By Mobolaji Sanusi
Ask objective Nigerians, partisan or not, what their ratings of immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari is, it’s not impossible that most of their submissions on him will deservedly be scathing. And their assessments couldn’t have been a consequence of hatred for a man they considered a spartan man of integrity with admirable messianic toga in 2015. He eventually turned out as one of the greatest flop in the leadership history of this country by the time he handed over power, eight years after, on May 29, 2023. What an irony!
We have all effectively said a breathtaking bye bye to former President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. We now have a new President and Commander-in-chief who was a senator and a two-term accomplished governor of Lagos State. He’s Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Akanbi Tinubu, GCFR.
Buhari’s exit should be considered a huge respite of long overdue stage exit. Buhari’s a man that dealt serious avoidable blows of inept governance on his countrymen. Blame Nigerians for installing an extinguished General Buhari on a country that was tired of the irresponsible government of then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015 and one won’t be crucified.
As l write this, my mind wanders over that 2014 early morning phone call from our newly installed President Tinubu. When l picked the international call, it was Mr. Sunday Dare, outgone Minister for Youths and Sports that echoed, ‘Good morning Mr. Sanusi and please hold on’; and from the other end bellowed the incisive voice of Asíwájú who must have been following my Friday column in The Nation newspapers, highlighting at that period in time, reasons why Buhari, who was then being touted to contest for the presidency, should not be considered.
Asiwaju discussed the Buhari issue with me on phone and l was respectfully emphatic in telling him about my doubts regarding whether the man can be trusted, with reasons. In a persuasive voice, Asíwájú asked a rhetorical question: ‘Don’t you think we should give him a chance’ ? Obviously, he wasn’t expecting an immediate response from me. But having been tired of the badly managed state of affairs under Jonathan/PDP, like millions of other Nigerians, l gave the esteemed Asíwájú’s persuasion a deserved consideration. Again, this becomes easy having erroneously believed that anybody but Jonathan/PDP would rescue Nigerians from the impending collapse of Nigeria’s ship of state.
From thence, l started giving the Buhari presidential aspiration a serious thought, because of Asíwájú. That was in 2014 and by 2015, he got elected as President. And the rest, as they say, is history.
One thing is constant. And that is the widely known Asíwájú’s invaluable role in the emergence of Buhari as the President of the country. One significant but ignoble blight of his presidency was his early traits of ingratitude, indifference to good policy actions, and sometimes, self-centered policy actions; his impervious disposition to words of wisdom; his unbridled nepotism and reckless contempt for the security and wellbeing of Nigerians that yearned, futilely for official intervention from the cruelty of mostly Fulani bandits/kidnappers.
From Buhari’s inaugural day, he sent a clear signal of his ungracious intentions to sidetrack Asíwájú by his infamous phrase: “l belong to everybody and l belong to nobody.”
From that day, it became clear to me and other discerning Nigerians that Asíwájú’s support for Buhari marked the dawn of an error. Error of choice and a serious political miscalculation. But for God almighty, Asíwájú would have become political history by now. Buhari detests seeing Asíwájú being called APC national leader. This disdain, he manifested at one of the iftars during one of his Ramadan months in Aso-Villa where he clearly proclaimed himself to be the only national leader of the party; thereby seemingly displaying intolerance to Tinubu being referred to as a national leader of the progressive party.
Buhari formed his cabinet, poaching Asíwájú’s foot soldiers without really seeking his inputs. Most of these men distanced themselves from Asíwájú’s interests and more importantly presidential ambition. But most of them, especially those that served in Buhari’s government are back in President Tinubu’s fold pretending to be his locker-room loyalists. I hope President Tinubu will not misplace their hypocrisy for loyalty.
While Buhari’s ‘gbedu drum’ was aloud, his cabal and administration’s beneficiaries sustained their evil political plots against Asíwájú, as their principal looked the other way.
But Asiwaju, a cat with nine lives, survived the conspiracies by first winning the party’s presidential primary, and against all odds; won the presidential election and now got sworn-in as President and Commander-in-chief on May 29. If he had lost the primary, what would have been his fate? The reality should not be lost on the newly installed president.
Nobody should blame Nigerians for voting Buhari to power. Neither should anyone blame Tinubu for masterminding his emergence at his party’s 2014 presidential primary in Lagos and later during the presidential poll by deploying all his vast contacts to achieve this end.
For all of us, including Tinubu that voted for Buhari in 2015 and 2019, our electoral mistakes were an error of judgment. And it is important for us to note that an error is not any fault of our knowledge, but a mistake of our judgment giving impetus to that which is not true. It is also important to note that the error on voting for Buhari was done in good faith which is to establish that sincerity, even in error is strength. By leaving Nigerians worse than he met us, he crippled himself with ingratitude.
Today in the country, once presided over by Buhari, the only thriving enterprise is government patronage and banditry. The economy, he left in shambles and bedevilled by debts purportedly used to prosecute projects that are either misplaced like the Maradi railway project or left comatose by insecurity or badly executed or scandalously yet to be concluded after eight years.
Under Buhari, crude oil theft is on the increase without any sufficient official efforts to stem the tide; oil subsidy rackets were on the increase under Buhari, the value of Naira keeps tumbling to an all time high; power is epileptic, borrowings on an all time high, automobile prices are beyond the reach of average Nigerians as a result of his misplaced automotive policies cum extremely high customs duties.
Infrastructure including railway stations built with foreign loans are unusable or used with trepidation because of unbridled kidnapping for ransom and killings.
Also, fuel/diesel/kerosene/gas prices have reached an all-time high under Buhari as President, even with his disputable subsidy policy. Poverty has legalised corruption in our institutions of state because people plead it as reason for engaging in sharp practices.
Tinubu’s presidency should obviously be ready to address the shortcomings of previous leaders, especially that of his predecessor, Buhari. It’s indubitably historical that he is the only leader that truly prepares to rule the country by working assiduously to achieve that goal with divine intervention.
Hopefully by the end of Tinubu’s administration, we all should be able to applaud and say, with confidence, that Buhari was indeed a better forgotten error. By almighty’s grace, so shall it be.
*Sanusi, a corporate legal consultant and immediate past MD/CEO of LASAA, lives in Lagos.