A few days ago Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s newly elected President to be sworn in on May 29, snubbed and rejected a lavish convoy of cars—including the ultimate vehicle among the power establishment, the Rolls Royce. Instead, President-Elect Buhari chose a more modest Toyota Camry to make his appointments.
It is worth pointing out that; first, members of the diplomatic corps around the High Commission were shocked by this rare act of dignity, responsibility, and example by the former military Head of State. Buhari ruled Nigeria briefly from December 1983 to August 1985, before the General Ibrahim Babangida clique forced him and late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon out of office.
Second, as a leader Buhari has shown that the paraphernalia of office—the pomp and pageantry of presidential authority, and the flamboyant accouterments of power do not fall into his areas of interest or indulgence. I believe that the man wants to make history as a potentially great Nigerian president.
Third, Buhari is beginning his term well by sending the right messages to all those serial swindlers who are clothed, fed, and wined by Nigeria’s scarce resources. I believe Buhari’s austere and Spartan approach has made the maniacally greedy and indulgent political cabal very uncomfortable. It’s about time for Nigeria– especially after the struggled through the blinding bouts of corruption and thieving for16 years of the PDP locust and profligacy.
Fourth, I know that for Buhari–of the Fulani-Kanuri heritage and a conservative Muslim –to be that great Nigerian leader, he has to profit from the lessons of the mistakes of the previous leaders and presidents from the country. Especially, from one man who is similar to him in some ways.
Fifth, Buhari’s coming into Abuja to lead, Nigerians held high hopes for Olusegun Obasanjo that, tragically, he thought 8 years in office could also mean 80 years. No!
I recall that Obasanjo’s redemption opportunities to truly perform to historical distinction were squandered in petty fights and punitive expeditions and private appropriations — all wrapped a false veil of ‘Nigeria’s National Interest.’ Consequently, my mentor, the greatest novelist of African descent, Chinua Achebe, protested and rejected Obasanjo’s “national award.”
Sixth, like Buhari, Obasanjo is the only other Nigerian who served as a dictator and as an elected leader. I met Obasanjo 3 times in Houston when he came out of Sani Abacha’s prison during his first trip after his release; when he decided to run for president in 1999 and after he was victorious; and once in Calabar, Obudu ranch and Tinapa port during the outstanding governorship of Donald Duke.
Seventh, Buhari benefits by taking objective recommendations from Obasanjo, while looking beyond Obasanjo’s faux righteousness and spin. Regardless, and frankly, Nigerians still recall Obasanjo for the serial corruption of budgeting and spending billions in the monumental failure to give as little as 15% of Nigerians steady supply of electricity or cooking gas or kerosene!
Eight, like Buhari, Obasanjo is remembered for unlawful and unconstitutional impunity and operational excesses. Both men were foes of the freedom of the media….
In terms of the challenges ahead, as President Buhari is inaugurated on May 29th as a democratically-elected president, it is important that he profits from the lessons of history, and I have to say it, particularly, the reasons why so many leaders in Nigeria’s history squander opportunities for greatness. Buhari should remember that Nigerians voted for him in high numbers in order to fight corruption, corruption and corruption. Interesting that already the captains of corruption who wickedly reduced Nigerians to children of a lesser god are afraid of the emerging Buhari presidency.
Buhari has the capacity to rise to the challenge of history to be recorded as a man who had a rare second chance and truly turned Nigeria away from being the playground of economic leeches, political gangsters, irreligious murderers, social swine.
He should also note that they would not give up without a fight. Those legions of perversion, those offspring of Machiavelli who show no fear of God!
Buhari, in my view, has an advantage because he wants to make history instead of coming in to stack mountains of dollars, euros and Naira for his great grand, grand, grand children.