Thirty-one years ago, General Muhammadu Buhari was Nigeria’s Rorschach test, upon whom the citizens could project their disparate yearnings, following widespread disillusionment with the civilian administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari. To govern, however, is to choose, and the choices the APC presidential candidate made then have revealed his personality and he’s now forced to confront his brutal past.
Buhari knows he governed as a conviction politician determined to force morality on Nigerians whom he assumed were not properly groomed. He also devised a retroactive means of executing drug traffickers and throwing journalists in jail. Which is why he’s now coming out to say he doesn’t want to be judge by his past. That is understandable.
For his teeming supporters who say he’s the best thing to have happened to Nigeria since Gala and La Casera, Buhari may not have a problem with his lamentation. Similarly, forgiving Buhari may not be the problem many who oppose him have, but his plea also reeks of vicious double standard. This is how.
On December 23, 2014, Buhari had this to say when he met with a group of young individuals stumping for him around the country:
“I want people to look at my record as the Head of State and see what I did to ensure peace and stability. I flew into Adamawa as Head of State and that was the last time we heard of Maitatsine. I also tackled corruption at all government levels.” (Maitatsine was a notorious Islamic sect in the 1980s, similar to Boko Haram but with obviously less sophistication and ruthlessness.)
Then he told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that:
“All those things you mentioned were done under military administration; if we did not suspend the Constitution then, it would have been difficult for us to operate under those circumstances. So I do not think I should be judged as an individual for those things that happened then.”
Napoleon Bonaparte said, “If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.” General Buhari should tell Nigerians if he’d like to be judged by his brutal past or ostentatious present, his verbal gymnastics will do him more harm than good.