Buhari @73: Constructing progressive Nigeria
IT was Rt. Hon. Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo of blessed memory who sometime in 2002 postulated or rather predicted President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as president and his arduous task of constructing progressive Nigeria.
After his impeachment as Senate President, Okadigbo asserted that a great political event had happened. With eyes popped out we listened to his lecture type of sermon. He first asked us, did any of you read today’s newspapers? Yes was the chorus, for most of the time we acted like students in a classroom to the great Okadigbo. We failed the question of pointing out the exact major news item of the day he was referring to. Okadigbo in his usual candour, graciously cleared his throat and started with his routine old thesis that the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his Achilles heel, was constructing a one party state, which he intoned was very dangerous, unconstitutional and might breed dictatorship. He said, ‘left for the Obasanjo he would want to amend the Constitution and extend his rule.’ This was before the third term imbroglio. ‘I am surprised that none of you took note of General Muhammadu Buhari’s entry into the murky waters of Nigerian politics,’ he said. We claimed we read it, but why is his entry a major news, in the musical chair of our brand of politics?
Okadigbo’s answer was very emphatic, ‘Buhari will define politics in the years ahead. Nigeria is lucky to have him, quote me. We are lucky he didn’t join the PDP. The battle line is drawn. It’s going to be a marathon race,’ he quipped. Buhari had joined the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) when Okadigbo stated what appeared to be prophetic. He went to celebrate that the stage was set for deconstructing the one party state being weaved by Obasanjo. Some of us who have elementary knowledge of Buhari’s financial war-chest challenged Okadigbo ‘s postulation, pointing out to him that Buhari was handicapped greatly in a scenario of money politics.
Okadigbo rather said we are going to join Buhari in the ANPP. That the man is going to construct a progressive Nigeria and that Okadigbo’s intellectual acumen is highly needed in this direction. ‘He has the capacity, the discipline and courage to change the old order,’ Okadigbo maintained.
We taunted him, saying that his postulation was a figment of sour grape. That he was castigating Obasanjo because he was his traducer, having masterminded his impeachment. Far from it, he said: ‘I am just a patriot, pointing the way forward for our dear country. Buhari is incorrigible and Spartan, he has the capacity to battle an imperial dictator that Obasanjo is. It is not sour grape or retribution.’
Okadigbo went down memory lane and narrated how as political adviser to Shehu Shagari he was mandated with few others to covertly probe the so-called missing N2.8 billion alleged to have been flown out of Nigeria from oil revenue, when Buhari was Minister of Petroleum. ‘It turned out to be hoax. Shagari was wise to admonish us to make the investigation secret.’
He was later nominated the vice presidential candidate in what became the Buhari/Okadigbo ticket. The outcome of the election is public knowledge and that President Buhari and Okadigbo filed petition at the election tribunal is also public where the majority judgment delivered by Honourable Justices of the Appeal Court – Umaru Abdullahi, Mahmud Mohammed and Francis Tabai ruled in favour of the election. While the minority’s judgment was delivered by Honourable Justice Slyvanus Nsofor: “My conclusion logically and naturally would be that there was a purported election on 19/04/2003. That was not what Nigerians want or deserve to have. No. All I am striving to say, perhaps imperfectly is that the non-compliance with Section 67(3) of the Electoral Act, 2002 rendered the presidential election on the 19/04/2003 a farce. Pure and simple! So, ‘Cadit queastio.’ It was a non-election.”
It can be said that for President Buhari, it was rough route to victory as 2007, and 2011 presidential elections ended in controversy. To the extent that the Justices of the Supreme Court were stretched to their limit ending with a 4-3 split votes in 2011 presidential election judgment.
In the 2015 presidential election, President Buhari won and the former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, which Mr. President during the inaugural appreciated.
Since assumption of office on May 29, President Buhari has, in measured steps, begun the construction of a progressive and prosperous Nigeria. In this exercise some are skeptical for his pace for them is too slow. For this the President has said, slow and steady win the race. It is not peculiar to Nigerians, a lot of people assume that democracy must deliver quick results especially in political systems like ours where the people’s hope was dashed and the state atrophied.
Incidentally, the President has passed this through the trajectory of fierce battle between the neo-liberals and statist economic schools. Before his overthrow as military Head of State in 1985, he rebuffed the entreaties of the neo-liberals, hence he rejected the adoption of the World/IMF conditionalities. Among the components of the conditionalities were the removal of subsidy in fuel and fertilizer, devaluation of the Naira, privatization of state owned enterprises, et al.
Many pundits have pondered how he navigates this threshold and remain untainted and deliver the goodies he pledged to the citizenry. The fillers coming out of the 2016 Budget and the Medium Term profile submitted to the National Assembly, clearly gazettes the midwife at work to blend the good sides of both the neo-liberals and the statist. This is the foundation for constructing a progressive and prosperous Nigeria, which Dr. Chuba Okadigbo of blessed memory predicted over a decade; a transparent foundation, devoid of corruption and greed.
• Okechukwu is the Spokesperson of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP)