It is not news that General Muhammadu Buhari and his running mate Professor Yemi Osinbajo will take over at the helm of affairs of the federal Republic of Nigeria on the 29th of May 2015. Citizens of the country have talked at length about what to expect from General Muhammadu Buhari’s presidency, and I am sure that there is a team somewhere beavering away on the plans he listed in his manifesto for the next four years and how to achieve them.
Buhari’s Presidency meets Nigeria at a similar point the nation was in 1983 when he took over as military administrator. That time Buhari took over a country with a buoyant economy that was being crippled by waste, this time around he is inheriting a crippled economy has been further crippled by waste. There is no doubt that the General has been presented with some very big lemons that he would have to somehow turn to lemonade and he has to do it quickly too because there is no middle ground with his government. Everybody is either a fan fervently hoping the General will succeed, so that he can justify the hopes they have placed in him, or an opponent hoping the government will crash and burn so that they can say “We told you so.” This means that President Buhari is under serious pressure to do something, and to do it fast. He and his team would have to put many irons in the fire before he can even reach the enormous heights Nigerians expect from him. Because if is the messiah that Nigerians have been waiting for then he must be able to “turn water to wine”, “heal the sick” and raise the dead”. Some People like Walter Carrington, the former U.S ambassador to Nigeria even go as far as suggesting that maybe Buhari could be Nigeria’s version of the famous Singaporean minister mentor Lee Kwan Yew who according to Carrington is “a strong leader who does what needs to be done, yet adheres to democratic principles.”
Buhari might well turn out to be Nigeria’s version of Lee Kwan Yew as Carrington suggests, but to believe he will achieve Yew’s result within four or even eight years is unrealistic at best. To use the Biblical comparisons, Lee Kwan Yew was the Joshua who led Singapore to the Promised land, Buhari only has the opportunity to be the Moses that will lead Nigeria out of Egypt.
The truth is that if there is one thing that the election that ousted soon to be former president Goodluck Jonathan and brought in General Muhammadu Buhari has made clear, it is that Nigerians now know they have the power to register their pleasure or otherwise with their leaders. Nigerians now feel like that man in the Yoruba proverb who has grabbed the hilt of the sword and will go around demanding to know the cause of his father’s death. Arming people with such a weapon and hoping they will not use it is a hope at best. As Goodluck Jonathan found out the hard way, Nigerians now have a gun, and a itchy trigger finger. So no matter how the President-Elect does there is now a higher possibility that he might still find himself out of a job come 2019. That is why the President and his team must plan for four years because that is the only guaranteed time he has. It goes without saying that in the life of a nation, four years is infinitesimal and is barely time to make noticeable changes especially in the kind of economy that Goodluck Jonathan is going to leave for the General and his team.
Even if he does get a second term, the General should recognize the fact that he is now seventy two. He is an elder in every definition of the word. Of course there is the argument that death is no respecter of personality or age, still We all must agree that Buhari is no longer in the first flush of youth, and as a result any future he wants to plan for must be one where he sees not himself, but in the generations coming after him. At seventy two, Buhari himself must acknowledge the fact that an eight year term will take a progressive toll on him, and should devote all the energies he has to his first four years. Which brings me to reiterate the first point again, you cannot turn a desert to an oasis in four years, but you can plant the trees to begin the process. That is why Buhari must start to think like the forerunner to the Messiah not the messiah himself. Barrack Obama became the US president at forty seven, Lee Kuan Yew became Prime Minister of Singapore at the age of thirty six, those two were at ages when a man can afford to be idealistic, to dream of a better tomorrow for himself and his people, to want to reach the Promised Land along with the people he is leading. Like Moses, the President- Elect must recognize that he is not the man to lead Nigeria to the Promised Land. I have been looking through the All Progressive Congress (APC) manifesto and I can see a well mapped out strategy of Governance, however rather than concentrate on paying social security and giving out student loans for instance, he should focus on programmes like reforming the power sector, enforcing the rule of law, and an efficient transport system. While the former are achievable programmes, they only have short term effects, and will only work within a buoyant economy. The latter however, are programmes that Nigerians and future Nigerian leaders will benefit from. In other words, I cannot say this enough; Buhari’s focus should be more on planting trees that would bear fruit for future generations and less on giving people fruit so that they can hail him as the saviour come from the heavens.
There have been precedents, Olusegun Obasanjo’s rule from 1999 till 2007 certainly had a legion of faults, but one thing we all have to give him for is his foreign policy, He devoted a large part of his first term to restoring Nigeria’s image in the world, and that is a benefit that all the presidents that have come after him, and indeed all Nigerians have been enjoying. The President elect himself has been down this road before. Of all the things he did during his twenty month stint as a military head of state, the things that are still being pointed out more than thirty years later are his enforcement of the rule of law and his anti-graft policy. There are some people who believe that soon to be former President Goodluck Jonathan, had a great plans for Nigeria in his second term, but even if he did, he will be not be able to bring those plans to fruition now and his time as Nigeria’s leader will yield little or nothing in terms of legacies that succeeding generations of leaders can benefit from. Buhari should know better now, so that after his tenure even if Nigerians vilify him for not having satisfied our instant desires, he can be confident that someone in the Nigeria of say fifty years from now will say, we are here because President Muhammadu Buhari did this. Only then will he have achieved his aim.