As relatively peaceful as the vast majority of Nigerians will adjudge their experiences of the long awaited 2015 Presidential election (courtesy of the peaceable disposition of the incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan), there is no gainsaying that the emergence General Muhammadu Buhari as the President-elect is, to say the least, an unfortunate endorsement of the replication of Egypt’s situation and scenarios under ousted President Mohammed Morsi by Nigerian electorate, in due course. In order words, the emergence of General Mohammadu Buhari at this point in time in our life as a nation is the worst disservice we have done to ourselves as a people who still desire to live as one peaceful corporate entity called Nigeria.
No doubt, a number of people may not be inclined at the moment to share in this unavoidable pessimism or be disposed to perceive the looming propensities and dangers that will sooner than characterise the incoming civilian government of General Muhammadu Buhari. Truth is that looking critically at certain indices, variables and realities as they had unfolded in the recent past in Egypt under ousted President Mohammed Morsi vis-a-vis the attributes, utterances and the changing grandstanding as well as the atavistic tendencies of General Muhammadu Buhari and sundry other circumstances surrounding his electoral victory, it can hardly go beyond mere expression of sheer pessimism for a keen observer to submit that Nigeria’s democracy is really in for trouble in the days to come.
To begin with, by way of comparison, both Mohammed Morsi of Egypt and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria seem to have shared and held in common some kind of Islamic fundamentalist beliefs that are apparently antithetical to the ideal of secularism and which tend to undermine the virtues of peaceful co-existence and inter-religious dialogue among peoples and adherents of different religious groups, at some point in their lives.
Whereas in the case Mohammed Morsi, he is reputed to have been an active member of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood for no less than three decades, a group notorious for its Islamist extremism. Not surprisingly, the group is today outlawed, labelled and deservedly treated as a terrorist group by the present military regime in Egypt. As a life member of this Islamist sect and, more so, under whose auspices he rode to power, Mohammed Morsi cannot therefore be rightly assessed to be in any way less extremist than the group he professes, propagates and upholds its dangerous ideologies. To this extent, therefore, it will be somewhat impossible to consider him in isolation of the group. Hence the common thinking that he, too, is an Islamic fundamentalist.
On the other hand, though it will certainly be wrong to use the above picture to view the case of General Muhammadu Buhari, it is nonetheless hard to consider the name of the latter out of the list of prominent Nigerian Muslims who at one point or the other had reasons to contend with the issue of being or not being Islamic fundamentalists, arising primarily from their personal views on vexed questions of national interest. Thus unlike Mohammed Morsi, General Muhammadu Buhari is not known to have belonged to any Islamic fundamentalist group, whether within or outside Nigeria, and so cannot on this note be regarded as an Islamic fundamentalist.
However, it must be noted that the above clarification is not in itself enough to obviate the recent historical fact that General Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress has had cause in the recent past to be impelled to speak about the well rooted perception that its political and social fabrics seem to be designed, rightly or wrongly, to pander more to the wishes, expectations and yearnings of the Nigerian Muslims than their Christian counterparts, as obtained in the case of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Arguably, the recently reported past and unguarded utterances of General Muhammadu Buhari can hardly exonerate him from the thinking in certain quarters which tends to portray him in the minds of many as deserving to wear the tag of an Islamic fundamentalist. As it were, and some people are wont to argue, a man who was widely credited all through the period of electioneering with a variety of divisive and sectarian remarks tilting towards promoting the cause of Islam above other religions in a supposedly secular entity called Nigeria, certainly owes adherents of non-Islamic religion some explanations and, more so, needs to show more proofs in terms of his future actions and utterances that will prove scores of his critics wrong that he is far from being an Islamic fundamentalist.
Much as it is not the intention of this piece to begin to review all or many of these past sectarian remarks credited to the President-elect, which often propel many moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike to view him in some way as a religious fanatic, the key point here is that any sensible analysis of the contingencies that await the in-coming government of Muhammadu Buhari can hardly be meaningful without reference to his past.
Hence, it goes beyond exaggeration to say that both Mohammed Morsi of Egypt and Muhammdu Buhari of Nigeria appear to have shared and held common beliefs in the supremacy of Islam and/or the need for a forceful application of its sharia legal system. Whereas Morsi has been reportedly quoted as saying that “the day will come when the sharia of the truth is put into effect”, Buhari, on his part, reportedly insisted that “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria… God willing, we will not stop the agitation for total implementation of the sharia in the country”.
What is more, when eventually Mohammed Morsi found himself in the race for Egypt’s Presidency, it readily dawned on him that many Egyptians were not only afraid of his extremist Islamic agenda and disposition, but also that the secularists in the country were deeply troubled over his parochial sectarian inclination. Consequently, in an effort to defuse these anxieties, Morsi was quoted by the Times of Isreal (Newspaper) of June 25, 2012, as saying: “I am a President for all Egyptians”. Incidentally, when the contest got to a run-off stage with Ahmed Shafiq, a political heavy weight of Ex-President Mubarak’s time, Morsi reportedly adopted and propagated the slogan that “our strength is in our unity”, just to secure support, sympathy and votes from the Egyptian secularists.
In a similar vein, there is no gain saying that this same situation apparently played itself out in the case of General Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. For sure, it is an open secret that once upon in time General Muhammadu Buhari reportedly supported the cause of the Boko Haram sect following his widely published complaint about the failure or refusal of Jonathan-led government to negotiate with the sect and to possibly grant its members the Niger-Delta kind of amnesty programmes. But then, when suddenly General Buhari seemed to realise that he would definitely need the support and votes from the Christians and moderate Muslims, the same Buhari – just like Mohammed Morsi of Egypt did in his own circumstances- swiftly recanted. He did not only rise up to the occasion to unreservedly condemn, perhaps the first time then, the bloody activities of the Boko Haram sect, but also he later attended a thanks-giving service in a church in Lagos state, held meetings with Christian leaders as well as he publicly received bible gift from a Catholic Bishop in Anambra state. All of these events point to the fact that we really live in an interesting time. Certainly, to the extent that General Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have said that nobody can either Christianize or Islamise Nigeria goes to show how closely analogous his recent past political history is related to that of Mohammed Morsi of Egypt.
Today, General Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress have succeeded in filling the minds of Nigerians with a lot of promises of heaven on earth – just to acquire state power – with obviously no known or visible strategies on ground regarding how to access the routs to this promise land. Like Muhammed Morsi of Egypt did make his high sounding promises to Egyptians – which included promises to appoint a female Vice-President and a Coptic Christian Deputy (that never came to be) – General Muhammadu Buhari has dished out his own promises and thereby making Nigerians believe that the APC’s “change” slogan carries with it a serious message of a new Nigeria where all the poor people and unemployed Nigerian youths will be truly entitled to a certain monthly stipend till such a time they overcome their prevailing state of affairs.
In fact, it is important to note that the ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s government repeatedly broke all its promises to the people of Egypt. But, however, while one hopes that this kind of fate will not befall the incoming government, the fact is that it will be terrible to think about the future of Nigeria in the event of the failure of General Muhammadu Buhari to accomplish his numerous promises of heaven on earth to the Nigerians.
Meanwhile, one has no option than to take Buhari by his words pertaining to his plans to overhaul Nigeria’s corrupt and inefficient government agency, just as he has equally expressed hopes and readiness to repair the economy in such a way that one US dollar will be equal to Nigeria’s one naira, in no distant time. Of course, it is possible to do it even if we still depend heavily on the western (or “advanced”) nations and their technological knowhow for our day-to- day living, knowledge and consciousness of inventions and innovations in the world of science and technology (?). Nay, I disagree! It is possible for a consumer and importing nation like Nigeria to make her Naira equal to that of a producing and exporting nation like the United State of Ameriaca’s Dollar (?). Please no argument! Buhari has said it all and can do it.
Curiously, as appealing as General Buhari’s current hard-line anti-corruption stand is, it is yet to be seen how a “saint” who reportedly lied on oath over the whereabouts of his certificate(s) and thereby allowing himself to be profoundly drenched in the stinking pool of corruption, will end up manifesting satisfactory rectitude or an appreciable sense of public morality that are needed for the purpose of enjoying public confidence in launching an anti-graft war against other people. Needless to say that he who wants equity, does equity.
Indeed, it appears contradictory that Egyptians are today revelling in the aftermath of the ouster of Mohammed Morsi after having jointly and duly crowned him the first democratically elected President of Egypt. But then, the relevant question is: what more could Egyptians do in the face of ominous attempts by Mohammed Morsi and members of his Freedom and Justice Party (the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing) to endanger the secularity of Egypt, not to talk about his inability to accomplish his numerous and unrealistic promises made to the people?
As Nigerians await a smooth transition from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of Peoples Democratic Party to General Muhammadu Buhari of All Progressive Congress, it is the hope that Nigeria will not be bedevilled afterwards by the phenomenon of Mohammed Morsi of Egypt.
Onyiorah Paschal Chiduluemije writes from Abuja