Like Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, like Muhammadu Buhari?
By Bola Bolawole
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Poet Laureate, Prof. Niyi Osundare’s latest intervention best captures the mood of the moment. Aptly touted “Incompetence weds Corruption”, the first and the last statements fascinate me most. The first says: “Pepeiye nigba ti oo m’owe/Ki lo be lu’odo se?” Translated, it is a pointed question to the Duck, wondering why, when it knew it could not swim, it still jumped into the river. The Duck here is the president, retired Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, and the river is Nigeria and its state of affairs.
Ordinarily, ducks are master swimmers, water is their familiar terrain. In like manner everyone had expected that Buhari, a two-star Army general and former Commander-in-Chief, knew his onions when he boasted he would end Boko Haram insurgency in a matter of a few months. A man who contested serially but lost; who wept at his last attempt and refused to be comforted must have thought he had something to offer, which he lamented Nigerians were being denied. Alas! Today we all know better!
When Buhari knew he did not possess what it takes to rule Nigeria, why did he insist he must rule? Now, his crass incompetence has been exposed! Now he has scattered the country, after which he gave up, only waiting for his tenure to elapse before he packs his bag and baggage and vamoose into thin air and into the dark – hopefully, never to be heard of again! Now, he says he has tried his best but his best has only left in its wake ruins, debts, violence and rivers of blood, deprivations and monumental suffering never before witnessed on these shores. He has left agony and suffering everywhere. Even his party people in the APC are complaining! Even his home state Katsina is in flames, literally speaking! They stoned him in Kano. Even his tribesmen are cursing him! Those of the same religion with him now disown him! Only a handful of presidency cabals appear to be at peace with Buhari.
Pepeiye (Buhari) when you knew you could not swim (govern a country as complex as Nigeria), why jump into the river (why insist you must govern)? Just as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu reminded us, the first time Buhari made an attempt to govern, he failed. O lu’le! Second attempt, he failed. O lu’le! Third attempt, he failed. O lu’le! We all saw him weep like a baby as he returned to his native Daura until Tinubu went to seek him out and assure him he (Tinubu) had the magic wand to make him president. The rest, as they say, is history.
Morning, they say, shows the day; the first few years of Buhari showed he would be a monumental failure. Yet, this “Pepeiye” did not get out of the river. Year 2015 provided a golden opportunity for Buhari to say, “Enough! Let me play the Nelson Mandela card (though there is no comparison whatsoever between both men) and be satisfied with only one term in office. That way, he would have saved us the unmitigated disaster of his second term; now obviously more disastrous than his first. He would also have saved himself the embarrassment and disgrace that have become his lot today.
Contrary to his wishful thinking, history will NEVER be kind to Buhari. History is not flippant! As they say, if wishes were horses, beggars will ride! But wishes are not horses; so beggars had better looked for ants to ride! Has history been kind to Sani Abacha, Ibrahim Babangida, Arthur Nzeribe and their likes? Can history ever be kind to Adolf Hitler, to Idi Amin Dada or to Blaise Compaore? “Pepeiye”, when you knew you could not swim, why jump into the river?
The last statement of Osundare’s poem says: “Those incapable of thinking/Have now turned our leaders of thought” Nothing can be more apt than this, going by what we are experiencing in the country today with all the hare-brained policies that have turned the entire country upside down. Perhaps, they did not know! Perhaps they are not intelligent enough to understand! But what do you make of their stubbornness, even in the face of superior logic and unfaultable argument? Those who do not know and know that they do not know can be helped. Those who do not know but do not know that they do not know can also be helped if you can bring them around to knowing that they really do not know. But those who do not know but think they not only know but that they, in fact, know far more that anyone else cannot be helped. Such fools are bound to perish in, and with their idiocy.
That is the bind that Buhari and the people surrounding him appear to be right now. Unfortunately, they seem bent on taking the entire country along with them. Social media is awash with the agonies of Nigerians; the newspapers, television houses and radio stations are screaming; even governors of the ruling party, the APC, are not keeping quiet and Tinubu, the APC presidential candidate, appears to be leading the way in condemning the orchestrated and contrived fuel and cash scarcity ravaging the land.
Yet, Buhari behaves like the proverbial “Ad’eti Eja” (the Deaf Fish) hired to ferry passengers across the river. In the midst of all the suffering compelling men and women to strip themselves naked in banking halls, the last word we heard from Buhari was that he needed seven days to decide his course of action! Why seven days when what is required is immediate action? Buhari’s request immediately reminded me of the story of King Rehoboam, King Solomon’s son, in the bible.
The bible records the story thus in 2 Chronicles chapter 10 beginning from verse three.
“And they sent and called him. So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying, 4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee. 5 And he said unto them, Come again unto me after three days. And the people departed. 6 And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men that had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, What counsel give ye me to return answer to this people?7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants forever. 8 But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him. 9 And he said unto them, What advice give ye that we may return answer to this people, which have spoken to me, saying, Ease somewhat the yoke that thy father did put upon us? 10 And the young men that were brought up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou answer the people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it somewhat lighter for us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.11 For whereas my father put a heavy yoke upon you, I will put more to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king bade, saying, Come again to me on the third day. 13 And the king answered them roughly; and king Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the old men, 14 And answered them after the advice of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add thereto: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 15 So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God, that the Lord might perform his word, which he spake by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16 And when all Israel saw that the king would not hearken unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to your tents, O Israel: and now, David, see to thine own house… And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day”.
When Buhari returns after the seven days he requested, ostensibly for consultation, whose voice will he hearken to: The cries of Nigerians asking him to put an end to their suffering? The pleas of APC governors who met with him and warned that the country’s situation was not only dire but also getting out of hand? The strident advocacy of Tinubu, the Kaduna state Gov. Nasir el-Rufai, and his Kano state counterpart, Abdulahi Ganduje that some fifth columnists within the presidency were those setting up the country for an explosion? Will Buhari bow to the superior argument that he urgently pull back from the brink of calamity? Or will he, like Rehoboam, spurn wise counsel and stick with the Presidency cabal intent on having their way willy-nilly or else, set the country on fire?
Whatever decision Buhari makes in the next few days will determine, to a large extent, whether this country will gather unto him or scatter from him. Rehoboam was the last king of a united Israel; will Buhari go down in history as the last president of one Nigeria? The answer, as they say, blows in the wind! There is no denying the fact that Buhari is down but as that hymn by John Bunyan says, will he fear no fall? “He that is down needs fear no fall…” Will Buhari not mind taking the entire country down with him?
- Former Editor of PUNCH newspapers, Chairman of its Editorial Board and Deputy Editor-in-chief, BOLAWOLE was also the Managing Director/ Editor-in-chief of THE WESTERNER newsmagazine. He writes the ON THE LORD’S DAY column in the Sunday Tribune and TREASURES column in New Telegraph newspaper on Wednesdays. He is also a public affairs analyst on radio and television.