Buhari, Tinubu, And Their Scripted Logic on the National Question -By Adeolu Ademoyo

Filed under: National Issues |
President Buhari and Bola Tinubu

President Buhari and Bola Tinubu

 

…importantly: why is it difficult for a president – Buhari, whose irredentism, zealotry and bigotry – at home and abroad, we all stake everything to clean up, after winning an historic election – to find the so-called first eleven, which Joe Igbokwe referred to, from every part of Nigeria?

The majority of Nigerian social democratic forces across ethno-national lines, both at home and in the Diaspora, supported candidate Muhammadu Buhari in the 2015 elections because the former president Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had failed woefully on the issue of good governance.

Beyond the issue of the legendary corruption under the former president, which is comparable only to the corruption under ex-military dictator, Sani Abacha who the present president, Muhammadu Buhari, strangely gave a clean bill on corruption!, ex-president Jonathan was a symbol of bad governance and irredentism. Hence, no honest social democrat could be supportive of such administration.

Given that good governance is the essential core value of social democratic forces, and in the absence of a better alternative, these forces across all Nigerian ethnic groups naturally but critically gravitated towards Muhammadu Buhari’s platform

However, forgetting that he lost election three times due to a reason, which borders on an aspect of the national question, sadly Buhari seems to have missed that point in his failure to see the compatibility of good governance with openly confronting the national question. Therefore, Buhari’s 100 days in office is a failure on some details concerning the national question.

But the issue is not just Buhari’s failure to acknowledge that there is a problem about the national question, because given his pedigree, he will not or if he does through his spokespersons, they will either acknowledge this by showing a poor understanding of the problem by citing how (according to Abubakar Tsav a former police commissioner) Buhari’s driver till date as being a Christian!, as if such tokenism resolves the fundamental nature of the national question or shows an understanding of it!

Both Jonathan and Buhari have exhibited a tunnel vision in “seeing” “good” public office personnel only from a particular region in the country. Jonathan’s tunnel vision led him to “see” “technocrats” only from his region, while Buhari’s is leading him to “see” people with “good” governance records only from his region. Both are tunnel visions of different types – the southern and the northern. Neither of these visions is helpful for the Change Nigerians want and in resolving the fundamental problem of the national question, which Tinubu is consciously ignoring under the Buhari presidency.

That Buhari’s tokenism as a bad understanding (or lack of understanding) of the serious concerns about the national question, shows in how he naturally falls back on his own coterie of ethnic loyalists on issues of power and governance.

On this national question, however, the fundamental problem then (during 2015 polls) and now (that governance has started) is not Buhari, but the social democratic forces that gathered around Buhari’s platform and who thought that the core value of good governance, a universal social democratic ethos, exhausts an open engagement of this question, as a country specific task.

So given the unwanted ominous direction of Buhari’s presidency and his failure to acknowledge that there is the essential problem of the national question, two pertinent critical concerns are: Does good governance exhaust the national question? Is good governance incompatible with addressing the national question?

In contemporary times, President Buhari is not the first to fail to openly and sincerely admit the problem of the national question in Nigeria. For example, opportunistically, ex-president Jonathan only remembered that there was such a problem when it was clear to him that he might lose the 2015 election. Then, he hurriedly put together a national conference jamboree.

Nigeria’s social democratic forces that have been historically supportive of resolving the national question through what they call a sovereign national conference however took a different view of Jonathan’s national conference. They saw through ex-President Jonathan’s gimmick, which was opportunistically using an important problem in the country’s life for his own and his party, PDP’s electoral goal in 2015.

Some defenders of Buhari such as Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an APC national leader, and Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of APC in Lagos State, have rallied around Buhari, deploying criteria that are not consistent with their previously held views. For example, while sacrificing a collective history, Mr. Tinubu has virtually lost the memory of his acknowledgement of the national question and his earlier advocacy for its resolution.

However, Nigerian social democratic forces across ethnic lines, in distancing themselves from Jonathan’s national conference, did not resolve the issue. They only postponed it as we are beginning to see with the emerging ethnic irredentism of Buhari’s presidency – a recreation of the same irredentism under ex-president Jonathan.

While Jonathan hid his irredentism under terms like “technocracy” and the idea that he comes from a “minority” national group and was therefore justified in his irredentism to an extent, the emerging picture is that Buhari is hiding his northern irredentism under “good” governance and the electoral reality, in which he is all out to favour those who “voted” for him “overwhelmingly”, as against others who did not. Regardless of the way they justify their irredentism, both Jonathan and Buhari are similar in their failure to openly acknowledge that there is the problem of the national question in Nigeria, and engage it openly, honestly and early in the days of their presidencies.

Some defenders of Buhari such as Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, an APC national leader, and Mr. Joe Igbokwe, the publicity secretary of APC in Lagos State, have rallied around Buhari, deploying criteria that are not consistent with their previously held views. For example, while sacrificing a collective history, Mr. Tinubu has virtually lost the memory of his acknowledgement of the national question and his earlier advocacy for its resolution.

On the other hand, while his argument falsely suggests a counterpoise between the national question and “unity”, Mr. Igbokwe says, in poor defence of Buhari from a questionable sense of “unity”, that if a Nigerian president sees his first eleven from one state in Nigeria, then the president should go to select them from such narrow enclave, because all that matters is “unity”. It is obvious that Tinubu and Igbokwe’s views lack any sense of history, profundity or depth, and they are basically unserious as they appear to be playing, as usual, to the gallery for personal political reasons.

It is puzzling that Mr. Tinubu, who was once known to be a strong advocate of the need to engage the national question, could collapse under a Buhari tunnel vision, which treats the national question with contempt for purely regional reasons. But both Tinubu and Igbokwe are wrong for the following reasons:

Both Jonathan and Buhari have exhibited a tunnel vision in “seeing” “good” public office personnel only from a particular region in the country. Jonathan’s tunnel vision led him to “see” “technocrats” only from his region, while Buhari’s is leading him to “see” people with “good” governance records only from his region. Both are tunnel visions of different types – the southern and the northern. Neither of these visions is helpful for the Change Nigerians want and in resolving the fundamental problem of the national question, which Tinubu is consciously ignoring under the Buhari presidency.

The consequence of the example of the United States is that good governance, which is desirable, does not resolve the national question, and neither is the simultaneous implementation of both contradictory. Rather, they are complementary.

My question is: by their arguments involving an uncritical sense of “Change”, “good” governance, ethinicised and centralised “unity”, are Tinubu and Igbokwe saying one sense of irredentism – that of Buhari – is preferable to another – that of Jonathan in the name of a questionable sense of “good” governance, “Change” and “unity”?

More importantly: why is it difficult for a president – Buhari, whose irredentism, zealotry and bigotry – at home and abroad, we all stake everything to clean up, after winning an historic election – to find the so-called first eleven, which Joe Igbokwe referred to, from every part of Nigeria?

The blunt and uncomfortable point is that to stop this draining of emotions we have to openly engage and resolve the national question.

This is because if “good” governance resolves the problem of the national question at the expense of not engaging it, then United States of America, where there is good governance occurring side-by-side with complex issues of their own national question(s), ought to be one gigantic centralised state ruled by a cabal within an ethnic group or a president who governs with a coterie of ethnic loyalists. But the US is not one centralised state and neither does a cabal or a coterie of ethnic individuals loyal to the president rule it. Rather, the US is smart enough to acknowledge its national question(s), and create a functioning and viable federal system to resolve this (or, these) side-by-side genuine and good governance.

The consequence of the example of the United States is that good governance, which is desirable, does not resolve the national question, and neither is the simultaneous implementation of both contradictory. Rather, they are complementary.

The National question is a structural, political and economic question that has to be openly engaged and resolved as we move forward. A failure to resolve this will lead to a slippery slope which produces musical chairs of irredentism…

Since, there is no dissonance between good governance which some people think President Buhari stands for and the national question, which President Buhari and APC fail to acknowledge and do not publicly articulate; and given the emerging irredentism in Buhari’s presidency, it is important to prevent the path beaten by ex-President Jonathan, who postponed an open address of the national question until when he was only ready to use it for his personal electoral fortunes.

The National question is a structural, political and economic question that has to be openly engaged and resolved as we move forward. A failure to resolve this will lead to a slippery slope which produces musical chairs of irredentism – as we have now seen from Jonathan to Buhari – where we exchange one irredentism with another every four years.

As part of good governance, and as Buhari moves beyond his 100 Days in office, Nigerians and Nigerian social democratic forces must do two things:

First, they must openly stop the emerging Northern irredentism under Buhari’s presidency. Re-inventing Northern irredentism under the deceptive guise of “good” governance is not the Change Nigerians voted for.

Second, Nigerian social democratic forces must ask Buhari to produce an agenda to resolve the national question early in his presidency. This is because in theory and practice, resolving the national question is the genuine good governance we want; resolving the national question is compatible with good governance. This is the lasting Change we want and which can guarantee lasting unity.

Adeolu Ademoyo, aaa54@cornell.edu, is of the Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.

 

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