Nigerian President Buhari On How To Run A Country

By Elnathan John

Editor’s note: On May 29, 2015, Retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari assumed the Nigerian presidency. His election was an unprecedented one; in beating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, Buhari became the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria’s history. But this is not his first tenure as ruler of the country. Buhari was part of a military coup d’état that overthrew the sitting government in 1983; he would serve as Nigeria’s Head of State from January 1984 through August 1985, his 20-month legacy marked by repressive laws of press and his “War Against Indiscipline,” which involved draconian punishments — public humiliations, prison sentences, flogging — intended to enforce morality. The former strongman now maintains that he is a “converted democrat.”

Noted Nigerian writer and satirist Elnathan John’s incisive commentary on Nigeria’s current political climate is critical for public consciousness all over the globe — perhaps, most pressingly, as America gears up to head to the polls.


October is the end of the wet season, the month the rains drain out of the sky; it empties the skies of all promise and ushers in the harmattan and discontent. You know this. You feel it in all of the ingratitude tumbling out of disloyal mouths like they all had one last month to do it: complain about everything not going right. You love June. The wettest month of the Nigerian year, the month bursting with endless hope, the month where promise shines like a newly oiled child on his way to school on a Monday morning. June is the month you settled into power, last year when people still knew how to be thankful.

They had screamed themselves hoarse, and now in this month of discontent, you have brought back some of the girls they so desperately wanted. But now they want more. They want this floundering person to be held to the same standards as an athlete — you laugh when they enunciate the words: Rule. Of. Law. You are sure even they do not know what it means. So what if a man or woman sitting in some pretentious robe on a chair — which, quite frankly, is a waste of money (you would make the judges chairs smaller; stools are all they need) — says that a man you know is guilty should be released on bail? Did they elect you to take orders from people wearing wigs? Or, worse, from a woman who should be perfecting her skills taking care of you? Surely this has to do with October because, no, you do not understand it. You want to scream for June’s children, thankful children.

June’s children know how much worse it all could be. As president of the most populous black nation on earth, you follow global politics, especially news of Americans panicking at the thought of a president who just randomly kisses women and grabs them by their genitals. Of course, if you wanted to do that no one would stop you. But you don’t because the fear of God is always in your heart like vulgar scribbling on the walls of a boys’ bathroom in a boarding school. All you want from women is that they know their place. This is not too much to ask.

That Trump fellow wants to stop Muslims from coming into America. But you know which Muslims are good and which Muslims are bad. And compared to the orange man, you are kind. So you do not tell Shiites to leave Nigeria. You let them stay. But not without some small discipline. Sometimes it is not enough to tell a child not to do something wrong. Sometimes you must spank the child, help it associate certain actions with pain. For its own good. Sometimes, like say about circumcising boys, you must do away with foreskin so that they can be protected from diseases.

You certainly demand that they understand — your own people — when you have to allow your soldiers to kill off a few (hundred) Shiites. For their own good. You know they do not want the Shiites to get out of hand, blocking roads and protesting against constituted authority. It is not really your business that before you took over power they had a grievance, that 33 of their men had been killed, including the leader’s three sons. People need to learn to let bygones be bygones. As a soldier especially, you know that no civilian should be allowed to defy a soldier. For their own good. If people ask you, they should start to forget the 347 you accidentally killed within 48 hours, because really, no one likes Shiites anyway. Nobody will admit it, but you know it and they know it: You are doing the Lord’s work.

Hillary doesn’t look like the cooking type, but you also do not want Trump to win. If he does, however, you will meet him halfway and teach him the difference between Shiites and others. If he deports Shiites alone, he will be fine — that and if he doesn’t grab your wife by the genitals when you visit. She may cook for him. But nothing more.

You miss her. All the cooks in the presidential villa do not come close to the true owner of that kitchen. You let her travel a bit but this is truly where she belongs, in all her culinary glory. It comes to you in a dream sometimes, your wife sauntering into the main kitchen of the villa, walking under a diamond studded sign that reads: “Office of the First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” You might have loved this, but you are not one to waste diamonds, or waste money; this is why they elected you, because unlike your predecessor, you had no wealth. Also someone had the bright idea of including in one of your speeches that you would scrap the Office of the First Lady. So she will have to make do with imagination. But you trust her because you know it and she knows it: your kitchen, your living room, your other room — this is where she truly belongs, where her light shines, where she comes alive. She has been in Europe for a week, and damn it, you miss her.

You are not sure why people want you to fire your minister, the one everyone thinks funded your elections. What do they know about elections? Do they know what it took to get your predecessor out of power? This is the problem with October. Once the sky empties itself of the rain, people forget. They start to complain. The rain takes all their sense away. What happens before (during and after) elections stays before elections.

A senior lawyer even suggested it and you agree with him though you cannot say it out loud — perhaps you should do away with that damn rule of law so you can govern as easily as you did 32 years ago when you could correct citizens with some mild flogging and make them join queues for buses. For their own good. These days people are spoiled. They want everything quickly. Too quickly.

You are a man of faith and you know that just as surely as April will come again, bursting with life and rains, things will sort themselves out. The economy. Your wife. People’s memory. And they will all love you again like they did before.

You are not sure how, but you know it will happen.


Lead image: Wikimedia

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