Buhari, Boko Haram and the burden of leadership

By Larry Oyims

During my days in the primary school, I had the opportunity of spending one of the long vacations at Onitsha. I recollect the day I went into the popular Ochanja market to buy one of the conventional and ubiquitous books on proverbs. That book fell within the genre of what was then known as Onitsha Market Literature. I cannot recollect the title now, but I bought it as a memento to remember the day I visited this big city, for Onitsha then was a big city as it is now.
One of the things I learnt from the book which I still recite today with ease is this proverb: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. As I look at how our president jets out from one country to the other criss- crossing continents in search of the solutions to the ills that plague our nation, I remember the proverb. As Nigerians criticize Mr President for his snail-like speed, I remember the proverb. As the corruption he vowed to stop mutates to a dangerous form, I remember the proverb.
One of the cardinal campaign promises President Muhammadu Buhari made as he stomped from one part of the country to another was to address the issue of insecurity in the country. To flesh this out, he ordered the immediate relocation of the headquarters of the military command from Abuja to Maiduguri during his swearing in. As a retired military general and former head of state, Nigerians were upbeat that a solution to their security problem was at hand. It was of course on that plank, basically, that many voted for him. But with the bombings that appear to be increasing on a daily basis now, that hope of redemption seems to be on a sloppy retreat, making many wonder if the promise would not turn to another flash in the pan.
It is important to note that since Buhari took over power and promised to rout the insurgents within three months, Boko Haram has intensified its dangerous activities in the northeastern part of the country, invidiously making it unsafe as ever. In fact, we are worried that Mr President is losing grip of the situation as these bombings have become almost a daily occurrence. The temptation is strong for many to believe that the promise may prove to be a spook after all.
To lend credence to this, some few weeks ago, more than 60 innocent citizens lost their lives and close to 100 sustained various degrees of injury in a renewed attack in the north. Two previous weeks ago too, the insurgents struck at Yobe, Maiduguri and other parts of the northeast in what many saw as a coordinated attack on Nigeria.
We are worried by these spate of bombings at a time we have a new government we expect to deliver a devastating punch on these subversive elements. I do not doubt Mr President’s capability to tame the insurrectionists, what I doubt is if the way he is going about it will bring the anticipated early result.
One of the reasons former President Ebele Jonathan lost the election was the lackluster manner he handled the insurgency. Many of us accused him of being insensitive to the travails of the nation, especially when he could not visit Chibok after over 200 secondary school children were abducted in their dormitories in 2014. One of his strongest critics apart from the international outrage that trailed it was Buhari and his APC co-travelers. Buhari promised during his campaign, as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces and retired military general, to personally lead a crack team of military daredevils that will overrun and smoke out Boko Haram elements in their caves. That promise endeared him to many as Nigerians sought for heroes in every unknown face. But six months into his regime, Boko Haram is gathering momentum, the sins of complacency we accused Jonathan of committing are being committed by the president.
The level of insecurity in the country is unacceptably embarrassing. This is against the backdrop of APC’s assurance during the campaigns that it has the tablets to solve every imaginable problem in the country. Just last month for instance, the nation woke up to the distress call and shame of Chief Olu Falae’s kidnap on his way to the farm. And as if that was not enough, kidnappers and other hoodlums are having a field day in the south east and Niger Delta like what obtained in the days of Jonathan. This is a complete travesty and a return to the dark days when people lived in total fear. It will not be far from the truth to say that what we are seeing today is the opposite of what we hoped for with APC in power.
But it is not only at the security front that Buhari has fallen below par. Even the economy is in coma, lying prostrate like a patient in an emergency ward. Last week for example, Mr President told a bewildered nation and the world that Nigeria was broke, but he came short of telling us who drove the country to such a dangerous cliff. Right now the naira has tumbled visa-a-vis the dollar and other international currencies. Even when the government and the Central Bank of Nigeria has refused to further devalue our currency, which, to me, is a wise decision, the naira has maintained a steady fall. That is the reason the cost of goods–most of which are imported–keep going up every day.
However, I think that scapegoating can neither help Mr President nor reverse the collateral damage. Buhari should get down to work. His pace does not signpost he is going to break any new ground. Already, it is taking him many months to come up with a blueprint of what he wants to achieve within his tenure. There is this Yoruba adage that asks the question: If it takes a man 30 years to learn how to be mad, how many years does he have left to practice it? The President is almost seven months into his four-year tenure and the ministers for the various ministries are yet to be named. How many months does he have left to spring surprises on the nation? How many months does he want to spend before putting structures that would create the millions of jobs he promised our teaming unemployed youths during his campaign?
Leadership is about putting the ripe fruits of governance on the plates of the masses. But we are yet to see any. What we still see are people mired in their bootstraps, looking for a saviour, any saviour. And the man they incidentally thought was the one to come has not shown any signs he was such. The other day the president acknowledged his slow pace but interjected that he was slow and steady! That is not the pace we need in the light of the series of devastations in virtually every facet of our life. We need a man with the speed of Elon Musk’s Hyper-Loop and the brain of Bill Gates who can figure out any problem.
The time demands quick action. The time demands a leader with the capacity to read the mood of the moment and work in sync. We expect President Buhari to be that leader and rise to the challenge of building a new Nigeria we all shall be proud of. He must brace up to this challenge if we are to take him and his party serious. Time is running out, Mr President.