Today — Tuesday — makes it 100 days since President Muhammadu Buhari left Nigeria for a second medical vacation in the United Kingdom, only in 2017. The president has spent more days in the UK than he has in his home country. He has undoubtedly broken many records and set new ones. And now, many Nigerians are worried about Nigeria with Buhari at the helm.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, renowned development economist with 25 years experience at the World Bank, always asks an interesting question, which I would like to ask today: Who is the president of Switzerland? Do you know? Have you heard of Doris Leuthard? If you need a name, hers is the name you get as the current president of Switzerland.
However, in the real sense, Switzerland does not really have a president. The country is led by a council of seven members who form what is regarded as the “collective head of state” of the Swiss Federation. One of the seven members (often the most senior) is named president for a year, while the entire council remains the “head of state”. And for 2017, the president is Doris Leuthard.
The local and international community really do not care much about who is head of state in Switzerland — as long as the country works. If Leuthard were in UK for 100 days, the Swiss government will run fine and smooth.
But this is not the case in Nigeria. Here, only one man is President, head of state, minister of petroleum resources and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and his name is Muhammadu Buhari. The constitution makes him a god, the all powerful. Not minding the fact that he is from Daura, Katsina, a stroke of his pen can allocate oil blocks in faraway Niger Delta. This “most high” in the Nigerian government has been away from the country for 100 days.
It is easy to get angry, say all sorts, make accusations and counter accusations, especially when one considers all that is happening within the country and the secrecy with which the president is being treated. So this week, while some Nigerians took up a peaceful protest to ask the president to resume or resign, I took some time out to visit President Buhari’s mind in London.
I put myself in his shoes and attempted to imagine what his thoughts may be. I love Nigeria, and till my breath departs, I will do all that I can to see this country develop and blossom into one of the best anywhere in the world. I also like to think President Buhari loves this country, and will see to it that he dies making Nigeria a better place for generations to come.
Speaking in New Delhi, India in October 2015, Buhari said when he’s gone he wants “to be remembered by Nigerians as a genuine patriot who not only fought the civil war but also fought corruption to standstill”. Since he took power at the centre, he has mounted an interesting anti-corruption drive. He has gone after judges, highly-placed politicians, enforced TSA against the will of many banks, and suspended his own SGF — however late.
With Buhari’s health standing in his way of making Nigeria what he always dreamt of, one would expect him to resign and let someone else lead the country. One would say, if Buhari loves Nigeria, he should just resign and let competent hands sail the country to the promise land. But have we thought perhaps like Buhari, who may be scared and uncertain of who becomes king after him, and how the person will lead Nigeria.
King Solomon, arguably the world’s wisest king, said: “I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned. And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless!”
Like Solomon, Buhari may hate having to cede power, permanently, to someone he does not know what they will do or become after he is gone. He may earnestly want to complete what he started, he may outrightly want to be the patriot who fought corruption to a standstill.
However, the president must remember that no man fights corruption by seemingly treating himself with tax payers money in a foreign land for about 150 days in total, and makes no disclosure to these people on the true state of his health and how much it costs the state.
President Buhari must remember that no matter how long he holds on, a day would come when he would have to let go. God forbid that the day comes earlier than expected. Buhari needs to trust that he is not the only man who can fix Nigeria, others too can do it. The hyenas and jackals seeking to feast on Nigeria may not be able to fix the country, but some other Nigerians can fix the country.
The president should invest his recuperating days in searching for that man or woman who he can trust to fix Nigeria, and acknowledge that fixing Nigeria is not his exclusive preserve.
The president must also acknowledge that he has become a distraction — however unintended — to governance in Nigeria. If we are not talking resume or resign today, we are discussing his medical bills, and who is paying for it. The day after, we are watching the battles of Titans hosted by the EFCC and the ministry of justice. We end our week chewing teasers and quiz from reputable international media outfits, who Buhari force to question Nigeria’s health system and political structure.
I do not want Buhari to just resume or resign, I just want the president to see beyond himself and his administration. At this pace, Buhari may just be remembered as the patriot, who not only fought the civil war, but also intended to fight corruption to a standstill.
Good intentions never change the world — acting them does!
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