By Dr Ugoji Egbujo
It has been three years. It’s now undeniable , substantial change won’t come easy. Bishop Kukah had warned about euphoria and messianism. The public overestimated the president and the president underestimated the nations’ ailment and what ‘change’ needed. The president has not performed as woefully as his opponents would want everyone to believe. But the president has not met the expectations of even his most ardent and uncritical supporters, including his wife.
He believes he has run a difficult race well. He thinks he deserves another chance despite self inflicted wounds like Abdulrasheed Maina and a multitude of gaffes. His opponents insist he has frittered away an underserved opportunity. They say he has run with tired feet and a befuddled head. They say he has been encumbered by chronic ill health. They mock that had he kept focus and not wasted useful energies in lamentations and vindictiveness, he could have received genuine accolades from his wife. The president, perhaps, has strived but has not quite managed to translate into reality his good intentions.
The president needs to change.
The president is convinced that he has retrieved the country from the ditch his predecessor drove it into. He boasts that he has put it on the right path to a prosperous future. His opponents are fed up with his mythical reputation and the propaganda mill built on it. They are tired of unfulfilled promises and self congratulations. They are nauseated by his sanctimoniousness. They would rather have the president concede to old age and ill health, and not run. They sneer that had the president retained his sincerity of 1984, he would have lacked the self-deception that currently denies him a true appraisal of his performance. They dismiss the suggestion that the president could spark to life in his second term as superstitious nonsense. And blame the naive credulousness of his supporters for the farce.
But there also those who believe that the president has retained a stubborn mass support. And its not because of naivety. He appeals to them despite a multitude of shortcomings. The reputation that he lacks appetite for wanton acquisition of personal wealth has survived where others crumbled. And it has survived because of his lifestyle.
The president touts his Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) and points to a quick economic recovery from recession. He reels off huge gains in the marked decline in rice and fertilizer importations, and beats his chest. He claims he has decimated the insurgency. He dismisses the insurgency’s lingering rampancy as the vigorous last dance of a headless chicken. He wants the opposition party to always remember how its timidity allowed Boko Haram occupy 23 Local Government Areas under President Jonathan. He brushes aside concerns about his health and announces that he has dealt stronger blows against corruption than his predecessors put together. His huge documented recoveries from thieving politicians support his grandstanding. He admits the journey has been painfully slow but he proclaims himself a surer path to national restoration and glory.
His opponents are unconvinced that he has the mental acuity to navigate the ship of a town union let alone a turbulent state. They scoff that since he cannot find projects to commission , he should at least commission peace. They say the insurgency, after Dapchi , has grown new wings, new arrogance. They tease that if the president had empathy anywhere in his soul he would have wept himself into resignation. They concede that his predecessor was ill prepared for the insurgency. But wonder how a General, armed with precious hindsight, has ceded the country to the insurgency and banditry of cattle herdsmen. They insist that the counter insurgency requires fresh ideas which the president cannot generate. They argue that the country’s security situation has degenerated calamitously since Buhari. They believe that ineptitude and unique clannishness synergistically fostered the impunity of the violent cattle herdsmen and their blood thirstiness. They declare that the government’s pathetic approach to the crisis reveals a deep rot, a fundamental dysfunction, in President Buhari’s government .
They say the president has to be changed
Perhaps only the president and his men believe the government has lived up to its responsibilities in containing the herdsmen violence. Professor Wole Soyinka once wondered why the federal government could not be stirred by the sheer volume of the massacres. He concluded that the president could be in a trance. Obasanjo had supported the president vociferously in 2015. He is now the champion of the Buhari-must-go crusade. Obasanjo may be self possessed. But lapses in governance have created a window for his resurgent messianism. Slow economic growth could be understood. Oil prices and production suffered a shipwreck at the outset. The reign of violence in many parts of the middle belt and the government’s ambivalence towards it are inexplicable.
Something has to change
It is significant that even amongst the president’s most enthusiastic supporters, real change is only still expected. The police have not changed. There is no one who thinks the country should continue on same path and at same pace. The opposition is exasperated with their perceived ridiculous optimism of Buhari’s supporters. The Buharists , it seems , hope that the president, if given more time , would reclaim his authority, sack the cabal , sanitize the country, and get the cogs to finally click.
Obsanjo has referred to Buhari supporters as morons. Obasanjo has become the face of anti Buharism. But he has unfortunately succumbed to the very unhealthy animosity with which anti- buharists have gone about their enterprise and polarized the polity. He cannot deny that these millions of Nigerians who are stuck to Buhari are there partly because the other politicians of stature inspire no hope of a national redemption.
Buhari supporters are not mere change romantics. Some of them are haunted by the recent past.
The 2019 elections are months away. There is no better time to assess Buhari’s stewardship than now.
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