Hey, do you know who I dislike? General Muhammad Buhari—the Nigerian military Head of State who, while in office, churned out dick move after dick move until he became widely acknowledged as a generally certified asshole.
Do you know who I dislike almost as much? General Muhammad Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, and later, the Congress for Progressive Change—who tried to run for President dictatorially, and carried about as though Aso Rock was a personal entitlement, thereby confirming his status as a generally certified asshole.
But do you know who I’m beginning to admire, grudgingly? Muhammad Buhari—current Nigerian presidential aspirant on the platform of the All Progressives Congress or some political party like that.
These days, it’s hard not to give the man some props. Like a political Harry Potter, he’s becoming too cool to ignore as he skips from one challenge to the other. Each passing week seems to present a new “wahala” contrived to befuddle the man, but ends up showcasing him to those of us who are still weighing our political options.
It’s becoming quite ridiculous. From the allegations of Islamic fundamentalism (which he seems to have negated with his choice of running mate) to the postponement of the elections (which, damn, he took in stride: calming his people with his pale, fragile fingers) via certificate queries, death prophecies, family-intrusive media documentaries, antagonistic court actions courtesy Fani-Kayode, Ayo Fayose, Doyin Okupe and a host of others—there seems to be no political challenge this version of Buhari isn’t able to face without breaking.
Let’s be honest, the Buhari of 2003-2011 would, faced with this same challenges, have devolved into a media rant, speaking in invective and wagging his pale, fragile fingers in admonishment. That Buhari would be on the confrontational path, growing more and more bitter until he eventually isolated his campaign from the political process, and earned the dismissal of the Nigerian public in consequence.
Maybe this historic behaviour is what his current political opponents have been counting on: the belief that if they goad him just enough, then they would bring out the beast in him. And then, he will automatically self-destruct.
But there has been no beast so far. Just remarkably good sense and a focus on the goal.
This is not to say that the current reboot of the General gets a hundred percent marks of awesome: for instance, the certificate issue shouldn’t even have been an issue if properly handled from the outset; also, Buhari has unnecessarily found cause to refuse a debate against the incumbent president. But, overall, this Buhari is clearly more mature, more composed and seemingly more ready to work within the annoying checks and balances of a democratic government than his earlier versions.
Maybe this is just the work of a great PR team—and maybe GEJ also needs to ask for referrals.
But, more likely, maybe the man has matured—not necessarily changed—but matured enough. And, maybe, the admirable way he has handled his current political challenges could turn out to be early indicators of just how well he will also handle the challenges of office.
With pale, fragile fingers and all.