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10 Aug 2017

Buhari: Beyond 'Resume or Resign'

Punch columnist, Abimbola Adelakun has dropped an insightful piece about the Nigerian polity as pressure mounts on ailing President Muhammadu Buhari to either resume or resign from office.
President Buhari
The President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has embarked on a campaign for another presidential term that will begin in 2018. Mugabe is 93 years old and by the time the new term he will most likely win rolls to an end, he will be 100. Mugabe is not only old and frail, he has long expired.

Senescence has longed robbed him of any pretence to vigour and agility. He stumbles and falls in public, and dozes off at important meetings.

Lately, Mugabe was photographed snoozing at his campaign rally while his ambitious wife marketed him to the audience. That image of him was pathetic; he cut the figure of a narcissistic old clown lacking in either self-respect or dignity. Mugabe is all washed-up, but he still will not pack it up and go home. A man shorn of decency like Mugabe will contest the presidency until death does him apart from the office. His avowed supporters (led by his wife, Grace) insist that even if he was too frail to keep up with the campaign, they will place him on a stretcher and transport him to campaign grounds. Given the level of ludicrousness that goes on in the African countries that pretend to practise democracy, we know that although Mugabe might have exhausted his leadership capability, he will remain president until nature says otherwise.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Mugabe share unsettling similarities: Both are African leaders who tie down their nations to their infirmities. Buhari is currently sick and has been out of the country he supposedly leads for more than 90 days. Soon, it will be six months in total since Buhari has walked out of his job to take a “medical vacation.” Nobody seems to know what ails him and none is certain when he will return. We have been told it is disrespectful to even ask what ails him and so here we are, in total darkness.

Like Mugabe, Buhari too is old and spent, and his ability to run a complex Nigeria with the necessary philosophical depth and ideological perspicacity is doubtful. While I do not primarily blame age for the shortcomings of Buhari’s administration, there is no doubt that his inability to live up to the demands of the realities of modern governing can be linked to the inflexibility that sometimes comes with age.

The more I look at Mugabe and his desperate attempts to hold on to power, the more I fear for the future of Nigeria under an equally desperate Buhari. Who says that come 2019, Buhari too will not attempt to run for a second term even if they campaign for him from his hospital bed in London? Let us not dismiss the possibility by merely assuming such level of absurdity is beyond his sponsors. Worse things have happened in Nigeria, and that will not be an aberration. We should also not underplay the possibility by waving it away that “this will not be our portion.” We need to anticipate that possibility and actively pre-empt it. It is only a matter of time before his paid Crusaders seize the airways to begin the raucous noise of campaign that will deafen us to the real issues that concern our lives as Nigerians.

That is why the campaign against Buhari’s prolonged absence should not be limited to the two options of “resume or resign.”

But first, I must commend the efforts of people like Charles Oputa (aka Charly Boy) who have stood up to compel Buhari to take either of these options particularly at a time when the so-called “civil society” industry has all but gone into recession. The fact that these protesters were attacked by Nigeria’s cowardly police for exercising their civic rights shows that they have rattled the corrupt establishment that does not want to be called to account. Charly Boy and all those who joined the protest deserve our gratitude.

This group, by rising to this noble task, started a conversation. Thankfully, more people are beginning to take up the refrain. We must maximise this moment for collective good.

However, “resume or resign” should not exhaust the limits of our options, so we do not let Buhari’s enablers waste our time by playing cat and mouse. What if Buhari is not in the position to resume for another one year or more because he is physically depreciated, mentally enervated, or too psychologically depleted to be President? The constitution does not stipulate how long he can be away from his duty post. The implication is that if the other arms of government do not consider this a bad enough precedent, he can stay out till 2019 while his aides and enablers continue to argue that by fulfilling all constitutional righteousness, he has no further obligations to the country. What if they engage us in such rigmarole for the next two years, only for us to wake up and realise another election period has come and we are unprepared because we spent so much time chin wagging over the ailing President?

Calling for his resignation has no guaranteed result either. Buhari seems to me like an entitled Messiah; one who thinks Nigeria owes him the Presidency. He acts like his stay in office – no matter what it costs the nation – is sufficient payoff for the moral capital he brings to the office. Even if Buhari decides to do the needful, he may still be prevented from taking such decision by members of the political class that surround him. These people, the moochers and the leeches, who have turned the Nigerian Presidency into their privilege will sit by his bedside and narrate tales of how he cannot afford to betray those who love him to eternity by resigning from office.

Then, there is an existing army of followers who see Buhari as a religion. Their zealous defence of him is akin to fundamentalism. One cannot rule out religious and ethnic sentiments from the fire burning in the belly of these folks, but their devotion to him is a cult of personality. They are convinced of their own shrewdness in choosing Buhari and they can hardly be persuaded to put the nation before their small-mindedness. Those are willing to vote him again and again, no matter how farcical his government becomes by 2019. One should not underestimate the devotion of his followers otherwise they will handcuff the nation to a dead elephant come 2019.

So, beyond “resume or resign,” there should, therefore, be a third option: A plan towards a post-Buhari Nigeria. Some of those who are keeping quiet over Buhari’s condition have chalked it up to strategic withdrawal. They do not want to be seen as harrying Buhari to death so that his deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, can be ushered into power. While Osinbajo may be better for the health of Nigeria than Buhari, we also should not take it for granted that the man who acts so diffidently around power is the visionary leader Nigeria urgently needs. He may just turn out to be another Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who depended on the myth of “goodluckism” to run the engine of his government.

Presently, nobody has an idea how long this present darkness will last and rather than expend all the time on Buhari, we should plan beyond him. Now is the time to seek candidates that will stand in 2019 and direct our zeal towards the fundamental issues that should shape 2019 electioneering before Buhari’s devotees take over with their noisomeness.

If it happens that come 2019, we find ourselves stuck between the Hobson choice of Buhari and Governor Ayodele Fayose (or any of the jokers in his ilk), that means another four years of ineptitude. Why go through four years of pain when we are not masochists?

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