merely playing lip service to the diversification of the economy. If Buhari joins the bandwagon in playing lip service and does not develop other sources of income, especially foreign exchange earners, for the country, then, he fails. Education at all levels is in a terrible shape: Standards have fallen; the school calendar, especially at the tertiary level, has become confusion personified; the Ivory Tower is today as corrupt as the larger society; and not much benefit is gleaned from the academia by the society at large. If Buhari goes without salvaging the education sector, then, he fails. There are tens of thousands of youths roaming the streets without jobs. It is said that a large chunk of them are not even employable. Buhari must do something about this or he fails. Unemployment is a time-bomb; the high rate of crime in the country today has been put at the door-mouth of the high level of unemployment in the system. Buhari must drastically reduce the staggering figure of unemployment or he fails. Many state governments cannot pay the salaries of workers as at when due; for a fact, many of the states are distressed. And, truth be told, the destiny and future of generations have been mortgaged on the altar of massive indebtedness by the states. Many states are not viable but are mere begging bowls. We have too many states; we have a horrendous number of local governments; the cost of governance is enormous and the entire federation needs restructuring. If Buhari fails to bequeath a more balanced federal to Nigerians, then, he fails.
There is so much to be done by Buhari. The above is by no means an exhaustive list. Yet, time is limited and human capability finite. Prayers as well as all hands must be on deck for Buhari to succeed. If the people’s hopes get dashed on Buhari, then, expect a disillusioned citizenry to cry out for hardliners and hard-line solutions.

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