WITH his tall, gaunt, ram-rod straight frame, eyes piercing from behind his pair of glasses as though in permanent bewilderment, Muhammadu Buhari sometimes looks like an exclamation mark written with the thinnest of ball points.
Hunched on a seat, his seemingly fragile and elastic limbs nicely folded, he can sometimes look like a question mark.
During the campaigns, there were more than a few questions asked of the man. Was he healthy? Did he possess the required certificates? And can he govern and govern well? Since the votes of Nigerians are the ultimate vote of confidence in the person for whom they are cast, the answer to those questions was not only an emphatic yes, it came with an exclamation mark written in bold.
Nigerians have answered for him. Now, it is time for Buhari to answer for himself. Not only questions about his person alone now. But those nagging questions about Nigeria.
It has been three weeks since he took office and nothing has yet taken the shine off the blazing chariot he rode into office.
Nigerians wanted change and they have it, not just because their new helmsman and his choir sang or shouted it the loudest, but because the man is undoubtedly a complete departure from the perennial tardiness, drudgery and sloppiness of Goodluck Jonathan.
Disciplined and oozing integrity with his every breath, he has brought to the saddle the kind of re-assurance on which the people are ready to pay a huge premium.
But with high expectations often comes impatience. So far, it seems lost on Buhari that though the thirst for change cannot be assuaged overnight, Nigerians want to wake up every morning hearing the cackling sound from the brook, to say water is on the way.
Nigeria is a wounded nation. The physical gash on her body, inflicted by Boko Haram terrorists in their rampaging blood-letting, is nothing compared to the moral wound on her soul inflicted by rampaging corruption. The just-ended electioneering campaigns, divisive, abusive and so blatantly bereft of ideas, of course, added to the emotional wound.
What Buhari then has on his hands is a mandate to renew Nigeria, a charge to be the architect of national renaissance. Nigeria is bleeding and needs a rescue operation urgently. It is good to be cautious and calculating, but never to the extent of paralysis. That appears to be the signal the nation is getting now.
As president, Buhari must of necessity embrace consensus and consultations but he must resist the temptation to be embalmed in such. He must of necessity stay loyal to the party and the contending forces that propelled him to power. But he must find a stronger emotion for Nigeria as a united nation in a hurry to re-discover its destiny.
The range and depth of Buhari’s victory is certainly something of a phenomenon, something he must stay in permanent awe of so he would appreciate the mandate in his hands.
For a man renowned for his taciturnity, he has somehow become the most inspiring figure of this era, attracting the support and loyalty of very unlikely people and galvanizing many Nigerians in ways hardly ever seen since June 12, 1993.
Take the case of Alhaji Isyaku Ibrahim. Sarkin Kudi, as President Shehu Shagari loved to call him, was one of the most powerful men of the second republic. He was a major financier of the then ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, who had the ears of Shagari and was super minister Umaru Dikko’s bossom friend. It was no surprise therefore that when Buhari overthrew the Shagari government, Ibrahim went into exile in England from where he launched the most devastating campaign against the military regime.
Leveraging on his clout with leaders in Europe and America, he made life difficult for the Buhari-Idiagbon government so much that, it was believed, had the crating of Dikko succeeded, Ibrahim was next in line for that treatment. He never returned until long after Buhari himself had been booted out.
A principled democrat and an unrepentant nationalist, he was first vice chairman of the finance committee of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party but turned one of the harshest critics of the party, its leaders and their corruptive ways right from Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure through Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s till Goodluck Jonathan’s. When he left the ruling PDP to join, of all parties, Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, many who did not know the man well enough were more than a little surprised by the union of the two old foes. But that is Ibrahim, on principles. He has staunchly backed Buhari ever since.
This illustrates the pulling power of the Buhari phenomenon and its ability to attract loyalty and faith of Nigerians on account of principles. The direct implication of this is that the investment in Buhari by Nigerians is one of total faith and he cannot afford to disappoint.
The implication is that he now has the daily challenge of avoiding a situation in which he would become, to use the phrase the boxer Muhammad Ali when he was still known as Cassius Clay used in describing the then invincible Sonny Liston: a man built up so high he had a long way to fall.
Three weeks into his era is not enough time for proper assessment or any conclusion. However, that he won the election since March 28, almost three months ago and should have signaled a firmer hold on his party and troops by making more appointments than he has done, is certainly a reasonable assumption to make. Nigerians have elected a commander-in-chief, not a ditherer-in-chief.
Buhari had run for President a few times and even once said he was through with it. But in 2015, he came along again when the nation needed a figure of discipline and integrity most. And for the office of President, the man and the moment met. Now, for the real job of governance, have the man and the moment met?
That is one question Muhammadu Buhari will have to answer very quickly if he would not let it be known to Nigerians that they were wrong about him.