Nigeria: The Return of the Unwanted Messiah

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Normally, when the Messiah comes to the people, he is usually welcomed with euphoria, hope and positive expectations. Not so in Nigeria. No trumpet. No excitement. The declaration of the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari that he would run for the second term as President has not only caused negative reactions amongst Nigerians, it has equally set the stock market crashing, fuelling fears and speculations that many investors might pick up their billions and find their way out of the country. If the latter happens, Nigeria’s fragile economy, which is gradually waking up from the recession slumber could summersault back to the deep economic abyss.

To some Nigerians, who had been left speculating whether President Buhari would run for the second term or not, the real news would have been any announcement from the incumbent that he would not run. But President Buhari is an African, a Nigerian, for that matter. So how did those dreaming for the end of Buhari’s political sojourn and aggrandizement allow such a wishful thinking? I wonder. For Buhari, the challenges and parameters cannot be higher. Having been elected into the office as seemingly the Messiah, who would bring sanity to the insane Nigeria, turn the economy around, and thus lead Nigerians to the promised land, many Nigerians welcomed President Buhari’s defeat of the former President Goodluck Jonathan as a good omen and a harbinger of good and progress for Nigeria. Like the biblical Israelites, who questioned their leaders’ qualities and rejected them, former President Jonathan was denounced and accused of gross corruption and mismanagement by Nigerians and Buhari alike. Weak, he was equally labelled. Nigeria, many believed, needed an incorrigible, no-nonsense leader, who can bring sanity to the country. Enter Buhari! Buhari’s strong-willed, rigid, courageous and incorrigible myth helped to convince many Nigerians – despite their misgivings, especially about Buhari’s religious dogma – that their messiah had indeed arrived. The God-sent Messiah, many convincingly believed.

Dogged with allegations of turning a blind eye to corruption (levelled against those around the President), blatant nepotism, religious zealousness, economic stagnation, insecurity and hardship, many Nigerians, who strongly believed they had never had it so bad, have started looking back nostalgically to Jonathan’s era. Like in the President Jonathan’s administration, many untouchables are allegedly having a field day in the Buhari’s administration. Billions of dollars were recovered from fastidious leaders, but persecution of culprits has become a daydream. Crime is at increase and insecurity caused by the menacing activities of the cattle herdsmen, who have been accused of killing innocent citizens with impunity, coupled with, arguably inability or some would say, the unwillingness of the security forces to take visible hard steps against the marauders, have compounded Buhari’s woes. It gives many Nigerians the impression that their President is not performing or at best, not listening to the suffering of his people.

One of the biggest challenges facing Buhari is that having entered the Presidential race for the second term, Nigerians will judge him, based on their assessment of his first four-year term as President, which to many, is an epitome of failure. Unlike before he was elected, an average Nigeria will now, clearly assess the President on not “ I will do this” promise, but rather on “I’ve done this.” With this in mind, how will President Muhammadu Buhari convince his fellow Nigerians, investors and the international community, that he is indeed the Messiah they have been waiting for?  Or will his declaration to contest for the second term, be seen in many quarters as a return of the rejected Messiah?