‘Two Cut Four’: The Buhari We Criticize Versus The One In Us

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Wole Adejumo

On 11th May, 2015, Correspondent of German Radio, Dutsche Welle, was expelled from the Presidential Villa for asking visiting Chadian President, Idris Deby about South African mercenaries in the Joint Task Force fighting against Boko Haram in the Chad Basin. I quickly tagged my egbon Mogaji Gboyega Adejumo and my young friend, Rotimi Alao in my next Facebook post.

Both had done meaningful service to the Goodluck Jonathan campaign project online. The post was to point out to them that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was indeed capable of doing what General Muhammadu Buhari  did with his Decree 4 of 1984 which was tagged the worst anti-press law in Nigeria. I rounded off the post with the phrase “there is a Buhari in all of us”.

After about five grueling hours of little or no movement on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway on the last Friday of April, 2021, I turned to Clement Fatoye and Busayo Awonegan, my colleagues who were with me in the car and asked, “what percentage of Nigeria’s population do you think is sane?” The two young men agreed that “sane Nigerians are not many”.

The reason for the question was that as we took a risky detour off the road to take Podo and link the New Garage, Orita Challenge road, it proved to be a strategic miscalculation. The movement was slow but steady until more people who had hitherto been stuck on the express joined us. Before long, there was a repeat of what caused the traffic jam on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Vehicles driving towards Podo formed six lanes and disallowed motorists driving from the opposite direction from using their own lane. Then I remarked that “all these guys forming illegal lanes too want a better Nigeria and some of them are highly critical of President Muhammadu Buhari and his government.

Of course, the critics of the President have justifiable reasons; one of them is that almost everything the Shagari Administration was overthrown for has happened again and again. And from what happened that horrible Friday evening, it may not be wrong to infer that majority of Nigeria’s over 200 million people believe in the “I Before Others” philosophy.

I have since realized that many of those who pooh-poohed Buhari for being unprepared for office despite contesting four times have forgotten the population of Nigerians that are relieved of their jobs annually for underwhelming performances on their different jobs. While many employers complain that graduates are becoming less employable by the day, others have opined that many of the graduates they hired as talents eventually turned out to be tokens.

That the President went abroad for medical treatment when Doctors in his country were on strike has been termed the height of insensitivity. Well, the billionaire boardroom gurus who take billions of Naira in uncollateralized loans from depositors’ monies all because they control the boards of banks are equally insensitive. While the Directors are hailed as philanthropic big businessmen, the depositors whose monies oil the banking machinery are usually frozen into inaction as they cannot use their funds as they wish.

To the mortification of Nigerians, the Presidency chose to stand behind a Minister who allegedly supported terror with his past statements. Well, that too, isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. Foreigners may find it unfathomable that Nigerians have stood with accused persons against their victims several times. A rape victim once found courage to speak up. After giving vivid details of how she was violated twice before she turned 18, Nigerians started asking questions as to how possible it was to rape someone in a car and why it took her almost 20 years to speak up. And then came the “where is the proof?” question. Some even concluded that she and her musician husband wanted fame, hence the decision to accuse a popular person.

A prominent actor was recently accused of molesting a minor. Not only have some people stood behind the actor, some have called out the foster mother of the victim, alleging that the girl in question is not 14 but 24 years old! Interestingly, some of those making these accusations criticized ex-international, Adokiye Amiesimaka years ago when he made revelations about overage players in Nigeria’s Under 17 national soccer team. The legendary footballer was called unpatriotic and other derogatory names for trying to sanitize the football sector. How much more savage can we get as a people?

The truth is that we have preposterously crossed the thin line from humanity to savagery. Decades ago, you could feel the milk of human kindness at accident scenes. Such incidents united Nigerians; it was not uncommon to hear shouts of Chineke, Obasi, Wayo Allah, ikunle abiyamo o! As people exclaim in their different dialects and help the victims pari passu. But in this internet age, what do you get? Once an accident happens, cameras would start clicking away. You would feel they were waiting for the accident to happen. And within minutes, emergency reporters would put the scene live on different social media platforms. The sobering awareness we have to cope with is that social media followers and trends now seem to be more important than human lives.

I laugh when people complain that the President does not seem to care about what goes on around him. Many of us would rather record our neighbours fighting than try to separate them. We live in a country where ‘it doesn’t matter as long as it does not affect me’. Favours are no longer done for free and ‘what is in it for me has become a norm’.

And typical of every administration before it, this one too has harsh words for every critic. You are ‘a hater, a wailer or a disgruntled Nigerian’.

What we may not have noticed is that with the gross reduction in value of human life and the country almost at the mercy of bandits, gunmen and terrorists who attack with unprecedented aggression, the administration is a reflection of our society. It simply mirrors who we really are and tells us the bitter truth; we are our own problems.

Unfortunately, like I usually tell my friends and colleagues, given the same opportunities, many of us may not fare better than the people we criticize.

What we therefore need is a recalibration of ideals. We need to go back to the days of high moral values. The foundations of doing the right things at all times need to be re-laid. A reorientation that will lead to a change of mindset should do the job. Until we look inwards and address where we got it wrong, the constant slide into anomie may continue unabated.

As Nigerians, we need to understand that putting others first does not mean foolishness; it only makes one more humane and considerate. There is hardly a country that prays more than Nigeria does but prayers without works will only amount to naught; we therefore need to work the prayers.

Wole Adejumo, is an Ibadan-based journalist

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