What Buhari is in urgent need of rescue from is his illusions about his fellow citizens, his country and the world. It does not matter that he claimed to be abreast of developments at home and the other parts of the world while he was away. In lest than a week since his return, Buhari has shown that he is fixated on his misbegotten notions of governance that he had before his medical sojourn abroad. A graver danger is that these notions have degenerated as they have assumed a misanthropic character.
Those who thought that his ill health would have sobered him up and purged him of his self-created distance from the citizens have been sorely disappointed. He has come back home to reprimand them with a sledgehammer for intolerably going errant ways while he was away. After all, in his reckoning, most of those who want a redefinition of the terms for the co-existence of the people have not been confronted with the prospect of their shedding their blood for the survival and unity of the nation.
It is obvious that the 104 days the president spent in London for his medical treatment have almost irrevocably blurred his vision of reality. He is far removed from a world that is hewing to the path of the inevitability of the triumph of the will of the people. Or why would the president have the illusions of enthralling the nation to an authoritarianism of an antediluvian era? While Buhari was away and since he returned, the polity has been relentlessly assailed by agitations for restructuring . Nigerians want a better society, a society where even if injustice would not be totally eliminated, it would be reduced to the extent that it would not be the norm as it is today. The citizens want a society where their best efforts would be commensurately rewarded. They can no longer endure an order that consigns them to the socio-economic fringes whereas it is their sweat that leavens the society. But Buhari does not want to hear this. He has the illusion that while there could be such grievances about marginalisation, they are not as severe as to provoke the deracination of the socio-economic cum political order that breeds them.
The fact that Buhari in his broadcast pushed the responsibility of responding to this clamour for restructuring to the National Assembly and the Council of State does not mitigate his lack of understanding of the overarching need of the nation. He did not show that while he understood the desirability of a review of the polity, it would be a matter that he himself could not resolve. He rather dismissed it as a pre-occupation of some idle troublemakers.
Buhari has the illusion that threats of repression would make the people to stop complaining. But he should be told that Nigerians have got to a point that they cannot be repressed. Thus, his ordering his security chiefs to crush what he identified as threats to the peace of the nation would not solve any problems. His move would rather aggravate the crisis. For a people who have been oppressed for a long time have found their condition unbearable and they would not be afraid of any threat to their fighting for their freedom. Does he now expect the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to stop their protest against marginalisation because he has dropped Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s name and he is ready to hunt them with his security forces? Has military force not already been deployed in the north east without fully stopping Boko Haram from continuing to kill innocent citizens and destroy property? If Buhari really wants peace in the country, he should not be thinking of the option of the deployment of force now. There are factors that have now triggered the violence in the north east and agitations in the south east and other parts of the country. Let the government and the citizens find a way to stop the violence in an enduring way.
Buhari must wean himself off the illusion that he can ensure peace when those who are easily used as Boko Haram suicide bombers have no educational opportunities and others to profitably engage their lives and all this vacuum in their lives is filled with religious bigotry. Nor can he decree peace in the Niger Delta where the people are impoverished for the prosperity of some people who do not bear the pains of ecological disasters caused by oil exploration and exploitation. What Buhari should think of is a clear template of action that all stakeholders in the Nigerian project can trust to ensure justice for all. Such a template is envisaged in the calls for restructuring that Buhari is eager to squelch.
Buhari’s position can only quicken the dissolution of the country. But he can avert this grim prospect by seizing the moment to align with the aspirations of the citizens. This he can do be putting in place a machinery for dialogue with the citizens with a view to knowing what they really want. Many Nigerians share his view that the country should not be dismembered. But the tragedy is that Buhari does not understand the urgency of the situation in the country. That is why from the refrain while he was in London that he could govern (did they say rule?) from anywhere in the world, his people have resorted to the very ludicrous one of the president being free to lead from home because his office has been rendered not habitable by an invasion of rodents. As he is governing from home, Buhari should use his being on the social media to appropriately appreciate the agitations which point to what the citizens really want in their country.
Perhaps, the aspirations of the citizens are strange to him because while he was in London, he was exposed to channels of information that were different from those the rest of the world accessed. His channels of information then were probably those that told him that only some irresponsible citizens at home were the ones calling for restructuring.
As long as the president refuses to do what the people want, he should expect to see them cross what he considered as the red lines in the days ahead. If it is the people who determined these red lines in the first place, they are also at liberty to see them as safe places. Or is the president claiming that he drew the red lines for the people without their input? Since the citizens have now realised what their problems are, they must not be intimidated from insisting on their being solved. They must seize the opportunity since it has become clear that their leaders would not spare a thought for them. They must explode the president’s illusion that the citizens would easily give up their agitations, especially once their leaders are bribed.
Forget the official position that Buhari came back from London on his own after his doctors had given him the clearance to do so. The fact is that there was no way Buhari could have remained in London in the face of the agitations for his return. In other words, the same way the citizens’ protests at home and abroad against his continued stay in London forced him to return to Nigeria, the citizens’ demand for restructuring can eventually compel him and others like him who are opposed to the restructuring to jettison their resistance.
By Paul Onomuakpokpo