When a president ‘misyarns’, By Achike Chude


National Assembly
The Nigerian National Assembly, Abuja

Since President Muhammadu Buhari has failed in this all important, pivotal and epochal exercise of simply appending his signature to the electoral reform bill, let the Senate take up this responsibility by overriding this obnoxious presidential veto.

What touches us ourself shall be last served.
Julius Caesar

So President Muhammadu Buhari, who says he is terrified of a condemnatory verdict of history on his presidency is now so incapable, so unable to help himself achieve some form of immortality in the area of electoral reform. He has refused to sign the electoral reform bill sent to him by the National Assembly.

Please clap for a president who benefitted from the electoral reforms of his predecessors, Presidents Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Goodluck Jonathan but has refused to bequeath a similar legacy to his successor in 2023. Somebody says that this is the ultimate exercise or exhibition of selfishness and crass parochialism that exults personal or group preferences over the general public good.

Let us cheer our president endlessly for his Marchiavellan dictum of the ‘end justifies the means.’

The president’s action is reminiscent of the story of three people who sought to escape from an unpleasant and dangerous situation. With their traducers hot on their heels, they began to scramble up a mounted ladder on a wall. The first person succeeded in ascending the ladder and quickly jumped over the wall. The second also had a measure of success. But as soon as he ascended the summit, he pushed the ladder away and put his accompanying comrade at arms in a precarious situation with those after them. This is what our president has just done.

Let us praise President Muhammadu Buhari for no longer believing that a man’s words should be his bond. Like Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar of ancient Rome, who was thrice presented with a kingly crown and who thrice refused, President Muhammadu Buhari had on three different occasions turned down the opportunity to sign the electoral reform bill into law in March 2018, September 2018, and December 2018. Citing the closeness of the election in 2019 as his reason for not signing it December 2018, he promised a disappointed nation that he would sign it into law for the next election.

So much for the words of the president!

We sometimes forget that politicians are strange creatures – except for those in the moulds of Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere.

Now, those were men! They thought about their people, nationhood, posterity and eternal values that lead to growth, progress, justice, equity, and peace. Today, their legacies in South Africa, Tanzania, and, indeed Africa, have been established and are unassailable.

President Buhari is no Nelson Mandela, nor Julius Nyerere. We know that! There is an old time advertising slogan that goes thus:

“If e no be Panadol, e no fit be like Panadol”

As brilliant as this catch phrase is, I beg to disagree slightly.

President Muhammadu Buhari might not be Nelson Mandela and Julius Nyerere, but he can pretend to be, by imitating some of their virtues by rethinking his possible place in history. On so many fronts, he has already defecated in the church, as local idiomatic parlance would describe his many failures in the economy, fight against corruption, and insecurity. History would flog him mercilessly on those fronts. And it is doubtful if he can turn these failures around in his remaining 16 months in office, when he could not in over six years in office.

The only path now to some form of immortality for himself is the path he seems to have closed for himself by vetoing the electoral bill.

Forget the arguments that accompanied the decline of his presidential assent. They were mere semantics rooted in sophism. The president spoke copiously about why he vetoed the entire bill because of his disagreements with the direct primaries elections for political parties. But direct primaries is just one of many essential ingredients in the bill. What of the provisions for electronic voting, collation, and transmission? What of issues having to do with people living with disabilities addressed by the bill, etc.?

Perhaps President Muhammadu Buhari is better than our perception of him. But what we know of him are through his policies and actions, and in the last six years, they have been deleterious to our welfare as Nigerians. President Buhari, by his latest unpopular action is just being the typical Nigerian politician. But the way new dynamics are playing out in our country, we no longer need such politicians. Their constant tomfoolery sometimes bestow upon them, vices that the devil would be envious of. These, perhaps makes them even more dangerous than the ordinary felons and malcontents who constantly disturb our peace, for the simple reason that while the debilitating actions of the scoundrel disturbs the peace of some, the consequences of unwholesome political action by political scoundrels affect millions and creates the environment for the scoundrel to thrive.

Lastly, there is an African saying; “Let his place be taken by another”

Since President Muhammadu Buhari has failed in this all important, pivotal and epochal exercise of simply appending his signature to the electoral reform bill, let the Senate take up this responsibility by overriding this obnoxious presidential veto.

And just like Esau sold his birthright for a plate of porridge and lost his inheritance, the National Assembly can complete the work that they began and achieve full immortality that the president would also have benefited from had he done the right thing.


Achike Chude is a public affairs analyst.

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