A systemic shock graced Nigeria in 2015. Such a surprise resulted in the ascendancy of Baba to the highest office in the country. In his rise to power and as the president, Baba mutated through three attitudinal dispositions. At first, he went from being the man of the people, to the man of his people and in the recent years of his administration, Baba became the man for himself. Few Nigerians in 2015, had the imaginative prowess to engage in a probabilistic thought of the possibility of Baba’s attitudinal transmutation to becoming the man for himself. The next paragraphs are a description of this retrogression in his leadership style.
All the clichés making rounds to explicate him evoked the expectations of a painless labor to the much desired Jericho we spent 55 years matching to. It seemed like the five decades of Nigeria’s institutional and structural decay would simply disappear in few months. For 12 years, Baba had been consistent in knocking at the gates of Aso Rock and at a point he wept against those impenetrable doors to power. Baba, the man of the people, yes the man of the people. His political righteousness demonized the elite and as a national warrior, an avenger, he reinvigorated our national consciousness with a self-styled salutation of a clung fist. The political Robin-hood of modern Nigeria. ‘Sai Baba’ was the ascending platitude that enveloped the political atmosphere of Nigeria. My fellow countrymen were filled with hope, so much that even those who were skeptical about the expected change Baba would wrought had sublime anticipations of something better. Baba had supporters in regions that were historically known to be hostile to his political ambition and for the very first time, the man who had been accused of being primordially oriented, had, against all political hurdles, defiled the temple of religion and tore the veil of ethnicity covering the eyes of fervent Nigerians. Songs came in from the four corners of the nation extolling his virtue as a champion of good and the only Samson old enough to put to flight corrupt officials of the previous republics. ‘Masu gudu, su gudu’; yes, ‘masu gudu su gudu’ (those who will run should run). Baba alone was our savior. “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”, was enough consolation to the weary hearts of Nigerians longing for change. This statement, in his inaugural speech convinced us that Baba was the man of the people.
Baba was the only Nigerian leader in recent history who received congratulatory cheers for unsubstantiated expectations. He became an exaggerated reality of the assertions in Fukuyama Francis’s book ‘The Origin of Political Order’. Francis pointed out the selfish gene of man when it comes to the distribution of state spoils and submitted that man is not immune from the infections of kingship, ethnicity and religion. By implication, whenever a man intends to dispense favour, he, before anything, reverts to his familiar environment. The selfish gene has become inimical to modern day democracy, more so, when an elected leader staffs the government and structures of the state with his kinsmen and loyalists. Baba’s level of nepotism and prebendalism has not only sharpened the primordial identity of the over 350 ethnic groups in Nigeria but has also reinforced the divisive elements that threaten the dream of one Nigeria. Baba’s administration ignored the fact that the significance of Nigeria’s unity is in recognizing its diversity; he settled for petty issues of ethnicity and religion which has led to the disregard for administrative and constitutional laws. Many Nigerians have become accustomed with the appointment of his people to strategic institutions of the state that they become disappointed when he fails to do so. His people have labeled those opposed to such stark nepotism with an unenviable sobriquet ‘wailers’. It is for this singular reason that ‘Restructuring’ has become a very familiar word in Nigeria’s political lexicon and the need for national conference weighs heavier on those concerned about national unity. Baba, for the sake of his people, chose to empower mediocrity above meritocracy and such regional clench of power through the sacred medium of religion and ethnicity has kept us from advancing as a nation. Even in his fight against corruption, Baba joined some his people in exonerating one of the most brutal and corrupt military dictator in the history of Nigeria. This was the extent that Baba could go in being the man of his people.
The selfish gene, no matter how one pretends to be generous with himself and spray on himself spiritual cleansing agents to deal with his personal interest, will always come to the fore of one’s daily endeavours. No aerosol container can restrict the pressure of the selfish gene. This is not to state that it is abominable, it’s just that we can’t help it. Baba, just like many political elite, has fallen to the pattern of creating a kitchen cabinet that feeds him with information that does not reflect the reality of the state. Whether he is aware of what is going on in the country or not, the shock with which he receives information on some national challenges suppose that he is all by and to himself. Rather than acting as the president, Baba enjoys being the president. His people have become frustrated with his style of leadership especially in recent years of his administration. It is a paradox to see the affluence enjoyed by the officials of his administration which is evident in the marriages and educational pedigree of their children while the social and economic statuses required for adulthood have increasingly become unattainable for an average Nigerian youth. His deafening silence on banditry, cattle rustling, hunger, frequent kidnappings, unemployment and the senseless incessant pillage and carnage run by armed non-state actors in most rural areas of the country has betrayed the fact that Baba is the man of the people or the man of his people. The Northern Elders Forum have disassociated themselves from him. They advised him to see the nation as his constituency. Such precepts would never have come had Baba not mutated to being the man for himself. No matter how skillful and graced those appointed into Baba’s government are, they end up becoming the shadow of themselves; despite their intellectual pedigree and statesmanship, they rationalize his silence on some pressing national issues as a strategy and a corresponding tactic. In the distorted sense of the word, patriotism has become loyalty to the president and not to the course of the nation, while constructive criticism is regarded as dissidence. Such binary classification of the citizens has impaired the cognitive reasoning of those who staff his government.
I will remember Baba as a leader who came to power on the wings of populism, attitudinally became the man of his people and in these final days transmuted to the man for himself. Such is the fate of a leader who was deified by his countrymen with blind rationality. Baba is a man after all; a man with a selfish gene.