By Kaius Ikejezie (Ph.D)
Nigerians voted for Buhari because, among other things, they believed he can bite and tear off the skin like a bull dog. This made some clever political plunderers to quickly return a part of their spoils without waiting for him to come for it, though if he is still the Buhari we have known all these years he will not leave them alone till they have returned to Caesar what belongs to him. If he is still the Buhari we have known all these years! That is the question.
Events are revealing that he has lost either his bulldog’s teeth or the will to bite. It may also be that his bite has lost its mordancy. This is why the politicians-turned-looters are walking the streets free. Now these looters who in a hurry returned a fraction of their booty are blaming themselves for doing that. Their fellow looters who advised them against an act that was easy to be seen as mea culpa now call them ‘owon ole’ (thieves). Even the APC governors have dared Buhari by telling him that they will not declare their assets. And he is doing nothing about it! His earlier interest in corruption in the petroleum sector and some other key sector, which made him our darling, seems to have died down.
Can someone tell him that Nigerians voted for him to deal with corruption and recover the stolen billions. Nigerians appreciate the fact that he lowered his salary, the same way he slashed his pension, but we want him to go beyond himself. He is not Nigeria’s headache, the others are – ranging from the overpaid senators to ex presidents, who, in spite of being as rich as Croesus, earn a golden pension. I don’t want to think of the governors who flaunt private jets like some general overseers of some Nigerian churches, though some of them claim that they had them before their calling to be governors. Has anybody seen the proof of this claim?
The fact is that Nigerians are dying in the Mediterranean Sea in their thousands in their bid to escape from the plundered country and Buhari is not stinging, not to mention biting. Those who were lucky to reach Italy, for instance, have occupied all the street corners and the fronts of supermarkets with caps in hand, asking for alms, yet the alter Christus who came to save us is taking it easy with the kleptocrats. As long as Buhari does not wake up one morning and start biting these thieves like a mad dog or the snakes of Sambisa Forest, the fire of his appeal will continue to smolder. Either he acts, hopefully audaciously, or the impression that he has become a growling dog will ossify. Not even the age excuse will absolve him from blame; it is such a lame excuse. It is good he notes that Queen Elizabeth II is 89 and still reigning in the UK and 15 commonwealth countries. Another good example is Giorgio Napolitano, 90 years, who resigned as Italian president some months ago.
Buhari’s dilemma is understandable – faced with fighting those who are superrich through theft and also in league with other potentates, and so dangerous. His prerogative rights as president make the job easy and the fight winnable. All he has to do is to get the right people to work with. The EFCC and other anti-corruption organs need an Idiagbon to head them. To stop stagnation generally, he has to look hard enough through collaborators for Nigerians who are virtuous and authentically patriotic, though they are very few and very far from the seat of power, and even far from Nigeria (some of them anyway). They have to be sought for; the future of Nigeria should be in their hands. Please, they are not among those that shout the shibboleth of Lord, Lord.
To succeed, Buhari has to borrow from Obasanjo the ruthless spirit to deal with selfish and greedy dissenters, which had enabled the latter to have upper hand on crucial issues. There are occasions in Nigerian politics when it is expedient to play the dirty game. Baba has enough in his repertory to lend him. Through that ‘statesman’ he will learn how to strike at the Achilles’ heel of the looters, even when they have half of the parliament behind them, unless he has chosen the way of the three wise monkeys; unless he has allowed Abdulsalami Abubakar and Bishop Kukah and others to sweeten his heart. In that case, we will be asking: What is the essence of being called General Buhari? After all, Montague and Capulet are not bad as names.
Buhari needs hard-line reformers on his side if he does not want to delude Nigerians. It is not clear how far he has gone in search of them. If he seriously cracks down on looters, our parliamentarians will be forsaking their religion for his own, thereby converting to his reform agenda which obviously will entail cutting down their privileges. The first of the reforms to be instituted should have to do with a series of laws that would enthrone the rule of law, without which Nigeria will continue to falter and will eventually collapse like Greece. As AU is not EU, there will be no rain of the euro falling from Frankfurt via Brussels to resuscitate her. Apart from this, stopping ex governors from transferring from their former state houses to the senate to continue their theft is of urgent necessity, and so has to be legislated. If Nigerians have sworn to be incurably corrupt, a chance at least has to be given to others, instead of allowing the same group to continue with their plunder. Jokes apart, the fact is that the political relay will enable a new breed of honest and patriotic Nigerians to emerge.
Buhari should note that I personally will be disappointed if I see more than a smattering of old names among his ministerial appointees, given that there are untried Nigerians with virtue waiting for a chance to prove their mettle, and to prove that it is not true that Nigeria is unreformable. The ones that have tasted power before are like Adam and Eve after eating the forbidden apple. They are now equipped with a foreknowledge of how to steal without leaving any trace, just as humanity’s primogenitors came to be equipped with the knowledge of good and bad after the communion in Eden Garden, apart from realizing for the first time that they were naked.
Obasanjo brought Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala home from abroad and she made the difference, at least in Obasanjo’s administration. There are many Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealas in different parts of the world. It behoves on Buhari now to bring them back home. This is Obasanjo’s legacy. And Jonathan’s? Let us all engage ourselves in searching for it.