General Muhammadu Buhari was not alone when he was suddenly overcome by emotion in his final official speech going into the Presidential election on Saturday, April 16th 2011, in what he has authoritatively described as his last outing in the Presidential contest in this country. A good number of members of that unique audience and many more of those who watched via television were overcome with sudden and overwhelming emotion over the fate of this country and perhaps the approaching eclipse of the last of the face of public honesty and probity in the affairs of Nigeria.
Our General may have betrayed the stern and unemotional calling of his Military background but such is the effect of the monumental crises that has bedevilled this otherwise great country that not much more could be done in the face of pressure, opposition and near ineffectiveness to change the strangle hold of the same set of people who for the past thirty years have been around and active in presiding over arguably the greatest plundering of the resources of any Nation devoid of a state of war.
As the 2011 presidential elections approach, General Muhammadu Buhari, our only symbol of hope, our dimming light in the midst of a legion of wolves stands at the threshold of history to give this potentially great Nation another sincere opportunity to restart her fortune and give her a breather of hope, a fresh start from decades of incompetence, failed infrastructure, and corruption of epic dimensions. There was not a more defining highlight in the speech of the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change than his assertion, with all the confidence he could muster, that he has served his country in various capacities- as Minster of the Federal Republic, State Governor, Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund and Head of State- and in all these offices, he has never let his hand into the public till. In making this declaration, he invited all presidential candidates, both in this election and in the past presidential elections to dare to make the same claims. It was a challenge available only to the very upright, one with water tight integrity, whose word you can take to the bank. And to every challenge there is a target; at the receiving end are not just our thieving politicians, but the multitude of inept and corrupt public servants, the judiciary which has turned a blind eye in the face of systematic and unaccounted for injustices, our armed forces which has thrown up brigades of Military opportunists who in the past decades have subjected this country to massive pillaging and resource plundering. But these are just a few men, the minority czars or call them our overlords. The majority at the receiving end of Buhari’s challenge are the ordinary Nigerians, the working class and professional men and women; the unemployed, the youths and rural community dwellers who have decided to remain silent in the midst of this oppression; who have decided to be complacent as armed robbers in political garb rape the giant of Africa and subject her to such retrogression that it will take hundreds of years to recover- that is if this ‘house’ will stand the time.
In the audience on this auspicious occasion were recycled politicians who had joined this campaign train either for the benefit of what it would offer them or indeed for genuine remorse over the evil for which they have collectively conspired to confine this country to. It was a comic relief of sorts to see them join the General along with the rest of us who were watching, in the chorus of ‘weeping away’ our collective National frustration- oh, how shameless robbers are!
With the end of the rallies for the opposition CPC and the approaching end of campaigns for the Presidential election, the ruling party has redoubled its nauseating propaganda machine as a multitude of parties, political affiliations and individual political jobbers have fallen over themselves to offer endorsements to the Jonathan/Goodluck campaign in order to position themselves for the next season of plundering of the resources of our commonwealth. In its official response-as if it was necessary- to the speech by Muhammadu Buhari marking the end of the presidential rallies for the CPC, the ruling PDP has come out to mock, ridicule and pillory the symbol of our collective decency and pride. They have unfairly referred to his speech and the emotion which took a better part of him in the course of it, as a last desperate attempt from his bag of tricks aimed at whipping up sentiments towards winning the elections. This is akin to a robber stealing from a man and taunting him to aggravate the injustice meted out to him.
The facts on ground do not merit such reckless and irresponsible statements. The evidence on ground has shown that Nigeria has witnessed a dramatic worsening of its social, economic and political institutions in the past twelve years within which the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party has presided over the affairs of this country. There has been massive institutional and systematic corruption for which there is neither investigation nor conviction of anyone. The amount of money-in billions of US dollars- sunk into the reactivation of the electricity sector with nothing to show for it provides enough bases for some people to pay the supreme sacrifice or rot in jail for the rest of their lives. But this is Nigeria, and things are always different here; instead, these treasury looters bestride our political spaces and are in every sense of the word untouchable. They are our governors, ministers, and government contractors and from all indications, they will be with us at least for the immediate future.
General Muhammadu Buhari has played his part. He has shown that in the midst of the stinking wealth garnered by our band of treasury looters, in the crowd of the corrupt, inefficient, blood sucking monsters who call themselves politicians, the majority of Nigerians recognise integrity, they recognise genuine patriots who spare no effort in striving to make this Nation a better place for the coming generations at the price of great inconvenience and opposition.
Unless there is a divine intervention, President Goodluck Jonathan will be announced sometime next week by Professor Attahiru Jega as the winner of the Presidential election of April 16th 2011. And why wouldn’t he? The ruling party controls enough resources to compel enough votes to announce its victory at the polls; not with $200m being awarded to the movie industry to enlist their support and money in the billions being drilled to the surface from the Petroleum Ministry to support the cause of the PDP Presidential Campaign.
General Muhammadu Buhari will not be much more the loser than the generality of Nigerians who have had to endure grinding poverty in the midst of huge resources which are being cornered by the men in power. Our teeming unemployed youth, runaway inflation, decrepit infrastructure, failed institutions and the despondence that has attended these vices are all indicators and ready reminders to the fact, that we are a generation that has been failed in all areas of our National life.
Ironically Mr. Muhammadu Buhari leaves the stage as a hero, a dogged and indefatigable fighter for the hidden potentials and opportunities of this Country which has remained dormant and unexploited as a result of the insatiable greed of a clique of men. We salute the people’s General, the yet unsung hero, who in a period of his life he should be enjoying a deserved retirement, had offered himself, in the face of hopelessness, as a vehicle of one last opportunity at redeeming this Nation from the path of impending perdition. We salute his courage, perseverance, statesmanship and princely mien which have done much more campaigning for him than any amount of looted funds the ruling and thieving Peoples’ Democratic Party would have offered.
For the rest of us Nigerians, who have had to suffer the brunt of decades of lost opportunities, rampant corruption, ineptitude and gross human rights violations, I conclude with the wise words of the political philosopher that a people deserve the type of government it gets. Maybe this is the aggregate of our collective entitlement. When and if the time ever comes when we have had it to our necks, we shall think of welcoming genuine change. For now, for them who have been privileged to enter the party hall, another term of looting is about to begin!
Bassey Nyoho, Esq
Is an Abuja based legal practitioner