Mr. Emeka Ugwuonye in his essay titled Buhari’s Burden (http://elombah.com/index.php/articles/ephraim-emeka-ugwuonye/11101-buhari-s-burden) may have portrayed Mr. Muhammadu Buhari as a statesman; an upright man; and a man not given to political correctness in his speeches. Mr. Ugwuonye also painted the image of the Nigerian press as people who are mostly responsible for portraying Mr. Buhari in a bad light.
Both pictures are correct but only so far.
There is no doubt that reading from Nigerian press should carry the warning “buyer beware.” They publish half truths, outright lies and only occasionally the whole truth. But Buhari has not shown to understand the fine art politics. He is yet to demonstrate that he has the qualities to be a nation builder. The press did not make Buhari; Buhari created Buhari
I will give a few examples from his current and past history.
1. Mr. Buhari does not now hold a strong card that would attract people to his brand of politics, but he is playing as if he is the “go-to-man.” He has declared his intention to run for the presidency in 2015, three years ahead and well ahead of every other credible Nigerian. His party CPC is certainly not as strong as ACN and only marginally stronger than ANPP. He is seeking alliances with these parties. What he is in effect saying is that ACN and ANPP should come and help him in his effort to become the next president. Why would ACN pay even a cursory attention to his courtship? The most ACN would get out of the alliance is a Vice President and ANPP would get nothing out of it. Or vice versa. One can easily see why the courtship would end in failure. It can be said that the 2009-2011 unity efforts failed because of Buhari’s ambition in this regard. Did he learn any lesson from the past? The proper step would have been to form the alliance and the alliance would work out the details of who would be the alliance’s flag bearer. But with his approach Buhari has excluded the chance for a negotiated leadership positions. He is the principal and the others would play subordinated roles.
2. As the flag bearer Buhari would draft the platform on which he would run and the agenda of ACN and ANPP would be footnotes. How can any party agree to this arrangement?
3. Buhari has not addressed any of the important issues facing Nigeria other than to accuse the present administration of corruption. I know of no published documents where he has addressed current issues. I have a dossier on where El Rufai would take Nigeria if he were to run for president. He has written extensively on what is ailing Nigeria and how the problems could be solved. Political thinkers do this all the time. One would recall the Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama where he outlined what he thought was America’s problem and how such problems could be solved. It is a political manifesto. Zik, Awo, etc, had such documents before they started angling for the highest office. Can any person point out to me a piece of paper where Mr. Buhari has shown that he has thought through what he would do once he gets the office of the presidency of Nigeria. This is what he should be doing at this time and would be on the road selling such ideas in seminars, political rallies, on TV and newspaper interviews. Stepping out and making incendiary speeches are not good ways to advance any political thoughts or agenda.
4. From Buhari’s past I could not see occasions where he spoke out forcefully on injustices. Segments of Nigeria suffer, suffered or are suffering. I would like a link to the place where he spoke forcefully on the suffering of Delta people that created MENDS; I would like a reference where he spoke out on rebuilding Biafra after the war; or his efforts in this regard as the Head of State when he was in power. Could somebody point out to me where he condemned the earlier Jos riots in the past ten years or where he showed leadership in the current Boko Haram incidents other than making tepid condemnations while adding that this administration is responsible for the mess? If one searches the press, one would see the writings of Mr. Lamido Sanusi on any of the points I raised above from rehabilitating Biafra; to economic solutions; to the role of religion in the public life in Nigeria. They may not be the best ideas but we know he has given some thoughts to them. Does Mr. Buhari think? Or does he merely lack the intellectual capacity to set pen to paper.
5. Mr. Buhari’s other reputation is as a man of integrity. That reputation may well be earned, but his tendency to work and associate with people of questionable integrity such as Mr. Tunde Bakare puts a damper on this reputation. His selection of Mr. Bakare as his 2011 Vice President seemed to represent his tolerance for Christianity but Mr. Bakare’s reputation was never like Caesar’s wife: above suspicion. Two illustrations will suffice. Mr. Tunde Bakare and his team requested a nocturnal visit with Mr. Jonathan in 2010 and after their discussion of their still secret agenda, money changed hands. Mr. Bakare and his team accepted the bribe but later changed their minds and returned the money to Aso rock. This act of repentance by the man of God can only be compared to Judas’s repentance after he had accepted 30 pieces of silver to betray Jesus and when the conspiracy collapsed Judas returned the bribe money. Mr. Bakare was the Judas in that transaction. Mr. Bakare also led ACN and CPC to believe that he would resign as Buhari’s Vice President but reneged. One can say that of Mr. Bakare his “yes” is not “yes” and his “nay” never a “Nay”. Not during his nocturnal visit; and not with ACN. Yet he and Mr. Buhari are still partners.
6. I want to add a comment on the other issue raised by Mr. Ugwuonye about the press. Mr. Ugwuonye has a point about the quality of news report by the Nigerian press. The quality is very poor. It is the duty of the press to extract from leaders pointed positions on matters of National importance. Why has no newspaper or radio or TV asked for and obtained a detailed interview with Mr. Buhari? Such an interview would give Mr. Buhari the opportunity to tell Nigerians what he is thinking and what he would do with power once he gets it. The press merely report what was said or sometimes what was not actually said. We need follow up. If as Mr. Ugwuonye suggested that Mr. Buhari was just using anecdotes and that his actual words in the context of the 2015, mean something different, a diligent press would be able to bring the true interpretation to the public from the horse’s mouth. Maybe Mr. Ugwuonye should demand such an interview and give us some direct quotes from Mr. Buhari. Otherwise I will still like to take Mr. Buhari at his words.
It is not too late for Mr. Buhari to retrace his steps. Nothing he has done or said is irreversible. He can take himself out of 2015 and then pursue negotiations in good faith with the other opposition parties. He can seek out young and energetic younger followers and start travelling to all the zones and forming small teams and getting to know small town chiefs. Getting to know Obi of Onitsha as he did in the last election cycle will not do the trick. He needs to know who the Ezeala of Achi is. He should seek audience with Eze Nri and their counter parts in Ife, Abeokuta, and Caliber; in Markurdi, and in Igalla. Mr. Buhari should start writing and showing that he is intellectually vibrant and that he is not attempting something that is over his head.
He should be stepping outside Nigeria and meeting world leaders and understanding foreign policies. I have not seen him in talks with Ghanaian, South African or British leaders. He is not doing it within Nigeria and is not doing it outside Nigeria. I would like to welcome him to Boston to speak to Diaspora Nigerians or to visit Harvard University as the Sultan of Sokoto has done. We are his subjects too although we do not have votes we have influence. He should invite Elombah.com or Sahara Reporters for a full length interview
Mr. Buhari please stand up for one Nigeria. Do not be chicken
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
May 24, 2012