Africa is one continent in dire need of revolutionary leadership. From the beginning, there was nothing inspiring about the continent’s history. She was either in the news for its unrivaled biological enterprises in mass production of slaves or for the notoriety of her corrupt, sit-tight, and maximum rulers who found joy only in creating absolute misery for the black race. This malice cannot be said to be an exclusive preserve of its elite, ruling or political class. Simply put, it is deeply entrenched in the larger society in a form of iceberg phenomenon. In fact, nothing underscores this point more than the role played by commoners in the past and prevailing unfortunate ethnic/sectarian conflicts that have bedeviled the continent. From the genocides in Rwanda, xenophobia in South Africa, and violence in Central Africa Republic, to barbaric killings driven by primitive instinct of domination by religious groups like Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army (LRA) and Shekau’s Boko Haram-- it is all the case of tragic metamorphosis.
One cannot divorce Nigeria’s failure as the largest black nation from the factors that dragged this continent down. For every 5 black men on planet earth, one is a Nigerian. If we have been good agents of change, our sheer number would have diffused good behavior to impact on our brethren in the continent. Alas! We could not even diffuse these qualities among ourselves. I will leave this angle for another day.
Now, I cannot say everything is totally wrong with us. History must credit us with producing some quite revolutionary leaders whose lives were, surreptitiously terminated in what appears to be covert operations of forces most likely beyond the shore of the continent. Thomas Sankara (our Che Guevera), Patrice Lumumba and Murtala Muhammed readily come to mind. Regardless of their humanly shortcomings, in Nigeria, the Balewas, Awolowos, Ziks, Bellos, and Aminu Kanos were revolutionary in their own league. In fact for a continent not so well endowed with history of good leadership, it was a miracle that she produced a leader with angelic qualities like Mandela. I would always choose Mandela as the best thing that happened to humanity in the last century.
For Nigeria, we have always prayed to have our own Mandela. In this sense, we were looking for someone with that Midas touch, charisma, and the benevolence to heal our national wounds, unite our country, and steer it out of the trap set by its past greedy leaders. We thought we had one in Obasanjo. However, it turned out within few years of his ascension to power in 1999, that we were damn wrong. Then came into the picture another retired General, Muhammad Buhari, who has everything to be our Mandela. For close to 13 years he was the major opposition leader and perhaps its only genuine face in the country’s democratic terrain. His untiring commitment to building our democratic institution saw him contesting in 3 presidential elections at a stretch; losing in all but only to have the last laugh in the 4th one. Some pundits even draw some parallels between him and the legendary Abraham Lincoln.
The most interesting things about Buhari’s wining presidential election are three. One, his victory united the northern Nigeria, which was hitherto factionalized along ethno- religious and sectional divides. Two, he built the much needed alliance between Yoruba nation in the South-west and the political class of northern Nigeria. Three, he came on board with an incredible CV of incorruptibility and is seen by many as a no-nonsense leader armed with armamentarium to rid this nation of ills of corruption, indiscipline and insecurity. Fourth, he has tremendous goodwill across the board which he can always leverage on to tweak the system to ignite national rebirth. But so far, one can say something is amiss here. This effervescence and goodwill is fast-subliming without the driver realizing it.
It is pertinent to remind us that there is no quick-fix to Nigeria’s ills. We are quite aware of the degree of our nation’s problems. And this pathology, more than anything, calls for its present leadership to be more circumspect and responsible. It needs to operate within a different wavelength that would keep our momentum of change rolling. These expectations are also the reasons why there are murmurs echoing some frustrations about what has been going on so far. Perhaps there is something strange about the Aso-rock villa that keeps its occupiers from stepping up to the challenges. They get easily irritated by criticisms and see their actions (even when derailed) as the ultimate measure of sacrifice. Why are they easily scared about visiting victims of tragic insecurity in Borno? One finds it difficult to rationalize Buhari’s nonchalance in this regard. In his 8 months on the throne, he has visited no less than 8 countries and at least 4 states within Nigeria- but Borno was never on the card. Painfully, one of his spokesmen even compounded the issue by making assertion to people trying to embarrass him with the recent escalation of attacks on Dalori that left nearly a hundred people dead. I am sure no revolutionary leader would be this cold; not to talk of our Nigeria’s Mandela! It is disappointing to say the least! And this is not the way to squander goodwill.
Certainly, there are many signals that call for Buhari to pause and readjust his belt. So far, the snippet of this 2016 budget analysis by BudgiT (an NGO) has shown so many similarities to the curious figures that typified previous governments’ budgets. I wonder what luxury awaits any president at such critical time of fast receding foreign reserve and unbreakable sliding of Brent oil prices to have the latitude to spend millions of naira for reactional activities in the villa. What is there to maintain in Aso-rock building with 3 billion naira? Unless if Nigeria is going to install Bill Gates or Steve Jobs in the villa’s ever reappearing computers, one cannot explain the allocation of millions for this subhead. We do not have to defend this. As stakeholders we should not make only mere rhetoric and innuendoes out of our hard-earned change. Indeed these are things begging for comprehensive answers from the budget office. The whole thing seems like a mockery of zero-based budgeting process the government is piloting. Perhaps Soludo was right by tagging it as a rehash of Jonathan’s- dubbed and delivered.
At this juncture, I want to appeal to Buhari to review his steps in a deeply reflective and critical manner to see if these fit well in his own image and vision. He is at liberty to pick his own advisers to help steer this nation. People he can trust particularly to handle the economy. I feel like his team is missing Pat Utomi. At the moment he appears very slow in appointing his own best eleven and even seems distracted by globetrotting tendency. Many of us are worried about some of the figures we have seen. We want the government to reflect on this and make amend where necessary. Purposeful leadership is all about personal sacrifice for the comfort of the majority. Before Buhari became the president he had no access to 3 billion naira not to talk of dreaming about earmarking such on a clinic he is going to patronize as the number one citizen. In essence, my appeal to all our leaders is to always treat public funds the same way they treat their own legitimate savings. I am confident that Buhari can do better. Yes, he can!
Ibrahim Musa is a graduate student in Epidemiology, School of Public Health, Health Science Center, Texas A&M University, College Station. Texas.