Africa, Nigeria — June 5, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Give Buhari a chance

He is not literate enough to be president. He has no high school diploma. He is stupid. He is too old to govern. He is a sick man. He is a former military dictator. In fact, it was him who led a 1983 military coup d’état to topple a democratically elected Nigerian government; so, how can he, in good conscience, seek to head the same kind of government which he sacked, his critics ask.

Folks, I get it. But the man is now president. Nigeria’s former military strong man Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as civilian president May 29, 2015. And with that the change pushed by his All Progressive Congress (APC) political party came full circle. Only time will tell if Nigeria got change or not.

I like the man. Hence, I am now a Buharist. I may not agree with everything he believes in or says, but I respect the fact that he stays the cause on what he believes in, one of them being his belief that he can lead Nigeria to the proverbial Promised Land. It’s too early to form intelligent opinion whether he can or cannot Shepherd Nigeria to the land of milk and honey, but he says he can. So, give him a chance to prove himself right or kill his political career via hanging with his campaign promises rope. But he alone cannot make Nigeria better. He needs the support of Nigerians.

During campaign and the period leading up to it, a mountain of criticism like an unwanted desert sand dune was formed against him, but he did not give up. For several years he continued to fight to actualize his dream. In 2003, 2007, and 2011 he unsuccessfully ran for the office he now occupies. After his third unsuccessful try (2007) many thought he was done and finished. They were wrong.

In 2014 when Nigeria’s presidential campaign bell tolled again the tall and lanky ex-soldier, to the surprise of many, resurfaced like a recurring decimal. Most Nigerians didn’t give much thought to his fourth attempt. After all, he was attempting to unseat an incumbent, a feat no Nigerian before March 28, 2015 had accomplished.

Buhari’s victory over Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) marks the first time in Nigeria’s history that an incumbent president was defeated in an election by an opposition. This is remarkable, especially against the backdrop that the incumbent (President Jonathan) did not go to court or a tribunal to contest the election result. As the world watched if President Jonathan would succumb to temptation and join the swelling rank of African leaders who refused to leave office after suffering defeat, Jonathan showed resilience by refusing to contest the election result. No doubt the ex-president was under enormous pressure from numerous quarters to reject the election result. It must have been an emotionally difficult time for him, but rather than act out of emotion he chose to act out of intellect.

I am not stating that Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election was without flaws. Contrary to what some people will want you believe, the election had a political boat-load of problems, controversies and rigging allegations enough to fill a silo the size of Otuoke and Daura combined. That said, show me a past Nigerian presidential election without disputes, rigging allegations and counter-rigging allegations, and I will show you a virgin in a maternity ward. The question to ponder now is, did Nigerians learn anything from its past presidential election to make future elections better? Democracy is a process. Neither Rome nor the U.S was built in a day.

Let me be very clear. I do not belong to any of Nigeria’s numerous political parties for which APC and PDP are most prominent. However, I had supported President Jonathan while he was in office. My support was largely hinged on my love for Nigeria. Nigeria may not have given me all that I yarned for growing up there, but it serves as my country of birth, and for that I am grateful.

Some PDP members are still disgruntled and suffering from the disease of political kwashiorkor. It is time to turn a new leaf. Shield your political swords and move on. Ironically, former president Jonathan doesn’t seem to be suffering from the affliction of political kwashiorkor. He has since congratulated President Buhari and moved on. If Jonathan, as head of the PDP party and on whose head the defeat blow landed squarely, can let go and move on for the good of Nigeria, why can’t other disgruntled Nigerians do same? You cannot be more catholic than the Pope.

Further, I am not advocating it is wrong to feel some emotional blowback from a political defeat. It’s okay to feel that way, just don’t let it eat you up too much and cause you to act in ways detrimental to the very country you earlier, during campaign, stated you loved so much you wanted four years to run its affairs.

For the APC, especially its top leadership, congratulation. Celebrate in style, but don’t let the wine of victory intoxicate you out of your senses. No cutting up on political frivolities. You asked for it, now you got it. Campaign is over, election is over. It’s time to govern responsibly.

For the vanquished, no need to cry over spilled milk. No need to worry about tooth paste that is already out of the tube for you cannot force it back in. No need to worry about a train that has left the station.  Nigeria’s 2015 presidential election is already in the book. All you can do now is await the end of four years (maybe eight years) when the god of history opens Nigeria’s political repository book to pass judgement.

Buhari is the new sheriff in town. He now sits in the cockpit of Nigeria affairs. He needs Nigerians support to safely navigate the country through a rough weather of political rains, thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis which every nation aspiring to be great must overcome.

Nigerians, home or abroad, should support their freshly minted president to ensure he succeeds. Anything to the contrary is uncivilized.

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