BY SABELLA ABIDDE
As bleak and grim and uncertain as Nigeria is, there is a glimmer of hope in the horizon. There is hope because, increasingly Nigerians are getting fed up with the fetidities and cracks that have come to characterise the economic and political space — and with the hopelessness that the country is fast becoming. More than ever, a sizeable number of Nigerians are yearning for a revolution.
And by revolution, I do not necessarily mean the Jerry Rawlings “housecleaning exercise” that began in 1979, or the type that occurred in Russia in 1917 or the French Revolution of 1789. I was thinking of a peaceful revolution – the type that will peacefully bring about a significant improvement in the economic, political, social and cultural landscape of our country i.e. the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal; the 1986 Yellow Revolution in the Philippines; the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia; or the 2004-2005 Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
However, whether peaceful or bloody, many Nigerians do not care. They simply want a change. They want a discontinuity of what’s been happening since October 1, 1960. They want food. They want uncontaminated water. They want a clean and sanitary environment. They want easy access to quality education and health care services. They want full and gainful employment. They want a secure society free of unnecessary danger and violence. They want the rule of law. In essence, they want a country where they and their children can prosper, and aspire to a meaningful life – and to bequeath these and more to future generations.
We have men and women who can grow this country. We have great minds that are capable of building and rebuilding our institutions and infrastructure. However, as our recent history has shown, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and his proxy, Sani Abacha, were never the right men for the job. And Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was not any better. As for Mr. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, well, he was never ready for the job – much the same way President Goodluck Jonathan is unready and incapable.
But when you think of and take Gen. Muhammadu Buhari into consideration, you cannot – and in fact, no reasonable and rational person will think of him as unready, incapable and unqualified the way one thinks of the current office holder. Richard E. Neustadt once said, “The presidency is not a place for amateurs. The sort of expertise can hardly be acquired without deep experience in political office. The presidency is a place for men of politics, but by no means is it a place for every politician” – especially those without political sagacity, first rate intellect, wisdom, and a very good understanding of human nature and global affairs.
I now segue. On August 11, 2013, The Sunday PUNCH reported that “despite the anti-Buhari lobby in the All Progressives Congress, the General would contest the primary.” Good! That the General would contest his party’s primary was not exactly a surprise to observers of Nigeria’s political scene.
The Sunday PUNCH went on to tell us that “the anti-Buhari lobby in the APC is made up of two groups. The first group consists of senior Northern politicians who want the General to bury his ambition in order for a younger northerner to contest the presidential primaries… The other group consists of members of the party who feel that the former Head of State is not popular in the South-East, South-South and some parts of North-Central.” What!
Advanced age is not a factor when it comes to winning elections and the ability to govern effectively. After all, all those who took Nigeria to the abyss were all younger men i.e. Jonathan, Yar’Adua, Obasanjo, Abacha and Babangida. Also, to say that Buhari is not popular is bizarre. Free and fair elections are not a beauty or popularity contest. They are about vision and programmes and the ability to not only articulate those visions, but to translate those visions into reality.
And while it is true that Buhari lost against Obasanjo and Yar’Adua, no sensible person would consider those elections free and fair. Consider this: As popular as the great Fela Anikulapo-Kuti was, he did not win elections. And neither did the venerable Gani Fawehinmi. And as globally known as Wole Soyinka is, I doubt if he could ever win a Senate seat in his state of origin. So, to say that Buhari is not popular in some parts of the country is hogwash! Who do you want: Buhari or Jonathan? Growth or stagnation? Progress or ruin and perdition?
Muhammadu Buhari has “the power to persuade, the professional reputation and the public prestige” to put Nigeria back on the path to greatness. Everyone – including the “senior Northern politicians” that the newspaper referred to in its report– must understand that 2015 will be the defining year for Nigeria: Do we want to mingle with and be respected by the great nations of the world, or do we prefer rolling in the gutter? Do we want the Nigerian masses to continue wallowing in want and misery, or do we desire a great society where everyone has equal chance at peace and prosperity? The choice is ours! The future of our country is at stake, here.
Do you remember what Mr. Osita Okechukwu said of Buhari? “If he could pull 12 million votes during the 2011 presidential election with a “small party like the CPC,” then he could do better under a bigger party in 2015.” Indeed! Buhari will contest the APC primary. But should he lose fair and square, he will support his party’s candidate. That he was a military officer does not mean he is not a team-player. He is today a democrat with a reputation for everything decent and noble about humanity. Unlike the current President, his detractors and political opponents will have nothing to blackmail him with. Buhari has nothing to hide, he owes no one!
Now, let me say this: the problem with the “elders and elites” in the North, South, East and West is that they are scared — terrified that a President Muhammadu Buhari will put a stop to their stealing and wasteful ways. Many are frightened of the coming dawn. They are afraid of the process and institutional transformation that will take place.
Nigerians want change, real change; they want progress, real progress. They want a truly Federal Republic with enduring law and order and an abundance of hope and prosperity. As miserable and uncertain as Nigeria is, our collective hope and national destiny lie with transformative and visionary leaders.