E O EkeMonday, July 15, 2013




nyone with experience of practising surgery will know that once you decide to cut, you must cut out everything that needs to be cut which you can cut safely and that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. The Igbos have a proverb that says that a man should not stand on the road alone from morning to night. Embedded in the political culture of Britain is the fact that no single individual, no matter how strong, honest, intelligent, educated, rich or powerful, is indispensable. This is why no single person in Britain is above the law and one of the reasons why some Nigerians believe that Buhari and all the members of his generation who are still in Nigerian politics do not have to matter in the new Nigerian dispensation. They have had his time. They have tried and failed. For more than 50 years, they have been in charge, Nigeria has moved from good to bad and now worse. How many times will a man do the same thing and get it wrong for people to know he cannot do it? How many times will a man look up to see the sky?

They had their opportunity at the age most of us are now, and should give way for a new vision. Buhari in particular has earned his place in the history of Nigeria, what else does he want? As Chinua Achebe said, there are antelopes which do not know when to stop dancing. It does not mean that they are not good dances. It is just that the music has stopped and they must leave the stage.

As A Nigerian, I know that some people believe Buhari is the nearest we have to a political saint. I donít. Not because he is not less corrupt than Obasanjo, Babangida, Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku etc., but because people like him, with military training and strong religious conviction whose loyalties are first and foremost to their religion and then ethnic group, do not have the liberal mind that enable democracy and liberty to flourish. History has taught us that they invariable become divisive figures who split opinions and are unable to unite the country. Nigerians should begin to pay attention to psychological profiling of leaders, it is seldom wrong and actually more accurate prediction of characters and what an individual is likely to do in the future, than praying about it.

People like Buhari, with huge sense of entitlement and overvalued ideas about their honesty may impose law and order with fear and coercion, but destroy freedom, stifle creativity and innovation through excessive controlled informed my strong religious world views. They are more compelled by their religious conviction and what they believe is right than by the evidence, logic law and the constitution. They are honest and religious, but always a threat to individual liberty. Like Obasanjo, they believe only in doing what they believe is right. They place their personal judgement over and above the law and the will of the people. This is the danger of giving power to people like Buhari.

They are dictators, either in military uniforms or Armani suits and do not believe in dialogue and debate, but in hierarchy, order and obedience without compliant. Buhari should explain his role in the Islamisation of north Nigeria, the single most important development that will finally lead to the breakup of Nigeria. Nigerians should know his role in the inciting of violence after the last presidential election and explore if this was a tacit support to Boko Haram before he is allowed to contest as a presidential candidate in the next election if his party nominates him. Nigerians should demand to know why he thinks it is right for a part of a secular democracy to declare Islamic state contrary to the constitution of the country. Nigerians should insist that he explains his stand on the current structure of Nigeria and his stand on true federalism before he is allowed to contest.

Buhari is not the messiah Nigerians are waiting for. Those who are softening the ground for him to become the president of Nigeria are misguided and short sighted. At best, they are secterian and do not care about the rest of Nigeria as long as they have opportunity to loot. They do not seem to understand the damage people like Buhari can do to democracy, and freedom of thoughts. Nigerians have better qualified and younger Nigerians who are more dissociated in their religious beliefs and more tolerant of differences and diversity than Buhari. Is it not it ironic that people will believe that the future of a country lies with those who played a part in its destruction? The role of Buhari in instigating violent unrest in the north after the last election is yet to be investigated. His complicity in the infamous 52 suit cases is yet to be determined. His differential treating of politicians after he overthrew the elected government of Shehu Shagari on the basis of religion and ethnicity is still too fresh in the memory of the victims of his ethnic and religious discriminations. Buhari should retire from Nigeria politics as Babangida has done, if he truly loves Nigeria. This will be a more honourable way to help Nigeria. His political marriage with Tunubu is marriage of convenience, forged within a religious convergence in the presence of different moral attitudes and cultural dispositions with the only aim of gaining power. Like all such marriages of convenience, once the power is gained, the fault lines will open with its intractable conflicts which will not auger well for democracy and liberalism in Nigeria.

Those who think that in an imperfect democracy like Nigeria, that peaceful change can come from ex dictators who laid the foundation of some of the problems do yet understand that leopards do not change their skin colour. It is the misfortune of Africa that its leaders often do not know when to leave the stage. This idea that Buhari will bring about sudden change in Nigeria is magical thinking. His election may placate Boko Haram and they may lay down their arms for a while only to pick them up again when a non-Muslim is elected to prove that peace can only reign in Nigeria when a Muslim is president. There are just too many variable that would suggest that he will not be in the same situation he was when he forced Nigerian to queue with Ďkoboko. Idiagbo is no more and Nigeria is a democracy with a functioning legislative arm albeit a corrupt one and there is no more decree 4. Buhari is a strong man, Nigeria needs strong institutions.

The future of Nigeria resides in electing a detribalised and religious liberal minded person who recognises that real political change can happen in Nigeria within the existing institutions like the national assembly and able to work with such institution to bring about the change Nigerian needs. Nigeria needs a leader who will recognise the urgency in transforming Nigeria into a true Federal state with more powers devolved to the regions to develop at their pace. Nigeria needs a leader who will prioritise the building of strong institutions to hold strong men accountable. Nigeria needs a leader who is passionate about eliminating poverty, addressing inequality of opportunities and reducing the cost of government and powers of politicians and Buhari would seem not to be that leader. To believe otherwise would not only suggest that one is misguided but also naÔve. Those who are calling for change through a national conference are wasting their time. Instead, they should be working very hard to elect to the house of assembly in 2015, men and women who understand how to use legislation to change the society. People dialogue within the freedom they have. A people cook with whatever they can burn. In some places people cook with cow dung and in others with solar energy. This is the reality of life and Nigerians need to work with what we have with the view to transforming it into what we want. Anything apart from this, is self-deception which will make violent revolution attractive.

Having said these, I may be minded to vote Buhari, if I am compelled to choose between bad and worse. If he presents a better manifesto with detailed plan of how to tackle institutionalised corruption in Nigeria, bring corrupt politicians to justice, reduce the cost of government to about 40% of recurrent expenditures, end the travelling of Ghana must go bag full of Naira , dollars and pound notes between Banks and Aso rock and various state government houses, build strong institution, grant university autonomy and end constant strikes by university teachers by granting universities the autonomy they need to continue in what they know how best to do, , address religious prejudice and bigotry, Fight toxic ethnic nationalism, create jobs, widen opportunity and participation, end armed robbery, modernise the police force, end kidnapping, liberate Nigeria from criminal leadership, etc., I may be minded to give him a chance if the alternative is less attractive. However, Buhari is a man whose loyalty is first and foremost to his religion and ethnic group and he has to work extremely hard to convince the likes of me that a democratic Nigeria will flourish under his leadership without further attempt to islamise the country through the pursuit of moral objectives informed by his religious beliefs.

Lastly, it is premature in the political evolution of Nigeria to dream of a Christian/Christian or south/South presidential tickets when religion and ethnicity are still strong determinants of political outcomes. Nigerian Muslims and northerners have to become as tolerant as their Christian and southern counterparts for this to happen. Christians accepted a Muslim/ Muslim ticket of Abiola and Tofa. Would Muslims have accepted a Christian ticket of Ekwueme and Solomon Lair? It is likely that if Buhari is chosen as the Presidential candidate of APC, he will look for a Christian Igbo or Yoruba running mate. With his penchant for appointing members of his family and close friends into offices, and the rumour that his wife is planning to run for governor in Lagos state, Tunubu will be unlikely to deliver majority of Yoruba votes to APC. The result will probably be that Christians both in the north, south, east and west will probably vote for Jonathan because they would naturally prefer a Christian president instead of a vice president given a choice and majority of Muslims in the north will vote for Buhari with the likely result that Buhari will lose again with small margin and will once again head to the court.

To demonstrate how ethnicity and religion distorts democracy. Take for instance Anambra state. The state may vote for Chris Ngige but end up voting for Jonathan in the presidential election. Therefore, a presidential candidate must make effort to cut across all ethnic and interest groups. If Buhari truly means well for Nigeria, and believes that he needs to become president to change Nigeria for good, he should spend most of his time in East and west, actually meeting the people and attempting to convince them that he has the solution to the Nigerian quagmire. He does not need to do much campaign in the north because those who will vote for him will vote for him no matter how better the alternative.

There is an urgent need for Nigerian to remove religion and ethnicity from its politics and embrace politics of values, and principles. At the moment, Nigerian politics is a balancing act of ethnicity and religion because they are still the strongest constructs on which Nigerians segregate and majority of people decide on whom to vote for at elections. Nigeria does not need a leader who will make these constructs more relevant. This dream of a Nigeria, where reason and evidence will inform decision is possible but we must all work the dream.

E O Eke is qualified in medicine. At various times he has been a General medical practitioner, Medical missionary, Medical Director and senior medical officer of health in Nigeria. He specializes in child, Adolescent and adult psychiatry and lives in England with his family. His interest is in health, religion philosophy and politics. He cares for body and mind.