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Will Buhari change the narrative this time around?

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By Sunny Ikhioya

IRRESPECTIVE of the outcome from our courts, Muhammadu Buhari is, for now, the President and President-elect of Nigeria and will be our ruler until the month of May 2023. For those who have been following judicial proceedings of presidential elections, no election has been overturned at the Supreme Court level, no matter how flawed.

President Buhari

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Not even the twelve-two third saga of the Second Republic and the election that brought the late Umaru Yar’Adua to office, despite his public confession, to the effect that it was flawed.

Buhari is very experienced in this respect as he has been there for not less than three occasions. This may explain why Adams Oshiomhole, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is excited about the prospect of going to court. One is worried that we are still conducting elections that are seen to be blatantly flawed and begin to wonder when Nigeria will get it right.

My concern in this piece is not about the elections and the shenanigans of politicians, it is whether Buhari has learned any lessons from his experience or if he will flunk it a second time. Of all those who have ruled this country, only two persons are better placed to carry out the necessary reforms that this nation required at this period. They are Olusegun Obasanjo and Muhammadu Buhari. They attract so much expectations because of their backgrounds, strong character and popular support/acceptance by the people.

Unfortunately, Obasanjo wasted his own opportunity due to obvious reasons. Buhari followed in his footsteps during his first tenure as a civilian president. There is no doubt that President Buhari fell far short of expectations during his first tenure, no matter what the spin doctors will want us to believe. The only reason he is back today is the absence of a strong leader from the Northern part of the country with credibility and cult-like followership.

We know that it will take a leader with strong character at the helm of affairs to turn the fortunes of Nigeria  for the better as Nigerians are a very difficult people to manage due to the peculiar circumstances of our diversity.

That was why Buhari’s success at the 2015 election was greeted with so much excitement and expectations. But we have since discovered that having a strong character alone does not translate into good leadership; there are a lot more qualities required and unless you come down from your ‘high horse’ as a man of power, you may never acquire these necessary resources.

You will not know or understand this until probably when you are out of office. It is also worse when you are gripped by the messianic complex and get carried away with the feeling that nothing you do can be faulted.

That is where Buhari missed it in his first term as a civilian president. And with the propaganda spin doctors beating the drums and refusing to acknowledge his shortcomings, the people had no option than to sit, wait and watch for the opportunity to give him the thumbs down.

A significant percentage of the people are not excited about his coming back, some are even in mourning mood. But the “die hard” among his supporters will gloat in their pyrrhic victory, instead of quietly and soberly reflecting or pondering on areas they have got it wrong.

It is not a good testament that a Muhammadu Buhari who promised electoral reforms in his inaugural address will, four years later, allow to be conducted under his watch one of the most flawed elections ever witnessed in this country. Reports on the elections show that in many cases the numbers do not seem to match, and the umpires, observers and independents do not seem to care. That is the situation as President Buhari prepares to start another term.

Will he flunk it like the first tenure or use the second term opportunity to redeem himself and write his name in gold for posterity to acknowledge? That is the question. He came in on the wave of sentiments as a man of integrity; but after four years, we are beginning to question this position. Integrity is to practise what you preach; as you say it, do it. There should be no double standards.

Equity and fairness entails you stick to the rule of law and not allow your personal views and opinions to override it. Integrity abhors cheating in whatever form and demands that you uphold the trust of the people in all ramifications.

Did Buhari meet that criteria during his first tenure in-charge? The answer is no. He will not be there forever. So, will he make amends and correct all observed flaws witnessed in his first term? Will he quickly get to work and put in place a cabinet of credible and purposeful men and women? Will he allow the rule of law to always guide his decisions as president? Will he rein in the herdsmen?

Will he look out for people outside his ethnic zone to help him put things right? Will he acknowledge the intellectuals in his party – Osinbajo, Sagay, Utomi etc – and allow them to have their say in his government? Will he treat the integrity issue with all fairness and subject his own party men to same measures like others? Even the highly reviled PDP still managed to take some of their own to court.

Will he improve on our electoral processes and ensure that all observed lapses never occur again? Will he be more realistic with the management of our economy, so that the promised care for the masses can be achieved? Will he allow religion to stand separated from government?

Will he learn to talk well about Nigeria and Nigerians to attract foreign investments or will he continue to paint Nigerians in bad light? It is up to him to decide. The praise singers and flatterers will scoff at these suggestions and even label them as the lamentations of a wailer. But one thing to note is that a significant number of the population did not vote for his second coming. This must be a cause of concern for any people-focused government.  Let’s hope the story will be different next time and no more excuses, please.

  • Ikhioya,, Twitter: @SunnyIkhioya
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