The country called Nigeria is under serious strain and if it is to survive it needs a leader that has the integrity, trust, patriotism, and a positive experience to lead. That servant must be selfless; firm but decent; talented not an intellectual; a person that has seen us through a life of despair and yet hope; an achiever and a team player; a person with the vision to take the country out of the deep seas of trouble brought about by an uncaring leadership in Asorock. It makes one wonder the very people that should have been locked away for good not only for violating our constitution, considering illegalities they committed to remain in power, have the audacity to tell us they intend to retain that power, come what may, for another thirty years, according to OBJ, their Commander- in- Chief. Mr. Aneni, another anointed buffoon of the PDP recently told the World that Mr. President has “the right” to choose who succeeds him in 2007. Those that are mindful of numerous other Aneni’s tongue in cheek outbursts have concluded that the poor man was only carrying out the message from his master, and the fact that OBJ followed Aneni’s statement and announced publicly that his own PDP had not zoned the presidency to the North only confirmed people’s assertion. Never mind the fact that OBJ had said he knew “those” that would not succeed him. Remember we are still operating ‘a democracy’, but does one doubt the General is talking tough and once again bashing the legitimate right of the electorate to elect a leader to be the next president of this country? Lest anyone rushes to conclusion, I am not supporting zoning as a homemade democracy. I say categorically again I am against zoning of any political office, especially the office of the president. And because I firmly believe in the democratic process in a pluralistic society like Nigeria , I am not against any credible contender from the North or the South whose ambition it is to be elected president. The issue I am talking about is the scandalous PDP project of 1999 that smuggled through, albeit democratic protests, a rotten candidate that was elected president because he came from the Southwest, and then we were told there was “needed” to correct the June 12. Nigerians know better that two wrongs do not make a right and it is time the PDP, ANPP, and other parties possessed by the zoning maniac face the rule in a democracy that allows all candidates the right to contest elective posts subject only to the rules of our constitution, and not subject to parochialism, ethnicity, geographic or even religious considerations. It is this view that I, like other well meaning Nigerians strongly hold, that I wish to comment on the mature leadership qualities of General Muhammadu Buhari, a leader per excellence that has been described by numerous political, traditional, and religious leaders, as well as writers and general masses of this country as the most transparent, honest, hard working and performance oriented leader. I might add at no time in the history of this country are such rare qualities of a leader so needed than today, after living through hell and knowing what alternative leadership has brought to Nigeria.
Let me quickly state reasons why General Muhammadu Buhari is different from other Generals, and some of the civilian leaders that one hears have their eyes to the presidency. Unlike General Olusegun Obasanjo who had the fortune to be drafted president from the prison, General Muhammadu Buhari started to seek the office by undertaking personal political transformation. On his own General Bubari first formed a social-political movement, The Buhari Organzation [TBO] to gather public support for a kinder and gentler Nigeria before he saw it fit to join a political party that he believed he could use to bring the leadership difference that could make Nigeria great again. Unlike the General that is now occupying Asorock, and unlike the General from Minna, General Buhari had gone into the rough and tumbles of politics, visiting all the four corners of Nigeria in a campaign mode and seeing first hand for himself the suffering and stresses the populace go through on daily basis and with that knowledge in hand he vowed solemnly and publicly to be a candidate for change. The rest is history when ANPP, the party the General revived through his sheer dedication and public appeal declared him to be its presidential candidate in 2003. While OBJ became “the President” without any political transformation, hence his habitual dictatorial style and temper tantrums, the idea that the Minna General will be a candidate for the 2007 presidency has so far remained speculative at best as he has made no such commitment to begin with. Nigerians have also reason to wonder if the General will not recycle the dreaded SAP or other failed projects of the first time he was president. Another rumor has it that Brigadier Marwa is also considering a run for the presidency; if he does he is going into politics so far with neither political platform nor experience he would surely need to be successful should he be elected president. A successful ‘Military Governor’ does not necessarily translate success in Asorock. While it may not be argued that Atiku Abubakar, the Vice President, has had experience in politics, indeed lots of experience, it can be stated that the duo’s current performance in Asorock is one that Nigerians look forward to put behind them. Clearly, if truth must be told none of those mentioned this far and more could be the success story like General Muhammadu Buhari has been in different leadership positions.
I am aware that innuendos, distortions, and even outright falsehood had been propagated to trash and denigrate the General’s tenure as a successful and disciplined Military Head of State between 1983-1985. Partly we seem to forget that General Muhammadu Buhari’s time was a defining moment to re-invent morality and deal with the cancer of corruption, that seemed to be out of hand, hence, some draconian emergency decrees were introduced by his Supreme Military Executive Council to deal with those and other pertinent issues endemic to the society. Compared to other military regimes before and after him, General Buhari’s administration can be described as a benevolent dictatorship though ruthless at times and the regime succeeded in saving the moral fibers and souls of its citizens, or at least until General Buhari’s government was untimely replaced by the “evil genius”. More importantly, by leading people with qualitative and disciplined leadership that was free of corruption, inertia, nepotism, racial and religious disharmony; it also gave Nigerians hope and reason to work diligently and selflessly together for the benefit of Nigeria. Remember the numerous new culture on self-reliance, discipline, honesty, integrity, reporting to work in time, queuing up to get things, while traditional artist’s like Sani Dandawo and Musa Dankwairo have had field day composing songs on morality, diligence and discipline? And while all that was happening Buhari was telling the world that he would not sell our oil in the cheap even if he had to go by trade barter to import commodities we needed while saving our foreign reserves. The “leaders” of a gang that stroke and terminated that revolution did Nigeria an irreparable damage. Comparing the military administration of General Muhammadu Buhari and the past regimes before and after him gives one the picture of a leader that was different, and caring; one that spared the lives of its citizens whereas other governments murdered them; it was a government that gave Nigerians total security and peace, a period that was certainly at variance with the current failed administration under OBJ and ATK; an administration that has seen thousands of Nigerians murdered in cold blood due to pervasive insecurity. Still thousands of other innocent citizens lost their lives through government’s extra judicial slaughter by a gang masquerading as “security agents”: the police, the army, and hired thugs and they are committing such as of murder under the very eyes of those who are supposed to be in power. In a way some would argue that General Buhari’s military regime was excessive in part in its effort to bring some of our corrupt politicians and business tycoons to book and penalized others in numerous ways because of high corruption. In such isolated cases of abuse the regime must be held accountable, like all governments of sort, for some violation of human rights. By the way the current administration that is supposedly “democratic” stands tall more than others, civilian or military, in the history of the Nigerian State when it comes to brutality and violation of human rights. One thing is certain; General Muhammadu Buhari as a transformed democrat would never take the route of a dictator to govern this country again even as we all know a leader that is not committed to true democracy like OBJ-ATK leadership can still use a symbolic National Assembly and the Judiciary to push through draconian policies to suffocate civil rights and labor movements, to impose deregulation, local government reforms, party de-registration and numerous other anti-people hidden agendas that are in reality aimed at giving the president powers the constitution has not provided him. And watch my word, if OBJ can have his way before 2007 Nigeria will end up with one political party totally controlled by one cruel and vindictive dictator. My point is that General Muhammadu Buhari understands the difference between a military and a democratic government with its attendant checks and balances and unlike those leaders that are supposedly thinking to join the political arena, General Buhari can be trusted to keep his words. Here is a man who for almost two years now is still fighting over the rape of our democracy that was the “419 elections” when others rumored to have declared their ambition for the presidency have either financed or supported the same election frauds that brought the current illegitimate regime back to power. For this alone General Buhari is a qualified champion and defender of democracy on behalf of all of us that care for democracy. Here is a man who is still speaking out his mind over the same illegality when others have remained mute. In this General Buhari, more than any leader today stands to represent our voice and freedom of expression. Here is a man that believes the power to elect a leader rests with the electorate when those touted to enter the presidential race with him believe you can either use the power of incumbency, money or brutal force to grab power and keep it. In this General Buhari has become the embodiment per excellence of the idea and ideals of a free and fair election, and while others shamelessly hold on to illegality, General Buhari is holding on our behalf the expression and practice of legitimate representation. Here is a man that majority of Nigerians feared could not change the national political ethics that suggest only moneybags can “win”, but he has proved the doubters wrong. In this he is taking us back to the good old days when service for the nation does not have to be bought and yes, the poor too deserves the right to serve or lead. Here is a man who is deeply dedicated to salvage his wounded country and people when others only want to become president for the sake of power and keeping it for good. In this fight he leads all of us to win and to accept patriotism as a high national honor. Here is a man that continues to warn the masses and the electorate who listen to protect their votes and their rights when other “leaders” are only too eager to buy those votes and rights. In this General Buhari practices what he preaches and he is making us aware enfranchisement is the most potent tool of democracy. What a leader! What a General! What a true democrat!
It is an open secret that many of our so-called “leaders” fear the General because nowadays in our society one is feared when one stands up for the truth. General Buhari as such is the last person our “leaders” want to see back in limelight not because they love the country but because they fear they will have no chance of winning in a contest one to one with the General. But then should he win their days are numbered and I make bold to say the cause the General is leading us may end up creating yet another revolution of a kind. Who knows? So the idea is they must all stand up in arms to stop someone who is doggedly unstoppable because he only cares for the truth and by God we want to see him win so that he can with the support of the Nigerian people that he deeply cares about remove the rot that is about to destroy all of us. If he wins people win and if he looses what a tragedy again! I have no doubt corruption will be dealt a heavy and fatal blow not by gimmicks, antics and hypocritical slogans but by action and in practice while General Buhari leads. I am also confident he will institute legality in the process of apprehending the thieves and making them pay their dues in full for their economic racketeering and political crimes they continue to commit even as I write. I am optimistic the General as a democratic leader understands that he does not need the Wabaras, Mantus, Jibrils, Ubas, and a host of them to defend or cover up his political or economic interests to remain in power. I am optimistic the General will, perhaps on his first one hundred days in office send packing the INEC, ICPC, SSS, NNPC, FRAC, EFCC, NEED, and a host of them because they have not performed and he is not one that surrounds himself with inglorious, corrupt and non-performing commissions or parastatals only to disguise himself and fool the public. I am optimistic General Buhari is neither the “Maradona” nor the “Baba” that aid and abet Assemblymen who did not win elections to make our laws. I am optimistic General Buhari will have no political or economic godfathers that take delight in trashing the constitution and whom he rewards with patronage and sale of our natural endowments and holdings. And those in power, including Governors, may have distaste of the General because he overshadows their deceitful image and personality, and because they know should he become the president they will be sent to the cleaners to give account of their loot.
That General Muhammadu Buhari is a religious zealot who will turn Nigeria into an Islamic State is yet one more diet in the menu of those political, ethnic, and religious rumormongers and pundits. This nonsense is tragically believed by even some of our innocent citizens because the media of the Lagos-Ibadan axis in particular, see it fit to carry out the tale for sensationalism, for profit, and because they have been financial induced by Muhammadu Buhari’s rivals. One wonders how General Buhari who introduced severe restrictions on the number of pilgrims to perform Hajj [in order to conserve the foreign exchange] could under any imagination be the one to establish an Islamic State? General Buhari’s curtailing of the rights of Muslims to perform a fundamental religious obligation was a feat no past leader, military or civilian had dared to conceive, hence the action was certainly unwelcome by all Muslims and it brought General Buhari’s government at logger head with our clerics. It was reported that our erudite scholar, Sheikh Abubakar Mahmood Gummi [May Allah have Mercy on him] was actually placed under house arrest over the issue and other matters of concern for “security” of the State. So to ignore all these unpopular actions that General Buhari’s government took, and to lampoon the same person as an “Islamic zealot”, “fundamentalist”, and so forth, is beyond human intellect of reasoning. If Muhammadu Buhari could not establish an Islamic State at the time his word was not often challenged, how could he possibly create the same in a democracy? Yet even as I write we have a "president" that has misused government’s resource to build a Church and pulpit, with a paid and full time Chaplain, and uses these facilities every Sunday to broadcast live on national networks his evangelical Christian prayers to Muslims, Christians, Traditionalists and atheists Nigerian population. Not one of our so called national electronic and or print media from the South found it fit to cry foul because the president should know that such hypocritical sermons do not represent the Faiths of the majority in Nigeria and it was time he was told his insensitivity has been “a joke carried too far”. It is all well and good when national houses of worship are built from resources of followers of those Faiths, but when the president builds a Church in Asorock, the seat of government, and used the naira and kobo of the tax payer to do that then the message is loud and clear. Religious partisanship in a multi-religious, multi-cultural society like Nigeria is unacceptable, and I believe in my heart General Muhammadu Buhari will not be that president. So all the hyperbole about the man’s religious extremism does not hold water and leaders like Reverend Hasan Kukah and General Yakubu Gowon who know Muhammadu Buhari have spoken out in favor of his non-partisanship.
I have another concern. The debate that our ex-Generals or ex-members of the Armed Forces should not participate in politics is bankrupt as it is undemocratic. Nigerians should be ready to embrace any leader worth his or her salt because our constitution has made no such segregation of people by their work for them to participate in politics. Nor is it reasonable to bar any Nigerian from partisan politics because they have made too much money they can use against opponents. After all one can make the same argument that over the years our civilian leaders have equally been involved in acquiring illicit wealth for their own benefit and so the idea that Generals are too corrupt is also true with majority of our politicians who are not only selfish and greedy but they go into politics more so to steal that to provide national service. I consider it as an act in futility to ask General Babangida for instance to apologize to the nation for the so called June 12 annulment when it is clear even to Wole Soyinkas that what happened then could not be conceived as the sin of one man even though he was the Head of State. Besides why does he [Wole Soyinka] not demand for the same apology from both the military and civilians [representing all groups in the country] for forcefully removing our First and Second Republics and especially for the unwarranted, brutal and barbaric massacres of our leaders in the first military incursion? Indeed to most Nigerians the January 15, 1966, army rebellion and the uprising of December 31, 1983, that toppled two democratically elected and fully operational governments of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Alhaji Shehu Shagari were much more serious and critical to our democracy and our survival as a nation than the so called June 12 annulment of an election that frankly was at best in-conclusive. But the likes of Professor Soyinka are only interested in issues they can use for their own diabolical agenda of divide and conquer. It must be stated though that ex-Generals had tarnished their profession and perhaps the honor of the country when they got involved in every dirty politics for power and that was how they became victims of their own selfish motives. We cannot though ban them wholesale from exercising their fundamental right to lead in a political process, and having put their lives on the line at different occasions to defend the territorial integrity of our country they certainly deserve equal voice when it comes to seeking elective office, including the presidency. True, many of those ex-army Generals and politicians that we know are thoroughly corrupt, but it must be stated in fairness there are some among them that are not and General Buhari and others of his caliber are our beacons of hope. We surely need a leader of his stature to succeed; a leader that has Faith and audacity to face challenges; and one that has no fear but the fear of God, Almighty, should he fail. I know no one at this time that can do better and take the country safely and gloriously to success than the General from Daura.
Nigeria needs and deserves a leader it can trust. It needs and deserves a leader that is strong and visionary; he is strong not because he is stubborn but he has tenacity to get through the most difficult of circumstances the office and duties of the president require. Nigeria needs a can do leader, a listener, a team leader, and a high achiever because the numerous years since our independence had been wasted through greed and graft by our leaders; through war and unrest; and through countless changes of rules and governments that were run by people most unqualified to move the country forward. Instead new and great ideas were often abandoned midstream while another bunch of new ones came into play; it was like a merry-go round without achieving much. If we have courage to practice real democracy one would hope we have finally landed on the promised land of great opportunities. The truth is we are still far from those democratic ideals and practices that can give a country both promises and realities of success. And Nigeria just like any other nations on this planet has the God given talents to work and explore workable solutions and ideas we can harness to reach our destination, not destruction. That is why a visionary, strong, trustful and dynamic leader as president is needed the more this time around. And should the “419” presidential election case in the Appeal Court drag on unresolved through the year 2007; or should the “victory” be confirmed in favor of the PDP [as I am afraid it may turn out], the 2007 elections will perhaps be the most eventful this country will face; it is also one that in my view may make or break the country. Only time will tell!
Dr. Abubakar A. Muhammad writes from the State of Pennsylvania, United States of America.