Essays / The Pontifical Papers


The biggest failure of the Goodluck Jonathan regime is, probably, its unwitting reconciliation of sworn enemies. This is not just a reference to the political alliances formed under the banner of the opposing APC—but to the fact that a number of Nigerians are now poised for the 2015 presidential elections in firm support of General Mohammed Buhari—a scenario which would have been unthinkable some ten years ago.

Of course, this doesn’t imply that the General, by himself, has not tried hard to gain his present spot. He contested for the office in 2003, in 2007 and in 2011—and he was firmly rejected by Nigerians at each instance. But this tenacity and experiential level is what gave him the overwhelming edge in the APC and resulted in his primary election as that party’s candidate.

But on a popular, nationwide level, Buhari’s third defeat in 2011 should have been conclusive of the firm rejection of his candidacy by Nigerians. In fact, at that time, the General resigned to his supposed fate and vowed not to contest for the office anymore.

There was reason for this continuous rejection by Nigerians. Buhari’s military regime between 1983 and 1985 took full advantage of the military nature of their government and struck a kind of terror in Nigerian hearts that had never been experienced before then.

Preceding military administrations had been mildly autocratic and rarely tyrannical. And not until Abacha’s brutal despotism did Nigerians begin to recover from the hangover of the Buhari regime. However, Abacha reigned for some 5 years and had time to spread his terror while Buhari—and his deputy, Tunde Idiagbon—had ruled for less than two. Yet, within those two years, the deeds—and misdeeds—of the administration would grow into a source of urban legends, based in both fact and fiction.

That so much effect could be generated from such a little space of time is indicative enough of how efficient the Buhari administration was.

But there are negative facts about the administration that cannot be denied by the present campaign: the suppression of criticism, intolerance for academics and intellectuals, outright rejection of human rights and the judicial process; and a vague blindness to misbehaviour by the administration’s supporters.

The philosophy behind most of the inhumane actions of the Buhari regime was summed up in the phrase “War Against Indiscipline” on the Victorian schoolmaster’s theory that the effective way to curtail an errant child was by a thorough whipping. And “a whipping” was what Buhari’s administration gave Nigerians in those two years. Unfortunately, “indiscipline” was whatever the man at the top referred to as indiscipline, and Buhari’s personal opinion on this became law.

This brute-force social engineering had its intended effect: the Nigerian society was cleaner, more orderly, more disciplined and less susceptible to corrupt influences. But forced behaviour can last only for as long as there was someone to enforce it, and this case was no different. As soon as the opportunity for relief came in the form of the Ibrahim Babangida coup, it was welcomed by the liberated hands—with its pseudo-civilian style, structural adjustment programs, free-to-air corruption and all the jazz.

In the face of public jubilation at his overthrow, Buhari went away quietly and the stories of his administration were passed down, with fear and trembling, to the next generation.

And so, Buhari’s file was closed and it was inconceivable that Nigerians would ever consider entrusting their fates in his hands. But then Goodluck Jonathan came along—and in the last four years, his administration has helped to cement Buhari in a messianic halo.

Today, there are many Nigerians who have lined up behind Buhari—not because he has earned the right, but solely because they are fed up with the perceived inefficiencies of the Jonathan administration. For them, Buhari has become a default candidate, simply because he is the only strong alternative to Goodluck Jonathan.

Of course, there are many Buhari supporters who champion his historical anti-corruption stance as a valuable requirement for the office of president, but these supporters conveniently ignore his historical inhumane actions—or sweep it under the rug of collateral damages. Buhari himself has not come out to apologise—hypocritically or truthfully—for the misdeeds of his administration.

In any case, these arguments about Buhari’s character are practically moot at the moment: now, Buhari has come to represent a flag for Nigerians who are strongly opposed to the continued administration of the present occupants of Aso Rock.

Nigerians may consider Buhari as the default alternative to Jonathan, but we still ought to make him work for his votes. He has old questions to answer, and new realities to deal with: an economic agenda in a globalised world—one far removed from the realities of the 1980s—for example. But maybe Buhari has no time for all that grammar, maybe he has simply come to continue his crusade against corruption through a new police state.

We don’t know.

Is the removal of Jonathan’s inefficiencies worth the risk of a Buhari autocracy? Will Fela Kuti, Tai Solarin, Sam Mbakwe, Adekunle Ajasin, Ambrose Alli, Solomon Lar and all others who understand  the consequences of Buhari’s personal wrath approve this potential re-entry into the late 1980s?

We don’t know.

These are questions Nigerians will probably have to come back to in 2019. Right now, a fair number of Nigerians just want Goodluck Jonathan out of office, and Buhari is their default option. As a friend says: “It’s a very dangerous place to be.”

But it’s also a desperate one—no thanks to President Goodluck Jonathan.


Ayo Sogunro is the author of The Wonderful Life of Senator Boniface and other Sorry Tales. A lawyer by profession, he also indulges in socio-legal philosophy on this blog. Interact with him on Twitter via @ayosogunro.


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25 thoughts on “BUHARI AND THE NIGERIAN DESPERATION | by Ayo Sogunro

  1. Good one. I wasn’t old enough to vote in 2011, but I like to think I’m well versed in Nigeria’s history. And I’m well aware of the various atrocities the Buhari/Idiagbon administration committed.
    The yet-to-be-tendered apologies are distasteful as well. But I think a price must be paid for (prospective?) excellence; overlooking someone’s shortcomings, in a manner of speaking. VanGogh was an ornery drunk. Was Michael Jackson a paedophile? R. Kelly too?
    These things are never clear. I want a proactive President. Jonathan isn’t.
    A straight fight between Buhari & Jonathan? I know who I’d rather.

    I just pray we make the right choice…


    • Buhari has actually apologized. I watched it. During one of his past campaigns. 2007 I think. He begged Nigerians to understand that the conditions during military and civilians eras were different. I agree with some of the points made in this write-up, but the writer should get his facts right next time.


  2. Atrocities? Seriously wishing that those atrocities served us well into the 90s. Maybe just maybe Nigeria would have been far better off. The language of the whip and gun is what most Nigerians understand. This administration has hiddden under rule of law to entrench impunity in the system. Nigeria seriously is in need of been pulled back from the brink. This administration lacks the strength to do it!


  3. One thing that I summed up in this piece is that Buhari is definitely nt the perfect change we may need in 2015. Bt we definitely need a brk from the road to catastrophe the nedbuchadnez GEJ is leading Nigeria to with his inept,corruption,impunity $ gross incompetence.
    I believe there are millions of Nigerians better than GMB $ GEJ bt we are left with the crude fate to choose btw Buhari ‘mistakes’ in fighting corruption $ indiscipline or continue with failure of GEJ to fight corruption,insecurity,power failure,unemployment, etc.
    For me, I choose GMB.


  4. As at 31 December 1983 when the military struck, many Nigerians were already in anticipation of change only that we don’t know the form and shape of what might come following the failure of ballot box managed by NPN government of the day. There were massive corruption, indiscipline, economy in shambles, with lots of State Govt unable to pay salaries and wages, high inflation of close to 25%, government hospitals turning to mere consulting clicks among others. The situation then wasn’t as bad as being witness today. Buhari came in and introduced measures such as WAI, Trade by Barter, prosecuted drug pushers, corrupt Govt officials, he brought sanity into Nigerian society.


  5. Ayo, most of the things you called attrocities during Buhari/Idiagbon reign were actually rash change from corruption ladened government by applying brute force which is the only language our corrupt leaders and subjects understands. I am not holding brief for GMB neither am I saying he was flawless but history still tells us that he has zero tolerance for corruption which is the bane of GEJ government.

    My unable leader from Otuoke had his chances but blew it into oblivion. We will still be around in the next 25years and see what history is going to say about him. As for now let the RASH change come with brute force…….


  6. It is a reflection of how bad things are for Nigeria that our most election-viable candidates for the presidency are Jonathan and Buhari. It is no secret that Jonathan’s incompetence and his institutionalization of corruption as the incumbent is solely responsible for Buhari’s emergence as a top contender for 2015.

    Buhari as you have rightly pointed out is well known for his no-nonsense stance on corruption even though he trampled massively on human rights at the time but we really need to understand that Buhari’s draconian leadership was as a result of the system in which he found himself. We cannot accurately project that because Buhari was autocratic as a military head of state, the same would apply in a democratic setting. Such fears are unfounded.

    Just my opinion.


  7. No doubt your write-up is credible but I must reiterate that every military rule is characterized by autocracy and suppression of freedom of speech or opinion which Buhari/Idiagbon’s administration was no exception and other succeeding military administrations in Nigeria. You must also agree with me that corruption has eaten deeply into our system and eroded all our moral and religious values. I do not expect Buhari to perform a miracle ditto Jonathan but If every president can decides to focus on one problem and tackles same, Nigeria would have been a much better place. Buhari has said he will tackle corruption and fight the insurgency. If he achieves these two, even at the expense of other problems, then for me, he has performed creditably well. This is what I expected of Jonathan. We cannot determine Buhari’s feat except we give him a chance. So this is what I intend to do come 2015 election and if after 4 years, his performance is not satisfiable, then I will vote him out. I would have Buhari rather than have Jonathan whose promises never saw the light of day and cannot waste another 4 years clinging on hope that he will deliver his promises. No way!


    • Mo,
      Buhari would have done his job in 4 years (one term). Then Nigeria would be ready to recieve a young, dynamic technocrat who would take our nation to the the top of the comity of nations. We want Buhari for a ‘Elijahish’ mission – to prepare the ground for the coming messiah.


  8. Buhari is a fascist and it will be a sad day for our country should sentiments such as expressed here in the comments bring him into the presidency. Na una sabi sha. Na so una go begin cry when he picks up the whip again.


    • mz_agams,
      I would rather cry when Buhari arrives than continue crying in GEJ staying there. And anyway, it is guaranteed that I will have interludes of laughter. How about that?


  9. A thoughtful piece. Who would have thought that we would arrive at this pretty pass? That Buhari should now be the Messiah that OBJ failed to find in Abiola – not being a Messiah himself. Or that the South would – albeit one section of it – should willingly hand power back to the North. Anyway, thanks for this.


    • majapearce, a quick corrcetion about the “Abiola not being the messiah…” is is attributed to OBJ. I don’t mind telling you that was not exactly what he said, it was PART of what he said. Actually what he was that “The process that brought Abiola, was badly flawed. That Abiola is not the messiah that Nigeria wanted, but that if Nigerians were willing, that they would support the ‘badly deformed baby’ (Abiola presidency) in the hope that the badly deformed baby would grow up to bring forth healthy offsprings”. OBJ was being metaphorical, but many were being mischievious by interpreting waht he said literarily. Guys we are in the age of – I mean we can always reasech information instead of relying on hearsay or oral tradition.


  10. Dear Barrister Sogunro, You made your point, from your side of view and understanding, and I understandably agree with some. Good enlightening work sir. We surely must question any candidate. But I disagree that Buhari was a candidate by default. These are my reasons. Nigerians have never been analytical when it comes to elections since 1959, even as far back as the colonial days elections of the 1920s. In the 2003 elections, Obasanjo, a former military head of state was incumbent. At the time, Nigerians want tribes more than solutions. Sentiment and greed has driven every election. And I make bold to say that none that has been elected since 1999 can prove they are better than Buhari. I believe you would agree that sound grades does not always guarantee good success. That you were won in any competition is not an indication that you have been rejected or that the winners are better under reasonable circumstances. Now back to 1983/84. At that time, Buhari was a military leader made a head of state and guided by SMC and military rules which undoubtedly he overshot some, and like everyone is capable too. Parents sometimes over-spank children over times too. Do you want to say that Babangida was better in power? Or even Shagari as a civilian president better? I do not excuse for Buhari’s excesses but he is one of the best and well-intention leaders in Nigeria. The truth today, or better, the given today is that there are, at present, two candidates whether we like it or not. What is essential is that the people should be analytical. What are the five primary challenges of the nation and who has the wherewithal to tackle them. The challenges should be listed in order of priority and the capabilities of each candidate weighed impartially. Political parties and candidates are risks in Nigeria, even the world over. They are risks that must be taken. The only consolation the electorates can hope for is getting the truly best of the available options. You wrote, “And so, Buhari’s file was closed and it was inconceivable that Nigerians would ever consider entrusting their fates in his hands. But then Goodluck Jonathan came along—and in the last four years, his administration has helped to cement Buhari in a messianic halo.” “Inconceivable?” Analyze all past leaders in Nigeria and sincerely rate them all and give them positions, and combining all in this 4th republic
    . What will Buhari’s position be? Buhari has remained constant from time, deliberately doing all he did; his halo has not been helped by Jonathan. Something about every man speaks for him over time. Though he may not be heard or wanted initially, but he will be considered eventually.


  11. The good sense, discipline and zero tolerance for corruption instilled by Buhari government would ever remain indelibly imprinted on the hearts of principled, honest and God-fearing nigerians. Your write up here is a matter of personal interest and preferences which anyone can decide on the bases of either support for or againt as in a proposition. In my own views, comparing nigerians past to the present laborious lives and considering nigerians wallowing in a pool of abject poverty, insecurity, gross curroption, and education in shambles, which are all recorded as a result of lopsided and shelfish interest of unscrupulous elements in government in the person of Evil, Bad and Ill-Luck Jonathan and his inefficient , incapable and myopic view of national issues of his administration are a broad scandal that has jeopardize the brillant efforts of our fathers who sacrificed their lives for the unity, growth and development of this country, federal republic of Nigeria.
    Moreso, drawing inferences from your points are based on sentiments, prejudice and lack of admiration and respect for integrity of others won over excellent performance. What is an individual interest who cherishes and nurtures impunity and shelfish interest compared to national goals of our dear Nation.
    Moreover, i am not sceptical to believe that you might have been wooed or paid for this write up. Whether good or bad, just get the job done. Is that not it? Men like you might have been the ones who compromised his(Buhari) good leadership causing all nigerians to bear the brunt of the woes of this maladministration led by Mr Jonathan.
    Conclusively, i put up this reply to caution your lack of recognising the truth. Never try to twist fact next time in a desperate move to indict people with upright records of good manners, so as not bear the brunt of your evil ways. Thanks for antipated cooperation and understanding and hope to take heed! By Abdullah


    • I will pardon Ayo Sogunro for his comments. He was barely a year old during the Buhari/Idiagbon regime, so all he posted here are one sided-report he probably heard from his NPN father or uncle.


  12. Reblogged this on AKINAKINTAYO and commented:
    It’s always a pleasure to read thoughts from this brilliant young man. Nothing toxic or exceptionally rabble-rousing. Pretty much the things all right thinking and well meaning Nigerians know already.
    However, as narrated in style and coated in finesse, Ayo Sogunro gives you something to ponder about. Enjoy it.


  13. Hello Ayo, have you taken time to compare those things you call ‘atrocities’ with the various misdeeds under GEJ and PDP government? If you have you will appreciate the fact that Buhari’s regime was a great one. At least nobody reported killing spree of unarmed innocent citizens by the DSS or is it NSO when Buhari was HOS.


    • You can now see that Buhari regime is truly a great one,now that innocent citizens blood is been shed in all part of this great country.
      A monster will always be a monster,this is the same man that could not provide ammunition to fight bandits.
      Just of a sudden,when the innocent blood were to be shed provision was made for this said ammunition.


  14. Pingback: THE OSWALD HANCILES COLUMN Lessons of Nigeria’s APC for Sierra Leone’s APC | Salone Reporter

  15. Pingback: A Short History of the Cruel and Terrible Second Regime of Muhammadu Buhari | by Ayo Sogunro | Ayo Sogunro

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