rguably, there may not be a politician in Nigerian history, alive or in the essence, that can be described as a marvel, wonder or rarity like President Buhari following his precursor as military Head of State. This slender man has shown to be a man to be hated, adored, recalled, or dumped in historical refuge dumps in our conscious and subconscious imaginations. Extraordinary people place a strong emphasis on virtues such as problem solver, positivity, time-measured reasoning capacity, empathy, and so on. On the other hand, remarkable individuals despise choices based on popularity, self-interest, removing hands from the plough, superficiality, and so on. Their words are words on stone in terms of rhetoric.
That is why Buhari will be remembered for his statement, “I am for everybody and I am for nobody”. Can it be argued that President Buhari has become a phenomenon since making this pithy statement?
The case for labeling President Buhari a fantastic person may be weakly based on the following assumptions: one, this man is known to have grieved after losing the election in 2011. Two, no known Nigerian politician has ever attempted to be President of the country as many times as President Buhari has – in 2003, 2007, and 2011. Three, no other Nigerian leader has been as constant in his hatred of corruption and struggle against it as President Buhari, both as a military leader and as a democratically elected leader. Buhari is said to have lived a stoic life for many years, with only one house in Kaduna, a modest one in Daura, and only about 150 head of cattle. Buhari is also thought to be the only one of his contemporaries who does not own an enterprise, a university, a hospital, or some foreign properties. Not to mention the fact that Buhari would go down in history as the politician who said the most terrifying snarl words in his notorious “the monkey and the baboon will be soaked in blood” speech, which is what we now refer to as hate speech. Finally, and more importantly, Buhari will be remembered as the first Nigerian President to defeat an incumbent in the 2019 general election.
General Buhari rode the country like a colossus between 1983 and 1985, with the objective of removing the odour of corruption, Nigerians’ colossal greed, avarice, and a lack of public probity and responsibility. All of this was encapsulated in his WAI (War Against Discipline. The goal of this war was to train Nigerians to live for Shagari’s government’s critical commodities, modify our slacker work habits, instill nationalism and patriotism, avoid economic sabotage, and maintain our environment clean. Despite the fact that the military government was only in place for a brief time, its impact has earned Buhari the title of Mr. Integrity until tomorrow. Indeed, many Nigerians still pine for the continuation of the War Against Indiscipline.
With this perspective, the subject of Buhari’s legacy begins to disturb our minds. As an individual, I am beginning to have concerns because it is arguable that if Buhari had been denied the presidency, we would have done better as a country; and now that he is in, what legacies would he leave for Nigeria? Alternatively, voting him in is a futile attempt. Buhari currently has about two and a half years, or less than 1,000 days, to doff his hat or exit the stage to acclaim or odium.
I split legacy into national tangibles and intangibles in this section. Human memory is notoriously short-lived, therefore historians are unlikely to capture intangibles in a country’s history or a leader’s performance. If I were a historian, I would not credit a government for tarring roads, building railways, and other such banal government actions. Why? Because leaders have their own technical specialists to implement such initiatives, awarding contracts for such projects is not a huge concern. Government operations, in my opinion, are national intangibles. If President Buhari arrived with the slogan “Change,” one may expect structurally horizontal and vertical developmental scenarios. Under President Buhari’s guidance, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Palm Island in Dubai, the One World Trade Centre in the United States, the Shanghai Tower in China, and other structures might be built. It would be like art for the sake of art if change consisted of tarring roads, fighting corruption, and the like. The Russians, for example, will never forget the President under whose leadership the Sputnik satellite was launched in the race to explore space.
It is a national tangible that Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum ordered the construction of the ever-expanding Dubai International airport in 1959. To put it clearly, after Buhari’s existence, all social safety nets will be forgotten since it is equivalent to handing someone a fish to eat every day rather than teaching them how to fish. No originality is necessary in the planning and implementation of such a project, therefore any leader can fix it. Would it not have been a national tangible if President Buhari said that he will only utilize CARs manufactured in Nigeria? To me, displaying a Mercedes Maybach S650 as the presidential official vehicle is not the type of change Nigerians expected; after all, Buhari is known for his love of Spartan living. What exactly has gone wrong? Who would have guessed that Buhari, after miraculously surviving an illness in a London hospital, would not create a world-class hospital? This would have been tangible for the entire country. As we write, Nigerian doctors are in the midst of their second-round on strike, and every time they do, the President is in the United Kingdom for medical treatment. Meanwhile, our President’s Villa Clinic is unable to treat ordinary ear infections.
What, then, would constitute national tangibles that Buhari may leave as his legacies in the ‘few’ days he is left to make or avoid making history? One, the PIB (Petroleum Industry Bill) has been in the works for nearly a decade, which should not be the case. The oil and gas industry will be liberated for investments in Nigeria’s abundant natural resources once the bill is voted into law.
Not only that, but the resource’s restive host communities will be looked after, reducing tension in the area.
Two, it would have been a tremendous honour to this government if the Executive, with the help of the Nigerian people, had seen to the collapse of the National Assembly into a Parliamentary System by an Executive bill. Our legislators should be able to work part-time. This administration’s body language suggests that it appreciates the fiscally unsustainable Presidential system. Of course, the so-called oil boom deceived us into believing that it would last forever when the 1999 Constitution was drafted. The reality is that the crisis is here to stay, as many countries switch from fossil fuels to natural gas and solar. If our constitution is reviewed under Buhari’s watch to incorporate the aforementioned recommendations, it will be a national tangible.
I am a member of the school of thinking that believes this country needs restructuring. The move of the nation’s capital from Lagos to Abuja is a straightforward illustration. That is a national relic! This type of fundamental change is exactly what the country requires. The center of power is overly concentrated, and this is where the national craziness begins. Consider a constitution that allows each geopolitical zone to nominate a President for a four-year term. This is merely a supposition. Instead of this blatant deception, the APC government should come out courageously and do the right thing. Where is the El-Rufai Report on Restructuring, which was infamously snatched on the eve of the 2015 National Election?
President Buhari refused to sign the freshly written electoral law, claiming that there were just 72 days till the election and that there would be no time to test it. The question then becomes: when is the best time to sign and implement the law? When?
Finally, if the truth be told, President Buhari will most likely depart the stage with no national tangibles if the same speed as today is used for the ‘few’ days he is left to stay in office. President Goodluck Jonathan, for example, will be remembered for the 2014 Confab, which was a real attempt to tackle a national crisis. Despite the fact that he did not put it into practice, the majority of Nigerians are asking for its implementation. That was a tangible on a national level. Time is running out for President Muhammadu Buhari!