President Buhari and his test of integrity

03

By David Oluwasegun Ogundipe

I never thought that I would write on President Buhari this soon. I believe in the power of time and what it can achieve for the longsuffering individuals who know that there is no overnight success. We cannot turn our heads and pretend that the business of nation building equals the instant reaction that follows taking a lit match stick close to a cylinder of gas- it takes time to build, destruction is the only thing that is fast in coming to being. However, to every general rule, there must be an exception, so the need to write. Patience is a virtue, silence is dignifying- only if they come to play when the circumstance demands.

For the record, readers who have followed my columns for the last three years must have noticed my hard knocks on the head of former President, Mr. Jonathan. In the month preceding his last in office, I wrote a piece with the most terrible title one can imagine about anyone to usher him to rest. I had called unprejudiced Nigerians to join me in feasting and celebrating the funeral of President Jonathan. I didn’t make any public presumption whether he would be returned to Aso villa or Otu-Oke, I only had the conviction that his political death was long overdue and I buried him, after that, he got buried for real. Here is a revelation, if Mr. Jonathan presents himself at the poll next election with a convincing manifesto and I perceive that he has repented, I will cast my vote for him if my conviction shows that he is the best candidate. After all, Judas did wake after three days, Jonathan can do the same politically- just like President Buhari did after almost three decades. Most Nigerians did not cast their votes for President Buhari because they wanted him at the last poll, they did because they didn’t want Jonathan- the enemy of our enemy became our friend. May we review our friend’s test of integrity jointly?

To me, President Buhari started his role as a President when he made that popular remark- I belong to everybody, I belong to nobody. I needed to trust him and those words sealed that. Nonetheless, it was a troubling cerebration when it was revealed that the appointment of Ministers shall be determined in September. Personally, I perceived three months as dedicated to an unwarranted wait- even developed countries act with the conviction that a stitch in time saves nine, but then, I suspected that President Buhari had an ace up his sleeve. Sure, he does, but unfortunately, as reported by the press, his reason beats my imagination- he needed time to identify people of integrity. Lately, appointments have stumbled upon appointments, and this has left questions begging for answers. As for me, I have no issue with the appointments of Northeners basically, but then, that is me and ours is a nation of over 178 million people. So, should we hide under the guise of being politically informed and more enlightened than others to see their cries as mere rants?

Presently, Northeners have been appointed to occupy over seventy percent of the occupied offices. We may adopt logic to say that credibility shouldn’t be sacrificed for necessity- as long as they will perform, let it be so. But why must the beat and song change now? Nigerians supported the candidacy of President Buhari beyond the lenses of region, religion and ethnicity- we believed that Nigeria is not a religion enterprise, an ethnic entity or a regional kiosk that must be left at the control of selected ones from a ‘clan’. That paid off- Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Efik, Ijaw, Nupe, Tifi, Ibiobio etc, etc were for President Buhari at the polls, how come that is not reflecting in the appointments so far? In the words of the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, he did admit that the appointments are not yet balanced. We may wait with ripples of hope that ministerial appointments will justify the balance we clamour for, however, is it not necessary to reason with those who feel that the most sensitive offices are being given to our brothers and sisters from the North? While sheer ignorance or bitterness might have made many include the offices of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, President of the Court of Appeal and Chief Justice of the Federal High Court in the list of the perceived sentiment in appointment, it should be noted that the most senior members in the Courts are constitutionally entitled to be the heads of the Court. So, it is no exclusive preserve of Mr. President.

During campaigns and interviews, President Buhari has stated that he is a converted democrat, and that he abhors corruption and nepotism, supporters have made an excuse of integrity in choice for him. At this point, it gets more baffling how seven to eight slots in every ten will go to a side and the others will scramble for two to three. The test of integrity in a reasonable man’s test does not seek to search for an angel within men, its purpose is to identify the one who can still manage to stand tall while temptations and challenges force others to bow. President Buhari does not appear to be in the know of this- his test of integrity is strict, alien and seems to make individuals pass through the ethnic furnace- if President Buhari were God and his test holds way on the last day- we will all rot in hell. Nigerians are beginning to feel the same way President Buhari felt when he lost at the polls three times- that we are misguided by ethnicity, religion and beliefs. Hence, we didn’t consider his credibility and the interest of the nation. Now that we did in May, do deserve to be paid in our own coin?

Yes, integrity matters. I also hold that the task ahead requires credible individual whose selfish interest cannot override our collective one, but integrity and credibility are not genetic factors in one ethnic group or people- Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and others have it. It is not hard to figure that out, especially when one is in a status where a snap of finger would make things happen. President Buhari should know that Nigeria is not Katsina, Lagos, Enugu or Rivers, Nigeria is a nation whose success is not destined to come by the coming together of one ethnic group to make things happen. There are diversities, but it takes a good leader to exploit that to achieve unity and catapult us to fulfilment. At the last poll, we forsook a likely impossibility for an unconvincing possibility, we live with the hope of our choice proving its mettle. Mr. President, I made out this piece with the conviction that you did not forget your pledge- you are for everybody and you are for nobody.

David Oluwasegun Ogundipe

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