BY NOSA OMORODION.
Before he left for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, President Muhammadu Buhari at the APC National Executive Council Meeting which held in Abuja on April 9, declared that he had decided to stand for reelection in 2019. Buhari said that his decision was informed by the call of Nigerians for him to seek reelection. However, a couple of days later in London Buhari told the British Prime Minister Theresa May that he was not concerned about the 2019 election even though other politicians had started their own campaigns. Interestingly, a day after, he appointed Festus Keyamo, spokesman of his 2019 Presidential campaign Project headed by Mr. Rotimi Amaechi. And then, two days later in his televised interview at the CHOGM event, President Muhammadu Buhari made his yet most controversial remark since becoming president by saying that majority of Nigerian youths, who according to him, constitute 60% of the entire population and of the average age of 30 years are uneducated, unwilling to work but hope on freebies from government.
While President Buhari’s aides who many nowadays call handlers – perhaps they could be rightly called so – have desperately been attempting to either justify or rationalize what is considered to be a gross diplomatic blunder, many have said that the revelation is indicative of President Buhari’s state of mental competence, which is related to his advanced old age, and thus irreversible. In the run up to 2015 general election, the opposition PDP which was the ruling party then had referred to General Buhari who was the presidential candidate of the APC as “brain dead” in obvious reference to his declined state of mental health. What led them to such conclusion then can only now be a matter for speculation now.
Instructive though, is that Buhari given his most recent gaffe at CHOGM coupled with other physical, psychological and administrative flaws he has exhibited since taking over power has led many to the capacity that although not brain dead, here is a person that has a grave challenge for which the responsibility of governance he has be entrusted with is overwhelming and that his continue holding on to power is a mockery of Nigerians’ sense of merit and progressive aspiration. The sign that President Buhari is overwhelmed by the responsibility of his office showed early when it took him six months to constitute a cabinet – a negative record for a world leader in modern times.
Surprising enough is that when the cabinet was eventually constituted, it was made up of persons who have always been around him and who come with diverse moral baggage which Buhari claims to abhor. In the same vein he has also appointed heads of federal government agencies against the letters and intent of the Constitution. Thus, ninety-five percent of the critical appointments reflect a control by Fulani Muslims. All the service chiefs, security heads, INEC, Population Commission, Immigration, Customs, NNPC, etc, fall in this category. Developments within the Presidency reportedly controlled by a cabal of Buhari’s family members lend credence to the report that the President is a hostage to a cult of nepotism. This trend is indicative of a sense of insecurity, phobia and clannish conspiracy agenda. It is also pertinent to say that President Buhari is of the least desirable state of bodily health for a nation the complexity, economy and size of Nigeria. Maintaining President Buhari’s health alone has cost the nation relatively much more than the actual investment in the national health infrastructure.
One thing we must all agree on is that President Buhari is an old man who goes by the official age of 75 years but who could in actual fact be above that age. There is a story trending in the social media that Buhari’s immediate younger sister is about 82 years old. Another one has it that in 1967 during the civil war, as an army officer, Buhari was already about 33 years old. Age reduction by Nigerian workers in the civil and military services, particularly before the nineties, was the norm rather than the exception. Even to this day, we still have such incidences perpetrated job seekers who may have spent many years hunting for jobs until they come across ones with prejudice about age. Therefore, interrogating President Buhari’s actual age given the circumstance or time of his enlistment in the government service may not be appropriate. It would be another matter though if in the course of service he deliberately falsified his claim. However, even at 75 years, which is the given age, Buhari is not just old by the number of years he has spent on earth but going by verifiable evidences, he is physiologically and mentally so. This is the crux of the matter.
By my last statement it should be noted that the factors that account for old age are any of the three – taken separately or combined. But does old age really prevent one from carrying out the functions of a president? My personal opinion on this matter is, no. Can old age be an impediment to functioning effectively in the office of the president? My answer is, yes.
Meanwhile, I want to say that I am not a fan of the “Youth Must be President” movement. Being a youth is no guarantee of competence and performance. It is no guarantee of versatility, energy, wisdom and incorruptibility. Just as there could be old men with youthful vigour and spontaneity; so there are young men that lack vigour and spontaneity when put under presidential pressure.
I did say earlier that three factors that basically account for old age are: number, bodily condition and mental state. First let me say that in spite of fixed classification, our individual ageing conditions are different. And within this difference we have exceptions. When it comes to relative capacity, the first factor, which is number, may not be a determinant of optimum performance. A young man may post a poor performance where an old man would be excellent on the same task such as the presidency. Therefore, the objection to Buhari’s reelection may not be on the basis of the number of years he has spent on earth. It is not even the remote determinant of his performance so far – from whatever perspective we may look at it.
On the other hand the physical state of the body may be a hindrance to someone’s performance of any given task – and this applies to both the old and the young but with the old being naturally disposed and with the higher probability factor. Under this condition the body may be constrained to respond to pressure due to illness, disease or natural debility. The existence of this condition is enough to disqualify a candidate from aspiring to the presidency. That President Muhammadu Buhari suffers gross physiological deficit is a fact. Since becoming president in 2015 he has spent more than half of a year of his four year tenure taking intensive treatment, and in that period completely abandoning performing his duty. And despite his seeming recovery, it is still apparent that the president is still a high risk in office.
The third factor is the mental state. In this condition the mental capacity which impinges on judgement and the coordination ability of an individual. Being young is not a guarantee of possessing the requisite mental capacity to perform the duty of the president. However, relatively young person living under normal conditions has a high probability for an appropriate mental state of being. On the other hand, old age is a natural challenge to a person’s mental state. Most often than not, old age reduces the mental competence whereby forgetfulness becomes a consistent pattern of one’s life. At this situation, there is a high probability of wanting to solve contemporary problems with prescriptions that worked for us in the earlier stages of life. We may also increasingly become unsure of the integrity and capacity of the much younger generation, thus we tend to surround ourselves with people of our age. The old may interestingly adjust, which mental capacity has not substantially degenerated. President Buhari does not inspire the confidence for us to feel that his mental capacity has not significantly degenerated as not to excuse him from seek to take on the critical responsibility of a president.
Buhari’s vintage mental state is illustrated by the opening narratives in this essay. In common parlance he could be said to exhibit the attribute of a consistently confused mind. Medically, it would not be wrong to say that Buhari has been and still exhibits a progressive state of senility which is a natural consequence of old age in some persons. A critical assessment of the President reveals a progressive decline in mental coordination. Subjecting him to another term to contend with bludgeoning Nigerian Wahala which is fueled by the retired general’s subtle religious and tribal prejudices may see our President coming down with a full blown senile dementia.
It is dangerous to have a commander-in-chief with that state of mind as the chief executive of Nigeria. We should be mindful of the fact that executive actions that control the state derive from his instructions, which must be obeyed or disobeyed at the risk of grave sanctions. Are we going to predicate our good-luck on fortuitous insubordination of a cabal covered class of high level public officers in the event that the President’s instability takes a dangerous curve? Are we going to gamble on the romantic notion that it does not take the president to get all things presidential done? Are we going to tolerate presidential aides, family members, political contractors, and close political associates who know this fact to continue in dangerous denial while urging us to support an ailing president for an uncertain second tenure?
Indeed there is a grand pretence and a grand conspiracy against the old president and the Nigerian electorate. While the president is being encouraged in his ego of inscrutability, and near godlike sense of insensibility, the pauperized proletariat and the self denying elite are being hoodwinked and lobbied to support the president’s ambition. And with propaganda President Buhari is being projected as the only honest and patriotic Nigerian alive that can be a president in 2019 despite his monumental failure in his first outing – a failure which the APC propaganda spin doctors and indeed the establishment are desperately ascribing to the mess they claim the PDP created in sixteen years. They seem to have forgotten that they told Nigerians before the presidential election of 2015 that in less than two years in office they would solve all the problems of which magnitude they amplified even beyond what the reality has come to be.
Yet, Buhari aspires like a tragic hero oblivious of his nemesis. But are we to allow the roof to be brought on us? If old Buhari cannot see the man in the mirror, must we continue to regale him with the image of what he is not? Whatever part we play in the unfolding drama of the absurd we should know that in 2019 we would make our own destiny and must live with the outcome.
Finally, let the masquerades from the South West who seem to wave the talisman in Buhari’s favour while plotting and praying that fatal fate would throw them up to the captains seat in the precarious voyage post 2019 be reminded of this Benin adage that “whoever has his eyes on an old man’s shoes may end up going to heaven barefooted”. I dare say they may not have their heads on their shoulders when in a macabre dance of propitiation the old man finds them an irritation and a threat to establishing the empire of his childhood dream.