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Is Buhari The Lion, Or The Meat? By Sonala Olumhense

Some people think that the All Progresssives Congress (APC), Nigeria’s “change” party, is in crisis. 

APC is not in trouble; APC is trouble. 


For me, that is good, and here is why.  APC was not voted into federal power because it was an unknown.  It was never a saint.  By March 2015 when it won the presidency, it probably had more devils per square inch than any political party in history.

I do not think Nigeria voted for APC because they were deceived about its character or its characteristics.  They voted for it because they wanted change from a “goat and yam” subsistence.  [The President of a country, asked about corruption, answered: “If you put a goat and yam together, the goat will eat the yam.”]

At that location in Time, it was difficult to hear anything because politically, it was very loud.  But the people heard a party which offered change.  Change from the “goat and yam” embarrassment.  They accepted a proposition loosely stated as “Anything But PDP”. 

For 15 years, the Peoples Democratic Party had done little to improve its image, let alone its performance, and in the 2015 election, virtually campaigned for the APC, which offered Muhammadu Buhari for president.

Buhari was advertised for his personal integrity, for a philosophy which distanced itself from goats.  It was clear that there would be trouble ahead because of the slippery nature of the concept of “change”.  I mean, many in the frontlines of APC were voracious goats, too.

But one step at a time: first, change PDP out of power, and then hope that somehow, APC would not sabotage change.

That was why Buhari should not have gone to bed on the night they confirmed he had won the presidency. 

Think about it: on three previous occasions, the same electoral commission had told him, “Well, you can go to court!”   On this one, they said: here is your certificate, you are the new president of Nigeria and you will reign from Abuja!

They didn’t exactly announce he would be surrounded by legions of goats and their guard lions!

Okay…president-elects need sleep too.  So it is perhaps understandable that he went to bed and slept all the way until his inauguration exactly four weeks ago. 

The problem then is that, once he had taken his oath of office, he snoozed on.  I mean, this is a reformed democrat, by his own admission, but aren’t his democratic credentials wrapped around some pretty defined military steel?

Apparently not, because these four months in bed are proving to be costly.  He did not seize the initiative; others did. 

Last week, however, he seemed to have arrived at that clear mission-definition that often eludes a leader: finding the answer to the question: why am I here?  Why am I on this seat, at this moment in time? 

To be clear, Mr. Buhari was unaware he was asking that question.  He imagined he was elected to lead Nigeria and to solve its problems.

Hundreds of millions of people have congratulated him since Nigerians used him to cut up the PDP. 

But while the PDP was cut, cut up, and cut down, it has proved since Buhari’s assumption of office that it is not dead.  The goat eats the yam, which lives on in the goat.  

A key element in the drama in the APC is simply that Buhari failed to focus sufficiently on his mission.  The principal reason for Mr. Buhari’s election, the one mandate he should write on his forehead is this: fight corruption.  He was electable, and elected, because of the belief that he is different as a politician, and that he can change the course of a country heading for hell. 

That is it, and every other thing is either secondary or imaginary.  Put differently: if Buhari 2.0 succeeds at anything but not the defeat of corruption, he would have failed; if he succeeds in defeating corruption but in nothing else, he will be Nigeria’s eternal hero.

Last week, he appeared to have remembered this balance of issues, saying he will enjoy the support of the international community to recover the assets stolen by officials of the Goodluck Jonathan government. 

Of course he will, but that is not good enough.  For one thing, he has had that support for four months.  For another, he has had the encouragement of Jonathan to undertake such a probe.  Speaking during the final session of his cabinet two days before leaving office, Jonathan urged Buhari to feel free to probe his administration, but to broaden the enquiry to previous administrations, and include their [corrupt] allocation of oil blocks.

Buhari has yet to show his hand.  He has not struck early.  He has not struck hard.  He has not struck at all.  Last week, he was suggesting there was some pressure about his first 100 days in office.

Buhari is an experienced former military chief, but perhaps not a student of history.  He is making the same mistake as many of his predecessors who took it for granted they had years on their hands to get things done.

As he ought to have learned one night in August 1985 when Buhari 1.0 ended suddenly at the hands of his friend, Ibrahim Babangida, longevity in office is not guaranteed.  There is no tomorrow to do all of the right things; there is only today in which to make things happen, including mistakes. 

Of the political capital that Buhari 2.0 earned last March, vast sums were available to be spent on May 29, from the moment of his inauguration.  One month later, regrettably, he has yet to establish a government, and lacks control of his party. 

Hopefully, he knows that he needs to define the APC in his own image, or risk the party re-defining him. 

Hopefully, Buhari understands the nature of the crisis around him.  It is simply that while change was a popular slogan for the election which enthroned him, true change will not only protect the yam from the goat, it will sweep away many big goats.  It is a situation where, if the yam-keeper shows sluggishness or weakness, he may well get eaten by the goats as well.

And does Buhari really believe that many of his old friends want him to succeed, where success means real change?  Do they want him to succeed where they themselves failed?  At what cost? 

These are questions only Buhari can answer, and he does not have much time.  He must understand that this has gone beyond goats and yams: if he hesitates to be the lion, he will be the meat.

And if APC fails to deliver change, its spoilt and deceitful chiefs and their dubious political and economic riches can expect the mobs to come to the cage and eat them alive.

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Twitter: @SonalaOlumhe