Part of the obligation of a good citizen is to wish well any government that is in office in his or her country, whether elected, selected or imposed. It is believed that whatever time the government spends in office belongs to the nation and that while the government is in power, it is spending the resources of the country to boot. However, wishing the government well does not preclude criticizing it. In fact, holding the government accountable is the highest duty of a citizen.
When Obasanjo came to power in 1999, he wasn’t my ideal choice for president. But I wished him well. On January 2004, less than one year into his second term, I had determined that Obasanjo had failed. I wrote an article where I articulated “Why Obasanjo Failed.”
When Yar’Adua came into power, the pitch was that he would be the first university graduate with a master’s degree to lead Nigeria. I wasn’t impressed. His ill health bought him time and some sympathy. But two years into his term in office, I was done. I wrote his Obituary six months before he died.
Like the last two, Goodluck Jonathan did not impress me with his Ph.D. and stories of climbing up from grass to grace. But I was prepared to wish him well. He did not shine as an acting president. Nigerians made excuses for him that he was not performing because he had not won his own term as president. In April 2011, he ran for a full term and won. He became a president in his own right with absolute control of the government. Two weeks after, on April 29, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan secretly approved the transfer of $1.1 billion to the London account of Malabu Oil and Gas owned by former Minister of Petroleum and a convicted money launderer, Dan Etete and Sani Abacha’s son, Mohammed. The money came from funds paid to the Federal Government by two multinational companies: Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited and Shell Nigeria, as part of the settlement of the Malabu oil block case between the Federal Government, Malabu, and the two multinational oil companies. As soon as the money got into the account of Malabu Oil in London it was wired to secret accounts of cronies and some political associates of President Jonathan. That was it for me. I lost confidence in him. I did wish him well and every week, I tried to point him at the direction I thought his government should have gone.
I completely understood why Nigerians chose Muhammadu Buhari over Jonathan. He was not a perfect candidate but Nigerians were desperate for a savior. They wanted a Messiah that would throw a magic wand and get rid of all the ailments that afflicted the nation. So Buhari came in. I wished him well just as I wished Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, and Jonathan. Less than one year into the administration there were signs that all was not well. In February of 2016, I suggested How Buhari Can Avoid A Dead End.
Take for example the issue of Fulani-herdsmen and farmers. As early as April 2016, I had warned of the danger of not tackling the matter with all seriousness in the piece: Herdsmen And Farmers: How To Lose A Country. By May 2016, I was screaming that Buhari had one year to go. By July 2016, it was How to Rescue Buhari’s Government and by August 2016, it was Buhari’s Last Card.
Then came 2017, we did not do the one thing that we should have done that year. In subsequent months, with his illness came a new barrage of reasons why he was not performing. The cabals were pinpointed as the primary reason. 2017 came and we failed in the task of preparing for the leader we want in 2019.
And I wrote:
“Should we waste the next two years barking at the dogs or should we do something to get the dogs on leash and back into the house? Should we keep crying that the rain is beating us or should we get a cocoyam leaf and cover our head? The only way we do not have power over what our leaders do is by telling ourselves that we do not have power over what our leaders do. The power to bark can influence things, but we can always do more. The one thing we must not fail to do this New Year is to begin to do things to get the kind of leaders we want in 2019. If we don’t, we have no right to complain when the people who care choose the leaders for us.”
That was in January 2017. By the third quarter, I noticed that we had once again failed. I went back to writing fiction- for that world made more sense than Nigeria.
Having Buhari as president hasn’t been entirely bad. We can disagree on his accomplishments but we can all agree that Buhari will never have the honor of being called the greatest president Nigeria never had.
On May 29th, 2019 or 2023, Nigeria will go beyond Buhari. Nigeria will go beyond our perpetual search for that strong man that would perform magic and fix all that ails Nigeria; a philosophy that is deeply rooted in our laziness to roll up our sleeves and do the dirty and hard work needed to build a strong foundation for a wobbly nation. It is the reason every opinion poll on the solution to Nigeria’s problem has the Jerry Rawlings’ option at the top. It is so because it requires no sacrifice from us. Next to that is the concept of a benevolent dictator- again for the same reason.
With Buhari out of the way, Nigeria will go beyond our penchant for shortcuts to a dedicated search for a long-term solution. It will go beyond our dream that a knight in shining armor would come down from heaven and rescue us.
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo is the author of “This American Life Sef. He will be at the London School of Economics on Saturday, February 10, 2018, to discuss Nigeria at the Nigerian Society gathering tagged, “The State of Nigeria Conference 2018.”