Those who expected only hard knocks to go the way of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration as it shifted gear into its second year must have been sorely disappointed. Of course, there were knocks here and there but, on the whole it appeared Nigerians, who are understandably unsparing when assessing their leaders, are prepared to give the administration the benefit of doubt. The deciding factor is integrity of the surefooted duo in the cockpit!
Even starry-eyed predators who regularly gnaw away at the soul of the nation will readily attest to the integrity of President Muhammadu Buhari and his deputy, Yemi Osinbajo. Take, for instance, the banditry of the aptly-named scavengers in the Niger Delta. But for a government with integrity, chances are the Buhari/Osinbajo administration would have opted for the easy way out by continuously throwing money at the over-pampered dacoits in the name of amnesty. Of course, Nigerians knew another round of scavenging was imminent in the Niger Delta the moment government abridged certain privileges hitherto enjoyed by the bandits.
Away from scavengers, it was integrity that decided the botched, now suspended, nation-wide industrial action called by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC. Ahead of the action, few comrades at Labour House must have anticipated any positive response to their call to action. It was okay for our friends at Labour House to make the necessary noise when government jerked up pump price of fuel. Otherwise, and under normal circumstances, whatever remained of the reputation of labour leaders would have been dented if they had turned the blind eye.
But, the current situation in Nigeria is far from normal. Unlike the very recent past, Labour is dealing with a government led by leaders whose integrity is beyond reproach. Nigerians are dealing with leaders who do not steal and who do not condone stealing. In President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo, Nigerians have leaders whose words equal their bond. Put the till under the watch of either of them and Nigerian can go to sleep with both eyes closed. That says a lot about integrity just as it says a lot about how the survival of a hitherto-rudderless nation hangs on the integrity of two men!
Under former President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria was in the hands of a leadership to which integrity was an anathema. For the six years he was in charge, the former president did not hide his disdain for the anti-graft war which he inherited and swore to prosecute. He so detested the anti-graft war to the extent of making its condemnation a major plank on which he built his botched re-election campaign. Even to his unquestioning loyalists, there was nothing statesmanlike in Mr. Jonathan’s ingratiatory public remark that stealing is not corruption!
So far, investigations by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, into scandals of the Jonathan years have confirmed that the former president’s ‘stealing is not corruption’ antithesis was not an empty campaign slogan. As president, Mr. Jonathan must have been so sloppy to have warranted his name to be linked to several high-altitude scams. Is this why Mr. Jonathan suddenly developed a sudden peripatetic lifestyle even though he claims this has nothing to with reports linking him with self-exile? Pray! Was this why some hitherto credible men of God put their reputation on the line to intercede on behalf of the former president?
Whatever the case may be, it’s no secret that most Nigerians believe the Buhari/Osinbajo administration is Nigeria’s best and last hope for national rebirth. This explains why Nigerians appear determined to remain in the trenches with the government despite the confusion in the polity occasioned by the unrestrained looting of the locust years of Mr. Jonathan. It is a credit to the Buhari/Osinbajo administration that, in matter of months, it has got over the initial shock of discovering the gargantuan damage to the economy perpetrated by political scavengers of the recent past.
When Nigerians clamoured for change, they were not oblivious of the fact that change will be slow and painful as it has thus far proved to be. So, what then, now that God has answered the prayers of Nigerians? It is restating the obvious that the president and his deputy are serious-minded individuals who will strive to improve their offices rather than wait for their offices to improve them. Luckily, there is nothing to suggest that the goodwill enjoyed by President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo is about to dry up. Ultimately, it is this goodwill that will determine the success of the administration.
In other words, the goodwill enjoyed by this administration will determine the success of this administration in stirring Nigerians into forgetting their bitter experiences of the immediate past. A lot in this regard will depend on how far Nigerians purge themselves of the counter-productive practices that resulted in avoidable pain and anguish. Nothing good comes easy! And, change, the most common denominator in the affairs of men, will not come easy. For a country that has been pillaged for so long and a people long used to being treated as sub-humans, change is going to be slow and painful.
Few days into its second year, it is heart-warming to learn that, Nigerians who trekked long distances to honour and herald the Buhari/Osinbajo administration last year are willing to embark on a ‘long march’ to register their displeasure if the administration fails to perform! This is a challenge the president has consistently acceded to. It is as well a mark of the well-placed confidence that straight-thinking Nigerians have in the Buhari/Osinbajo administration to get it right.
If, at the end of four years, a huge chunk of looted national assets is retrieved and treasury-hijackers are jailed in the process; if, at the end of four years people are forced to think twice before they contemplate stealing public funds; if, at the end of four years, national institutions are stronger and functional; if, at the end of four years, more Nigerians do not vote for dubious and nimble-fingered people whatever the depth of their pockets; if, at the end of four years, more Nigerians refuse to join the dying culture of honouring and celebrating thieves; and, more importantly, if , by 2019, the ongoing political engineering throws up another set of leaders with honour and integrity, then President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo must have surpassed the expectations of Nigerians.
The past twelve months have proved it is doable. So, let no one delude themselves that integrity has no place in governance. It does, because is a critical factor that should normally top the wish-list of countries emerging from years of misrule. Ultimately, what will turn the tide in favour of those with the self-declared ambition of fixing Nigeria is the level of their integrity.
What else can a people wish for!
Magaji writes from Abuja and can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org