President Muhammadu Buhari’s long walk along with the nation from decades of decadence characterized by despondency, justified dark cynicism founded on unrelieved, dashed hopes, failed promises and dysfunctional governance to widely ad massively held hope of redemptive national transformation began on May 29, 2015. This was the momentous occasion of his Inauguration as the second Nigerian to ascend the seat of power in the nation for the second time in his life. The occasion itself was colourful with unprecedented attendance of an array dignitaries from the nation and the international communities. Never have we been visited by so many African and world leaders, all coming with so much expressed eagerness to support our quest for socio-economic regeneration as the country that should and must lead Africa as the continent of the twenty-first century. Besides the spectacle and resplendence of the outing, the man of the moment, President Buhari himself, rose to the occasion, leaving no one in doubt about his physical and mental preparedness to face the daunting challenges ahead of him and the nation-challenges that he and his party, the APC, eloquently lured the citizens of this country into believing that they are ready, willing and able to face on behalf of the anxious electorate. There is therefore ample reason for the nation to celebrate, albeit with cautious optimism, given the perennial history of let- down and wrecked dreams bequeathed to it by her generations of leaders, whom Buhari defined, aptly, as spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house’ whose founding fathers erected on solid foundations.
I have mentioned President Buhari’s physical and mental alertness and readiness for the task ahead. Given the issues raise around his advanced age and thus alleged physical infirmity to cope with the job ahead, it is not simplistic to draw attention to his springy pace when alerting from his car at the Inauguration venue, fast ahead of his spouse. His nearly one hour of standing, with near rigid immobility and statue-like erectness at the parade ground must clear any doubts about the state of his physique and readiness for the physical rigour demanded by the office of the President of Africa’s most populous and powerful nation. Running Nigeria is no less tortuous, no less troublesome, no less demanding than the United States. It gratifies to find a physical evidence of the physical ability of our President for the task ahead.
As to the mental health and alertness of the President, we need not go beyond a brief analysis of the Inauguration Speech for now. Radiating and resonating through the delivery of the Speech, which was an exercise in precision, brevity and point-device, are compassion, commitment and foresight. If you were expecting flamboyance and rhetorical elegance, you will have to look elsewhere from an Address that was straight-forward in delving into the critical areas of national anxiety and the approaches and strategies that will be deployed in handling them. If you were expecting to find oratorical dexterity and fine persuasiveness, you will certainly miss the import of a speech which was in a hurry to address the issues on the mind of a change-prone audience, and for whom colourful niceties would be a deception. I have talked about compassion as a critical factor of the Speech. It rang eloquent grace, a relieving spirit of appreciation and a palpable power of forgiveness. His acknowledgment of the Statesmanship of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan and the understanding of the culture of democratic competitiveness evolving from the action of his political opponents are re-assuring values from a man whose antecedents as a former military ruler and his Spartan credentials had bred fear in those carrying huge skeletons in their cupboards. President Jonathan could wish for no better soft-landing than was justifiably offered him by his successor when he acknowledged his ‘display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are.’ This is not a political statement merely as President Buhari went on to anticipate a model of political conduct from the man he has just garlanded in a superlative credit. This gracious crediting is also a demonstration of the man’s own undoubted qualities as a statesman with and a virtuous pedigree. This is further evidenced in his eagerness to disabuse the minds of those who ‘have privately voiced fears’ that Buhari has come to ‘pay off old scores’ assuring the nation that in the democracy that he has come to understand and comprehend, a long walk away from his previous credentials as a military dictator, ‘The past is a prologue.’
Some analysts have been uncomfortable with this sweeping grace and his seeming uncritical embracement and all-inclusive offering of an olive branch as a preferred democratic culture. These who express this sentiment have called on him to put those who have been in the trenches with him these many years since when he had sought power in the centre at the top of the scale of compensation and appreciation before those who have been vanquished, including those who did not vote for him. If anyone is in any doubt regarding the superiority of Buhari’s intended benevolence in power as a tributary to the mainstream of his sense of purpose and independence of mind and action, let them rewind to, perhaps the most memorable quote of his Address; I am for everybody and I am for nobody.’
All of these democratic attributions are proof of the President’s determination to proceed with governance along acceptable and accepted standards of democratic practice. They do not in fact deter from the ethos of his mien-his integrity, resoluteness, accountability, zero-tolerance for corruption and his intention to practice in accordance with the rule of law and the tenets of justice. Embodied in the Address of course are the core issues of his mandate; commitment to the restoration of general security of the country presently threatened by Boko Haram, the Niger Delta lapsing Amnesty terms, wave of other criminalities such as kidnapping and armed robbery, including other threat lines to national security such as cattle rustlings and herdsmen/farmers conflicts. He announced in terse and firm terms his government’s intendment to ‘erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined’ security architecture.’ Unemployment and the overhaul of the entire social economy as well as the deteriorating state infrastructure were also addressed with mere hints on how these concerns will be accomplished. For an Inauguration Address, there are barely sufficient indications that the President and his Government intends to embark on the long and tortuous walk to a democratic governance aimed at national redemption and regeneration. The strategies and structures for doing these are yet to unfold and must be done without much delay as the nation can hardly wait!
There is thus enough reason to celebrate, with care and caution. So long!!