The Buhari Consensus, By Adeolu Ademoyo
While all elections in civilized democracies are unique in different ways, Nigeria’s March 28 election is unique for one reason. It is safe to say that on March 28, most Nigerians whose votes are not bought are going to decide whether to give up on the country, or to build it. Given six years of waste and naked corruption under President Jonathan the starkness of this decision does not seem to have an alternative. This is the reason understanding the Buhari Consensus is significant. The Buhari Consensus is a Pragmatic Moral and Political Consensus. The operating concept here is “Pragmatic”.
It is obvious that Nigeria is in a stalemate politically, economically and structurally. Politically, due to an insane corrupt system, Nigeria has fallen from grace to grass under President Jonathan both locally and globally. According to World Bank statistics, the average Nigerian lives on an average of $2 a day despite the touted claim of being the “biggest” economy in Africa! Size has value only if it has impact on the lived conditions of the poorest in the society-otherwise size is a gimmick against the poor. That is the case with Nigeria as the “biggest” economy in Africa!
And structurally, because of the perfidy and opportunism of the ruling elites in all the national groups, and the insane corrupt system under President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria is unable to engender a working federal or co-federal structure which is consistent with Nigeria’s plurality and multi-nationality side by side clearly enunciated equitable and just residency/citizenship rights.
For any country to make a radical break from the past and progress, there has to be a consensus that makes the country speak with one voice. A combination of the consequences of the economic, political and structural stalemate has produced a Nigerian situation where there is no consensus on any issue for six solid years and hence the lack of a unanimity on issues among Nigerians. With a close look, it is reasonable to see that the ethical failure of President Jonathan’s government is at the core of these political, economic and structural stalemate.
Hence, in dire and difficult situations-where the only alternative is a revolutionary uprising, countries rely on any available morally inclined and morally significant leaders (if there are any in sight) to lead the country out of a tight corner and salvage the country as an alternative to a revolutionary outburst, which has its consequences.
This is because the economic, political, and the structural failures coalesce around the ethical in life- and this ethical is the MORAL WILL, MORAL CAPACITY and MORAL AUTONOMY to take tough and difficult decisions in difficult situations. And the ethical-the MORAL WILL – rests on individuals who will defend the sanctity of existing institutions, and who will midwife new institutions to salvage the country. In these individuals-who may not necessarily be perfect – the country often say in tough, complex and difficult situations: “we believe”.
But it is extremely difficult to believe President Jonathan or anything he says. This is because President Jonathan never prepared to lead a country. This explains why he sees himself as the ethnic President of a section of the country, and not a president of Nigeria. President Goodluck Jonathan does not lead; rather he follows from the rear of a few individual ethnic champions in and out of his cabinet. He follows from the rear by simply tailing these individuals who are in and outside of his cabinet. Hence, President Jonathan is unable to engender a national consensus because you cannot lead by simply tailing individual ethnic champions who are driven by personal and private political and economic interests.
This is why outside a sudden revolutionary outburst- from all indications; the Buhari candidacy in the 2015 elections is a pragmatic consensus, which represents the only pragmatic alternative to the six years of waste and naked corruption under President Jonathan. This is why towards the March elections; there are just two options. Option A is to give up if President Jonathan wins. Option B is to start re-building again if Mr. Buhari wins.
However, historically speaking there has always been a third option, Option C that is a break up of the country. This can happen under either of the two options –A and B- and or outside the two options. Despite the re-current potentiality of this option-Option C, the Nigerian political elites (south, north, east, west) whose ideas dominate the Nigerian polity has not been able to arrive at the best way to realize this option.
The intertwining of socio-economic networks and thieving ties among the political elites (south, north, east, west) has been a major block to this option-option C. President Jonathan’s recently reported Abuja land grab is a good example. President Jonathan’s Abuja land grab is significant to understand the “national question”(which is political and structural term of co-existence of Nigeria’s national groups) and the dubious nature of the sectional ethnic campaign of his promoters.
Abuja is far from the site of oil which is often used by President Jonathan’s ethnic campaigners such as Dokubo-asari, Diezani Alison Madueke, Edwin Clark, Government Tompolo, boyloaf, Kuku, and numerous others to argue that President Jonathan must be re-elected by hook or crook because of where he comes from-the question of oil!
But Jonathan’s Abuja land grab like that of other members of Nigerian political elite and class spread across all national groups-south, north, east west- has exposed the failure of President Jonathan’s ethnic campaigners to note that the revenue base of Nigeria has a history which dates back to pre-independence and that oil has not always been the main source of revenue.
In being part of the league of the thieving Nigerian political class, President Jonathan Abuja land grab exposes the hypocrisy of his ethnic campaigners, their a-historical reference to Nigerian oil resources and revenue in crudely making a case for Mr. Jonathan’s candidacy when they deliberately screen off the common thieving interests of members of Nigeria’s political elite and class which is the major stumbling block to Nigeria’s progress-and perhaps option C.
So talking about option C, for example, allowing Boko Haram to fester un-necessarily by President Jonathan can be legitimately read as a decoy and a hidden timid ploy to realize option C-a break up of the country-through the backdoor. What many critics have wrongly termed President Jonathan’s “cluelessness” towards Boko Haram is actually not cluelessness. If it is cluelessness it is a contrived cluelessness to terminate what in his mind and the minds of his ethnic backers- is the wrong 1914 amalgamation of South and North-as his ethnic campaigners and backers often put it.
Thus, he appeared “clueless” overtly, but covertly, President Jonathan knows what he is doing- for him, deliberately leaving Boko Haram to drag and fester (until now –election time) is a weapon to help weaken and terminate Nigeria-what his backers call 1914 false amalgamation.
Now, focusing on Option A is out of it because if President Jonathan wins, most decent Nigerians would shut down and simply give up on the country. This means having to live with four more years of unbridled and naked corruption and contrived “cluelessness”. Ten years of unbroken waste are enough to declare the country dead.
This explains the attraction of the Buhari Consensus. Defenders of the Buhari Consensus know what a consensus is. Because the Buhari Consensus is the only pragmatic option to Option A at the moment, it is worthy of attention.
Those who openly or privately defend the Buhari Consensus know that a consensus is not a pure and flawless act. When something is “pragmatic” it is not pure! It only means the only realistic and workable option in the circumstance. And this has nothing to do with Mr. Buhari as many of his critics wrongly put it. Rather, it has everything to do with the Nigerian system, everyone associated with the Buhari Consensus and Mr. Buhari himself.
This is because a conscious or unconscious consensus, willing or unwilling consensus is an aggregate of varied interests sewn together by those who are more visible in the Consensus. In this case the more visible ones are the political elites in the parties that produced APC who have aggregated both coincidentally and consciously the wide spread desires of Nigerians for a meaningful change from a Goodluck Jonathan presidency.
The strength of the Buhari Consensus however is a commitment to building a country. Nation building, building a country is one thing President Jonathan was never committed to. With Buhari there is the possibility of having a country both emotionally, spiritually and physically. With Jonathan, the possibility was and is dead because scratch any Nigerian, Nigeria died in the average Nigerian when the signs became clear that Mr. Jonathan is not a nation builder, and is not committed to it.
There is nothing anyone says or write, Mr. Jonathan looks bland and blank and tells you “I do not care”. He simply does not care. And there is nothing anybody can do about a President who does not care other than ask him to leave on the day of election. It is as if President Jonathan is held captive by a deadly a cult. And this is talking both figuratively and substantively.
But the Buhari Consensus must answer many of its critics. There are two potent criticisms against the Buhari Consensus. First is that with Buhari Nigeria will continue its failed unitarist and centralist structure. The second criticism counter poses the historical role of morally significant and inclined individuals in history-such as Buhari- and social institutions as the platforms for nation building and not just the strength of morally significant and morally inclined individuals.
The first criticism fails woefully to see that the country has gravitated toward Buhari because it is a consensus. Hence, it is no longer about Buhari as an individual, but about the mass of consensus around an individual. It is that consensus that must defeat Nigeria’s centralist and unitarist structure. Sadly, this criticism is often malicious and petty when the defenders think that some sections of the country will suffer in a true federal or co-federal Nigeria! That a section of the country will suffer as a result of a true federal or co-federal Nigeria is silly and false. Nothing can be further from the truth.
The pettiness and political malice of the defenders of this view lie on the a-historical nature of their views i.e. they fail to read Nigerian and African history properly. While the Nigerian and Sudanese experiences may be different, but what is happening in Sudan after the break up-where the South is in turmoil and needing the help of the North (to sort itself out) it fought mercilessly is a good moral lesson.
The second criticism fails to see that bad rulers like President Goodluck Jonathan are fundamental threats to the effective working of social institutions and good and morally significant and morally inclined leaders make institutions work. Here I will use the flawed view of the coordinating minister of economy –Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala to show how bad this view is- the view, which counter pose roles of morally significant individuals and roles of institutions in nation building.
This view is a deliberate and conscious failure to accept how a President who lack a moral will (such as Goodluck Jonathan) destroys institutions. The same Ngozi Iweala view is also a deliberate attempt to shut one’s eyes to how a leader with a moral will and moral capacity can make institutions work and work effectively by granting such institutions the moral autonomy to work professionally and in an ethical manner. While “technocracy” is fashionable and may be relevant in some situations, but here –in Nigerian concrete situation-we are talking of the moral will, the moral capacity to act-a moral will lacking in Mr. Jonathan’s presidency and cabinet.
Dr. Ngozi Iweala is on record to have said that Nigeria failed to combat corruption because we do not have the institutions or that we need ‘high tech” institutions to combat corruption! Dr. Iweala’s self serving and bad view reminds one of the African proverb which talks about leaving leprosy to fester while going “energetically” “enthusiastically” “aggressively” and “furiously” after curing eczema- i.e. one does not leave substance to pursue shadows! I guess Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala and some writers who believe in this obviously false social view wants to re-invent the wheel!
Dr. Iweala and these writers simply “forget” that we have the police, judiciary, EFCC, ICPC, which worked in the past but had failed under President Jonathan because President Jonathan and his corrupt Quintuple presidency (Patience Jonathan, Stella Oduah, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Diezani Alison Madueke and Goodluck Jonathan) went out to weaken Nigerian institutions.
Despite the fact that we have these institutions, we have an insanely corrupt system, which fails to enforce the rules, which allows ministers to get away literally and substantively with murder because the fish start to get rotten from the head! This is because bad rulers like Goodluck Jonathan and his Quintuple Presidency look for corrupt individuals-as ministers to work with to help weaken the institutions.
The deliberate weakening and corrupting of Nigerian military under President Jonathan is a good example. It is a bad leader like President Goodluck Jonathan that is capable of destroying the Nigerian military as he has done by turning the military to a political campaign machine!
So, where there are institutions which fail to work-as we have it in Nigeria-, you need a MORAL WILL and MORAL CAPACITY of morally significant and ethically inclined individuals to make such social institutions work. Here in lies the meaning and nature of the political choice of Buhari Consensus. It is not about Buhari. It is more about a country –Nigeria-which is desirous of a Consensus to engender change.
Adeolu Ademoyo email@example.com Africana Studies and Research Center, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.