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The Muhammadu Buhari I Can’t Stand

Austyn Ogannah Column

June 21, (THEWILL) – The benefit of democratic practices, such as all the accoutrements of the electioneering system like intra-party politics, party conventions, congresses and primaries, is that it brings to the fore an assortment of pros and cons that are endemic to the system, while highlighting specific character traits of the dramatis personae involved.

Quite often, the election cycle unmasks pretenders, while simultaneously elevating contenders. Due to the opportunity it affords anyone desirous to stake a claim to power, the election season also exposes pretentious demigods, who are deluded by their self-styled messianic statuses and for whom everything politics is transactional as a result of which they hold that it is their turn.

The politically astute among Nigerians watched all these play out recently and need no clues to identify individuals within the major political parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who personified these tendencies and how they flooded the system with a nauseous superfluity of foreign currency to bring about their political ambitions with varying degrees of success. Yet, apart from this aspect of the system, there was another level of importance that the electioneering played. It confirmed some notions that were known about the character of some of the politicians involved, in minor or major ways. One of such personalities was none other than the President and Commander-in-Chief himself, Muhammadu Buhari.

As the leader of the APC, so much of what goes on in the party is aimed at kowtowing to him and it will not be amiss to lay the blame of the slipshod lack of readiness the party suffered, leading up to its belated primaries, squarely on the shoulders of the President.

After initially demonstrating scant concern for the process, as he was neither seeking political patronage personally nor showing signs of bequeathing any such favours on aspirants in the party seeking his anointing, his demeanour gave as much as 23 party faithful the cojones to part with N100 million for the party’s presidential nomination forms.

Then, as the initial dates for the primaries neared and President Buhari had not warmed up to showing interest in the process of electing a candidate nor the convention itself, those who could read between lines were not at all shocked when the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) adjusted the election timeline to allow the APC to reschedule its primary.

I have said many times, during interviews on television and radio, even in my writings, that President Buhari had privately told his aides and associates that he preferred someone from the South-South preferably an Igbo from Rivers or Delta States as the APC presidential flag bearer. This information came from credible multiple independent sources.

It was this thinking that threw up Goodluck Jonathan, which I wrote about in my article on this page of February 27, 2022, titled “Goodluck Jonathan And His Purported Presidential Bid In 2023”, where I urged the former President to stay out of the race. It however appeared that the Aso Rock cabal had a different plan for the president’s successor. They wanted power to remain in the North and succeeded in getting Buhari’s nod to make this happen.

It was not long before the name of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, began to be whispered as an anointed favourite of the president. As callously tone deaf as such an outcome was, given the agitation in the polity for a change of ruling region, on the one hand, and the justified calls for power to “shift” to the South-East for the first time in our democratic dispensation, on the other, the powers-that-be still pushed for the blessing of President Buhari in their bid to get the presidential flagbearer via consensus.

The obvious dread about going to delegate-voting was that the financial muscle and heft of political will was weightier in favour of party stalwart and presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Without the oil of anointing from the President, Tinubu was impossible to beat. Yet, the backlash attempts to foist a northern consensus candidate on the party by the imprimatur of presidential sanction, which forced the president to retreat.

Without further pressure, the President reverted to his true form: aloofness. That, more than anything else, was what the party primary highlighted for me about what has been a recurring decimal in his composure. It was glaringly obvious and I doubt if I was the only observer of this phenomena that has characterised the president’s style of governance.

The most striking public evidence of what I am alluding to was exhibited at an interview with the Buhari, clips of which were shared online and quickly went viral. In that January 5 interview with Channels TV, in his response to a question about his successor in the 2023 general elections, the President responded point-blank: “2023 is not my problem. I don’t care who succeeds me. Let the person come, whoever the person is.”

If there was any inkling into what had become clear to be President Buhari’s standard operating mindset, it was captured in those words. The moment an issue, a concern, a problem, a subject, a situation is not impinging on his person directly, his standard response and or “body language” reverts to the fact that it is not his problem, as such, he cannot be bothered enough to care.

Buhari may have been responding to next year’s general election, where he has no skin in the game, but anyone who has observed the landscape and his reactions to issues in the polity will agree that this is his modus operandi. It was evidenced at the primary of the APC, where, as soon as he could no longer be bothered about how the votes swung, he wanted no part in the electioneering business, even though the party’s flagbearer carries the likelihood of winning next year and will be responsible for carrying on the hallowed responsibilities of moving the county forward. It was not his circus and he could not be bothered.

And, that is exactly the Buhari I cannot stand. The gold standard of leadership involves grooming the next generation of individuals that will be tasked with continuing to grow the leaders’ ideals and expand their legacies while expounding principles carried on from one generation to another. Leadership carries with it the burden of sacrifice and of service, of making one’s own the cares and concerns of all, those who agree and those who do not agree. A leader must be seen to go above and beyond to do his utmost in being inspirational and influential,even when he has absolutely nothing to gain and when nothing accrues to his benefit.

A leader is also not to be seen as one who forgets favours, but one who knows that one good turn deserves another And, above all, a leader ought to provide reasons to aspire for more than what he has been served by nature or nurture.

Instead of these ideals, this detestable side of Buhari is eminently self-serving. For someone whose latter day rise to political fame was dependent on the political and financial sacrifices of others, whose contributions eventually brought him to his current pedestal that he had consistently failed to attain on his own, to become aloof when the time came to also make some sacrifices for others with the capacity to give the country a progressive trajectory, such as his own Vice President Professor Yemi Osinbajo or any other capable aspirant, it is indicative of a callousness that is inimical to leadership.

There are numerous examples, prior to the elections cycle, that bear witness to the President’s penchant to remove himself from serious issues that have widespread implications for the whole country, but which do not personally touch his Kaftan. The iconic image of him sitting on a comfortable chair, picking his teeth after what may have been a sumptuous meal befitting a President while the country was in one turmoil or the other, is too picturesque to ignore in detailing this nature of his.

The massive cloud of goodwill that brought President Buhari to office became so dissipate as he seemed unconcerned while terrorists pillaged the North, herdsmen ransacked the country, kidnappers had a field day, millions of barrels of crude oil were lost to official and unofficial thefts, the economy constricted, inflation ballooned, there was capital flight and brain drain, industrial actions and unemployment skyrocketing, intermittent power grid collapses and massive population drops below the poverty line. In all of these, just as Nero fiddled while Rome burnt, the President seemed content to sit comfortably and judiciously go about picking his teeth. That, right there, is the Muhammadu Buhari I dislike.