For so long, many Nigerians have been attempting to study and decode President Muhammadu Buhari, using different lenses. Some only had a modicum of clue on who he may be, counting on the code of information they obtained from the media when he first romped into global limelight as Head of State in a military garb.
During that military era, Buhari occurred to a section of expectant Nigerians as a no-nonsense dictator with brazen disposition to power. Pairing in leadership with the late Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon, adjudged as restless, hardworking and unsmiling, made the Buhari’s regime almost a nightmare for Nigerians who took business as usual all through the period he reigned as Head of State.
Nonetheless, many perceived and saw Buhari as a Messiah with the military government he presided over. Nigeria was in rot when he took over in 1983. Indiscipline and corruption were in great synergy to incinerate the glory that Nigeria carried from independence. The sacked civilian government presided over by former President Shehu Shagari operated recklessly. Cabinet members acted like heists with moral bankruptcy while being less patriotic in the judgment of many.
When the Buhari’s military regime came on board, frustrated Nigerians troop to the streets in wild celebration. The reproach thrown up by the rising tide of social vices in all parts of the country after the collapse of Second Republic made the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) launched by his government very compelling. Nigerians were remolded by WAI in conduct and character, while the government enforced discipline all through. From then on, Buhari struck gold in popularity that lingered with him till he got elected as president on March 28, 2015.
Nigeria gravitated towards the precipice under the government of former President Jonathan. In that government, acts of corruption ballooned uncontrollably, leading to growing terrorism, insecurity and other heinous social vices. Then battered Nigerians electorate craved for emergence of a Messiah. Again, Buhari emerged to play the role.
For President Buhari, however, saving Nigeria from imminent collapse entails a fight against corruption, terrorism and the need to re-grow the economy. He also needs to engage the swarming army of the unemployed in Nigeria in the productive sector. These are daunting challenges, which he needs to address in a short time. Yet, Nigerians appear unprepared to appreciate the enormity of the challenge and dilemma that the Buhari’s government faces day and night in efforts to correct the ills of the past, while taking off with the Change mantra.
It is not in doubt that the President has fully addressed his mind to bring about the changes that Nigeria needs. Those who work closely with him attest to his desire and determination to take Nigeria out of the woods. The aggregate view is that the reigning Nigerian president is a man to be fully understood by Nigerians who want to know where he aims to take their country.
Buhari is said to start his day, leaving no one around him in doubt that the ‘change’ that he preaches must start from his own office. The president leads by example. He is said to be desirous of building up institutions that will outlive him. He is also said to depend on his protocol department to operate hitch-free standards on crowd control in the seat of government.
By his body language, President Buhari appears not keen on living the opulence that the presidential power offers. His close aides attest to the fact that the president eats moderately, don moderate attires, and ride in posh-less official cars, while he most eagerly avoids any act likely to generate a scandal.
Although there have been hues on the long list of foreign travels he had made so far, only a few knew that President Buhari, all along, has not been collecting allowances or rather estacodes, contrary to insinuations. He is said to be content with arrangements made for his comforts by host countries. Buhari is also noted to have pruned down the number of officials in his entourage on every trip as a means of saving cost.
Before Buhari came to power, successive presidents saw nothing wrong in subjecting Abuja residents to long grueling hours of discomfort in traffic gridlocks with roadblocks to ease their movements in and out of Abuja. President Buhari has put a stop to that, offering a relief by flying in helicopter to his destinations, most especially to free the traffic along the airport road.
Today, under the government of President Buhari, the railway system is staging a comeback in Nigeria. The government, having launched the commercial operation of Abuja-Kaduna train services, is to commence the second phase; the Lagos-Ibadan rail project already captured in the 2016 budget. As proposed, the rail line will eventually terminate in Kano. All the same, attention is being focused on the growth of Agriculture as efforts are geared towards making Nigeria emerge as the largest exporter of rice product, starting first from Africa. In addition to the gradual return of peace to the North-East ravaged by the Boko Haram war, the government has started the rebuilding process with outpouring of foreign aides to fast track all plans.
As Niger Delta continues to pose a serious question to the growth of the economy, signs are emerging that the ongoing negotiation with militants who blow up pipelines in the oil-producing zone would offer a lasting solution. Also, the synergy between Nigeria and China, the second largest economy in the world looks positive enough to catalyse the growth of the economy based on extant bilateral agreements between the two on trade and investments. The economic challenges it faces notwithstanding, larger economies in America and Europe are beckoning on Nigeria for businesses. Britain, for instance, has started lowering its guard to court Africa, Nigeria in particular as a ploy for overcoming the shock it suffered from Brexit. It is therefore, a matter of time for the fruits of efforts currently being dissipated by the Buhari’s government on economic revival to be felt.
The foregoing suggests that the president who continues to make personal sacrifices is not relenting in efforts to revive Nigeria. In all, Buhari is a president who requires the understanding, support and cooperation of all Nigerians. Therefore, visible and covert efforts towards making Nigeria ungovernable for him by some set of individuals are needless given their tendency to distend the woes of the country with a predictable stifled future.
- Folusho Daniel, a public commentator, wrote from Abuja.