President Mohammadu Buhari’s inauguration speech has been on the spotlight since Democracy Day. The speech has been hailed by the informed public as the best ever in the annals of speech making in Nigeria. The author must be secretly savoring the euphoria that greeted it since its rendition by the president penultimate week.
The public is particularly impressed with the novelty of the style adopted by whoever crafted the speech. A striking feature of the address is its short, trim, concise but weighty content. In spite of its slimness, it covered much ground, touching on almost every challenge that is currently buffeting the nation.
The speech is also a kaleidoscope of catch phrases. The most controversial of these phrases is the one that says that the president is for all everybody and nobody in particular. It has been subjected to various interpretations by the press and public commentators alike, the most common being the Godfather angle.
From what is known about the APC and its flag bearer, no single individual can claim sole financier ship or sponsorship of the president’s campaign or the mastermind of his victory in the mould of the scions of Kwara and Oyo politics, Senator Olusola Saraki and Chief Lamidi Adedibu or Chris Uba in Anambra State.
But it is easy to link Buhari’s success to the dogged efforts of a few individuals who were at the driving seat of his campaign train and who can easily constitute themselves, first, into a select group, then, a kitchen cabinet and finally, a cabal that could hold the President at the jugular in the future.
This godfather perspective therefore suggests that by saying that he belongs to all and no one specially, the president was sending a signal to some of his dogged colleagues in the APC who spearheaded his candidacy, probably funded it and worked through thick and thin to ensure that he emerged victorious in the elections, that they should consider their efforts as patriotic duties to God and country and not investments to profit from.
In this regard, the minds of most Nigerians readily snap to the likes of the APC national leader, Senator Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Anambra State, Ogbonnaya Onu, the new Kaduna State Governor, Nasril El-Rufai, Governor Rochas Okorocha, immediate past Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi and his Kano State counterpart, Rabiu Musa kwakwanso who were truly the die-hard foot soldiers of the Buhari campaign train.
The phrase is also attributable to the quartet of former civilian President Olusegun Obasanjo, his military counterpart, Ibrahim Babangida and former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Danjuma, whose individual and collective support is usually a sine qua non to the emergence of any leader in Nigeria, who may not have been in the forefront of the change campaign, but their earlier endorsements of the change agent made more than a passing difference in his electoral fortune.
The phrase could well signal a warning to this club of retired generals, who constitute a potential power bloc that he never wished to see them again except at the Council of State meeting, an unlikely fora to rattle, blackmail or put undue pressure on Mr. President.
The statement can equally be understood from a tribal and religious perspective. One unfortunate legacy of the immediate past administration is the division of the country sharply along religious lines. Granted that the division is legendary, it has never been as pronounced, deep seated and orchestrated as it is since the recent past.
Past Nigerian leaders, be they Christians or Muslims, respected the secularity of religion as a state dogma and worshipped quietly within the precincts of the villa. But President Goodluck Jonathan and his damsel, Dame Patience, chose to do otherwise. Under their watch, Pentecostalism got a boost as Pastors and General Overseers of various worship centers took turns to host the former President, complete with a retinue of government functionaries.
Wherever and whenever the president was going to worship, the media hype and orchestration that preceded and trailed each outing always gave it political campaign coloration rather than a solemn religious affair.
They virtually moved the secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, to Aso Rock which became an alternate pilgrimage centre where the former first family’s friends and well wishers, contractors, lobbyists and other patronage seekers as well as aides and cabinet members of the administration, nestled every Sunday to struggle for the former President’s attention.
These postures inevitably sent wrong signals to the Muslim population. The outcome of the just concluded polls whereby the North voted overwhelmingly for the President and the South, particularly the South- East and South- South voted massively for the former president, is an undisputable carry over from what many had perceived as the religious arrogance of the immediate past administration.
The statement can therefore also pass as a caveat to religious irredentists from the two dominant religions and tribal jingoists from northern and southern Nigeria that president Buhari will be a president to all, irrespective of tongue and creed; for those who voted for him, those who voted against him and those who did not vote at all.
Alex ohemu writes from Makurdi.