LEADERSHIP, THE BUHARI PHENOMENON, AND NIGERIA
By Gideon I. Onyedi.
Who is President Muhammadu Buhari? What sort of leader is the man at the helm of affairs in Nigeria today? What is his idea of a peaceful and united Nigerian state vis-à-vis his unflinching faithful commitment to his ethno-religious community and identity? Where does his greater loyalty lie, on the Nigerian state or his Fulani ethnic side? What is his leadership preference or principle, ethnic nationism or nationalism? How does he see other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, as partners or rivals? Is there anything to learn from his leadership principle and practice? Join me in this journey of analysis as we try to find answers to these questions.
General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, President and Commander-in-Chief, of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, will, without controversy, go down in Nigeria’s chronicle as the ‘iron-clad’ but disarmingly smiling handsome Fulani, whose administration ‘changed’ Nigeria; made the people, in their ‘extremities’ to ‘remember their God’; caused the nation to stand in ‘studied’ and reflective trepidation, and awakened an unprecedented chain of reactionary, anti-reactionary and Orwellian reactionary episodes.
In this analysis, I have, in spite of myself, and in a real time truth, defined by context and relative construct, elected to borrow a prism of ‘lenses’ from a less friendly divide, in my humble effort to examine for proof, that, in the age-long wisdom of John Wesley, every wonderful and seemingly flawless point of view, as seen expressed by the populists, universalists, elites and or even the eccentrics, could also be a wonderful point of blindness. This is relative to the seemingly deprecated style of the man under consideration, in the estimation of perceived globally-minded democrats and ‘civilized’ individuals. Losing sight of, though apparently considered myopic and ‘retrogressive’, but a nonetheless ‘admirable’ leadership quality. In the midst of our woes and throes.
With pure obeisance to history and times of ‘time’, I daresay, unequivocally, that it will take only a man or woman devoid of proper education, bereft of dispassionate characterisation, and lacking in sense of history to fall short of discerning and appreciating something very characteristically challenging in General Muhammadu Buhari as an unabashed leader and lover of ‘his’ people. And love for ‘your’ people is an enviable sacrificial quality in leadership. And, leadership is a very context-defined phenomenon.
General Muhammadu Buhari, as a ‘selfless’ leader, is worthy of measured admiration and emulation. He is a trusted, true lover of ‘his’ people. An ‘unpretentious’, but situationally tactful and principled actor in the political theatre of our ethno-religiously defined and crisis-ridden Nigeria. His uncommon love and struggle for ‘his’ people have endured to an awesome magnitude, though discomfortingly unaccommodating to ‘outsiders’, (hence he is ever accused of celebrated nepotism.). It spans decades, culminating in a democratic executive ascendency in 2015 consequent upon his importunity and tenacity of purpose. And a self-supervised re-enthronement in 2019.
I call on our President to imagine the bleeding wounds that would heal, the flowing blood that would cease, the trust that would be built, the peace that would reign, the greatness that would be achieved, and the greater honour he would have, if he could extend the same love to all sections of the nation.
His leadership is a process and product of unalloyed commitment to ‘unwritten ideals’ supremely ‘engraved’ in the heart.
Muhammadu Buhari is a truly context-construed General who, in my admiration, studies and observes, understands, tests, and stimulates his ‘enemy’ in times of ‘war’ for response analysis, and properly analyzes the weaknesses and strength, and possible strategies of this ‘enemy’, and knows how to win, not just the battle, but the entire war, for preservation and posterity. His ‘magical’ strides of March, 2015 that gave him the discipleship and ballots of hitherto political ‘foes’ and a controversial repeat 4 years later represent eloquent testimonies.
He knows when to use subtlety. He understands the times and seasons for measured entreaty. He is acquainted with the ‘tables’ and tides necessary for ‘diplomacy’. He accurately interprets the ‘hour’ to use veiled compromise. He discerns the proper moment to deploy disguised strategy, even by proxy. He understands when to beat a seasonal retreat for a bigger treat, and bid for unassailable reinforcement. Again, he knows when to adopt a transactional approach, and hold the line, waiting to advance with minimal liability or collateral in order to achieve a higher pre-determined goal. For ‘his people’. He penetrated churches and ‘synagogues’; patronized ‘convents’ and ‘monasteries’, and ‘politicked’ within ‘seminaries’ and ‘sanctuaries’ for political ascendency.
And, as a well-trained ‘multi-regional’ warrior, conversant with the ‘tropics’ and the ‘coastals’, and versed in conflict and austere order, he knows when to operate ‘under cover‘, and adopt the ‘guerilla-tude’. Also, in the reputed manner of the king of conquest, the lion, he proudly squats with faithful members of his confident, hopeful and determined but cautious pride, and patiently waits for an opportune time to pounce on, and devour all ‘enemies ‘ of ‘progress’ and ‘political advancement.’ Agents of ‘corruption’, emissaries and actors of socio-political and ethno-religious non-conformism, on the one hand, and convenience-and-fear-driven political defectors. Intimidated spineless ethnic leaders, and socio-political and religious betrayers, cast in the character of cursed Cain. Buried in the ‘baptism’ of blighted Baalam, and fashioned after the manner of judged Judas Iscariot on the other hand. President Muhammadu Buhari is ‘enlightened’ enough for his avowed purpose and path.
Some call him ‘uneducated’. But he has confounded the so-called educated, and has proved with subtlety, strength and strategy that he is in a better position to teach those ‘educated’ individuals how to achieve whatever they want. In the political. Many regard him as clueless. But so far, there is nothing that indicates, that a man who has left no one in doubt, that he knew what he wanted from the outset, and has been mindfully pursuing (such) towards the realization of such objective(s) in the manner that promises and guarantees him victory or success, according to his own definition of success, is really clueless. Only those in his trust and confidence know, and can read with him.
On the contrary, it is the rest of the people, the politically ‘enlightened’, the educated, the analysts, that do not only appear clueless, but are truly undiscerning, for they do not have proper sense of history. And do not possess the will and character to subdue and overcome their primordial tendencies and inclinations to corruption and self-centredness. Little wonder, such individuals and their cohorts are seen ever expecting nature to work against nature. Expecting a proud chosen Jew to become a miserable God-less gentile. Expecting a ‘faithful’ fruit-bearing ‘apple tree’, to produce udala fruit. Expecting a man of ‘his’ people to become ‘A Man of The People’. I respect and deeply appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari. He is ever faithful to his nature and principle.
A man of principle and ‘candour’ is a man of ‘honour’. Muhammadu Buhari is a man of ‘honour’. A man whose thinking can be conjectured; whose interests can be foreseen, and whose actions and agenda can be predicted is the simplest man to deal and relate with. For those whose intellects are active, Muhammadu Buhari is a man, a ‘nationalist’, a crusader, a champion of a kind that can be predicted based on his antecedents. Why do we, as a people, as a nation, whine and complain about such honourable, principled, ‘unpretentious’, predictable, and simple man? After ‘supporting’ and electing him. Why?
Our President, Muhammadu Buhari, by all standards, for all intent and purposes, has always remained the man he is. In life. In history. In objectives and pursuit. In human relations. He is consistent. And, consistency is revered. Consistency is sincerity. Consistency is principle. I would rather be identified with a man whose word is his bond, and who can neither be dissuaded nor swayed from his personal convictions and pre-determined goals, informed by backgrounds and experiences of many years, than ‘co-journ’ with a ‘comforter’ who is ever given to change and inconsistency, for the former would give me a sure way of survival and safety. This, by no means downplays the importance of flexibility and dynamism in leadership. But that is for the globally-minded. Not for the ones who believe in the sanctity of building the home where charity should begin. Those who believe that leadership without an enduring home base is a baseless legacy. A man of consistency is like a war announced a good time away. Our elders say such wars hardly consume the cripple. Except an undiscerning crippled nation. With a total loss of sense of history. History of Buhari’s antecedents and principles of life.
He never changed, never compromised, and never pretended, before, between 31st December, 1983, and 27th August, 1985, and after. He never pretended to be who he is not for political gain while in detention and even in the days of late General Sani Abacha. And for the 12 years he was unwaveringly contesting for the presidency, from A.N.P.P. to C.P.C. to A.P.C., he never changed. He never compromised. He never gave political excuses why he did what he did or failed to do, while in khaki and boot. He never apologised for whatever his traducers and accusers called the ‘crimes’ he committed. ‘Crimes’ of nepotism and extreme ethnicism. ‘Crimes’ of fanaticism. ‘Crimes’ of dictatorship. ‘Crimes’ of mindless detention and imprisonment of people. ‘Crimes’ of disobedience to the rule of law. Etc. Why? He did those things because they were in line with his principles.
That is honour. Philosophically speaking. His ambition for the exalted office in a democratic setting was only motivated by one purpose: to finish the programme he couldn’t accomplish in khaki and boot. Those ‘crimes’ he was accused of? And the people, his accusers, still elected him. He found a way to get them elect him. (Laughs).
Muhammadu Buhari is one of the very few men in present-day Nigerian politics who truly play the unmistakable POLITICS OF IDEOLOGY. And, ideology is never exclusively defined by morality, equity or fairness. It is a people-oriented issue, circumscribed by uncompromising objective and undaunted tenacity, pursuit and focal consciousness towards a policy. Towards a goal. Towards a legacy. It is of the people, about your people, and for your people. ‘His’ people. It is about their projection, penetration, preservation and perpetuation. The survival and future of ‘your’ people. We all need to learn something from him.
The rest of them. Politicians. Leaders. Business men and women. Activists. Name them. From the East to the West. From the South to the North or the Middle-Belt, so to say. Name them. They crisscross and traverse land and sea. They voyage through The Niger and The Benue. They jump from house to house, from camp to camp, from bed to bed, from candidate to candidate, from party to party and back to party. No principle, no politics of ideology, no ‘honour.’ But selfish interest.
Every one of them in the political arena in this contraption of a country is moved and motivated by selfish political interest. MUHAMMADU BUHARI IS MOVED, MOTIVATED, AND SUPERSONICALLY PROPELLED BY THE INTEREST OF ‘HIS’ PEOPLE. This I captured in part one of this piece in September, 2018. Again, President Muhammadu Buhari does not compromise on that. He understands this competition for survival in Nigeria. He understands the near-mortal combat of inter-ethnic rivalry. This is where he stands out without a competitor in the absurd theatre of Nigerian politics.
However, again, imagine the wounds that would heal, the trust that would grow, the peace that would reign, the unity and greatness that would be achieved, if he could extend the same love to all sections of the nation. We may not agree with the political ideology and leadership styles he promotes, as they are ever running counter to transformative leadership that underscores global citizenship ideals. But to his credit, he is a faithful and genuine leader of ‘his’ people in his position as the President of Nigeria, a military gladiator, or a private citizen. There is something admirable and worthy of emulation, situated in context, here.
Again, we or the world may not agree with the political ideology and leadership styles he promotes and embraces, as they are seen running counter to transformative leadership that underscores global citizenship ideals. But to his ‘credit’, once again, he is a faithful and genuine leader of ‘his’ people in his position as the President of Nigeria, a military gladiator or a private citizen.
There is nothing the so-called enlightened minds knew about Buhari in 2015 and 2019 that they had not known of him many years before. The Soyinkas, the Utomis, the Obasanjos, the David-Wests, the Sanusis, the Atikus, the Sarakis, the Nnamanis. The very few and detached apologists from the East. The solitary ‘remnant’ foot soldiers from the South. The crowd ‘zealots’ from the North. The thronging and deafening promoters from the West. The enchanted praise-singers from the ‘Belt’ etc. Why wail now?
I have only one fear: President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be ruling as if there will be no ‘tomorrow’ for ‘others’ to have another opportunity to govern Nigeria. He does seem to rule by ruling out the possibility of a future with ‘others’ at the helm of affairs. Is that also part of his pre-determined goals? Then, that is very fearful and worrisome because it will involve unimaginable things to achieve such a goal. But I do not want to believe that to be the goal of a man who is believed to have fought to keep Nigeria ‘united’? Muhammadu Buhari is believed to have fought for the ‘unity’ and corporate existence of Nigeria?
A man that has his focus on his chosen direction and destination is not really clueless. The point is, we either have lost sense of history, or are not discerning enough to know what those his chosen directions and destination are. AND, MANY WILL STILL REMAIN CLUELESS AND ‘UNEDUCATED’ EVEN BEYOND THIS DISPENSATION.
I may not be his supporter, but I respect and admire President Muhammadu Buhari, the lover of ‘his own’ people, and the Commander-In-Chief, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Dare to be a Muhammadu Buhari, in context!
Gideon I. Onyedi,
Founder and President, Diamond-Crest for Youth Education Foundation