Buhari: Masquerade That Won’t Dance

By Lasisi Olagunju

The president is in Katsina State, he is not on leave, yet the Federal Government sent a delegation from Abuja on Sunday to ‘commiserate’ with the Katsina State government. I do not know if you also find that very awkward. Is that how it is done? What is happening? I know there are persons in Nigeria who fear President Muhammadu Buhari more than they fear God.

I could feel them frantically fighting the winds over reports of Friday’s abduction of schoolboys in Katsina. Their problem is not the abduction; it is the news of the abduction. They would exchange glances and ask in muffled tones: Why did it have to happen when the president is visiting Katsina? If they could snuff life out of the attack story, they would have buried it in the pockets of their flowing babanriga – and in their long caps. That is their definition of humanity – and truth; they are conditioned by how much they impact the image of the president.

Terrorists attacked a school four days ago and Nigeria is still fighting hard to get right the actual number of the abducted students. The school authorities reportedly said on Saturday that 884 students were in the school when the attack occurred, they could account for about 200 who came back. The police said on Saturday it had ‘rescued’ 200; Governor Aminu Masari said on Saturday that the ‘saved,’ so far, were 426 – out of how many, he didn’t tell us. On Sunday, he tried to fill the void. He said there were 839 students in the school, out of which 333 were still missing. Where is the truth and who will tell us that truth? In any case, whatever the number, we sink in the mires of savagery even if it was just one person that was violently removed from that school by the bandits. And now, beyond what the Villa press statements say, does the president feel anything hearing all these bad news? What history is he making and how does he want to be remembered by history?

Some people are gifted with dreams that foreshadow the future. They are no Malian or North African marabouts, but like Nostradamus, they see tomorrow with pin-point accuracy. I have a ‘witchy’ friend who is like that. He told me as I was leaving the university in 1990 that the reigning IBB government was going to live out its life in full. No one would succeed in violently ousting it, he firmly told me but added quite ominously that 20 years after IBB must have left power, he would still be followed by negative reactions to his actions in power. Buhari will also end his eight years as our president in 2023, exactly 30 years after his friend, IBB stepped aside. It does not look like their fate would be radically different. Twenty years from 2023, Nigerians will look at the jagged scars of their sad today and remember that a Daura man was president of Nigeria – twice. But why all these bad things around his reign? It is either the leader’s aura attracts hard times, or he did some really ‘hard’ things to get to where he is.

Gladys Hunt, author of ‘Honey for a Child’s Heart,’ asks herself: What is home? And she answers: “a safe place, a place where one is free from attack.” Is that very true in all situations and for all people? Buhari has Daura as home and he went there on Friday to go and rest. Many no longer have such sanctuaries to ensconce them from the buffetings of this life of war and unrest. A Nigerian lady tweeted that she told her husband last week that “it is no longer safe to be taking evening walks. We should just start walking up and down our stairs…Better be fat than be dead…”

The tweet was her reaction to online reports on Friday that a retired Air Commodore was attacked and badly injured by hoodlums while jogging near his residence in Abuja. The only safe place in Nigeria today appears to be that slim space occupied by the commander-in-chief at each point in time. The country has been badly managed – or badly mismanaged. Professor Wole Soyinka has said no one is in charge of Nigeria. The president may just have confirmed that with his purdah presidency. He showed off our auto-pilot status on Friday, flying off in private insouciance to Daura, and has remained there, in the middle of national uncertainties.

The harder the times, the more resplendent our president’s gait. He went home to Katsina State on Friday. His arrival was a carnival, he got coded gifts, including a horse – just for coming home. They also gave him a decorated sword – because he is Bayajiddan Daura. Bayajjida was the legendary warrior-son of the king of Baghdad; he was the saviour and founder of the seven Hausa states. Our president is the celebrated reincarnation of that alien warrior. A parade of colorful horse riders and courtiers serenaded him with smiles and praises as he landed at his helipad in Daura.

You won’t believe it was the same Katsina State where just two days earlier, 13 people, including the head of Gamji village were abducted. Gamji is in Sabuwa Local Government Area of Katsina. It is as terrorised as villages under Faskari Local Government in same Katsina State. That is the state where the president is spending the whole of this week. You would think it is another Katsina – not the one where the army’s Operation Sahel Sanity is sweating hard to contain murderous bandits. Our very clean president touched down there in immaculate white babanriga, and was received with velvet smiles by the nobles of Katsina and of Daura. There was no insecurity in the welcome party that received our commander-in-chief. No one there remembered the tears of murders from bandits and kidnappers’ ransoms. The arrival of the messiah healed the nobles. They showed appreciation by effectively hiding the traumatised masses from the one who pledged to secure them. Then the day he arrived, terrorists stormed a boys’ school in  Kankara Local Government in that same state and took away ‘hundreds’ of children of the poor schooling there. We’ve not heard a word on this horrific event from the emirs and the chiefs who regaled Buhari with gifts on Friday. They will speak after clearing with him.

Buhari made pledges before he was made president. On January 6, 2015, he told God and man that he would rid Nigeria of all ravens of death and deprivation: “Let me make you this promise today: We will protect your children. We will protect your wealth. We will make this country work again.” Those were his words; he has not denied them as he did the illegible words of his party’s manifestoes. However, a mark of how well he has kept to those words is how safe his Katsina people are and how secure even Abuja is under his watch. His aura keeps reversing normality and abnormality – and he enjoys it.

Leaders are masquerades, you cannot know them sitting at a spot. Diehard Buhari believers are silently shocked that he turned out to be what he is. But the truth is, they missed themselves at the beginning. He has not changed a bit from his inverted ramrod existence. His worshippers got everything wrong about him. They watched their old idol’s masquerade from same rigged spot they encountered him decades ago and thought that was the full picture. They were wrong- the Igbo say you don’t watch a masquerade standing on same spot.

The sad watchers are still on the wrong lane. They lament that a grape that never existed has gone sour. The truth is our president is consistent in his ways. He is a very lucky man with a very bad sense of entitlement. He got power in 1983 when he was forty-something years old and soon lost it to his friends 22 months after. Thirty years after that fall, those who pushed him off the horse of power came around to put him in the saddle again. That is grace served in an uncommon plate by the Almighty. But has the beneficiary of this grace ever appreciated that his comeback was not because he was smart? If he does, he does not behave it. His masquerade that is refusing to dance still demands gold coins from the conned. It is his shame.

Philosophers and scholars of the phenomena of luck and success are almost unanimous on what makes one hardworking twin succeed and the other equally hardworking twin a failure. They talk of the place of luck.  Financial journalist, Michael Lewis forcefully pushed this point in his Princeton University’s 2012 baccalaureate remarks. He said: “Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them.” He advised the lucky to know that luck, like all earned and unearned privileges, carries with it obligations. He added: “Above all, recognise that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your God. You owe a debt to the unlucky.” I have not seen Buhari paying any debt, or seeking or planning to pay anything to those in the valley of life. Buhari is presently in Daura, Katsina State. Kankara community where those poor schoolboys were abducted on Friday is in same Katsina state. How long will it take or what will it take for the president to stroll out and visit that village? The villagers are crying- and waiting. Even if it is only empathy he can give the afflicted, the president should not feel too big to give that. Impersonal press releases can’t do that for him. He must be personally involved in the search for hope for the hopeless. That is how the lucky one can appreciate God for the unmerited grace he has.

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