By Abdulwahab Oba
President Muhammadu Buhari returned home last week after spending 105 days in his second medical leave in the United Kingdom. His return effortlessly put gapping holes on the prophecies of some dooms day prophets, who had emerged in the chaotic scene created by his absence to provoke fear over his health. For a moment, the frenzy that greeted his arrival made the atmosphere seem like the day he was declared winner of the Presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress party (APC), two years ago.
From the ever-increasing and vociferous political pressure groups that took turns jostling for attention at the reception organized for him to state governors, many of whom are of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); and the seemingly sudden quietude that veiled over a venomous social media that simmered with unbridled hate, dissent and disappointment, one could see that Muhammadu Buhari was a rare politician with some form of cult followership.
Indeed, no matter the prism through which one ogles or dissects his personality, there can be few doubts over what he represents from across ethnic or religious divides. That he could have such an eclipsing and levelling grip on people after more than three months absence, and, at a time tempers were corrosively boisterous further points to the huge trust and enormous expectations from Nigerians, and how desperately they wanted him back. One broadcaster in a private radio station was so enthralled that he described him as the ‘Lion King,’ a powerful character in an epic animal movie. But President Buhari is much more, in reality.
The mood, Saturday, August 19, 2017, coincidentally my wife’s birthday, in the country, especially the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, aptly captured how upbeat Nigerians were and how much they believed his presence can add momentum and give leadership direction to the country. Even more, perhaps, how his presence could tweak the incredibly discouraging state of the nation. It is not a subject of conjecture that security of lives and properties wore a spectre of gloom while the president was away.
Today, with his return after such a long absence has much more shored up enthusiasm as also expectations. Now, it would seem it is all coming afresh. As the binge stops, Nigerians expect President Buhari to hit the ground running by quickly attending to serious national issues and concerns that nearly drove the nation to the edge in his absence. Chief among them is to cover lost grounds through instinctive leadership in line with the APC programmes as enunciated in the party manifesto.
As a matter of emergency, too, expectations are that the president would reshuffle his cabinet to inject new bloods, as not much other than politics, has changed in most ministries in the last two years and reason for which hunger, poverty and unemployment have had negative effects on the nation as against campaign promises to address them head-on. It is high time performance of cabinet ministers are audited to know who is delivering in accordance with party programmes or set a fresh performance benchmark needed to keep them steadily on their toes. Governors and party leaders must be adequately consulted in the choices of their representatives, especially at cabinet level.
Equally exerting huge concern is the growing worry over the state of the economy, which has levied most states with huge burden in the shades of months of unpaid civil servants’ salaries, rising crime, dearth of job opportunities, as well as, poor infrastructure, among others. In the face of daily reports about successful loots recovery running into hundreds of millions and sometimes, billions, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the government’s anti-graft agency, not a few had wondered what use government is putting the recovered loots, where and who, is managing such infused funds so it will yield maximum returns on investment for good of nation. As common in all democracies, the people deserve to know as in so doing, they will build trust with the understanding that those enjoying the trust are accountable and understand the value placed on it.
Perhaps, sensitive as it is important and critically contributing to the increasing distrust and disunity in the nation, is the issue of restructuring as canvassed by major regions across the country. For decades, sections of the country have decried the level of development in the regions, attributing it to what they say is a sloppy design that left those everyone at the mercy of whoever controls the central government.
It is high time the president liaised with the National Assembly (NASS) to address with finality the subject matter of restructuring in the interest of Nigeria’s unity, which is currently threatened by the emergence of some secession-seeking ethnic-based groups like the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and Niger Delta Militants. The president should put necessary initiatives in motion towards uniting as well as healing perceived wounds that have continued to have chiselling effects on national unity.
For President Buhari, there is scarcely any better time to reciprocate the peoples’ undiluted love and solidarity than now, and doing so radically by providing far-reaching solutions to the plethora of problems besetting the nation at the moment. As a statesman, one expects that he would resist the temptation of trying to court Nigerians with the 2019 election in mind. All the nation needs is healing and bold initiatives that will dispel doubts as to his preparedness mentally and physically to fight on the side of the people and work for the majority in national interest as opposed to policy initiatives targeting the interests of a select few.
There is no gain emphasizing fact that having waited patiently for his return, Nigerians are understandably desperate to discover some remarkable differences or, better still, an infusion of wisdom and experience of a 74-year old that will separate between what was before his medical trip and his return. To do otherwise is to put the nation on edge.
Enough of mudslinging betwern the executive and the legislative. It is time to unite the party and position it to deliver on its promises. Let the work begin.