Buhari, NEF And The Burden Of Statesmanship, By Gidado Ibrahim

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A story was told of seven Pakistani men of Buneyr, who once left their native wilds for the purpose of seeking their fortunes. When evening came they all sat down under a tree to rest, and one of them said, “Let us count to see if we are all here.” So, he counted: “One, two, three, four, five, six,” but, failed to count himself. He exclaimed: “There’s one of us missing; we are only six!”

“Nonsense,” cried the others, and the whole company of seven began counting with uplifted forefingers, but they all forgot to count themselves. Apprehensive of some evil, they now rose up, and at once set out to search for their missing comrade.

They met a shepherd, who greeted them civilly and said, “Friends, why are you in such low spirits?” “We have lost one of our members,” they answered with trepidation. “We started this
morning seven in number, and now we are only six. Have you seen anyone of us hereabouts?” They added.

The shepherd stared at them for a while and answered: “But seven you are, for I have found your lost companion; behold: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven!”

This excerpt aptly captures the latest position of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) against President Muhammadu Buhari. As much as individuals and groups have the right to hold opinion,
elders are supposed to thread with caution, especially, against the backdrop of the huge mess and economic chaos President Buhari inherited following decades of corruption, maladministration and misapplication of resources.

Like the seven wise men of Buneyr, the Northern elders did not do proper assessment of the Buhari administration before arriving at their conclusion. They certainly may not have other ulterior motives than the desire for a better system but good reasoning requires that the elders explore other channels of interfacing with the president.

President Buhari has justified the people’s confidence by liberating the 14 local government areas of Borno State hitherto held captive by the Boko Haram sect. The sect’s wildfire spread before President Buhari took office in 2015 has been halted.

If I may ask, is there any of these elders that have not held important position in Nigeria? Certainly, a good number of the NEF member had once been in public office. That means they are statesmen in their own rights, and the role of a statesman is clear in any society: to serve as ‘shock absorber, moral and social equilibrium,’ but a situation where those who should be custodians of the nation’s peaceful co-existence become self-appointed alarmists and anarchist is worrisome.

A closer look at the members of NEF reveals that these are notable men who have served Nigeria in various capacities in the past. With their wealth of experience in service to fatherland, one expects the NEF members to take or use a more dignified approach in tackling burning national issues. Instead, they chose to behave like men of Buneyr, who claim to be wise men but fail to handle issues in discreet manner.

The elders’ remark that they are disappointed in the Buhari administration in terms of security of lives and property amounts to killing a fly with a sledge hammer. Perhaps, the expectation they are talking about could be their own interest and not security because President Buhari has made Nigeria more
secured than any time in history.

NEF’s call for the change of the nation’s service chiefs is commonplace. Some internal and external enemies of Nigeria had in the past used this to distract the president from the good work he is doing. But as Nigerians, we expect that our Northern elders should mean well for Nigeria.

The forum’s demands for a thorough overhaul of the leadership of our security and public safety agencies could be that they are out of touch with the real situation on ground. The Northern elders relied on the claim that the relationship between insecurity and poverty is fundamental, and the Buhari administration of not having any idea on what will provide relief or solution.

Have they forgotten that the Buhari government has done more on poverty alleviation than any administration in the last 50 years? Have they forgotten so soon how Buhai’s government utilized the repatriated Abacha loots on poverty alleviation? Or have they forgotten the TraderMoni and the graduate empowerment scheme? Perhaps, they have been expecting the administration of President Buhari to empty the nation’s treasury to before they can acknowledge the good things he is doing.

The time is gone, when Nigerians are manipulated to hate or instigated to rise against their government. President Buhari has demonstrated the capacity to transform Nigeria and all that is needed is the support of all and sundry.

My appeal to members of the Northern Elders Forum
is that they should position themselves as true statesmen, whose overriding interest should be a peaceful and egalitarian society for Nigeria instead of throwing tantrums that will rock the ship of

Forward ever, backward never with President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigeria is on a sure road to greatness.

Ibrahim is Director, Communication and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee


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