Now, Mr. President’s justifications for his policy actions may be judged by some pundits to be jaundiced, archaic, and narrow in scope. But no one would be in doubt about whether the policies of the government in the past six (6) years are products of President Buhari’s critical (although somehow primitive) thinking and therefore bear his imprimatur. So fortuitously, the Arise TV interview has been both a revelation and or resource for the psychological assessment of president Buhari by non-professional psychologists like my good self. It is definitely a two-edged sword.
On one hand, no more would critics accuse President Buhari of being a passive leader while heaping the blame of poor leadership on his advisers. The false claim that a combination of age (78) and poor health have significantly imperiled his faculty, as such he is suffering from dementia has been proven to some degree to be exaggerated. On the other hand, no more would President Buhari be absolved of the blame for the leadership miasma associated with this government. So, the days of innocence for President Buhari may be gone. Going forward, members of his inner circle such as the late chief of staff, Abba Kyari that used to be blamed for manipulating the president (before his passage) are now absolved. But that cloak or badge of dishonor has recently been attached to the current Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, who has been branded the new cabal executioner. Fortunately for him, that allegation has also been vitiated by the very revealing Arise TV interview.
Because Mr. President had been incommunicado by failing to have one-on-one conversations with Nigerians via media interviews, the fallacies about him were unwittingly allowed to fill up space because nature abhors a vacuum.
One leadership style that had been the best kept secret during his first tenure as military head of state is having other people serve as cannon fodder for him. And that appears to be President Buhari’s administrative modus operandi which has taken Nigerians so long to decode. It is probably a tactical trait that he developed while in the military. The trend analysis below validates the point.
During his time as military head of state (1983-85) his second in command, late Tunde Idiagbon was a target for the flaks from aggrieved Nigerians for the maladministration of then general Buhari’s government. As Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) chairman, Buhari literally dodged the bullets as the head of Afriprojects, Ahmad Salihijo, the consulting firm that he appointed to manage the infrastructure development agency set up by former military head of state Sanni Abacha , was also the cannon fodder that was blamed for all the inequities of the development behemoth, PTF which was under the chairmanship of then General Buhari.
Let’s be clear, delegation of power is not an anathema in management or leadership. But going forward, President Buhari will be defined by his actions and inactions while in office. Even Mr. President himself admitted that much when he was pressed to comment on what would be his legacy and he responded thus: “I will accept whatever verdict Nigerians pass on me. I hope they will be fair…”
In my personal assessment, the Arise TV interview has been an opportunity for discerning members of society to identity the pride and prejudices of Mohammadu Buhari on three fronts: (a) as a person , (b) a military officer and (c) as the president of our great country in the past six (6) years that he mounted the saddle of leadership.
My analysis of his responses to the questions posed by the Arise TV panel, which is without prejudice is aimed at helping readers determine whether President Buhari has indeed been a re-born democrat as he informed an eminent gathering of democrats in Chatham House, UK some six years ago and the vast number of Nigerian voters that gave him their mandate via the ballot box to be their president in 2015. Candidate Buhari in that Chatham House presentation made a compelling case for himself as the best man for the job.
To put things in a proper perspective, an excerpt from presidential candidate Buhari’s speech at Chatham House in February of 2015 is worthy of reproduction:
“…It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.”
Those lines would melt the heart of any democracy advocate, adherent or devotee that attended the event and even those with the contrarian mindset of candidate Buhari not being suitable for the job due to his authoritarian and totalitarian antecedents.
He then threw in the clincher:
“I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So, before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.”
If there were any cynics left in the hall, this closing stanza of then candidate Buhari’s swan song of democracy demolished any further doubts because by every measure, it was a perfect clincher.
And after that event, his ascension to the presidency was a sort of fait accompli in the eyes of both local and international stakeholders.
But six years on: has president Buhari manifested what candidate Buhari professed in Chatham House in February of 2015 under the chairmanship of sir Richard Grozny and in front of an audience comprising of very distinguished proponents and exponents of democracy and its ethos ?
You be the judge as l urge you to come with me as l shine the light on some of his responses to the questions that Arise TV panel posed to him in the epochal interview.
For the record, my analysis is based on objective principles and devoid of bias.
And mindful that Nigeria’s democracy, which is still in its infancy and in the nascent stages, is by no means liberal, my assessment is benchmarked against global best practice in democracy. But it is carried out without ignoring the limitations of the observance of democratic ethos that would arise from some environmental and situational dynamics in our beloved country.
Owing to time and space constraints, l will dwell on only four (4) of president Buhari’s many responses in the interview that has heated up the polity more than it has calmed the already frayed nerves of most Nigerians.
The responses that l will be scrutinizing are:
(1) on the growing call for splitting up our country into multiple countries, (2) on excessive borrowing by the incumbent government and, (3) on the unhinged state of insecurity bedeviling our country under his watch as well as (4) on which political party and ethnic group president Buhari envisages that the person that would take over from him in 2023 would come from.
Here we go:
(1)On the Arise TV question “Dividing Nigeria to piecemeal is not any solution. It’s a wrong signal to all investors. So each republic will become a paradise? How do we share what united us? What we have done together within such a record time? I’m surprised Nigerian elites watch these uniformed lots to make criminal statements every day. We are all better off as Nigerians”
I concur with Mr. President about the advantages of keeping Nigeria as one. In fact the battle cry of Nigerian troops during the civil war was: To Keep Nigeria One Is A Task That Must Be Done.
But what is or are the benefit/benefits of keeping Nigeria as one entity?
Nobody has really enlightened Nigerians about that. I know that a bigger Nigeria offers the itinerant and land or space challenged lgbos a bigger platform to ply their trade in the production and marketing of sundry wares including sales of vehicle spare parts, (apologies to Justice Minister Abubakar Malami).
In like manner , one Nigeria as a single entity also offers Miyetti Allah , an association of cattle herdsmen dominated by the Fulani ethnic stock that are basically nomadic, a huge market platform and opportunity for the sale of their animal stock in a country with a population strength of 200 million . It is also a settled fact that our country is as big as four countries in Africa put together. Hence it is often stated that one out of every four Africans is a Nigerian.
So traders in the 200 million-strong market of potential customers that Nigeria represents could have been subjected to processing their transactions through the jurisdictions of at least four countries immigration and customs authorities. That experience can be cumbersome and harrowing, which is a major drawback for inter-African trade that the currently introduced Africa free trade zone arrangement is designed to alleviate. So anything that would prevent the shrinking of the market is welcome by Miyetti Allah cattle traders, the Igbo automobile spare parts dealers, and the itinerant Yoruba artisan which are legitimate quests.