Mr. Adesina, Buhari is hardly all that…Not yet (1) By Olatunji Ololade

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/The Nigerian infatuation with moral personae is reflective in the trending fascination with President Muhammadu Buhari. Be it positive or negative, the opposition and public’s fixation with the retired Army General is recipe for recrudescent theatre. The dictator with unpopular morals eventually emerges as the country’s best hope (at the moment) of navigating its lattices of disaster and death to safer clime. How instructive.

At Buhari’s emergence, various segments of the country experienced radical re-awakening to the severity of his moral character. The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), major opposition to Buhari’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), consider him bad news; they cringe from his crusader mentality and imminent gale of prosecutions and corrective measures accruable from his much hyped anti-corruption campaign.

Pro-Buhari movement, comprising Nigeria’s impoverished and fading middle class however, cheer him on; even when his action (s) reek dangerously of injury to certain interests or sociopolitical divide. This is not to lampoon the president as most of his actions till date, seem absent of premeditated intent to gall or punish anyone or group unjustly. My view though, given the public’s predilection to read infinite meanings to everything and anything deemed political.

At his second shot at power, Buhari also experiences a rude arousal; his heartfelt dream of presiding over 173.8 million Nigerians or thereabouts has suddenly come true. An adult thing has happened, now he has to respond as a fully evolved adult. His virulent critics believe he is set up for a disastrous spell, his ardent loyalists ceaselessly affirm his competence yet Nigeria and the world depends on the Spartan conservative from Daura to affirm or dispel the wanton speculations and insinuations about him. Can he?

Buhari seemingly restores frantic theatricality to governance and leadership. What would have been impossible and unacceptable in previous regimes is suddenly becoming the public language of personae. The APC’s ‘change’ ideology meshes with the retired general’s anti-corruption stance in a dramatic dance of whim and political maneuverings.  Governance becomes a stage and Buhari is chief performer. Will he be hero or villain?

Buhari until his ascendance to power was a work of self-sculpture. Then he assumed power and became a statuette; everybody’s unfinished model. By becoming President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Buhari assumes an incompleteness. Innumerable expectations and traits seep into him by his personal and implied contact with loyalists and foes, in person and on the traditional or new media space.

The new Buhari will become what we intend him to be. It is beyond his will. His innate constitution is not enough to ride the tide of our collective degeneracy or sterling citizenship. Having played degenerate for too long under previous administrations, it’s about time we attempted the pursuit of noble citizenship in the interest of our fatherland. While we embark on such noble enterprise, Nigeria deserves the partnership of a humane and humble leadership. Is Buhari really such man?

In the run up to the March 28 presidential elections, the PDP persistently pitched former president, Goodluck Jonathan, as the ‘devil’ we know, advising haughtily, that we kept faith with his ‘transformation agenda’ even as it ushered us down the steep plane of disaster. The APC however, identified Jonathan as irredeemably less than, and passionately dismissed him as the faithful would, a rowdy wine god, or the abstemious would, the chronic tippler or mirth maker.

No doubt, Nigeria urgently needs a traditional moralist whose convenient morality would ultimately serve as a bridge and extinguisher of decadence but while we set Buhari up for such arduous and usually under-appreciated task, there is need to monitor him and the men seemingly responsible for inputs into his manifestly popular and unpopular acts.

Hardly anyone knows what the portfolio of “Special Adviser” signifies under President Buhari but going by its implied connotation, one could not be too wrong in assuming that the holders of such title wield immense influence in the presidency.

If that be the case, there is urgent need for Mr. Femi Adesina, former editor of The Sun newspapers to tread gently and fawn sparingly irrespective of the intensity of his love and admiration for President Buhari.

In a recent published article, he said of the incumbent president, “But what is bred in the bones never goes out through the flesh. Immediately after Buhari returned on May 29, Nigerians knew that discipline was back. Stealing is now corruption…And this one! Even our foreign reserve knows that a new sheriff is in town, and has responded appropriately. In June, just one month into office, and with the plugging of some leakages and loopholes, foreign reserve surged from $29 billion to $31.89. Holy Moses! Just in one month. Well, that is what a new sheriff can do. He brings sanity, confidence and probity to the system. And you would agree that Nigeria needs such shot in the arm, if we consider recent past experiences, when our treasury was like a bag filled with holes.

“President Buhari has spent time trying to clean the Augean stable he inherited. And he is succeeding. Sheriffs can either come in with guns blazing, shooting malefactors to kingdom come, or simply stamp their authority on the situation by sheer force of personality and presence. The Nigerian sheriff seems to have opted for the second option for now. But we should never forget that sheriffs are licensed to shoot. And those shots can be lethal for lawbreakers. In a matter of months, you can ask those who had bled our treasury to the point of death. They’ll have stories to tell.”

Mr. Adesina sure has stories to tell, at the moment. The details however, rankles with ominous note for the new Special Adviser on Media Affairs and the president. The presidential spokesperson’s recent article reads like a deep tissue massage of President Buhari’s ego. Agreed, certain details in the piece, barring embellishment, could be substantiated but the job of a Special Adviser on Media Affairs, I believe, should be ennobled beyond what it was in the time of Reuben Abati and what Mr. Adesina seem to be making it out to be.

I would love to believe Mr. Adesina commands the respect of President Buhari; that with him the Nigerian presidency would desist from seeing the average journalist as nothing more than an errand boy or obsequious pawn to be played in pursuit of selfish objectives.

Power infinitely generates and attracts sycophancy. The blasphemous flattery of Nigeria’s past presidents by their media advisers was not a mere culture of survival but a sign that the position is persistently regarded as an end in itself. Mr. Adesina as representative of the nation’s fourth estate should never be involved in the production of such fawning literature about his principal. His job is to caution and pitilessly offer harsh but constructive criticisms from a patriot and the media’s perspective of the president’s intended policies or actions before they are made public.

That was hardly the conduct of past occupants of the office in previous administrations. The former occupant of the office for instance, issued flattery like secular prayer and worship of his principal, Goodluck Jonathan, to the latter’s detriment. Mr. Adesina should never morph into such grotesqueness. Until he assumed the post, he was never an insincere flatterer. He wasn’t a leech nor was he a polluter of language and media integrity. Unlike his predecessor.