Monday, August 8, 2016 2:00 pm
By Nkrumah Bankong-Obi
It was the never-silent former governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria, Alhaji Balarabe Musa who reportedly said something to the effect that President Muhammadu Buhari drags the rich on the floor so that the poor can cheer. Speaking as does, including fibbing, Pa Musa accused the Buhari of pursuing the anti-corruption campaign in ways that the man who holds the record as the first Nigerian governor to be impeached from office, regards as crude, primitive, parochial and vengeful.
Of course, Alhaji Musa is not alone in this perception of the Buhari presidency. We have been bamboozled with tales by quislings that the president is being held hostage by cronies, is nepotistic and has a phobia for handshakes across Nigeria’s many fault lines. The latest hoopla on the perceived lopsidedness of appointments into political positions has been deafeningly endless. In many situations, those pointing fingers at the commander-in-chief, pay little attention to the provisions of the law or recourse to competence, expediency as yardsticks for holding national office. Some of our countrymen who are already high on the religion and ethnic opium just go on blabbing like itty-betties over toys that can’t go round.
In many respects, these dissenting voices against every move by the government of President Buhari appeal to the sensibilities of their supporters and all those involved in the ‘project bash Buhari’. As a historian, I’m certain that neither Buhari nor any Nigerian leader would want a fling with what onecan call the ‘Ironsi syndrome.’ This political ailment manifests as a cosmetic ceding of political responsibilities to allies for the purpose of wanting to appear ‘nationalistic’ in approach to governance. Then pursue non-nationalistic agenda. Thereafter your purported ‘national collaborators’ conspire against you and pump bullets into your body in company of your distinguished host before dumping both guest and host in shallow graves. Students of history can connect this to second tranche of Nigeria’s murderous and catastrophic events of 1966 that culminated in to a civil war.
The fact that Buhari has, in their view, serenaded himself with officers whose names sound Arabic, Hausa or even northern has drawn the ire of the unorganised opposition, the so-called Christians who made it a point never to forgive whatever sin the man committed against them. One would have reasoned that after picking two vice presidential running mates from the Southeast, the acclaimed ‘home’ of Nigerian Christendom, Buhari should have been thought to have adequately atoned for his ‘sins’. But no, the furnace of hate against the retired general appears to be set up just above the now extinguished coal tunnels of Enugu and environs.
In their minds, Buhari has committed an immortal sin by appointing ‘northerners’ as to oversee the Ministries of Defence and Interior and the parastatals therein except a few drops in the form of the nation’s number one serving military officer, the Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Naval Staff etc. Indeed, the unclassified outrage began following the president’s naming of his Chief of Staff as well as Secretary to the Federal Government. The appointment-mongers keeping going berserk each time a northerner is named into a government position while turning a blind eye to when an Egbesu, Orisa, Amadioha, Idemili or Ikuo worshipper is invited to serve.
The question that remains consistently unasked is ‘who are the people being marginalised in terms of appointments? Is the much-defended but most unprotected common man who is crying himself hoarse against the supposed ‘balkanization’ (through appointments) of the country by the Buhari administration? Next puzzle is this: how many wood-hewers, water fetchers, trench-diggers, market women and men, recharge card sellers ever get nominated from villages, towns and cities to hold these offices? In the run-in to the general elections some fifteen months ago, Nigerians witnessed the massive deployment of men and material to critically wound the candidature of General Muhammadu Buhari. How many donors to that cause come from the so-called common man community? Are we aware that Buhari doesn’t connect well with the northern oligarchy/entrenched establishment but his brand of morality, politics and religion appeals to the ordinary people in that region and across the country?
Society, any society at that, is constantly seen as a vast playground for the forces of good and evil. Nigeria isn’t an exception. Unfortunately, evil could reign for as long as possible before salvation arrives, sometimes like deux ex-machina. It is in the confluence of these forces that some people have been rejoicing over Reverend Father Ejike Mbaka’s message, in which he said nobody may be alive to vote for Buhari in 2019. There are many issues to be drawn from this. Mbaka is Buhari’s friend – not a secret. The priest is vocal and practices a slant of populism that if properly coordinated, I admire so much. Some shallow minds have misconstrued Mbaka’s message as a parting of ways, the end of honeymoon, a divorce note to a candidate he endorsed during the general election. In any case, the ecclessiatic did not say if Buhari has hinted him that he wil seek a second term in 2019.
Even before the dominie clarified his position, I held that the view that those rejoicing that Mbaka and Buhari have gone separate ways are wrong. I have read about, and interacted with officials who tell me that President Buhari always insists on truth-telling in all matters affecting the nation as a basis for working with him. Father Mbaka has just confirmed that. He has told the President what he sees and has offered his candid advice. The minister’s advice, in my view, is straight, correct, justifiable and very friendly. How can anyone deny the existence of hunger in the land, the moribund infrastructure, the electrocuting wave of corruption, weak institutions and the wraith-like insecurity in the country, alarming job losses etc. As Mbaka stated in his clarification addendum, Buhari did not create these monsters but he must expedite action to alleviate the pains of Nigerians. As part of his solutions, the reverend suggests that President Buhari should appoint capable hands to assist him run the nation,as wells as empower his lieutenants who facilitated his ride to the State House in May, 2015.
The snag with Mbaka’s populism is that it is all motion-in-stasis. True, like most ‘spiritupreneurs’, the offertory bourses are nose-diving. And the deficits from buying generating sets, fuel, social responsibilities if any, are mounting. Therefore, this should be an opportunity for them and indeed their countrymen to associate deeply with the current administration’s effort at tackling graft, aligning and correcting infrastructural disparities, stabilising security, smashing insurgent groups and other threats to national security.
The content of Mbaka’s sermon, however he reshapes it, highlights the tragedy of our governance. In that advice to his friend, President Buhari, the Enugu-based cleric who dissed former President Goodluck Jonathan in favour of Buhari, noted that if nothing is done to reverse the present economic tailspin, ballot papers will be stared at by cadavers of prospective voters, hence even the President himself won’t have anyone voting for him. Mbaka agrees though, that a form of prosperity is currently sweeping through the land. Mortuary owners, by the priest’s assessment are reaping cash to their business vaults. The objects of the new trade being the many who have died from starvation.
As long as Mbaka and his brother-preachers stay in their penthouses and send out messages like the one he parcelled to the Villa, leadership will remain indifferent to the genuine aspirations of the people. After all, some politicians say they can play the God who promised to raise children for Abraham. They too can raise voters on election day to deliver them at the polls! Where this happens as was the case in the recent past, the tragic gap widens. We begin to encourage elected officials to think of the next polling day as against real governance. It is glaring that Buhari is determined to think beyond the immediate benefits of the next ballot. Real leaders think in levels, with the long term result as a bedrock of sane governance.
Isn’t the image of morticians metaphoric and symbolic? One is tempted to believe that this category of investors represent the slave-drivers, big-bellied capitalists, loot sharers, squanderers of public wealth, ten per-centres, budget padders and rats, pilferers from the public till, the puff adders who swallowed resources meant to tackle the dregs of society manifesting as Boko Haram in the northeast. If the morticians identified by Father Mbaka as the only set of denizens smiling while the rest of us fry are mere denotations, then it is time to look at the balance sheets of these business outfits. Let’s see how much they contribute to the nation’s gross domestic product. We need to know who the entrepreneurs investing heavily at burying their countrymen are and the sources of their capital.
The above may not be easy as these aren’t among the spiritual canons found in the catholic missal. Therefore, Mbaka should help his friend do the job better. I expect that by now, he should lead his congregants to occupy the abandoned Enugu coal plants. His followers in Onitsha and environs can carry banners and lay siege to the site of the Fourth Niger Bridge. His listeners and sympathisers across the Southeast can occupy the dead industries and forgotten roads in the southeast. They can cause those who embezzled resources meant to activate these projects to vomit the forbidden fruits. All these should have a common purpose channeled at calling on the government to correct the anomalies in the system.
This is the way to end the hunger in the land on the short and long run thereby putting the morticians out of business. As long as Mbaka and his brother-preachers stay in their penthouses and send out messages like the one he parcelled to the Villa, leadership will remain indifferent to the genuine aspirations of the people. After all, some politicians say they can play the God who promised to raise children for Abraham. They too can raise voters on election day to deliver them at the polls! Where this happens as was the case in the recent past, the tragic gap widens. We begin to encourage elected officials to think of the next polling day as against real governance. It is glaring that Buhari is determined to think beyond the immediate benefits of the next ballot. Real leaders think in levels, with the long term result as a bedrock of sane governance.
The day our spiritual fathers begin to lead practical crusades that can bring real succour to their worshipers, that day, they commit to spreading the gospel in earnest. This explains why the liberation theologians of South America remain engraved in the minds of their people. Imagine what can happen if the worshipers on the deadly Lagos-Ibadan Expressway had occupied the place and demanded that it be fixed? Can one imagine the number of lives that would have been saved from death? If the preachers in the Niger Delta had asked consistently and in practical terms that resources accruing to the area be effectively applied, would we have been talking about dreary infrastructure in the nation’s golden egg-laying chamber?
If these so-called spiritual fathers begin to support a government that looks a the mid and long term benefits of governance rather than blurred short terms gaols coloured by the need to secure the next election, we will be on our way to real progress. It is not everyday that you find a man like Buhari leading a nation at just inches from implosion as a result of want and internal wrangling. He could very well open the borders to import food to stop the hunger and mortgage the welfare of our children. But he chose a different route. He chose to set the country on the path to industrialization. He could as well allow Bko Haram continue work on its killing fields but he faced the infidels head-on.
It is important that Father Mbaka has situated the ‘point of attack’ of his message and apportioned the blame where he deems it fit. This has taken bullets from the barrels of the pull-Buhari-down campaigners. What the priest needs to do therefore is to push beyond the boundaries of his church to ensure that his buddy, President Buhari succeeds in the struggle to re-position to Nigeria and take the so-called devil plaguing the country away.
Bankong-Obi, journalist and poet can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org