President Buhari Has a Duty to All Nigerians
Indeed, I believed and hoped that our current president—with so much energy and the many years spent persistently lobbying for another opportunity to govern Nigeria—would embark upon a titanic legacy of progress, reconciliation, and harmony in Nigeria as President Jonathan did in 2015, and as Lincoln did with the abolishment of slavery more than a century and a half ago in the United States.
—Dr. I. D. Onwudiwe,
The distribution of a $22.7 billion loan to all Nigeria’s regions (except the Southeast) does not reflect the nation’s real character. Instead, it demonstrates the impunity of marginalization and demonization at its worst in our great republic. Our President, Muhammadu Buhari, must serve all Nigerians, regardless of the differences in their ethnicities, languages, cultures, religious practices, political preferences, and electioneering or the country’s historical events or management of funds.
As President, he is Nigeria’s highest elected official, most powerful citizen, and the father of our country; therefore, he should accept all its children equally, with love and admiration as part of the social contract. There should be no dignity for disaffection against any geopolitical zone in the presidential agenda’s administrative arsenal.
The President was practically revered and loved by many Nigerians during the 2015 elections, primarily because he was viewed as a man of principles and indubitable discipline, perseverance, experience, grit, and a totem for anti-corruption. Like Abraham Lincoln, who failed in winning so many elections (although he won consecutive presidential elections in 1860 and 1864 in the United States), President Buhari competed for presidential elections in 2003, 2007, and 2011, and in 2015, he won against an incumbent President, marking the only time in Nigeria’s history that a sitting President lost an election.
We must embrace former President Goodluck Jonathan as a true democrat for his peaceful and smooth transfer of power to President Buhari. President Jonathan set a decisive precedent in Nigerian democratic and presidential elections. Indeed, I believed and hoped that our current president—with so much energy and the many years spent persistently lobbying for another opportunity to govern Nigeria—would embark upon a titanic legacy of progress, reconciliation, and harmony in Nigeria as President Jonathan did in 2015, and as Lincoln did with the abolishment of slavery more than a century and a half ago in the United States. This, indeed, was my big expectation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s executive presidency.
Our president needs insight from those of us who are outsiders because his budget allocations and presidential appointments have been cockeyed
However, regarding President Buhari’s many decisions and policy declarations in the country, I have become shocked and thoroughly perplexed to the point that I am encouraged to make contributions to the articulation of the ideals of his administration, hoping that his aides will examine them for their worth. Thoughts and opinions should not be misconstrued as verbal napalm; instead, they should be viewed as small efforts designed to bring attention to the issues that might have been neglected or matters that could help our people. Our president needs insight from those of us who are outsiders because his budget allocations and presidential appointments have been cockeyed in such a manner that has barred many Nigerians who are not considered part of the British regal fiat—a colonial policy that created and sustained conflicts among brothers for the benefit of the exploitative imperial economic policies.
It is vital to note, respectfully, that our treasured President, inadvertently, may have been setting fruitless precedents for Nigeria, and every meaningful and patriotic Nigerian knows it. A cursory review of the presidential appointments from one area of the country reveals actions that will haunt Nigeria for some time to come. Nigeria has talented people from all bends of the country, and appointments should reflect federal character. What, then, is the problem? What are the roles of the president’s advisors? Why couldn’t they advise the President about the unconcealed neglect of a region shattered by war without reconstruction and reparation?
Yet, the money map distribution replicated here totally eluded the region again, even though the civil war ended over 50 years ago. Are the citizens of the southeast of Nigeria still paying for the civil war in perpetuity? If the southeast people were not real Nigerians, could the country restructure to allow them a modicum of the minimum form of peaceful existence? Restructuring Nigeria is an excellent idea because each region would be able to develop at its own speed. Moreover, regions could trade with each other and still maintain industries here and there. BMW of Germany has multiple automobile plants in America, and Toyota of Japan has various factories there as well. Nigeria could restructure, and regions could keep their businesses and trade freely in different parts of the nation.
If I had an opportunity to advise our current president, I would encourage a retraction of the loan distribution that is not inclusive of the southeastern political zone. But let us not blame President Buhari alone. During the 13 combined years in office of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who ruled a democratic Nigeria from 1999 to 2007, and President Goodluck Jonathan, who governed the country from 2010 to 2015, not a single seaport was constructed in Southeast Nigeria. Instead, let us briefly examine the character of the country itself. This supposition implies that Nigerians would have rejected the money map until the Office of the President rights its wrongs. In a utopian world not characterized by the impunity of greed, putrefaction, and perception, all the regions favored with billions of the borrowed loan would have questioned the rationale of uneven distribution. That, in my view, would have constituted true “Nigerianness.” This is vital because if a new president arises tomorrow after three more years of this administration, what will happen with the precedent from whom these regions are relishing today? Would 10 million Nigerians march and peacefully protest the economic and political depravity of their areas if a new leader adopts the same modus operandi?
I am doing the same thing today by contending that Nigeria must welcome all her citizens and build a country in which every citizen feels free and proud of partaking in the country’s affairs.
Arguably, discrimination ought to be condemned, regardless of the shapes and forms it takes. After the horrific September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives in the United States, Muslims and Arabs faced negative reprisals and were labeled as dangerous. In his 1938 book Crime and Community, Frank Tannenbaum referred to such tags as the dramatization of evil. Because good people were branded as members of the hazardous population, I wrote an article against the “demonization of Arabs and Muslims in the United States” (see Community Safety Journal 2005). I am doing the same thing today by contending that Nigeria must welcome all her citizens and build a country in which every citizen feels free and proud of partaking in the country’s affairs.
It is terrible enough for Nigeria to have a multiplicity of languages, and that cannot be besmirched with animosity and mortification. A policy of discrimination retards political and economic development and establishes a recipe for disaster for the giant of Africa. The money map that currently exists should be modified, and our President has the power and wisdom to do that.
Finally, I hope that an announcement will be made soon to inform the nation that, like the already favored political regions, those that are currently excluded in the money distribution will be allocated equal shares of the funds for their own respective economic and developmental projects. Such an official canon would go a long way in cementing a robust positive legacy for the president as the parent of the country.
The legacy of any president should avoid subjecting any citizen to the dreadful reality of grand apartheid, or to a policy of hate, segregation, and lynching such as that which transpired in the United States, or to the impunity of vicious hatred that forced blacks in South Africa to settle in Bantustans. There should be no space for detestation in our country. Nigeria desires no more wars, and I wish upon our President a glorious legacy.
■ Dr. Onwudiwe, a Professor of Criminology at the Texas Southern University is on the EDITORIAL BOARD of the WAP