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 Soyinka’s alleged swipe at Buhari

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PostSubject: Soyinka’s alleged swipe at Buhari   2014-12-17, 10:44

Prof. Wole Soyinka’s recently advertised opinion
on Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the All
Progressives Congress (APC) presidential flag
bearer, is that Nigerians are best advised to
stick with the incumbent President and re-elect
him next year. Several interpretations have
been given to that intervention, including the
claim that it is driven by geo-ethnic sentiments.
I disagree. Soyinka has never been afraid of his
own voice. He is also not one to either gleefully
endorse a person or platform he has reason to
suspect of resting on wobbly foundations, or
support the dismantling of a structure by
persons who have not demonstrated convincing
building skills. Let us contextualise Soyinka’s
comments against the background of
REALPOLITIK and the call for general up-scaling
of serious leadership contestestation.
We begin
by saying
that the
needs a
and viable
to the
ruling party
are right.
This is right
to the extent that such opposition will
strengthen our democracy by compelling the
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to do some
‘hard work’ on issues of governance, especially
along ideological lines and general service
delivery. What is however open to argument
today is the assumption that the APC represents
that desirable opposition. At best, the party is
an alliance between some genuine and fake
followers of the great Awo, a motley collection
of aggrieved former members of the PDP and a
northernly-focused political movement. Its
capacity for genuine ideological opposition is
hamstrung by its diverse loyalties and the
dominance of the former Actions
Congress’ (AC’s) political culture that is under
the asphyxiating imprimatur of Bola Tinubu.
The late Awo embodied opposition politics in
Nigeria in a way none of the numerous
pretenders to the business of political
opposition can approximate – even remotely.
Many of Awo’s real and alleged acolytes are in
the APC. Unlike Awo, however, these suspected
political descendants have only distinguished
themselves in the art of political grumbling and
gossip. This is what they call as opposition
politics. They think that by saying ‘waka’ to
government over real and imagined mistakes,
misjudgements and outright blunders, the APC
is actually into opposition politics. Utter
bunkum! To suppose that a motley crowd of
mostly aggrieved former members of the PDP,
who have lost out and others of questionable
coloration, all of whom do everything to
undermine internal party democracy wherever
they are, should be called ‘opposition’ simply
because they condemn the ruling party?
They have all conveniently forgotten that the
soul of opposition politics, of which Awo gave a
good account of himself, is that the opposition
actually runs a shadow government. The
opposition brings out alternative policies to
those in place and fuels public debate and
national development, through informed
discourse. But not this opposition! It is yet to
move beyond the sporadic and spasmodic
criticism of the ruling party. Meanwhile, it must
go beyond all that and invest in meaningful,
constructive opposition politics that will make
the people see what it has to offer. Dr. Kayode
Fayemi was thrown out for being too civilised
and for moving away from the more barbaric
traditions of Nigerian politics. Wherever Tinubu
is in charge he has put his relations and
personal staff in all the right positions. And
these are Awo’s, and possibly Mallam Aminu
Kano’s, descendants? I don’t think so.
But let us note, for the record, that the profile
of the APC as a viable opposition party is not for
want of strong, patriotic and well-meaning
persons within the leadership, and rank and
file, of the party, no! Beginning with Gen.
Buhari, even the worst of his detractors must
admit that he is a very honest and
straightforward man. He means well for Nigeria
and will personally not be party to whatever he
believes, or knows, will not serve the common
good – or the long term interests of the nation.
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is well known by his close
associates as a generous, dependable and good
group leader. His mistake was to come out for a
position that a good readings of the auguries
should have told him he would never get. And
who would not want to associate with the Segun
Onis, Fashola’s and Fayemis of this world, for
their hands-on political capacities.
But let’s get
real! It is
true that
Buhari is
honest as a
person. But
it is also
true that
we need
more than
honesty for anyone to be a good leader
anywhere in the world. Late Julius Nyerere of
Tanzania was a painfully honest man. Like
Buhari, he led a transparent government and
did not rob the state, or fraudulently
accumulate personal wealth. Also like Buhari,
after he left office, Nyerere ended up in one tiny
dilapidated house as further proof of his
honesty as a public servant. The other truth is
that Nyerere’s personal honesty does not
remove the fact that he failed to take advantage
of what civilisation offered by way of improved
governance practices and economic leadership.
Yes, he left office an honest man, but he also
left a nation severely underdeveloped because
he applied a template that would be ideal for a
small community of the close-kindred type to a
nations-state and ended up with rather
depressing results. As I write, Tanzania is yet to
recover from Julius Nyerere’s personal
goodness and honesty.
It can be argued, in defence of Buhari, that he is
not only personally honest and reliable, but has
had some time to look into the dynamics of our
polity and politics and mature further since he
stepped out of office. The ancillary questions
we must then ask, in interrogating this defence,
are (1) how did he perform in office and (2)
what lessons have he learnt since? For a man
who has been repeatedly accused of having a
reputation for easily abdicating responsibility in
matters of diligent attention to general
administration, there is something here for his
handlers to worry about.
For instance, it is argued that he is the only
former Head of State whose administration got
a dual attribution of authority, simply because
his deputy was more visible and active, while he
was a mere figurehead. The thesis here is that
while Nigerians speak of a Murtala/Obasanjo
regime because the former died in office and
the latter continued and concluded his regime
programmes, they speak of Buhari/Idiagbon
regime because the latter was actually seen as
‘the government’ while the former was termed
the nominal leader of that government.
There is also the question of whether the
retired general also learnt the appropriate and
necessary lessons and is applying these in his
current actions. With his presumed popularity
in the north and Kwakwanso’s age, exposure,
performance and reputation, one would have
expected that a clear-eyed Buhari would throw
his weight behind the younger and more
contemporary Kwakwanso, as an elder
statesman. Those who trust him would respect
his judgment.
His party would make a national address, and
take put the many old men who are running all
over the place in the name of wanting to lead
Nigeria to shame. He would have even joined
well-meaning party members in persuading
Atiku and others to back Kwakwanso. His
decision to contest, as well as the final choice of
the party, show clearly that he and the APC are
out of their depths completely.
The reported assigning of the task of appointing
a vice-president to Bola Tinubu by Buhari
shows the good man in him. It also points to his
respect for agreements, as well as a tendency
to give people who fulfil in one limited sphere
more than their due, in terms of overall
integrity. Is this how he intends to govern
Nigeria? I imagine that Buhari would
confidently accept whatever is thrown at him by
Tinubu as VP, forgetting that not many people
are as puritanical as he is. He does not consider
that Tinubu was only servicing a perceived
strategic interest and not doing him, Buhari, a
personal favour when he supported him to win
the presidential ticket. He does not consider
that he can be given a VP that will be the
government, occasionally humouring him with
salutary engagements and pronouncements
now and again These are the real issues around
a Buhari presidency, that is assuming such a
project has a leg to stand on.
We cannot condemn Buhari as ‘bad’ because of
his tendency to trust and think that everyone is
like him. That would be both wrong and unfair.
But to expect and demand that we should all
gladly entrust our lives to a man who may, in
his goodness, be less than circumspect in
matters of state, is to push optimism beyond
the domain of rationality. My respect for the
person of Buhari is not diminished by whatever
defects of character anyone may attribute to
him. We all have our shortcomings. What will
not happen is that people will, out of respect for
his person, endorse him for official
responsibilities that some of his good personal
qualities may not serve very well. Buhari and
the APC seem to have a position on core
national issues., but…
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