Since Tuesday the 31st of March 2015 when it became obvious that the Presidential election in my home country has been decided, I have been relishing the sense of joy and relief that came upon me soon afterwards. I was relieved not because my preferred candidate Muhammadu Buhari won the election. I was relieved because Mr. Goodluck Jonathan was forced to handover a pair shoes that were far too big for his skinny feet. A lot has been said. A lot has happened too.
Now is the time however, to look ahead with hope not the least because Major-General Muhammadu Buhari is bringing with him, a resume that perfectly fits the job description of a Nigerian President of today. Since the business of ruling a nation is basically, not a one-man-show in constitutional democracies however, a lot of trepidations have been brought to the fore. Voices have sounded a call for caution in the widespread optimism that has slowly transcended into some euphoria of sort.
The latest and most prominent voice was sounded by the victor himself in a realistic attempt to scale down expectations with the impending prospect of not being able to work miracles in a short pace of time. “Prudent” I would say! Unfortunately however, massive expectations will be one of the least problems that the President-elect will face in the days, weeks and months ahead.
The challenges are already becoming manifest. As in the search for a running mate, the role of one man from the South-West – Bola Asiwaju Tinubu – has been elevated in the search for prospective lieutenants for the operative work of governance. Unlike his performance in the search for a running mate however, information reaching out from clandestine sources seem to indicate that he is doing a far better job. After all, he is not insisting on being given a prominent appointment in the cabinet as he did when he almost crippled chances by insisting on being the running mate himself against all wisdom of keeping a Muslim-Muslim ticket at bay. The selection of players that will definitely not proceed without frictions is said to be on course in a manner that is by and large, described as acceptable.
Yet, we have been there before. We were all witnesses to Goodluck Jonathan’s own process of team selection. We danced and rejoiced when Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was selected for a high-profiled post with all the requisite freedom to act and salvage our economy. We marveled at her seeing the credentials she dangled before us from the World Bank and her contribution to great feats in the government of former General Olusegun Obasanjo. Today, all that is history and we are left with our wounds to lick.
Again, we are rejoicing hearing names like Oby Ezekwesili also from the World Bank, Charles Soludo and Femi Falana all in their early stages of consideration. Oby Ezekwesili has won the heart and minds of very many ordinary people she interacted with while out of government. Many therefore feel like she’d be taking a part of everyone with her into government if she is finally selected. Herein lies a serious risk of hyped and heightened expectations at a stage of the nation’s emotions in which the mood for disappointment has been tested to the utmost limit.
Yet, the process of selection will come and go and real business will begin for Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, who – even though retired – will forever remain a General having once being a General. Sorting out the mess created by Goodluck Jonathan in the army will be a delicate dance for the General in a familiar terrain. Thankfully, the terrain is less dangerous these days since any serving General will dare stage a coup only at the risk of completing the project in a tiny prison cell in The Hague. Weeding out those Generals who are widely suspected to have collaborated with Boko Haram, those Generals who turned into politicians and fought civilians while leaving Sambisa a safe distance behind, those Generals who turned millionaires overnight and many more, will be a daunting task.
Fanatical Buharians will emerge as many brain-dead Jonathanians did. Fanatical Asiwaju loyalists will emerge and blind out rationality in favor of petty, foolish praises. Then there will be tribalists. They will cry foul when overnight millionaires are called out to account for their sins in the military if such millionaires are not Northerners. Buhari will need to be mindful of all categories of bigotry.
Buhari will be required to reverse a lot of tragedies in the military such as the purchase of uniforms by soldiers themselves. Buhari will have to step on toes because he will need the decisiveness and stubbornness of a serving General to prevail on vested interests.
He will feel the strength and viciousness of these vested interests when he starts to clean the oil and power sectors with the power of the Presidency. He may see the need to remove fuel subsidy amid dwindling resources and probably end up angering consumers and voters, who are not prepared to pay for age-long sins aggravated and exacerbated even further by a clueless and spineless Goodluck Jonathan. The depleted state of the treasury will hardly serve to entice Muhammadu Buhari to release funds for the building of new refineries. Yet, he will be the nation’s hero if he is able to perform just this impossible magic.
One dangerous precipice that will be staring Buhari straight in the face will be the need to keep Bola Asiwaju Tinubu under control. The new President will hardly be able to afford distractions from Tinubu like the media reported in Lagos State. Struggling to protect or enhance business interests (which Tinubu has in abundance) with the resources of state as has largely been associated with the former Governor will mark the beginning of Buhari’s troubles with his only constituency – the Nation. In spite of all that though, we must not fail to do Bola Asiwaju Tinubu the justice that he deserves as well. As Governor of Lagos State, his flagship identity was not corruption. If he was corrupt, it was not highlighted to the world by any major lapse. I remember then that he was one of the best Governors in town.
Unfortunately however, Bola Tinubu metamorphosed into a representative of vested interests in business who is reported to have sought all possible contracts for his business empire alone to keep Lagos State in a stranglehold of a lone supplier and deliverer. Even though the picture painted may not all be true, it is yet fully sufficient if half of it alone is true. His well-known struggle to fix his kith and kin in influential political offices with all attendant desperation in the political party that was controlled by him seems to have cemented every perception of Tinubu as a corrupt and tricky individual. Given a responsible Ministry to handle however, I have no doubt, that Tinubu will live up to expectations and probably replicate an action hero like Bola Ige. Muhammadu Buhari must keep a very close eye on the double-edged sword by the name Bola Tinubu to avoid unnecessary excesses while making good use of his imaginative and creative qualities.
A similar event may play out in handling his predecessor Goodluck Jonathan. The combined effort of domestic and foreign forces engineered by Olusegun Obasanjo to rid Nigeria of Goodluck Jonathan has become even clearer than it was in the pre-election period. All assurances to keep Jonathan and perhaps, his most voluble spouse out of the range of anti-corruption scrutiny as was brokered by the forces involved in the ouster, will definitely prove to be a problem to the new President in the course of the Presidency. Many thieves will emerge that will point fingers unmistakably. Some cases of corruption by individuals further down the ladder may yet appear intertwined with interests of the outgoing President or people that fronted for him. Buhari will need the finesse of a sage in some instances.
The deliberate attempt to whitewash President Jonathan following the coerced admission of defeat for clear purposes is a welcome project that is bound to give President Jonathan some respite in the short to medium term. As time passes by however, ex-President Jonathan may become a difficult burden to bear. The dubious title of a democrat for merely conceding defeat at a time he was left with little or no option will hardly be enough to sustain when voices get louder, urging the investigation of fake fuel subsidies and non-remittance of fund from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation. Should the scale of the sharing of dollars within the six weeks of election postponement prove to have gone far beyond all imagined scopes, the dubious title of democrat for not challenging APC’s victory in court will hardly hold back sentiments and calls for justice. The need for the outgoing President to exercise some leverage over the Niger Delta militants that he unnecessarily armed with deadly weapons and awarded major contracts will definitely give him some relevance in the quest to defuse tension without all-out hostilities. Yet there will also be serious problems in the process of reining in the militants and their illegally strengthened army as long as some of them still feel betrayed by Jonathan’s concession. Assessing the leverage that Jonathan may still be able to wield on the militants without the power of the Presidency may prove to very tricky. There will be tough times ahead of President Jonathan outside of Aso Rock and time will sure tell how the game plays out.
For now however, every well-meaning Nigerian is graciously thankful that bloodshed on a large-scale was avoided while we wish the souls of victims in Rivers State and elsewhere, to rest in peace.
I foresee a former President Muhammadu Buhari in the year 2019 that will have fought a gallant battle and stepped fearlessly on many toes. Whether he will end up more hated than Olusegun Obasanjo or not will strongly depend on how he uses the media to make electorates understand his actions and motivations. Unexpected fallout with Asiwaju Tinubu somewhere down the line in the course of governance will be a remote possibility that we should keep our eye on in the scheme of things. But psssst! Do not say I told you.