Majority of Nigerians having spoken, the least we can do now is to congratulate Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari on his victory.
One resounding round of applause belongs to President Goodluck Jonathan for being the first Nigerian President to be defeated at the polls and who, above all, found the courage to accept his loss. By so doing he demonstrated the goodness, the humility and wisdom that endeared him to millions of Nigerians.
The general’s victory is clear and unambiguous and should not be discounted, even though it is not exactly a landslide. But the origins of this victory cannot be disguised: it is the Caliphate’s seething remonstrance against Jonathan for succeeding President Yar’Adua and for having the temerity to run for a second term. This passion was nationalized and translated into a propagandized mass hysteria and drumbeat about corruption and insecurity by the warlords of the Southwest against a hapless President who was manifestly unprepared for the public hanging that was set up for him by the new, immaculate, angels of Nigerian politics.
It is a huge Northern power play which is likely to reopen old wounds renew feelings of insecurity if not impotence of the Southern Minorities and the Southeast. Born to rule is alive and well and old ghosts of Biafra are hovering in the consciousness of many.
Voting for Gen. Buhari must have been a huge leap of faith for those who are not part of the general’s frenzied worshippers. As for the fanatics, they finally got their messiah’s second coming.
But we the unbelievers cannot but remember that in his first coming, Gen. Buhari created one huge national disruption which his young fanatics are either too young to know or too blind to see even if it is shown to them.
I and millions of other Lagos residents are victims of his poor judgment in cancelling the metroline, for instance. On 22nd November 2014 I outlined that issue on this page. Most Lagosians tended to agree with me that it was wrong to vote for a man who brought so much misery by denying Lagosians the only viable and effective answer to the perennial traffic problems of Lagos. The immobile Lagos traffic has for 50 years been a monster that defied every administration in the state.
Buhari won Lagos State. But it was such a scrappy victory; it could not bear close scrutiny. Only 28 per cent of the registered voters bothered to come out. And of that miserly number only 160,133 separated Buhari from Jonathan in a city of nearly 20 million residents. All this in spite of the overwhelming influence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Lagos State.
This is a period in Nigerian history which will be remembered as the putschists’ rehabilitation era. All the coup plotters are taking their turns. After Obasanjo came Buhari; after Buhari came Babangida.
So given the results, it is Gen Ibrahim Babangida’s turn to start warming up. And a coalition of the Northern oligarchy and the Southwest plutocrats is going to result in a fascinating if intoxicating brew.
It is beginning to feel like 1984 all over again not only in the Orwellian sense but also in Buhari’s 1984 Nigeria. The slightly queasy feeling, an illusion of change soon replaced by the inexorable reality of the hard knocks of reality – the raiding of warehouses in one bout of revolutionary fervor, then the massive arrests, and the embarrassing scarcities from bread to toilet paper, the recession, then Decrees 2 and 4 to dramatize the new era of dictatorship and, of course, the so-called ‘war against indiscipline.’
Fela was no fan of the Shagari administration, but he had to sing about the egregious insult on Nigerian citizens by usurpers who labeled Nigerian citizens as “undisciplined.” Yet we all knew then as we know now that Nigerians are just like people everywhere. The follow first principles and watch their leaders.
Buhari’s second coming is more auspicious. He will inherit an economy growing at 7.5 per cent per annum; he will inherit a massive expansion of power generating facilities worth tens of billions of dollars. He will inherit a new vote of confidence in the Nigerian economy by foreign investors. He can blow these up or build on them.
The central theme of his campaign was to rid the nation of corruption. Most Nigerians wish him every success, God’s speed and man’s co-operation. Nigeria is ready to assist him in that fight. His efforts in 1984/85 yielded very little because he insisted in solving it “with immediate effect.” He is today 31 years wiser. The fear is that since the fountain of all corruption is in the government how is he going to deal with the National Assembly, the Augean stable.
The only way Nigerians will believe the monster is caged is when the legislature truly becomes the people’s house, not secret conclave; when the government spends less than one per cent of the national budget on governance as obtains in other parts of the world and when a man can go to the licensing office and be attended to in five minutes.
As one of the leaders of the sharia movement in Nigeria Buhari should be able to ask the Boko Haram jihadists to hold their fire now that he is in control. Jonathan and the gallant forces of the Nigerian military and allied neighbors have militarily defeated Boko Haram. What is left is to mop up and win the peace and then send Boko Haram’s leaders to the Hague for trial for their innumerable crimes against humanity.
Unemployment is real. The campaign is over. It is time for governing. Many Nigerians are dubious of military people’s understanding of how the economy works, for it is not enough to hire great economists, though it helps. The general can build on the small shoots sprouting from President Jonathan’s efforts, or destroy them and begin anew, which was the case in 1984/85. It led to a miserable result.
Ousting President Jonathan always seemed wrong for what it symbolizes – the exercise of raw power in its most naked form. It will come with consequences. The political weaknesses of the Southern Minorities have just been exploited against a good president who is sometimes clumsy and indecisive but who has a good heart, a truly liberal democrat.