Updated: March 7, 2021
I never thought President Buhari cared about posterity or how he would be evaluated when he leaves office because his actions now betray any reflection on the future. I also never thought he was a ‘’philosopher president’’ who ponders and asks ‘’why’’; again, because his actions have been that of a sciolist.
So, my perturbation here is provoked by his statement at a meeting with some residents of Abuja on December 25 where he said: ‘‘I swore to hold this office in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and God willing, I will follow the system diligently to the end of my term, and I hope history will be kind to me.’’
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But since when did Buhari start to care about what history will say? After racking up egregious human rights records? After invasively dividing Nigeria long religious and ethnic lines? After making ethnically-inclined appointments? And after decapitating the other arms of government?
However, it is good the president is beginning to care about history. So, he must ask himself, what have I done to engender peaceful co-existence in the country? What have I done to promote unity? What have I done to protect citizens’ rights? And what have I done to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians?
Although he ordered the release of Omoyele Sowore after intense pressure from the international community, he must apologise for illegally detaining the activist despite a court order for his release. The illegal detention of the pro-democracy activist has pooh-poohed whatever democratic credential the president holds – if any.
As a matter of fact, the contusion Buhari has inflicted on the global image of Nigeria is irreparable for as long as he is president. Also, this blot will remain on his raiment for as long as he lives, and his administration will be most remembered in utter dismay for this reason.
Just as the annulment of the June 12 election is an eternal smear on Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida; the incarceration of MKO Abiola and murder of Ken Saro Wiwa a sempiternal blotch on General Abacha even in the afterlife; the illegal arrest and detention of Sowore will stay an immutable smudge on the Buhari administration.
Also, the administration still holds political prisoners — some of them held in disobedience to court orders. The disappearance of Abubakar Idris, better known as Dadiyata, since August is ominous. The security agencies have shown no effort in his rescue — if he was kidnapped – and are not providing any information on him, ossifying the speculation that he is held by the DSS which has become notorious for abducting citizens at odd hours.
Really, I have often wondered if the president is mindful of the sort of legacy he will leave behind. Does he want to be remembered as another General Sani Abacha? A dictator, violator of citizens’ rights and an oppressor? Is that how he wants to be remembered? Or does he not think himself worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize?
The path the president currently treads is that of a potentate. And history is unkind to ‘strong men’. If he really cares; he should glean some lessons from the ashes of other strong men long gone.
Also, history is what you make of the present. Buhari must do ‘’penance’’, and that is by working the path of a true democrat and undoing the crafts of dictatorship he has woven since 2015.
Doing penance means Buhari must release all political prisoners. He must put the rule of law first and above any other interest. He must take responsibility for the murder of over 365 Shiites in Kaduna by the Nigerian army. He must begin a process of compensating the families of those killed in the attack by the army. He must also take responsibility for the murder of over 160 pro-Biafra campaigners in Onitsha, Anambra and in Abia, and initiate the task of pacifying the bereaved families.
In addition, the president must allow an atmosphere for dissent and opposition. Protesters should not be beaten up by government-sponsored thugs and security agents. Nigerians should be allowed to vent, protest and ‘’wail’’ without fetters. The only way to shut citizens up is to provide good governance and not through harassment, intimidation and arrest.
Also, he must shed his parochial and native skin which is implicit in his knack for making insular appointments. And he must make the fight against corruption, which is currently half-assed, non-selective.
If Buhari really wants history to be kind to him, he just has about three years to begin paying penance. He must make today count.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.