Buhari at 75: Laying solid foundation for critical infrastructure

President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, our dear president, whom one could without being immodest name a miracle man, adds another year to his glorious years on earth today. For this one joins millions in thanking Almighty God. Few Nigerians will query why one is glorifying God on this auspicious day, when they remember the miraculous recovery of Mr. President from an ailment, which has no name. And which Mr President himself admitted that he had never had such ailment.

In recent times, one had never seen Nigerians collectively united as we did, in prayers, especially when he returned from the medical trip abroad and went back. To be honest, in the midst of those troubling sick months we were worried to the marrow and it was as if Nigeria was sick. For this one rededicates my faith in Almighty God and glorify his name, as it demonstrated that nothing is impossible in the hands of God.

One celebrates this day, when one recalls with nostalgia how the story of Buhari presidency unfolded in our very eyes as a mirage, an impossible journey and a fools paradise. Many did not believe he will ever win presidential election under civil rule, except Okadigbo and few of us. In order not to sound as a broken record, let us once more narrate how Rt. Hon. Chuba Wilberforce Okadigbo of blessed memory sometime in 2002 postulated or rather predicted accurately President Muhammadu Buhari’s emergence as president. He added that Buhari will lay solid foundation for critical social and physical infrastructure, and will raise the bar of anti-graft war, based on his antecedent as an incorrigible person.

When one took a cursory glance on Buhari’s multifaceted infrastructural projects on the ground and on the cards, ranging from standard gauge railways, Mambilla Power Plant, Enugu Coal, Ondo Bitumen, agrarian revolution, Water projects to fixing of federal roads, one views a better Nigeria. It kind of vindicates the position of Okadigbo.

As we celebrate Buhari today, it is important to state, that one is aware of the hunger, poverty and gross unemployment in the hand. Mr President in both private and public discussions is also bothered about the hardship daily confronting our citizenry. The good thing is that his miraculous recovery seems to have further energised his passionate drive to fix the country and get us of recession.

This was exemplified when some of us cautioned him over the bail out funds and Paris Club refund to state governments which is spilling over a trillion naira. Our argument was that in the public domain, Nigerians will appreciate Mr President more if he uses N1 trillion to fix 2,000 federal roads than dole out to state governments. Some of whom might use the mines for the intendment. His answer was that he bleeds whenever he is informed of workers and pensioners being owed months of arrears of salary.

It was because of his passionate concern that early enough Buhari made up his mind to source funds from all manner of sources – Eurobond, Sukuk, Chinese Eximbank, Africa Development Bank, Islamic Development Bank etc; in order to fix our dilapidated infrastructure. With the solid foundation being laid, one begins to see a future prosperous and progressive Nigeria. This means that Okadigbo prophesy is at work. • Mr. Osita Okechukwu, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), writes from Abuja

To recap, how this great prophesy of Okadigbo came about, after his impeachment as Senate President, Okadigbo asserted that a great political event had happened. With eyes popped out we listened to his lecture type of sermon. He first asked us, did any of you read today’s newspapers? Yes was the chorus, for most of the time we acted like students in a classroom to the great Okadigbo.

We failed the question of pointing out the exact major news item of the day he was referring to. Okadigbo in his usual candour, graciously cleared his throat and started with his routine old thesis that the then President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, his Achilles heel, was constructing a one party state, which he intoned was very dangerous, unconstitutional and might breed dictatorship. He said, ‘left for Obasanjo he would want to amend the Constitution and extend his rule.’ This was before the third term imbroglio. ‘I am surprised that none of you took note of General Muhammadu Buhari’s entry into the murky waters of Nigerian politics,’ he said. We claimed we read it, but why is his entry a major news, in the musical chair of our brand of politics?

Okadigbo’s answer was very emphatic, ‘Buhari will define politics in the years ahead. Nigeria is lucky to have him, quote me. We are lucky he didn’t join the PDP. The battle line is drawn. It’s going to be a marathon race,’ he quipped. Buhari had joined the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) when Okadigbo stated what appeared to be prophetic. He went to celebrate that the stage was set for deconstructing the one party state being weaved by Obasanjo. Some of us who have elementary knowledge of Buhari’s financial war-chest challenged Okadigbo ‘s postulation, pointing out to him that Buhari was handicapped greatly in a scenario of money politics.

Okadigbo dismissed the issue of money politics, because Buhari according to him has cult followership. He was dead right and proclaimed that we are going to join Buhari in the ANPP. For the man is going to construct a progressive Nigeria and that Okadigbo’s intellectual acumen is highly needed in this direction. ‘He has the capacity, the discipline and courage to change the old order,’ Okadigbo maintained.

We taunted him, saying that his postulation was a figment of sour grape. That he was castigating Obasanjo because he was his traducer, having masterminded his impeachment. Far from it, he said: ‘I am just a patriot, pointing the way forward for our dear country. Buhari is incorrigible and Spartan, he has the capacity to battle an imperial dictator that Obasanjo is. It is not sour grape or retribution.’

Okadigbo went down memory lane and narrated how as political adviser to Shehu Shagari he was mandated with few others to covertly probe the so-called missing N2.8 billion alleged to have been flown out of Nigeria from oil revenue, when Buhari was Minister of Petroleum. ‘It turned out to be hoax. Shagari was wise to admonish us to make the investigation secret.’

He was later nominated the vice presidential candidate in what became the Buhari/Okadigbo ticket. The outcome of the election is public knowledge and that President Buhari and Okadigbo filed petition at the election tribunal is also public knowledge, where the majority judgment delivered by Honourable Justices of the Appeal Court – Umaru Abdullahi, Mahmud Mohammed and Francis Tabai ruled in favour of the election.

While Honourable Justice Slyvanus Nsofor delivered the minority’s judgment: “My conclusion logically and naturally would be that there was a purported election on 19/04/2003. That was not what Nigerians want or deserves to have. No. All I am striving to say, perhaps imperfectly is that the non-compliance with Section 67(3) of the Electoral Act, 2002 rendered the presidential election on the 19/04/2003 a farce. Pure and simple! So, ‘Cadit queastio.’ It was a non-election.”

It can be said that for President Buhari, it was rough route to victory as 2007, and 2011 presidential elections ended in controversy. To the extent that the Justices of the Supreme Court were stretched to their limit ending with a 4-3 split votes in 2011 presidential election judgment.

In the 2015 presidential election, President Buhari won and the former president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan graciously conceded defeat and congratulated the winner, which Mr. President appreciated at the inaugural and as occasion demands. Since assumption of office on May 29, President Buhari has, in measured steps, begun the construction of a progressive and prosperous Nigeria as predicted. In this exercise some are skeptical for his pace for them is too slow. For this the President has said, slow and steady win the race. It is not peculiar to Nigerians, a lot of people assume that democracy must deliver quick results especially in political systems like ours where the people’s hope was serially dashed and the state atrophied.

Incidentally, the President has passed the trajectory of fierce battle between the neo-liberals and statist economic schools. Before his overthrow as military Head of State in 1985, he rebuffed the entreaties of the neo-liberals; hence he rejected the adoption of the World/IMF conditionalities. Among the components of the conditionalities were the removal of subsidy in fuel and fertilizer, devaluation of the Naira, privatization of state owned enterprises, et al.

In sum, one is prayers for more years for Mr. President, so as to consolidate this laudable program of sanitizing the system and laying the solid foundation for an industrial society. This is why it crucial for Nigerians to vote for him, as those who are clamouring to displace him are more or less self serving.

• Mr. Osita Okechukwu, Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON), writes from Abuja

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