“Buhari can contribute more to the Nigerian political space by keeping out of it. For starters he can channel the energies misdirected at four election attempts so far (2003 – 2015) and his cult following to mobilize resources to build Almajiri Schools for the destitute children. He will be a suitable ambassador of conventional education to those kids, seeing that the kids will be less suspicious of a Muslim advocate of Western education than the Christian GEJ.”
In the days leading up to the presentation of the National Merit Awards, some Nigerians raised eyebrows when they learnt that the President’s steward was nominated for the award. The award, they reasoned, was meant for a higher purpose. Some calm was restored when word got out that the man, Mr. Onuh Isaac Michael had served about nine Heads of State/Presidents dating back to President Shagari. Such a person deserved an award without rancour, right? Wrong! There are still differing opinions on the president’s motivation behind that award. But if there’s any worthy award recipient most political observers agree on, it has to be Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Most people would agree that General Buhari deserves an award for the person that has contested the Nigerian Presidential elections for the highest number of times in our history.
And he has run, not on clearly spelt out campaign points, but on posturing and theatrics. The public thought they had seen the height of his drama at some point in 2011. How wrong they were. Appearing on a TV programme, Buhari cried, asking Nigerians to vote for him to bring change to the country. I asked; is this how campaigns are done in today’s Nigeria? Whatever happened to issue based campaigns? And what change is Buhari promoting? Hasn’t the country seen his notion of change in 1983, when he and his buddies overthrew a democratically elected government and introduced army brutality to the national psyche? This talk of change coming from Buhari without telling us the specifics of how he will achieve such change is getting tiring.
I think that Buhari has no manifesto to present to Nigerians because he has no clear idea on how to solve the problems of the current decade. Take his promise to fight corruption, which is his main campaign point. Apart from parroting the usual, ‘I’ll fight corruption’, the General has not told the Nigerian public how his strategy will be different from President Jonathan’s approach. The current administration’s anti-corruption strategy emphasizes removing the openings for corruption by privatizing inefficient and corruption-prone public utilities, and stopping murky government interventions like the fuel subsidy programmes. I believe that this is the most sustainable approach to fighting corruption in the long term. Any approach that relies too heavily on a personality cult, which Buhari seems to favour, will not work in the long term. So how will Buhari fight corruption? Maybe, just maybe, he has told his supporters in private. Perhaps even he has no idea how to go about it. I shudder to think of that prospect. Beyond singing about fighting corruption, Buhari has not told us his detailed plan for education, agriculture, housing, power, physical infrastructure like roads and rail transport. The current administration has an ongoing policy on these sectors and is doing creditably well in many areas. Would Buhari’s “populist” posturing allow him to administer the needful programmes, even when such programmes are temporarily unpleasant but make good business sense to the economy? Would Buhari even understand what makes good business sense in this decade? He showed that he didn’t even understand the basics of running an economy like Nigeria in 1985.
I consider the Almajiri Schools project to be one of this administration’s most innovative programmes. I told a friend of mine who is a former supporter of Buhari to take the Lagos – Kano train built by President Jonathan and visit Kano. A notable feature of that state are thousands of little children begging for leftover food. These children are called Almajiri and number in millions across the North, including in Buhari’s home state of Katsina. They present a heavy development burden on our nation and could grow into a ready recruitment pool for the terrorism of the future. The “Almajiri syndrome” dates back to Gen. Buhari’s time as Head of State. The all-powerful Head of State did absolutely nothing to alleviate the misery of these children. Under President Jonathan, hundreds of Almajiri schools have been built to include conventional education alongside traditional Islamic education to give the kids a fighting chance of surviving in the future economy.
I do not think that Buhari ignored the almajiri problem during his time as head of state because he was heartless. I believe that he didn’t do anything about it because he simply lacked the imagination to find a solution to the problem. It is this relatively lower intelligence and imagination exhibited by Buhari compared to Jonathan that makes me choose President Jonathan. Buhari can contribute more to the Nigerian political space by keeping out of it. For starters he can channel the energies misdirected at four election attempts so far (2003 – 2015) and his cult following to mobilize resources to build Almajiri Schools for the destitute children. He will be a suitable ambassador of conventional education to those kids, seeing that the kids will be less suspicious of a Muslim advocate of Western education than the Christian GEJ. This should keep the retired General productively occupied. Moreover, serving young children should at the very least serve as atonement for the serious crime of unseating a democratically elected government and therefore disrupting the very democracy, which he is now actively looking to participate in.
Akaebube is a political and socio-economic affairs analyst. He writes exclusively for BREAKING TIMES every week in the column, Game of Thrones. He can be followed on Twitter at @Akaebube
The opinions expressed by columnists in the published feature – Game of Thrones do not reflect the “OPINION and or “POLICY” of BREAKING TIMES as an online news media publishing establishment. Words on this page remain at all times, the literary expression of the writers’ creative imagination.