When God turns to you, it’s your turn. Nothing can change or reverse it. Not any power on earth, underneath the earth, or even from hell can alter it. That was what happened to former military head of state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, last weekend, when over 15 million Nigerians trooped out to elect him as the next president from May 29, this year.
Buhari, our next president? What happened to the health certificate allegedly procured by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), showing that he had a terminal illness? What happened to the claim that he has no secondary school leaving certificate? What of his alleged extremist religious views, or his draconian inclinations, as alleged by opponents? Is he not supposed to be brain-dead? What of the many other virulent and venomous accusations? They were all like water off a duck’s back. They didn’t stick. And lo and behold, Mr President has emerged, waiting for inauguration in about eight weeks.
The emergence of Muhammadu Okechukwu Buhari as President in-waiting holds many vital lessons for Nigerians, and indeed, humanity.
I am the son of a teacher (and later school principal) in the old Western State. And before I learnt to crawl, I had been subjected to memorisation of quotations. Pa J. O. Adesina did not differentiate between the home and the school. Everywhere was his classroom. So, from infancy, I learnt to recite: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.” It was like a singsong in our home. And that truism has been given flesh and blood by Gen. Buhari. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.” He ran for president in 2003, 2007, and 2011, after which he wrote himself off. On the eve of the presidential race that year, he announced that it would be his last outing. He didn’t win. And the man retired to his modest homes in Daura and Kaduna. However, fate and fortune were not done with him yet. He had reckoned that by 2015, he would be 72 years, and might be too old for the soapbox. But that was the time ordained for him to be president by God. Those of us who had always believed in him asked him to join the race again. He did. And won. “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.” That is the lesson from Abraham Lincoln, the American president popularly called Honest Abe, who had lost elections many times, before fortune smiled at him. And that is also the lesson from our own Honest Abe, Muhammadu Buhari. Please join me in that boyhood chant: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again.”
Another lesson. Integrity may seem not to pay at the beginning, but it will eventually bear the right fruits. Let’s invoke Pa J. O. Adesina’s memory once again, as he always told his seven children: “Honesty is the best policy.” It was a staple we grew up on. If you lose every other thing, remain honest. “Honesty is the best policy,” he would say, till it began to ring in our ears.
Buhari has been almost everything that can be called something in this country: military governor, petroleum minister, head of state, chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), everything. Yet he remains a man of modest means. In his last public position as chairman of PTF, he could not afford to send his daughter to school abroad. So, what did he do? He sold his house in Lagos. Mama mia! He sat atop billions of naira in PTF, why not simply take money from the till? Or call some PTF contractors, and tell them his need? They would fall over themselves to meet such need, and even more. But not our own Honest Abe. He rather sold his house in Lagos.
But what goes round comes round. Sow good seed, and reap bountiful harvest! Buhari’s honesty has now yielded positive dividends. When corruption became stifling, almost asphyxiating Nigerians, the people looked for a man of good report to rescue the situation. And they found one in Muhammadu Buhari. They gave him their overwhelming votes last Saturday, urging him; please come and restore probity and accountability to our country. We know you can do it. Come to Macedonia and help us. Please do. And the lesson? At the risk of disturbing Pa Adesina in his eternal sleep of 20 years, let’s quote one of his favourite sayings again. “Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one!” (Marcus Aurelius, in his work, Meditations). When you are a good man, goodness returns to you. So it is with our Honest Abe. Integrity is beyond cash, and it is worth its weight in gold.
Another lesson, this time political. Pragmatism demands that if you would ever be President of Nigeria, you need a coalition that is national in outlook. That was what Buhari lacked in 2003 and 2007, when he ran on the platform of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). The party was largely circumscribed in the Northeast of the country, and in some parts of the Northwest. It was not formidable enough to win him the presidency.
In 2011, Buhari ran on the platform of newly formed Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). He ran a good race, but I kept emphasizing that he needed an alliance with the then Action Congress of Nigeria. The latter was very strong in the West, while CPC was strong in the North. I almost shouted myself hoarse, saying the two parties needed an accord if they would upstage the PDP. The alliance was not consummated before the polls, and the two parties lost out.
But they learnt their lessons. In 2013, a rainbow coalition, comprising of ANPP, CPC, ACN, and a part of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), formed the All Progressives Congress (APC). They kindled the fire that has now cooked the goose of the PDP. Lesson: you need a national platform to win the presidency in Nigeria. That is what APC has proven.
Let me digress a little, and talk about the mistake of the Igbo nation. I love their sense of enterprise, and regret that they have not produced the president of this country, beyond the six months done by Gen Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, as military head of state. Inevitably, a time should come when the Igbo must be president. But how do they do it, without a national alliance? In 2011, when the power sharing agreement of the PDP was being subverted, I counselled that it paid them to queue behind a northerner, who would rule till 2015. The North would then ally with the East in an expression of one good turn deserving another. But no. Out of questionable sentiment I can’t fathom till tomorrow, the Igbo allied with the South South, and Goodluck Jonathan became President. But that was also because the Southwest was in the picture. Now that the region has gone with the North in 2015, they have elected a President from the North, and the Igbos are left with the very short end of the stick. Not even an APC senator. If Chris Ngige had been re-elected last weekend, he could have emerged Senate President, as a ranking senator. But the scenario now is that the Igbo cannot even have Number 3 position, since they don’t have a returning APC senator. This is self-immolation, if you ask me. A Southeast / South South alliance can never produce the president. What then is the future of the Igbo nation politically? Big question. They need political re-alignment, and fast too.
But we return to the lessons. Pastor Tunde Bakare, Overseer of The Latter Rain Assembly, who ran as vice presidential candidate with Buhari in 2011, has spoken about the men who supported the former head of state to now become president-elect. He says he believes in “contact without contamination,” so he can’t stand some men who are now around Buhari. Well, as a preacher, Bakare has a point. But as a politician, unless you work with all sorts, power would just be like a pie in the sky. You would just look at it longingly forever, but it would never drop in your mouth. Just like the saying that a roasted partridge would never land in your mouth just by wishing, you would never gain power unless you ally with those who have the levers of power in their hands. Does it necessarily mean you get contaminated? Only if you are not your own man! Gen. Buhari sure knows where to draw the line, and the alliance he formed to get power does not mean he would cede the national treasury to anybody. And by the way, none of the people who worked with Buhari has been convicted of corruption. Suspicions or allegations are not the same thing as conviction. We would never get a Buhari if he had continued playing holier-than-thou. If the men who supported him are corrupt, let the security agencies do the needful. At least, some of them have been out of office for about eight years, and have no immunity from prosecution.
Oh, can I forget this lesson? I dare not. Hubris. Pride. Arrogance. God hates it. The Good Book says pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. PDP became haughty. Insufferable. Conceited. Disdainful of Nigerians. It had not even ruled for 20 years, it was already talking of being in power for a minimum of 60 years. Now, after 16 years, it has kissed the dust. Who is that person that ever has tomorrow in his hands? The Good Book says when we are making plans for tomorrow, we should add the caveat: by the grace of God. Because we are not even assured of tomorrow! But PDP was talking of 60 years. Never abuse the alligator till you have safely crossed the river. But PDP was midstream, and it was cursing the father and mother of the alligator. And today, it is resting (in pieces?) in the stomach of the alligator. Pride goes before a fall.
We cannot exhaust the lessons in one piece. But some people actually did Jonathan in, by the very words of their mouths. By your words, you shall be justified, and by your words, you shall be condemned. How can the former Niger Delta militants threaten war if Jonathan loses in a free and fair election? It was a huge disservice to the President. And how can campaign spokesman, Femi Fani-Kayode, spew out those hate speeches continually, and think it would not boomerang against his principal? It did, and mightily too. And first lady Patience Jonathan, how could she utter those bilious things against Buhari and the North, and expect to get votes for her husband in that region? The people were rather mobilised against Jonathan in the process.
The last lesson, for today: human resource is the greatest resource available. How can a party lose five seating governors in one day, and still pretend that everything was okay? How can such party lose its national secretary, a former acting national chairman, many former governors and other bigwigs to the main opposition party, yet everything remained okay? It couldn’t be okay. They even lost a two-term former president, who directed that his PDP membership card be torn openly. They are the ones that have now done PDP in, and Buhari has reaped the advantage. Hold the people you have tight. They are your greatest resource. Don’t shrug your shoulders in indifference if they leave, or it would come back to haunt you. Ask the PDP. That party, for the first time, now has to learn how to be in opposition. How are the mighty fallen!
Last week, I promised to sing one of two songs after the presidential election, depending on which side victory swung. I thank hundreds of people who have phoned in to sing the song with me after the results were announced in the wee hours of Wednesday. My phones were virtually jammed, and I have hundreds of text messages that I am yet to reply. Surely, I would reply all in due course. Things are turning around for Nigeria’s good, as Buhari would surely perform, taking us through the straight and narrow path. If he does not, you know I won’t keep quiet. Change has come, and you need not stone anybody as somebody had counselled. It is change for good, and our eyes would see it. Our hands would touch it, and our mouths would sing:
I can see everything turning around
Turning around for my good.
This change is for the good of all Nigerians. I can bet on it.
Kalu as hero of change
This is not yet the tribute I intend to pay to those who made themselves agents, heroes and heroines of change in Nigeria. As God gives grace, I still intend to do a full piece on that topic later.
But I should single out a man for honourable mention today. He is Dr Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State governor, and publisher of this newspaper, The Sun.
In the run up to the presidential election, Kalu minced no words about his support for President Goodluck Jonathan to get a second term in office. But there I was, Managing Director/Editor-in-Chief of his newspaper, writing and advocating for change. Muhammadu Buhari had always been my man since his days as military head of state, and I said so unmistakably.
But in his liberality and large-heartedness, Kalu allowed me to express my opinion freely. When I wrote a piece with the headline, ‘We need Buhari more than he needs us,’ all hell was let loose from the highest quarters in the country. Kalu was told to sack me. And he would have been justified if he did. But he did not. What did he do? He merely wrote in his column in Saturday Sun that I was entitled to my opinion, but my opinion does not equate the opinion of the paper.
What Kalu has done is very, very rare. Even strange. Do you sit in Pope and kick at the Pope? The Pope can then kick you out of Rome, since he rules the Vatican. Kalu could have given me a kick so hard, that I would have landed in my Osun State homestead, jobless and licking my wounds. But he did not. I salute his free spirit, his sense of fairness, which I believe the world may never have seen before in newspaper proprietorship. I remain thankful to him.
Also in The Sun, you would have noticed that the regular columnists that stood with Gen. Buhari were former presidential spokesman, Chief Duro Onabule, and myself. We were the ‘two-men-battalion’ against anti-Buhari writers like Lewis Obi, Steve Nwosu, Dan Onwukwe, Ebere Wabara, Amanze Obi, Robert Obioha, Onuoha Ukeh, Clem Aguiyi, and many others. Because Kalu gave me liberty, I also censored no opinion article, except just one that crossed the boundary of decency, filled with hate and bile. As Editor-in-Chief, you really could stop anything you didn’t want published, and nobody can hold you, except the publisher of the newspaper.
On Tuesday evening, as the victory of Buhari became apparent, I went round the offices of the anti-Buhari troops, greeting and laughing with them, promising that I would be magnanimous in victory. And so I have been. When you are a recipient of grace, as I’ve received from Dr Kalu, why shouldn’t I also extend the grace to others? The robust commentaries continue, even in victory, and in defeat.
Re: God of FeBuhari is also God of March
Thank God for Buhari
Thank God that Buhari won and thank God that President Jonathan conceded defeat. Nigeria will not disintegrate. President Jonathan did very well to concede. He must be a good man.
The mandate given to Buhari is to fight corruption, win the war of insecurity and propel economic development. These were the issues he adequately and eloquently discussed. He abused nobody. But the jackals were busy abusing him. Whenever he replied, he did it constructively.
I saw this victory many years ago and I followed it bumper to bumper until its present realization. I congratulate General Buhari for this sweet victory. I congratulate the great Asiwaju and Prof. Osinbajo for their roles in bringing this about. I congratulate also Professor Jega for his unbiased officiating of the election. I will call him a great umpire.
With Femi Adesina I sing: ‘I can see everything turning around, turning around for the good of Nigeria.’ Prof Donald Nnemeka Ike, firstname.lastname@example.org
I want to describe your write up with one word. Excellent. I agree with you totally that the God of FeBuhari is also the God of March. For that is what the bible says in the book of Hebrews 13v8. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Emmanuel O. Mbah,email@example.com. 08034474210.
I was extremely happy and contented that you took the case of who wins the presidential election to the divine court of justice. This rare quality is what clearly distinguishes you as a writer. Muhammad Rabiu Ada, Gwagwalada Abuja, 08054748244, 08035322484.
Why I love him
Ever since his emergence in January 1984 as Nigeria’s military head of state, Muhammadu Buhari’s sterling attributes of integrity, honesty, selflessness, simplicity, discipline, accountability, have endeared him so much to my heart. I have not only been his consistent supporter, but a resilient adherent, despite insults and threats to my life.
When mischief makers and propagandists labelled Buhari a religious bigot, I wasted no time in replying that if he was truly one, he would have taken Nigeria into the membership of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), when he had absolute powers as a military head of state. The last time the Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway and the Enugu-Okigwe-Umuahia-Aba-Port Harcourt highway were in good order was when Buhari used the PTF to reconstruct them. It was Buhari’s PTF that established the Greater Oji River water scheme. The scheme draws water from far away Oji River to Enugu metropolis, which the present state government is now reticulating to all nooks and crannies of the Coal City.
Have we so soon forgotten the intervention of Buhari’s PTF in the health and education sectors? PTF reconstructed (not rehabilitated) some major urban roads like in Enugu where I live, Edinburgh, Edozie, Obioma, Zik Avenue, etc? How can we be so easily swayed that Buhari is Igbo hater when he did all this in the southeast zone? The two dual carriageways earlier mentioned are today death traps, yet we have federal and state governments in place and our people are not talking.
General Buhari is a unique and quality brand that any person that cherishes integrity would like to associate with; and for me, no amount of threats, blackmail and castigation or name calling will wane, vitiate or remove my support for him to lead Nigeria again. Sir Abuchi Anueyiagu, veteran independent journalist/public affairs commentator, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08080242128.
I think there is need to study General Buhari, how he became so popular among Nigerians despite being modest. If you add all the former heads of state plus ex-presidents together, none can command the crowd of GMB. He will be the best president we ever had. email@example.com
A critical analysis of the views held and expressed by Buhari’s supporters show how blunt they are in assessing reality without necessary hurling invectives on GEJ or disparaging him. But that is not the case on the flipside. The march for GMB remains the wise one. Emeghebo, Anthony Ebuka, 08033927370, firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll join you
I can’t wait to join you sing everything is turning around in our land. God bless you richly. Odofin Oluwaseyi, email@example.com
The final say
Just like a number of your write-ups in the past, ‘God of FeBuhari is also God of March’ moved me almost to tears. Your deep commitment to the principles of the General makes me check how I form my own impression about people. ‘Who has the final say?’ was the exact song I led my family to sing on Saturday evening when indications of hope began to emerge when we remembered how ineffective all the calumny against GMB seemed to have turned out after all. Indeed it is God that has the final say, even if all the Nollywood stars and comedians are mobilized against the man from Daura. Femi Balogun, firstname.lastname@example.org
God be praised
Our God has done it. I am happy and celebrating. My greatest joy is that the unity of our nation can now be restored. Sai Buhari. Emmanuel O. Mbah, email@example.com
My prayer for him
I must congratulate you for standing with the man Buhari to the end. I am a regular reader of your Friday columns and have seen that and even in the midst of stiff opposition, even at the risk of your job and life, you supported the man. Our prayer now is for the president-elect to succeed, and I know our good God will give him the wisdom, strength and everything he will ever need for that exalted office. Samuel Idowu Alade, Dubai UAE, firstname.lastname@example.org
At last we won!
I remember during the announcement of 2011 polls, I reached you with tears, but today with joy. Shalom shalom. Uko, email@example.com
Flight APC OO1
Congrats and welcome to APC flight 001 taking off from Daura to Aso Rock. We shall be flying over Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Benue, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Borno, and Lagos states. We will, however, experience some turbulence over Taraba, Ebonyi, Bayelsa, Cross River, and much heavier turbulence over Delta and Rivers states. Just fasten your seat belts and be assured that your pilot has many years of flying experience dating back to 2003. Just as the co-pilot is super experienced too. This is a flight you have waited so many years to take off. Congratulations. Ibrahim Bala, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pop the champagne
Let me send you a congratulatory message on the victory of GMB. You really championed his cause and stood by him all this while. Pop your champagne because you deserve it. Ben, email@example.com
Words for my Igbo brothers
When I declared my support for the people’s general, it was as if the world was against me. I lost friends, made more enemies amongst my Igbo brothers but never gave up my support for the People’s General, Oguefi Muhammadu Okechukwu Buhari.
Anyway, now GMB has won the presidential seat, what will my Igbo brothers do with the delusions of Islamisation and the civil war hatred? As for me, the civil war ended 45 years ago. Am neither ruled by hate or fear, and I advise my Igbo brothers to do the same. Congratulations GMB. Unjoerated Onwukeme, Enugu. Unjoeratedjoe@gmail.com
When the opposition parties were coming together, PDP dismissed them as strange bedfellows. When they succeeded in becoming one, PDP told us they would soon scatter when it comes to sharing positions. When the opposition shared their positions gracefully, PDP had no Plan B.
Lesson: Do not underrate your opponent. Revd Canon Kayode Abegunde, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mummy has been singing your Buhari victory song: I can see everything turning around… You deserve to be congratulated for your loyalty to Buhari and APC no matter what. Keep up the good work. Dr John Odiase, email@example.com
We have spoken
Congratulations. Nigerians have spoken. I am the Okoro who said I am from Nsukka not Daura, a Christian Muslim but I will vote Buhari again and again. My Nsukka and Igbo brothers almost killed me. Now that both north and south have made their choice, I don’t know what to say but hallelujah. Okoro Christopher, Nnewi, firstname.lastname@example.org