The presidential election has been won and lost (though the losers are saying it’s not over yet). The winner, incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari, is already making new promises on how he’ll run his second term. Though it’s unusual for promises to be made after winning an election, PMB recently said he will run an inclusive government and followed it up with a pledge to perform better in the next four years. With such a willingness to excel, I thought the president could do with my unsolicited advice. But I couldn’t think of something better to say than the advice I gave, in this column, on April 4th 2015.
I dusted it up and here goes:
Until that cold harmattan morning in December 1983, when a shrill but audible voice woke us up with the words ‘’I Brigadier Sani Abacha of the Nigerian Army….” I had never heard the name Muhammadu Buhari in my life. But a day after that early morning announcement, we got the new year present that our new leader was Major General Muhammadu Buhari.
I was amazed to hear that the new head of state had been a governor and a minister before then. I just never knew him. It wasn’t that teenagers like me, at the time, were totally ignorant of current affairs, it was just that with the seven-hour TV programming of those days, (television stations operated from 5pm to mid-night) many other programmes had to compete with the news for space. And believe me, the news wasn’t my favourite item.
As for newspapers, well we grew up on the New Nigerian, which my late father always brought home from work; and we later drifted into The Triumph, which my elder brothers always bought and read, but neither effort could make me an ardent follower of news and current affairs. I still wonder how I ended up a news person.
And so it was that by the time we learnt who our new leader was, I couldn’t put a face to the name. And when his face was finally unveiled at 5pm, when the TV stations opened, I couldn’t remember seeing it anywhere before. But like all people of my generation and above could recall, that face went ahead to give us the most unforgettable 20 months of our lives. There was so much to remember about General Buhari’s ‘fast and furious’ regime, but my most favourite memory was that of ‘Andrew’s’ checking-out advert.
You see, like his recent victory at the polls, the military’s return on December 31st 1983 was widely welcomed. Nigerians had grown disenchanted with the 2nd Republic, where corruption and ineptitude reportedly held sway. Having identified indiscipline as the root cause of all the social problems bedeviling Nigeria then, the Buhari/Idiagbon regime embarked on a societal re-orientation programme nationally. At the heart of this programme was a concerted media campaign aimed at sensitizing Nigerians to be patriotic, disciplined, clean and honest.
Several times each day, our radio and TV stations played jingles and dramatized messages towards achieving those goals. And this was how ‘Andrew’ got to win my heart. This character epitomized the typical Nigerian ‘been-to’. They are Nigerians who had lived abroad and acquired a fake accent, as well as a taste for life in advanced countries, where everything worked. Immaculately dressed in his elegant white suit, Andrew will be shown on the network service everyday, ‘swagging’ down the tarmac towards a waiting plane and announcing to fellow Nigerians, in his borrowed accent, the following.
‘I’m checking out. I’m tired of no water, no light, no good roads, no good services……etc’ but just after he exhausted his list of woes, a hand will land on his shoulder and advise him not to leave Nigeria because of the problems he listed. ‘We have no other country but Nigeria’ the unseen adviser will say, ‘Let’s stay here and salvage things together.’ This last part of the advice to Andrew was actually from an earlier speech by General Muhammadu Buhari, in which he told his compatriots ‘We have no country but Nigeria, we must remain here and salvage it together.’
I had no idea how popular Andrew was until he fell ill and just before his death two years ago, all the publicity by Nollywood about his health, reminded us that he was our famous Andrew. He died at a hospital in India. But while Andrew’s campaign was obviously a call for patriotism among Nigerians, there were many other jingles that encouraged orderliness and good conduct, as well as those that advocated the need to shun all corrupt practices.
Here, I particularly recall the words of veteran, Kano-based broadcaster Hajiya Lami Maccido, whose particular advert on CTV began with the question, ‘Do you know that hoarding is a national crime against humanity?’ This campaign was directed at marketers who hoarded essential commodities and created artificial scarcity in order to sell them to consumers at several times their going rate.
This whole national orientation programme went under the banner of the War Against Indiscipline- a special crusade by the administration. So keen were Nigerians to imbibe the dictates of this crusade, that after the initial enforcement, they learnt to willingly queue up to enter buses or buy things, to go to work on time, not to litter the streets unnecessarily (taxis and buses were forced to provide waste basket for passengers) and to mandatorily observe the month-end environmental sanitation exercise nationwide.
An old man, who once spoke to my former colleague Abubakar Dodo of Aminiya, told him about a refuse dump at the famous Kurmi market in Kano that had existed for fifty years. It was the kind of eyesore you see decade after decade and believe it will always be there till the Last Day, but it miraculously disappeared during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime because of the sanitation exercise. Talk about an effective national orientation.
So, as Nigerians jubilantly welcome back General Muhammadu Buhari as their leader, they expect nothing less than the focused, principled and quality leadership he displayed thirty years ago. Your Excellency, we accept that a fast and furious style is no longer appealing, and that you yourself promised to govern and not rule in your acceptance speech on Wednesday, but we still expect action. We expect immediate, hands-on approach to national issues because there is a whole lot to be done.
But the first step towards achieving this, General Sir, is to constitute a revolutionary ‘dream team’ of competent and patriotic lieutenants. Your cabinet must consist of Nigerians who will put our people first and themselves last. I know it will be too much to ask that they be as ascetic as you are. A former head of state without a foreign account and an Abuja mansion is like a fairy-tale in Nigeria, but you are living proof of that. So to have them in exactly your image will be impossible. But they can come close.
I advocate a ‘revolutionary’ dream team because the task ahead of your government calls for nothing less than a revolution in every Nigerian sector. With your insistence on declaration of assets before appointment and hopefully, your subsequent appointment of square pegs in square holes, this dream team will, in sha Allah, succeed. May Almighty Allah guide and guard you at all times. May He grant you good health and long life to make the desired impact on our nation.
Congratulations, Your Excellency.
(And my prophecy about Obj came to pass. I included this in the same column, on the same day).
Please keep Obasanjo at bay
Well, you know the saying Sir, success has many fathers. Already you have seen many former adversaries who are falling over themselves to wish you well, only because you have won the election. Some, like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, began to dance to your victory song even before the votes were counted. He believed he had a reason to dance because he could already see the current president about to bite the dust.
Do not trust him Sir. If Nigerians could sum up the cause of all their current travails in one word that word would surely be ‘Obasanjo.’ He single-handedly ended the PDP’s zoning formula, which led to the emergence of the clueless Jonathan and his disastrous leadership.
Obasanjo only fell out with his ‘anointed son’ when Jonathan began to show signs of independence and a refusal to listen to him….
Do not befriend him Your Excellency, do not trust him and do not consult him for advice. Remember that he also stole your mandate in 2003. A man with such a record cannot possibly be your friend. Keep him at bay, and keep Professor Osinbajo away from him too, otherwise your tag-team might be threatened. Olusegun Obasanjo is bad news any day.