Anyone who has the privilege of engaging former President Olusegun Obasanjo in a casual political conversation involving the future of Nigeria will always be struck by one of his favorite comments. The former President never relents in stressing his optimism about the future of Nigeria. “Never mind the current distractions. Nigeria survived Abacha. She will survive anything. Nigeria will be a great country” the President would always say.
Today more than ever, I am forced to question the source of President Obasanjo’s optimism. With every passing day, all hopes seem to be dashed whenever a ray of light flickers through the dark tunnel. No event could be more momentous to mark the dawn of hope than the election of former General Muhammadu Buhari, who has now long been installed President of the country. Since his inception however, the nation has faced mixed signals on the prospects of ever making meaningful progress in the battle to redeem the country.
If anything, the cluelessness and aloofness with which the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan handled the affairs of governance in Nigeria ended up elevating the objective value and public perception of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who at least, had a clear idea of what to do with governance and was hands-on all through his tenure as President. Even more strongly elevated and valued by a huge majority of Nigerians is the present leader of the country Muhammadu Buhari, whose intended policy direction in the handling of governance has been no secret to Nigerians since the day he was deposed by a rival General from the seat of power as military head of state.
In a field of leadership aspirants in the 2015 contest that was conspicuously short on candidates with the requisite credentials to fight and wrest Nigeria from the grips of political hyenas, Muhammadu Buhari was the last hope of sort, to save Nigeria from itself. The nation had been set on a seemingly fast descent to the abyss. There was no doubt that redemption would be faced with obstacles and reprisals from the predators who feast fat on the blood of the sufferers and the downtrodden. While reprisals come as an aftermath of the spontaneous defense mechanism of the exploiters at the losing end, obstacles may however come from within as we have so far witnessed in the wake of the Battle Royale.
President Buhari’s own health seems to be one of such obstacles that is likely being suppressed and kept a palace secret amid the long battle in its infancy stage. No one but the President himself openly expressed regrets on the heels of his inauguration, that he was elected President only this late and not in his more youthful days of buoyant health and bouncing reservoir of zest for action. As irrelevant and unimportant as they may seem, recent gaffes by President Muhammadu Buhari at home and abroad are clear and unmistakable pointers to the degenerative impact of age on the mental health of the nation’s last hope of resetting the button of progress.
Starting from the mix-up of the Vice President’s name (“Osibande” for “Osinbajo”) in the heat of electoral campaign through the mix-up of Germany and West Germany or Chancellor Merkel for “President Mitchelle” up until the complete recreation of the name of his own political party (the APC), no one is in doubt that President Buhari’s mental health is not in the best of shape at least, to the point of flaws when long-drawn concentration is required. His aides are thus faced with the challenge of keeping him away from events requiring a longer period of mental concentration and scaling down on the number of events requiring unprepared speeches.
In spite of all these though, the President seems very much alert in implementing his project of wresting Nigeria from the fangs of thieves that were most conspicuously installed by the government of former President Jonathan. Within two months, the fear of his name alone has worked wonders in several areas of national affairs. Projects that had dragged on and drained resources under his predecessor, now see sudden completion and progress. Refineries, whose maintenance were mandated by his predecessor in the run-up to elections but for which no one really cared in the face of the benefits reaped by fuel importers, who were mostly friends and financiers of the former President, now see sudden progress with some producing to installed capacity. Reports from the country also tell the tales of improved power supply all over the country following the successive works of two presidencies including Jonathan’s, but which exploiters would have openly sabotaged under Jonathan to reap more benefits.
In a period of dwindling oil prices, Muhammadu Buhari added $2.89 billion to Nigeria’s foreign reserves as of early July 2015 barely one month in office. Accountability has risen in government departments and agencies. The nation’s account has been singularized for the remittance of funds by public institutions and leakages blocked in several areas. Quiet ‘carrot and stick’ persuasions seem to have flushed some stolen funds back into the treasury while many now sing openly on the cause and scope of the large-scale looting that reigned uncontrolled under Goodluck Jonathan. None other than the celebrated Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on whose shoulders the hope of the first female President of Nigeria once rested, sang very clearly, on the source of orders for her audacious and illegal withdrawal and misappropriation of funds from the Excess Crude Account. It was slowly becoming clearer to Nigerians, how funds were simply misused at the center leaving fewer funds available to be shared to peripheral states, which then ended up owing salaries to government employees partly due to aggravated corrupt practices in the states as well.
It was a ray of hope flickering through the dark tunnel in expectation of a brutally honest soul-searching before the start of processes to make amends. But traditionally, Nigeria will never be itself if (in the informal language of the country) there was no “K-leg” in the smooth sail to redemption. Nuhu Ribadu once infamously remarked that corruption fights back whenever it is fought and he nearly lost his own life in the process. Yet, as far as his health allows him, Muhammadu Buhari is one character that does not seem to fear death in the course of implementing his rigorous agenda to put the country on the right path again.
His clear leaning towards the northern region in picking his lieutenants notwithstanding, I will dare say that I have no problem with that at all as long as it works the magic of bringing Nigeria back to its senses. After all, a Southerner from a very small minority group had his chance like never before but chose to squander it on the altar of ethnicity and regionalism and lit the embers of renewed secessionism. Before voting Buhari as President, Nigerians were not only abhorrent of the culture of impunity and ‘anything goes’ under Goodluck Jonathan, they also knew Muhammadu Buhari as a Northerner, who loves his region and adores his religion. Thank goodness that age has also made him soften the staunchness of positions that he held on several issues in the past. As far as religion is concerned, Muhammadu Buhari is much more of a fair and balanced secularist politician in our present day. I therefore have no problem at all if the President deems only his northern friends fit enough for the near-sincere implementation of the policies that he intends to put in place for the good of the country as long as those northerners are Nigerians. After all, he has the inalienable right to pick people that he can work with and nothing else but meritocracy should be his ultimate guide.
Returning to the central issue, I have stated that Nigeria will never be its true self if there was no “K-leg” in the prosecution of the anti-corruption agenda. What is however surprising is the face of the satanic resistance. When the conscientious instance of society suddenly becomes the central mouthpiece of evil, then the time is rife with prudent speculations on the fate of the sick nation. It is no secret that Nigerian has long gone nuts and questions abound if it is still capable of being salvaged.
In my book “Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment”, I indicted the Christian religion in Africa as having been reduced to the conman’s springboard for defrauding unsuspecting Africans in the name of fake visions and spiritual faith. At the same time, I acknowledged the moral and ethical function of religion in society as the vanguard of political correctness. While it is largely true that the Christian faith, which has become the most flamboyant of all religions in Africa, has only successfully made headlines over several decades for the wrong reasons, it seems to have failed woefully, in its gatekeeping function of upholding moral and ethical correctness.
In all the fraudulent exploitation largely practiced by Pentecostal preachers and overnight “seers” however, the Catholic Church has strongly stood out as a background voice maintaining some level of decency. So we thought at least, in the wake of one Father Mbaka’s daring outpour of the mind of ordinary Nigerians, who saw the havoc wreaked by the Jonathan government. Today, we are seeing that Jonathan also had allies within the Catholic Church, who may have also helped him advance his diabolic agenda on poor Nigerians.
First, it was Bishop Matthew Kukah of the Sokoto Diocese, who came out in vehement defense of a position that is today, common only to those who feel uncomfortable with the exposure of the rot that was exacerbated in the system, by former President Jonathan. The road-boys of the former President that were given a mess of pottage to write positive comments about the former President on social media have continued the practice long after the disgraceful removal of their principal. They have used and still continue to use all forms of foul languages to describe the campaign launched by President Muhammadu Buhari. They have skewed and continue to slew facts beyond logical perceptions in the hope of getting even with Buhari over the negative image that Jonathan worked hard to assign to himself. In fact, that is all most unperturbing.
When a renowned and largely respected Catholic priest joins this bandwagon of petty critics and noisemakers however, one begins to wonder if Nigeria can still be salvaged. Matthew Kukah explicitly warned against neglecting governance at the expense of probing the Jonathan administration to recover a part of the massive loot. His message was clear. “Leave Jonathan alone and face governance!”
Unfortunately however, the Bishop failed to specify what element of governance he felt has been neglected because the searchlight on Jonathan and his government was intensified. Following the backlash in the aftermath of this unfortunate comment, the Catholic priest resorted to relativism and emphasized the need to spread the probe to governments beyond Jonathan as if failure to probe Babaginda and imprison Obasanjo would provide divine justification for Jonathan’s crimes. Just what Kukah sought to achieve with his utterances is still a mystery to many observers. While the debate was raging and people sought to understand the merit and demerit of the unfortunate comment, Kukah, who doesn’t seem to be oblivious of all the failures of former President Jonathan, finally came up and betrayed his intentions with yet another comment. He says former heads of state will protect Jonathan, who he claims, always put God and Nigeria first, in all that he did. At the same time, he acknowledges the mismanagement of Nigeria’s resources under Jonathan probably with the help of that same “God” that Jonathan put first in pilgrimages and political sermons in churches.
Funnily, Matthew Kukah never sounded any note of warning on things that he saw going wrong under Jonathan the way he now seems to be megaphoning on Buhari. Just who is fooling who?
As if that was not enough, another Catholic Priest Cardinal Okogie came out in a seeming concerted ploy to pronounce that Buhari’s anti-corruption war will yield nothing and sounded like he was in utter oblivion of the gains made so far. In a further nonsensical and outright dimwitted analogy, he cited the direction of the pointing fingers in a futile ploy to discourage the proactive anti-corruption campaign by President Buhari. This is what the Catholic Church has been reduced to in Nigeria as the conscience of the common man.
While these unfortunate advocates of the devil try to make good on being the faces of Nigeria’s enemies, we allow ourselves the crucial question if Nigeria can still be salvaged.
Then we hear the name of one former Governor Fashola, who has long been held in high esteem for outstanding achievements. But if achievements have truly been made on the heels of burgeoning corruption, then Nigeria’s path to salvation is still many light years away.
We also hear of a Governor of Adamawa state, who is said to have justified spending bailout funds on armored SUVs in place of workers’ wages that are owed by the government. Nigeria is indeed, a nation gone completely nuts and former President Obasanjo will have to wait for many more decades to see his optimism come true and he may probably not live to see the rosy days.