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Bye bye ... General Muhammadu Buhari

Is General Buhari aware that the history of his sojourn as a tenant of Aso Rock, the nation's fortress for its presidents will one day be written? Is the general concerned about his place in that history? Will his place be in gold or will be execrable?

By Tunde Akande

One of the few emotional stories of the bible is that of the departure of Apostle Paul from the Church in Ephesus which he found and grew. As he made his final speech, the leaders he raised “wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him.” What moved them was the words that Paul spoke that “they should see his face no more.” Paul was a most admired example of good leadership coming next to Jesus Christ, the founder of the Church. He had done tremendous work at Ephesus, nurtured that Church as a mother nursed her children, now he had finished and was leaving them to return no more. Leadership is not forever, except perhaps in Africa where leaders don’t want to leave and even personalize it. The leadership of the Ephesian Church want Paul to be around forever, but they received a great lesson that every leader is only on the scene for a while and must leave whether he or she wants or not.

Is Muhammadu Buhari, president of Nigeria since 2015 aware of this time-tested principle of leadership? Is he aware that whatever happens and however he schemes he would leave one day? I think he must be aware except he or somebody has deceived him. He left in 1984 when one of his friends, General Ibrahim Babangida removed him. Despite the schemes of Babangida who dribbled Nigerians for many years, he also “stepped aside”, till today he still “stepping aside” in his cozy house in Minna, Niger state. Is General Buhari aware that the history of his sojourn as a tenant of Aso Rock, the nation’s fortress for its presidents will one day be written? Is the general concerned about his place in that history? Will his place be in gold or will be execrable?

Recently he constituted a transition committee to prepare for his departure ostensibly to assure Nigerians who doubt him greatly. Has it occurred to Buhari why Nigerians with urgency want him to leave? Punch, the leading newspaper in the nation calls him not the president but the general because the paper would rather see him not as a democrat but as a dictator who has ruled with a draconian fist. In the run-up to the 2015 election that brought him to power, Tinubu the man who is now running to succeed him told Nigerians that Buhari is a converted democrat. Nigerians who were alive when Buhari, the stern-looking man who his childhood friends call “sadist” ruled as military head of state in 1984, remembered him as a dictator who did not announce the terminal point of his reign and brought so much affliction on Nigerians. But Bola Ahmed Tinubu who sold him as a converted democrat is now biting his fingers and fighting with him because of Buhari’s schemes which Tinubu sees as aimed to deny him victory in the upcoming elections.

If Buhari’s fight is with Tinubu alone, Nigerians may not bother much but a fight between the two elephants is crushing the grass under their feet. Nigerians are very hungry because the instrument of cash scarcity which Buhari is using to prosecute his war has trapped the money of Nigerians in the corrupt banking system. The governors call it “cash confiscation”. This now is a terrible situation that may at once smell great trouble in Nigeria and at the same time solve the nation’s problems of many years. Tinubu is maverick and ambitious and Buhari is stubborn, deceptive, and unyielding. Thus, the conflict between the two will not bring that which any of them will like but has a great chance of delivering Nigerians. The cash scarcity, the fuel scarcity, and its concomitant high prices which are tearing the pockets of Nigerians will very soon bring hunger and anger to the country. Nigerians are said to be reticent, even priding themselves in the ability to suffer and endure almost endlessly. But hunger will soon be a unifier that tribalism and religion will not be able to defeat. The only language of the solution to hunger is food and it does not appear that any government in Nigeria, especially the Buhari administration, wants it solved or can solve it.

In two weeks of currency and fuel scarcity, this writer saw real hunger in Nigerians. A cousin came visiting and while he was being advised to stock food in his house because of possible impending scarcity, a call came to his phone. It was a flash that he refused to return because he also has run out of cash to buy credit. In no time, the caller phoned again and told the cousin he was down to nothing and needed help. On the second visit within the weeks, the cousin received a call again who spoke this time. It was the man who had called the last time to talk of lack. He has called again to beg for money. The cousin said he had gone to the caller’s house to give him 500 naira and that he had told him that he also had nothing. It is openly discussed that people will swoop on bread hawkers and eat their loaves of bread off their hawking trays in their very presence because of hunger. When this happens, Nigerians will pour onto the streets and do the unimaginable.

It does not appear as if Buhari cares about such a consequence, at least by the address he gave to the nation, Thursday, 16, February 2023. Though the president apologized to the nation, it came late and was very arrogant in both delivery and content. It was very illogical and defies simple economics. The many reasons Buhari gave for the currency redesign and swap are very untenable, but the real reason was carefully tucked away in a paragraph. He wanted to deliver the nation from vote buying, he said. He himself cannot persuade Nigerians that it was not vote-buying and underage voting in the North which got him the presidency in both 2015 and again in 2019. It has even been said that the three bullion vehicles loaded down with cash in 2019 which emerged from Tinubu’s Bourdillon Road house in Ikoyi, Lagos, were meant to facilitate Buhari’s reelection bid. Why Buhari decides to implement that policy very close to the election has defied understanding. “Why did Buhari not leave that policy to the incoming president”, former Deputy Governor of CBN, Bayo Adelabu, now a candidate for the governorship of Oyo state asked in an interview.

Buhari has few people praising him now, himself and his two press aides who also seem to be out of steam. It is certain that while Buhari thinks Nigerians are not disappointed in him and has said so, no Nigerian will weep on his shoulders when he departs, no matter how he departs. There are even some who think his departure may not be peaceful, that he may be pushed out by a mass revolt. Nigerians are not wishing for a coup because of the bad experience they have had with many military administrations. The current cash swap crisis might affect the way Buhari exits power. A mass revolt might result from the massive hunger in the land, a kind of hunger induced by a policy that denies the people access to their money to buy food whose prices are beyond the roof. “Good riddance to bad rubbish” as the Americans say may be the response of Nigeria to a departure brought about by mass riots. The mass revolt may be the cleansing Nigerians are looking for to give them a new nation.

Tunde Akande is both a journalist and a pastor. He earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos.

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