by Collins Uma
Buhari, on his part, said that the allegations against Abacha were ‘baseless’. He went on to say the ‘allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts’.
There is a dangerous trait which, in recent times, has become very obvious among Nigerians. This trait is what scholars describe as ‘Historical Revisionism’.
Historical revisionism refers to the blatant distortion of facts and, at times, obliteration of records such that certain events become viewed differently, in most cases more positively, by those who have held not so favourable opinions concerning the said events.
Historical revisionism, however, isn’t always bad; it can be legitimate or illegitimate. There can be an academic review of existing knowledge upon emergence of previously ‘hidden’ fact. This is legitimate. What we have in Nigeria is the illegitimate variety also known as ‘Negationism’.
For example, Humphery Nwosu, the head of Nigeria’s electoral commission which organised the 1993 elections, came out with a book recently and told all who cared to read that the election was not annulled by Gen Ibrahim Babangida, the Head of State. We left him with his book. Another example is how some people, chief among them, Femi Fani-Kayode, have been trying to convince us that Olusegun Obasanjo’s government was the best thing that has ever happened to Nigeria. We can forget his zero sympathy or empathy expressed at the site of the Ikeja bomb blast in 2001 when he rebuked bereaved Nigerians and told them not cry in front of him and waste his time because he had a more important meeting to attend outside Nigeria. We can forget the Odi and Zaki-Biam massacre of innocent and defenceless civilians by men of the Nigerian Army carried out with his permission. We can forget the 16 billion dollars spent on power with nothing to show for it. We can also forget his role in the emergence of a certain Goodluck Jonathan as President of Nigeria. The list goes on. These all happened for the good of Nigeria.
The best example of negationism in recent times, for me, has come from CPC presidential aspirant, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and his friends and fellow Generals, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar. At the 10th remembrance prayers organised for former Head of State Gen Sani Abacha on June 9, 2008, Babangida said “It is not true that he looted public treasury”. Buhari, on his part, said that the allegations against Abacha were ‘baseless’. He went on to say the ‘allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts’.
Soon it will be election season again and Gen Buhari is getting ready to give the presidency one more shot. We have so many young people eligible to vote who were either not born or too young to remember anything when Buhari occupied the highest office in the land. All we know is what we were told by our parents and others who were here at the time. This writer, for instance, was made to believe Buhari was a dictator. I have grown and studied the facts for myself and I know that even if anyone says the man was no dictator, fact is, he was really high-handed.
But the prophets of negationism are at work again. We are now being told that Gen Buhari is the Moses that will take us to the Promised Land. The same man who truncated a budding democracy. Yes, the Shagari administration was far, very far, from perfect but our democracy would have been much better now if not for that interruption. Buhari came into power and had no plan to organise an election that would bring in better leaders for Nigeria until he was overthrown in 1985.
The argument now is that Buhari will not tolerate any of the acts of corruption we have seen under Goodluck Jonathan, so let us vote for him. That is what his campaign has been built on over the years. That is what it is built on now. What he will not do instead of what he will do.
Those who promote this line of thinking do so against the backdrop of his antecedents between 1983 and 1985. They do not bear in mind a few things like the unpredictability of human behaviour, the complexity of the social phenomenon, and the fundamental socio-political differences between Nigeria of 2013 and Nigeria of 1983. It therefore amounts to a fallacy known in logic as argumentum ad populum to propose that because it is widely accepted that Nigeria was better in certain key regards in 1983 it would be best to have the same man in 2015.
The emphasis of the opposition in Nigeria has been to have a non-PDP man in Aso Rock after the votes have been counted, they under-rate the importance of the other arms of government. And this is a problem Buhari will have if he becomes president. When he last occupied that seat there was no Senate or House of Representatives to deliberate on bills before he would act. He was the Executive, he was the Legislature, he was the Judiciary, so to speak. He issued decrees that none dared oppose. It is different now so he may not exactly hit the ground running as many think.
Besides, who says there won’t be a PDP majority in the National Assembly considering that the ACN and CPC are just focused on the presidency at the moment? If that happens then we are back to the impeachment/no impeachment distractions, and nobody can work well in that condition, Buhari or not.
Buhari might come with the magic wand that fixes the security situation in the North, but what are his plans for the South? The militants in the South are arguably more armed and have the capacity to cause more harm to Nigeria’s economy than the ones up North.
One other factor that is not being considered too in the optimism being attached to a Buhari presidency is the promiscuity of the political class. They gravitate towards whoever holds political power. All of a sudden they receive an epiphany and experience a light-bulb moment and become born-again but, deep within, they are still politicians without permanent friend or foe, only permanent interests. These are men and women with lots of clout. Every politician massages them one way or the other to get some things done because they can make or break an administration. You cannot kill them. This is no longer the Army, sorry. Some are Traditional Rulers, some are dye-in-the-wool capitalists, some are already in the CPC and ACN. How he will maintain national unity in spite of these divergent interests is what the Buhari camp is yet to explain to us, if they understand it at all. Yes, the solutions are not always simplistic.
There is still so much to be done to convince many that Buhari is the man Nigeria needs, his age notwithstanding. Goodluck Jonathan is working in reverse with no clue about what to do to check the country’s descent and Muhammadu Buhari may want to cash in on the general dissatisfaction with the status quo but, to get more support, he will need to do more than tout Jonathan’s poor performance. Until that is done, voting for Buhari in 2015 may just be as beneficial as choosing six over half a dozen.