Have you witnessed an event and wondered where you have seen exactly the same sequence of activities before? The French call it déjà vu, which translates to “already seen”. That is the phenomenon we are observing our brand new President Muhammadu Buhari, PMB, taking us through.
In 1998/99 Nigeria’s ruling principalities and powers who had clamped General Olusegun Obasanjo in jail for coup decided to release him, pardon him, restore his military ranks and sponsor him to be our elected president as their compensation to the Yorubas for their kinsman, Chief Moshood Abiola, whom they had poisoned to death for winning a presidential election. Once Obasanjo came out of Yola prisons he hit the international circuit.
As president, he kept travelling repeatedly to Western capitals in a wasteful chase after “debt forgiveness”. This went on for most of his first term in office, when he left the economy in the hands of his Vice President, Abubakar Atiku. The situation was so bad that by October 2000, barely 17 months after Obasanjo was sworn into power, the late social crusader, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, listed at least 45 foreign travels he had undertaken, which averaged more than one per fortnight. OBJ did not get the debt relief until he finally did the right thing by employing Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who used her connections to negotiate the $12 billion deal that exited us from 20 years of slaving for the Paris Club of money lenders.
Definitely, Buhari is a far more disciplined leader than Obasanjo. He is unlikely to try to equal OBJ’s unenviable national record. But it has to be noted that PMB is starting his second coming like Obasanjo, knocking on the doors of foreign countries in his belief that his key to success lies behind those doors. Before he was sworn-in, he told us how his “foreign partners” helped in providing the technology that ensured Professor Attahiru Jega’s “free and fair” elections in 2015. He said they were moved to provide the assistance when he painted a bloody picture of uncontrollable refugee problems that would envelope Africa if the 2015 elections were rigged.
A week before he took his oath as president, he had jetted out to London to “take a rest” and consult with David Cameron, the British Premier; a trip that caused a stir in the social media when Buhari’s lonely figure outside No. 10 Downing Street, waiting to be welcomed by his host, caused a stampede over the Internet. Cameron did receive him, nonetheless, and later told him to come with his “shopping list” to the next economic forum that will hold in Europe shortly.
Not done yet, Buhari, now in the presidential saddle, travelled to Niger Republic where he received more than a red carpet welcome. The impoverished country’s president, Mamadou Issoufou, gave him a beautiful parting gift of a regally-decked out thoroughbred white charger, possibly a mustang. If you remember that former President Goodluck Jonathan also got given a similar gift when he visited the Emir of Daura, Alhaji Faruk Umar Faruk, just before the presidential election, it will be obvious that white horse gifts are customary for presidents and highly placed visitors in that geo-cultural clime.
Let me remind you that Daura, which was founded by Tuaregs some centuries ago, is regarded as the spiritual home of the Hausa people. The Emirate extends from our own Katsina State to Zinder in Niger Republic. Therefore, for Buhari, the trip to Niger Republic was like a ride from one end of one’s hometown to another. And since Niger, Chad and Cameroun are also neck-deep in the war against the Boko Haram terrorists, I am not one of those criticising Buhari for visiting them to exact stronger commitments towards his agenda for ending the bloody nonsense.
I only note, however, that the chicken has come home to roost. Buhari’s wife, Aisha, can now apologise to ex-President Jonathan whom she asked to resign last year when he visited these countries before he commenced the six-week campaign to end the nonsense. Buhari himself should equally apologise to Jonathan because even he has now seen the need to accept the US offer to “assist” to terminate the nonsense. He had, only a month ago, said it was a “shameful” when stories made the round that some South African experts or, if you like, “mercenaries”, were involved in the campaign. Talk can be very cheap, but that is politics for you.
Buhari’s foreign trips have drawn criticisms from several quarters. These included prominent opposition party leaders such as Chief Olu Falae, Alhaji Balarabe Musa and several civil society groups. They called on Buhari to pay more attention to mobilising support at home, rather than starting charity from abroad. This was exactly what people were saying to Obasanjo 16 years ago, but he refused to listen and went to squander billions of Naira on foreign junkets.
Buhari ought to know that with Nigerians fully behind him he can move mountains. He still has massive goodwill on his side. He should cash in on it and get the Nigerian people, irrespective of how they voted during the elections, behind him.
The foreigners will queue up once they notice that. We are quite capable of solving our problems once we are united. What we did to Ebola under Jonathan was the stuff of what a determined, united Nigeria can do. But we do need our neighbours to overcome Boko Haram. If we chase them out of Nigeria into Cameroun, Chad and Niger, we have hardly achieved anything. We have simply given them a wider territory. Even if the Niger and Chad presidents do not understand English, they certainly will discuss in Hausa or Fulfulde and as Muslims, use it to tell themselves the kind of truth only kinsmen and people of the same faith can share.
But he has to be very wary of the West, especially America and Britain. Let Buhari beware; they are experts at offering Greek gifts. When Britain asks you to bring your “shopping list” and America offers “assistance”, we must know what they want in return. America is not even our crude oil customers anymore. They have become even more irrelevant than ever. They may try to bog down our war on Boko Haram with their harangue of “human rights” blackmail, which Amnesty International has already started brandishing against our serving and former field commanders without concrete proof. Or, worse still, they may re-table their much-coveted demand for the repeal of our collectively-agreed decision to criminalise gay relationships and ban gay marriage in Nigeria. Former President Jonathan remained their darling until he appended his signature to the anti-gay marriage Bill passed by our patriotic National Assembly.
The West wants to destroy Nigeria, a rising star in Africa with these policies. They want to use “human rights” to create confusion among us to enable Boko Haram eat into our fabric. Any time we dent the terrorists, either Steven Davis will pop up or Amnesty International will pop in to join pro-Boko Haram Northern interests to accuse our military officers of “human rights” abuses. Meanwhile, they keep mute when Boko Haram seize our towns and plant their evil flags.
The solutions to our problems lie mainly with us here at home. Buhari, beware of the morally degraded West, especially the UK and the USA! If you reject their Greek gifts they will leave you in the lurch. Look further afield for true foreign friends like Russia and China.