President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to do new things. He has announced payment of pensions for ex-Biafran police officers who were granted presidential pardon in 2000. This is very commendable, given the backdrop of his leadership. In fact, it sounded too good to be real and I had personally done some checks to ensure I wasnâ€™t hooked to fake news when the copy came to my desk.
It was real! I tried to create an imagery to underscore the development. It was like defying all the psycho-motive variables and learning to be right-handed at 75. It was also forceful enough to question the fundamentals of nature and conclude that the snake can indeed transform both in skin and character. Folks who would not associate Buhari with any level of national broadmindedness would have been thoroughly disappointed. Buhari has become a born-again, even at 75. Truly, it is never too late to make paradise.
Payment of the pension reportedly commenced in Enugu on October 20 to 162 officers and 57 next-of-kins of deceased officers after due verification. I shall not exceed the given circumstances to invent a motive for this sudden love of Ndigbo by Buhari. Some people have said that the President who is facing increasing opposition to his re-election bid even within the APC has 2019 in mind. I sincerely do not know about that. If every kind gesture is selfishly motivated, the word â€˜philanthropyâ€™ will automatically lose its meaning and may have to be redefined.
And so, whether it has become expedient or not for President Buhari to act nicely at this point in time, I have decided to congratulate him on his newly acquired spirit of one Nigeria. Congratulations Mr. President! He could choose to be nasty, and as we all know, nothing would happen. When people do well and they are told so, they tend to do more. And so it is with Buhari. Earlier, on October 12, while meeting with political leaders from the Southeast, comprising governors, ministers, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and Ohaneze leadership at the Aso Rock Villa, President Buhari had promised to complete the second Niger bridge, east-west road and the east-west coastal rail project before 2019.
I will modify that to mean before May 29, 2019, which is about 19 months away. On a different date and occasion but same venue, President Buhari had also told a delegation of Niger Delta leaders that the east-west road, which former President Goodluck Jonathan, a son of the Niger Delta (emphasis is mine) failed to deliver would be completed by him, Buhari, before 2019. These are very huge promises. What they effectively mean is that close to N2tr about the cost of the projects and about the budgets of all the 19 Northern States put together in 2016 will be graciously spent in the Southeast and Niger Delta before the next general election.
And nobody is shouting: Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the name of the savior of the Southeast and South-south! That is not all. The President at some other setting had told Ambassador Michael Zinner of Germany that: â€œWe are studying the instruments of the Amnesty Programme inherited from previous administration with a view to carrying out commitments made that have not been delivered.â€
What else are Nigerians or more specifically Southern Nigerians looking for in a statesman? At this juncture, kindly permit the clichÃ©, people saying Buhari is only the President of Northern Nigeria on the basis of alleged lopsided composition of his government of which 81 of 100 key government appointments including the service chiefs are said to be Moslems from the North, should shut-up and remain so. Enough is enough! We cannot continue to hit at an old man who is struggling to learn new tricks, in spite of himself, to please others including even his enemies.
If still in doubt about the new Buhari, consider the follow-up to the earlier gesture of payment of pension to ex-Biafran police officers. The President became uncharacteristically law abiding and great respecter and believer of court processes. To the chagrin of critics, the federal government, which is the same thing as President Buhari, has agreed to pay, wait for it, a whooping N88b in these hard times as compensation to 493 identified civil war victims following a judgment of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) court.
I donâ€™t think you people understand what Buhari has done! He has just made 493 Igbo families or even individuals multi-millionaires with each carting home about N180 million. Actually, my father told me that an uncle of mine who was living in Abagana, in present day Anambra State, in the time of the civil war was tortured and killed in cold blood by federal troops allegedly led by Muhammadu Buhari who was then a lieutenant in the Nigerian Army. Nothing is intended; I am only trying to put that vital piece of information in the public space just in case something like a search for next of kin crops up. I am the next of kin. My father also added that we (the OGBODOs) are somehow connected to Nsukka in Enugu State.
Kindly note too that the Buhari who is now obeying court orders and accepting consent judgment like an obedient school boy is the same as the Buhari who had blatantly and serially flouted the orders of the same ECOWAS court and courts in Nigeria regarding bail for incarcerated former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki. There is nothing God cannot do. We only need more prayers and fasting concerning other things like the nationalistic prosecution of the anti-corruption war and the will, even if it is half as strong as the will to deploy python dancers and smiling crocs, to tackle decisively the Fulani herdsmen and give farmers in the middle belt and elsewhere the peace of mind to produce food to feed the nation.
It is not all praises. There is yet an area where Buhari is lagging. Critics say as President, he has visited more cities in Europe, (especially in the United Kingdom, where he has spent almost equal number of days in London as he has spent in Aso Rock), America, Asia, the Middle East and even in Africa than he has visited cities in Nigeria. Except to Daura, many of his scheduled visits to locations within the country including Lagos and Port Harcourt had been cancelled in the last minute.
The good news, however, is that I have heard from the grapevine, not through any of his spokesmen anyway, that the President is working seriously to redress this copious deficit in his presidential operations. And that very soon, he will be afield and everywhere in Nigeria talking to stakeholders, including IPOB members and Niger Delta militants, to build a national consensus that will make the clamour for the restructuring of the country sound stupid.
It has taken time and energy to move Buhari to this point where he is seeing far beyond Daura and clearly too. I am not too sure if he has been successfully pushed to the point where he cannot return to old ways. This is exactly why we must not relent. The GOs and Imams must sustain the prayers and fasting to create a statesman out of Buhari. The man can simply refuse to move any further or more disturbingly, relapse into old ways, where, like a scorched snake, he will become more dangerous.
God will not allow that to happen. If anything, the mood is good for more miracles and something tells me that another batch of the kidnapped Chibok girls shall be secured from Boko Haram captivity in the weeks ahead. Somebody should shout a big amen to that!
We have all done well in getting Buhari to this glorious point. It remains to add that the prayer and fasting warriors should understand when to apply the brakes so that Buhariâ€™s case is not over pleaded before God. I donâ€™t think too many people would want him to unite Nigeria beyond 2019.