By Bala Ibrahim
In the countdown to the 2023 general elections, the country seems to be witnessing a general lack of contentment with the performance of the government at the centre, and all the accusing fingers are pointing at Muhammadu Buhari, the man elected to pilot the ship to the proverbial El Dorado, the imaginary place of immense wealth and comfort.
Cries are coming from every segment of the society, including those that were ab initio supportive of the government, and all the accusing fingers are pointing at President Muhammadu Buhari.
I don’t blame the complainants, because promises were made and the people have the right to optimism, but I disagree with the methodology of making a defendant only in Buhari or solely shifting the blame to the doorstep of the President.
Indeed, the President has a portion of the blame to carry, the portion of which I would also highlight. But for now, I would say Nigerians are peculiarly good at the depreciation of appreciation, especially in the dying days of an administration.
Some of the complaints are genuine, particularly the ones that rest on the original promises made by Buhari before he was elected into office. Two key areas were hammered upon by him, viz, corruption and insecurity. And because of his antecedent of being a former no-nonsense General with an excellent anti-corruption posture, the consensus was that, within a short period of time, these two vices would vacate Nigeria.
Although as the defendant, the President has not openly admitted to making some mistakes, methinks, some of the complainants are incognizant of the meaning of honest mistakes. Any mistake made without the intention of causing harm, the kind of mistake that anyone could do in similar circumstances, is an honest mistake.
Even though Nigerian law has given President Buhari immunity against prosecution from other mistakes, nature has not been so kind to him in other areas. It has not given him the protection against the commission of honest mistakes. So, the President is liable and naturally answerable to the people, because they have a legitimate expectation.
But even with such liability, I feel the President should not feel crestfallen, because, Nigeria has made name in the depreciation of appreciation, particularly towards the end of tenure of any regime, or the end time of an officer in office. More so, for any officer that comes with certain qualities that are at variance with two peculiar trademarks outlined by the late Danmasanin Kano, Dr. Yusuf Maitama Sule.
The late Danmasani said there is a Hausa saying that, one only gets a sustained ovation, or enthusiastic show of appreciation from the public, through the exhibition of two attributes, viz, the trait of being a giver, and the peculiarity of conviviality.
In other words, for Nigerians to count you amongst the faultless, you must be generous with your wealth, regardless of the source, or legitimacy of the wealth. You also need to be generous with friendliness, regardless of your disposition.
Again, unlike in Economics, where appreciation is viewed as the rise in value of an asset based on certain factors in the market, in politics, particularly Nigerian politics, appreciation is mostly directly proportional to the politician’s propensity to give. The more you give, the more you are hailed. And precisely that’s the reason the country cannot correct the calamity caused to it by the cancer of corruption.
Unfortunately for Buhari, nature had moulded him with some special sensors of morality, that see the characteristic of unjustifiable generosity from a different perspective. According to his former Chief of Staff, Supreme Military Council, late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari is always disturbed by the precarious position of Nigeria, such that he wonders why people are unnecessarily laughing and smiling with deception. For people in positions of responsibility, their moods should reflect the reality of the situations, which in Nigeria, is more of angst than ecstasy.
By nature, Buhari is a paragon of humility and self-effacement, two qualities that combined to make criminal generosity a taboo to him. Hence the propensity for prudence, which makes others refer to him as being mean or miserly. But those close to him, or those that had the opportunity of meeting him under dispassionate circumstances, including yours truly, would attest to his sincere and genuine generosity.
For such people, there is no depreciation of appreciation for the man. They are always quick to give him the benefit of doubt, by relying on the idiom of an honest mistake.
The depreciation in the appreciation of President Buhari’s performance can be on anything but corruption. Yes, PMB can be found guilty of such slip-ups as the failure to diligently keep an eye on those he assigned responsibility, which amounts to a failure that is coequal to ill-performance.
Many appointees of the government have been accused of underhandedness, but to date, there is no proportionate penalty meted out, nor the visible sights of heads rolling in places of work. Yes, in person, the President is clinically clean of corruption, but he has a minus.
The double standard on the fight against corruption, where the convicted were pardoned and set free, with the prospects of having their loot returned, the reluctance to fire underperforming National security adviser, alongside the refusal to act tough on some erring appointees, are adding to the minus. The case of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawan, who was accused of serious corruption, but instead of languishing in jail, he is allowed the freedom of roaming around, and making provocative statements that could compound the country’s problems.
An Islamic scholar has put it this way, -“for there to be a righteous leadership, there must be a righteous followership, because it is from amongst the followers that the leaders emerge, hence the phrase, every nation gets the leader it deserves”.
Pursuant to the recent calls for the President to be impeached because of the public’s perception of his poor performance, I read on the social media, a long shopping list of breaches perpetrated by the government of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, almost all of them impeachable offenses, but there was not a single attempt to impeach him, and the reason is simple, -the treasury was widely opened for all kinds of looters.
So, the bottom line is, in Nigeria, as long as there is the flow of slush funds, the government is unlikely to face the depreciation of appreciation. And Buhari cannot be an exception.