By ABBA MAHMOOD –
After 103 days for a follow-up medical vacation in the United Kingdom, President Muhammadu Buhari arrived in Abuja on Saturday, August 19, 2017, to a tumultuous welcome. He had been away for 49 days from January to March, this year.
This column joins other Nigerians in welcoming him and wishing him full recovery. Nigerians are prayerful and Buhari’s return must have been prayers answered. Both Christian and Muslim clerics and indeed millions of other citizens have been offering constant prayers for his recovery since his illness was made public.
Now that President Buhari is back, we hope that things are going to move very fast. Precious time has been wasted and vital opportunity has been squandered in the last two years. Buhari must know that no Nigerian leader, dead or alive, has ever had the type of goodwill that he has enjoyed from Nigerians and even beyond. It is therefore very natural for expectations to be very high. He cannot afford to fail in the tasks ahead.
The first obvious task that lies before the president is to stitch the cracks of national unity. Buhari was one of those who fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war. He rightly addressed the issue in his national broadcast this Monday, during which he hammered on the theme of national unity. To give practical meaning to that speech, there is the need for Buhari to immediately listen to the aggrieved, address their grievances and give hope to the hopeless.
In the south-east the people are feeling marginalized politically. It is heart-warming that this administration has started constructing the long neglected roads in the region. But the PDP years have seen a rise in leadership there that has no organic link with the ordinary people. This is what led to the emergence of Nnamdi Kanu, now being referred to as “supreme leader” of a Biafra that he was not born when it existed. As a father to all, President Buhari must reach out and listen to the real leaders and peace-loving people of that region and try to bring them back to the mainstream of Nigerian politics.
The people of the Niger Delta have been contributing to the development efforts of this nation throughout its history. The area produces most of the oil that has earned foreign exchange and revenue for the government and people of Nigeria for over five decades now. Apart from the military profession, Buhari’s main experience is in the oil industry: he served as petroleum minister in the 1970s. There is thus the need to sustain the current peace and development efforts going on in the Niger Delta. It is a thing of joy to see Governor Wike of Rivers State in the forefront of those welcoming President Buhari back from the UK last Saturday as well as his commendable efforts in sustaining national unity.
South-western Nigeria overwhelmingly supported Buhari during the 2015 presidential election. Buhari was also given a deputy who is a team player and a loyal person from there. Only God knows what would have happened if another over-ambitious fellow were to be vice president during the long absence of the president.
Buhari has in turn been good to this region too. Apart from some few bigots like the nut case Femi Fani-Kayode and motorpark tout Ayo Fayose, this very sophisticated region has been very understanding and supportive of this administration so far. By the way, I will attend Governor Fayose’s funeral when he commits suicide as he had earlier promised, since Buhari is now back to the country not on a stretcher much less a casket.
As one musician sang recently, it is better for the dollar to rise than for bombs to rise! The people of northern Nigeria are very grateful to Buhari for confronting the Boko Haram menace since he took over. That fight has to be concluded quickly, to allow the people get on with their lives and rebuild their communities. Of recent the counter-insurgency operation has lost steam and the raiding of villages and attacks on soft targets are on the rise. As a retired general and former governor of the defunct north-eastern state, Buhari needs no one to lecture him on the area or the operations. Let us hope that the troops will quickly regain the initiative and finish the job in time.
But, the president must realize that the people of northern Nigeria are not happy with most of his appointees in his cabinet and key aides from the region. This is a political era but most of those appointed so far are neither politically known nor sound as technocrats. In fact, Nigeria as a whole is yearning for an immediate change of most of these clogs in the wheel since this administration has passed its mid-term. A cabinet reshuffle and substantive changes in the key appointees is imperative if success is to be attained and sustained in the remaining months or years ahead.
The president must know that his party is feeling alienated. The party is the platform this government used to come to office. Two years on, the APC is now a caricature of its former self. Without the party there can’t be a government. Even the independent candidates in advanced democracies can only win in lower offices. Presidential and even gubernatorial elections are only won on party platforms. Buhari as the leader of the party should bring order and organization to the APC before it is too late.
The National Assembly and the judiciary are also feeling like orphans. The House of Representatives has sustained the “change” momentum under the worthy leadership of Hon. Dogara. But the anomaly of a hybrid and illegitimate Senate leadership is still there. That is why the alliance of criminals in and out of that Red Chamber has constituted itself into the main opposition to Buhari and his government. There is the need to sort this out as quickly as possible. The three arms of government are supposed to complement one another in a harmonious manner and not compete against one another.
President Buhari must know that no Nigerian leader has ever had the support or goodwill he has been enjoying. Even in the north, Sir Ahmadu Bello did not enjoy the total support of all the northern provinces in the First Republic. President Shagari did not win Plateau or even Kano in 1979 during the Second Republic. This enormous support Buhari has been enjoying confers on him enormous burden. He is supposed to be a president for all, a father to all, and a provider for all. Nigeria and Africa looks up to him to be the current Mandela – an old wise man who is ready to do what is right and do good to all.
History is beckoning on him and is always on the side of the oppressed.