“I have led this country and I have a record. We were not perfect, but we were effective; we solved problems, and we made Nigerians proud. In our government, we fought corruption, we stabilised the naira, and we shut down insurgencies. We shouldn’t forget so soon that there was Maitatsine ravaging the north east and we dealt with it. We also overran the Chadian rebels. We rebuilt industries, Nigerians queued up and treated each other with respect; Nigerians took pride in our reputation for discipline. The world admired us” -Muhammadu Buhari

Fela Ojo

The above were spoken words by Muhammadu Buhari during the 2014/2015 electioneering. Candidate Buhari captured some of the achievements of his military regime when booming sounds from heavy guns and rattling noises of bullets from overrunning military tanks brought his team to power in Lagos 1983. These were testaments from the days the general had poise and bite. They were words of a man the depraved, the devious, the corrupt, and the callous with money, power, and authority in Nigeria feared. The successes and failures of that regime always remind me of many things about the man who has now been our civilian President for three years.

Before he was sworn in as President on May 29, 2015, Buhari was feared! “The fear of Buhari is the beginning of wisdom” was an aphorism or axiom that we heard often in the early part of his administration.  The fear was not hidden. It was shouted on the roof top and we were warned by his opponents not to allow him ascend the Presidency. “You will all die in jail”, they panted. Who would not believe them? Nigerian history books have documented how the allegedly corrupt in the ousted civilian regime were slammed in the calaboose by Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon. There was a terrifying precedent.

So, in 2015, mean men in power had a fear of Buhari. Incarcerophobia! Chronophobia! Dikephobia! Call it what you want. There was fear. Even the sitting President Goodluck Jonathan had fear of the man who wanted to take his seat. He said: “You can no longer carry people and put them in prison for 301 years… we cannot run a government where somebody said he would throw people into jail”. His wife, Patience, lost her voice shouting it at every campaign stop. “He will jail us all oooo… A vote for Buhari is a vote to send people to prison”.

A PDP senatorial candidate in Adamawa State, Silas Zwingina, chorused along: “We have to stop Buhari and his plan to build more prisons to jail politicians…You know Buhari, he will send us to jail for between 200 and 300 years and it is the lucky ones among us that will get 50 years…”. There was fear and trembling. The fear of Buhari was palpable.

Sixteen years before Buhari’s administration, a total sum of $29.635bn or N6.52tn was wasted on electricity supply between three presidents from the same party.  Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration reportedly spent $16bn (N3.52tn); his successor, the late Umaru Yar’Adua, expended $5.375bn (N1.183tn) while President Goodluck Jonathan spent $8.26bn (N1.817tn). And like a bolt from the blues after Buhari spent about 100 days in office, without the appointment of one minister, and without expending one extra dollar, power supply suddenly improved.  How did that happen? The new Sheriff flashed his badge to those in charge of power supply. The gluttonous, greedy geeks and their faceless votarists began scampering for their lives by doing the right thing they actually could have done from the get-go.  There was fear of Buhari.

But alas, the retired General’s poise has plummeted. The Army officer’s bite has blown off like a blighted ovum. Where is the Buhari who once marched on the necks of enemy-terrorists as he pursued them into the Chadian territory until they were humbled? Where is the fear of Buhari that once gave his opponents sleepless nights?  Where is the Buhari that the foul feared?

Bukola Saraki became the Senate President by daring the leadership of Mr. President as the head of his party. He jettisoned party protocol and hand wrung himself to power as the President watched and said: “I am prepared to work with any leader that the House or Senate selects… It doesn’t matter who the person is or where he or she is from… I will not interfere in that process.” Saraki and his men are now allotting special unpleasant allowances to themselves as Nigerians are dying of hunger. They have no fear of a commonsense check-and-balance from the executive.

While the president is still alive, a belittling presidential appointee, David Babachir, once asked Nigerians; “Who is the Presidency?” What an insult! The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, tossed a presidential order into the trash can and came up with his own plan; yet, he remains in power and authority. Men in dark places who were not voted for seem to be in charge of Nigeria today. It is now obvious that our expectations of Buhari were unrealistic. CHANGE, according to the creed and credo of Buhari and the APC, is wobbling in gaits because very few now fear Mr. President.

I am still wondering where the Buhari who we expected to clean the dregs and debris in government is hiding. There is an eerie feeling; a spooky, creepy presence of some haunting imagery about the presidential palace in Abuja. It is a combination of ghastly ghost and poltergeist that succeeds in putting occupants in demonic chokehold. Whatever that spirit is, it seems to have turned a retired General-President Buhari, a well-trained and tutored soldier, into a man without poise and chutzpah. Drip-by-drip, our once-feared President is now dared by many.

The most difficult job in the world is leading Nigerians in any capacity. Nigerians cannot be led with kid gloves. No one is asking Mr. President to be cruel; but the wicked must fear him. Thieves must be afraid of him. His appointees can’t have their own agenda outside of the main vision. Army commanders in Taraba command posts must not have hidden ethnic or religious agenda. Mr. President cannot claim ignorance of developments that border on policy. His voice must be respected and heeded; and his body language must not be misread and misunderstood.

Niccolo Machiavelli was a 15th century Italian Renaissance political philosopher and statesman. A lot of things he stood for I stand against. But one doctrine he captured in an almost 500-year classic guide for leaders, “The Prince”, is very interesting. Machiavelli wrote these words: “It is better to be feared to loved; if you cannot have both.” I concur with him.