Thursday, 15 August 2013

Still on Buhari

My last blog elicited some interesting comments when it was republished in Sahara Reporters but then Buhari has always been a polarising figure. I should say at once – for the avoidance of doubt, as it were - that I find the retired General antipathetic. This was a dictator who imprisoned journalists for writing the truth and executed three young men with a retroactive decree. Perhaps, as some argue, he has become a born-again democrat, although as late as 2011, when he unsuccessfully contested for the presidency for the third time, he declared that he had no regrets over the judicial murders and would do the same again. This is not the kind of mindset I want in my President.
But most comments concerned this business of sharia. In my previous blog, I quoted a newspaper report from 2001 which had him saying that he was committed to the total implementation of Islamic law throughout Nigeria. Some disputed that he ever said any such thing and that the source was a Yoruba journalist who misunderstood him. This may be so. Nigerian newspapers are notoriously tardy about these matters. They are also as guilty as the society itself over ethnic issues although blaming the Lagos-Ibadan axis is counter-productive given that anyone is free to publish their own newspaper, especially in these days of the internet, as indeed Sahara Reporters demonstrates.
That said, Buhari’s actions, utterances and – more sinisterly – his silences make one uneasy when it comes to this business of religion, which should properly be a private matter, especially in a multi-everything country like Nigeria. So, for instance, it is alleged that when General Murtala Muhammed attempted to push through his so-called ‘Islamization Plan’ in the Supreme Military Council before he was assassinated he was supported by Buhari (along with Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Ibrahim Babangida). How true this is I cannot say since the study of history has been discouraged in our schools and universities for obvious enough reasons.
Then there is the matter of Boko Haram. Consider, for instance, the following: ‘When the Niger Delta militants started their activities in the South-South, they were invited by the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. An aircraft was sent to them and their leaders met with the late President in Aso Rock and discussed issues. They were given money and a training scheme was introduced for their members. But when the Boko Haram emerged in the North, members of the sect were killed.’ Now this statement, which he certainly made and is easily verified, is a travesty of the facts. In the first place, the Niger delta militants were – and are – fighting a just cause by any yardstick which he, a former petroleum minister, ought to be aware of. In the second place, the militants never killed civilians even when they hijacked the foreigners they had previously warned to stay away from the area. Boko Haram, by contrast, which appears to have no cause but a hatred of all things ‘western’, has deliberately and consistently targeted civilians, even blowing up churches on Christmas Day during morning mass.
The fact that Buhari has been loud in his opposition to the state of emergency in the three northern states also sits uneasily with his steadfast refusal to condemn the killings of Christians in the north, which has itself led some to consider him sympathetic to the activities of the same Boko Haram that once nominated him as a possible member of the amnesty committee. For a man who is not slow to speak out on matters of national interest, his silence in this regard can reasonably be taken as tacit support. These are the facts and little is to be gained by pretending otherwise in assessing a man who would be president of all Nigerians, Christians as well as Moslems, southerners as well as northerners. And it is in this context that it is easy to believe reports of a hidden agenda to Islamize the entire country.
Unfortunately, Nigeria being what it is, the facts are always at the mercy of what we like to call ‘primordial sentiments’. So it was, for instance, that not a few commentators were quick to see equally sinister motives against the person of Buhari in my previous blog, with a number of them advising me to make as much money as I can from my PDP paymastersas it is countdown for them and loss of the bribe money you receive to write nonsense’. Perhaps the propagandists who work for PDP will find my write-up useful for their purposes. I cannot help that. What is certain, in any case, is that those who believe that I am one of their number are themselves guilty of selective reading. If I don’t care for Buhari for the reasons I have attempted to elucidate it is equally true that I don’t much care for Jonathan either, assuming that he is to be the other candidate in the 2015 presidential election. Indeed, the whole thrust of my blogs to date  – all 26 of them since February this year - is that no good can possibly come out of the current political arrangement that is the antithesis of the federalism we purport to practice, and which alone will get us out of the quagmire that is slowly but inexorably sucking us under.
In other words, swopping Jonathan for Buhari will only postpone the day of reckoning. That this day is still some way off is borne out by the seeming impossibility of holding any sort of rational discourse without it immediately degenerating into personal abuse – ‘mumu of mumudom’, as yet another commentator tagged me – based on supposed ethnic or religious allegiances. The descent into personal abuse is an easy enough tactic by those who do not want to face the truth. So much the worse for the ‘giant of Africa’, which has, rightly, become a laughing stock in the eyes of foreigners who reap mightily from our mumuness, as even your average mumu is able to grasp.
© Adewale Maja-Pearce
Adewale Maja-Pearce is the author of several books, including Loyalties
and Other Stories, In My Father's Country, How many miles to Babylon?, A
Mask Dancing, Who's Afraid of Wole Soyinka?, From Khaki to Agbada,
Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays, A Peculiar Tragedy, and
Counting the Cost, as well as the 1998 and 1999 annual reports on human
rights violations in Nigeria. He also edited The Heinemann Book of African
Poetry in English, Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal, Christopher Okigbo:
Collected Poems, The New Gong Book of New Nigerian Short Stories,
and Dream Chasers.

Click here to see Maja-Pearce's page:

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