Perhaps my worst day ever was August 27, 1985, when the military coup that ousted Major General Muhammadu Buhari from power was announced. Major General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, then the Chief of Army Staff, supplanted his boss in office, and held that position for eight years.
Buhari went into the valley of life, and stayed there for many years. Even his marriage and home suffered terribly. But in 1989, he picked up the pieces of marital life again, marrying pretty and winsome Aisha from Adamawa State.
Also in 2003, the man from Daura, in Katsina State, took the gauntlet by running for the county’s number one position, on platform of the then All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). He ran again in 2007, in 2011, and also in 2015. He finally won, and this time next week, he would be inaugurated as President.
This Time Next Week. That is the title of a 1964 book by Leslie Thomas, which I read well over 30 years ago. The book deals with the escapades of some young boys growing up in an orphanage, and what a rib cracking volume it is. I read it over and over again.
Yes, this time next week, our country would enter a new day, a new dawn, a new visitation in a special way. The miasma of doom and desperation, which had hung like a curtain on Nigeria for long, would lift. A magic wand? No. A miracle?
Yes, I believe in miracles. But this kind of miracle would come from sure-footedness, focus, doggedness, transparency, and leadership by example. That, I believe, is what we will get from Muhammadu Buhari, this time next week and onwards.
Does Nigeria need robust, honest and focused leadership now more than at any point in her history? You can say that again! Just look around you. What do you see? Failed hopes, dreams and aspirations. A decrepit, comatose economy! Humongous local and international debts, less than 10 years after we had paid off everything we hitherto owed. Insecurity, with blood flowing freely like water, and lives lost daily in scores.
Tales of misappropriation of public funds in billions of dollars! At a point recently, hatred almost became a national credo, with Nigerians hopelessly divided along ethnic and religious lines. Again, energy crisis! No electricity, no petrol, fuel queues everywhere. Nigeria has been brought to her knees. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Nigeria? How art thou cut down to the earth?
But Nigeria will rise again. And it will start from this time next week. We will be proud to be Nigerians once again. We will stand in brotherhood, though our tribes and tongues may differ. The pride of our country will be restored. We shall no longer be seen as a land where corruption walks on all fours, a rich country of poor people. No. A new song, a new story would be told about us. Great things shall be spoken of thee again, oh Nigeria.
The expectations of Nigerians are very high, and at times, I get scared. I pity the incoming president. But I also trust him. If anybody can bring change to bear on the country, Buhari can. Yes, he can. But there is also the burden of expectations. And the burden can be very heavy. Expectations from those who are sincere, and also from those who are not, and are even duplicitous, filled with ill will. The sincere ones want change because they truly desire a better country, whose builder and maker is God.
The insincere ones, scoffers, naysayer, are only hoping to see failure. They can’t wait to turn up their noses in derision, hopping from one leg to the other, and declaring: “We said it! The change they preached was just a mantra. It is six months. It is one year, two years, three years. Where is the change? Since the times our fathers slept, and until now, Nigeria has been the same way. And it will remain the same way, world without end.”
But will those people succeed? No, they won’t. Change will come to this land. And it will start by this time next week. We are not building castles in the air. Yes, out heads are in the clouds, but our feet are firmly planted on the ground. If anybody can bring change to this country, Buhari can. And with God helping him, he will.
Former Oil Minister, Prof Tam David-West, in an interview published by The News magazine this week says things are so bad with Nigeria that “Buhari is not starting from zero, but below zero.” However, he also gives hope: “Nigerians will find positive visible change in all aspects. To make impact with our refineries will be few months. We can build a refinery in a year…
“Buhari has promised to build four refineries and repair the old ones that are reparable. With that, there will be no more fuel importation and price will come down.”
Oh what a happy day it shall be! When Nigeria no longer needs to import refined petrol, and the pump price comes down. No more larceny in the name of fuel subsidies. Oh, what a day!
And all the other promises: provision of jobs for our teeming unemployed youths. Effective control of the security situation! A battle against corruption! End to impunity in our public life! A revitalized economy! A cohesive country! All these can happen. Yes, I believe. It can all start by this time next week. And Muhammadu Buhari would leave his footprints firmly imprinted in the sands of time. Who says we can’t have our own Lee Kuan Yew? It all starts this time next week.