President Muhammadu Buhari has come back from his symbolic visit to the United States where he met with U.S officials who clearly wanted to size him up on his likely responses to the sum of all their fears about the country. To be candid, Buhari was presidential, and business-like in his responses to the American questions. Unlike Jonathan, the Americans were reassured time after time, that the new man in the helms of power in Nigeria is the right man to do business with, a man with the right attitudes—honesty, forthrightness, zero tolerance for corruption, openness to ideas and above all honesty of purpose to right the many wrongs, as well as removing the clog in the wheels of good governance in the country.
Buhari is a symbol of hope in the perception of the West and the United States, and his trip was to revisit the issue of good relations with the West, including bilateral ties which had been ruptured by the six years of foreign policy flip flops under Goodluck Jonathan. Under Jonathan, our international relations, especially with The United States reached a nadir, a sort of all time low and a record level of diplomatic ‘’roforofo’’, a situation that was further exacerbated by endemic corruption, impunity, cronyism and the hijacking of presidential power by what former President Olusegun Obasanjo had whimsically described as ‘a Gang of Four women.’
It is not that we expected the Americans to come to Nigeria with their Navy Seals or their Special Forces to start combing the Sambisa Forests for the irksome Boko Haram fighters. Certainly it would not cross our minds for a second also that they would in the course of the trip immediately agree to sell to us their latest weaponry. What we expected is a stable atmosphere to relate as two countries with normative standards of engagement. That normative standard has just been restored by the visit. What may eventually come then as a benefit is the possibility of providing first class training and advice to our military and providing up-to-date intelligence on the activities of subversive elements such as Boko Haram.
So, in many ways, the visit was a thawing of relations that had gone hotly awry as a result of the way Buhari’s predecessor managed very poorly his association with the big power. Jonathan towards the end of his administration was evidently tilting the country away from the West and the United States and warming his way into the full embrace of the East and the Siberian Peninsula, mainly Putin’s Russia, a development that clearly alarmed our Western friends and did not help good diplomatic relations at that level.
This might have irked and alarmed them to the level that they felt it expedient to support who ever could provide any alternative to Jonathan, so this factor more than any other was strong in the support given to Buhari by a concert of Western powers, including the United States.
The visit as successful as it was had its own obverse, a sort of surly counterpoint, which in many ways tended to mock and vilify the import of Buhari’s peregrination in the land of the Yankees, which is the civil war in the National Assembly. As Buhari’s executive arm is trying to burnish our image, his colleagues and fellow APC National Assembly members who maintain a clear majority in both chambers seem to be doing all they can to soil and throw dirt and mud at the burnishing being done by the President.
The APC won the election basically on the premise of its change mantra and as a result of the disenchantment of the people with the way Jonathan and his kitchen cabinet were playing a delicate game of chess with the destiny of over 170 million Nigerians. It was not lost on the voting public that many of the ’’change apostles’’ were PDP at heart, blood and temperament but wore the toga of APC and sheer progressivism to win election, having hidden under the big ‘’babanriga’’ of Buhari. Nigerians knew some of them were not credible, but were only trying to hoodwink Nigerians by pretending to be progressives. Yet they gave them the benefit of doubt.
Take the case of The New PDP, whose stalwarts and leading lights have today hijacked the National Assembly, and this really is the position and view of many Nigerians that PDP has staged a coup through the back door. So, as Buhari was busy in faraway United States, trying to impress the Yankees that Nigeria’s political culture and conduct has risen beyond the mundane to the sublime, with an elevated status of decency and best practices in a democracy, our National Assembly members were busy presenting an alternative picture here in Nigeria not only to the international community, but calculatedly to the Yankees as if to say: ‘You Americans, don’t believe what that Daura man is telling you, we have not changed!’. That contrasting kaleidoscopic picture of the contrasting realities; one from Buhari, and another from the Assembly members, must have clearly confused and befuddled the Yankees.
Up till today, the crisis at the National Assembly over leadership has not subsided, and this calls into question the essence and substance of the change the All Progressives Congress sold to Nigeria. Have we all been deceived by the wily political class? Are we not seeing more of the same? Can we honestly beat our chests and say we have since crossed the rickety bridge constructed by Jonathan?
Change is meant to be structural and holistic. It is supposed to root out the cleavages, sentiments, emotions and such dividing fault lines that undermine us as a nation, and to fortify unifying forces such as fairness, equity, justice and federal character anchored on merit. But it seems the aforementioned are in retreat today, and a frightful retreat at that. Even under the Buhari regime, we tend to give the benefit of doubt that he may be honest. The appointments so far made by the President have not really released us from the sum of all our fears, as they have favoured only one part of the country to the exclusion of the fairness we had expected of a Buhari.
I think the President needs to reassure all of us that after all, we have not wasted our votes. He must not allow us the opportunity and evidence to affirm that there’s indeed no difference between Jonathan’s sectional leadership and his governance by cronyism and ethnic irredentism and the offerings which have substantially pandered to one section of the country. The National Assembly members through their conduct over the struggle for leadership positions have shown that they do not have the larger interests of the people at heart, but have only been mistakenly voted in to feather their individual nests.