A men­ac­ing new nor­mal

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Writ­ing on the pop­u­lar Nige­rian web­site Sa­haraRe­porters.com, jour­nal­ist Emmanuel Egwu be­moaned the re­fusal by the coun­try’s rul­ing ca­bal to ac­cept that Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari is, in ef­fect, a vegetable. Egwu wrote as the pres­i­dent’s in­ner cir­cle tried to shut down all spec­u­la­tion as to whether Buhari would run for a sec­ond term in 2019, given that he can hardly speak and is said to be per­ma­nently in a wheel­chair. Buhari’s sup­port­ers in­sist that he must run, de­spite the fact that he has been in a ter­ri­ble state of health for the past year and is in high care in Lon­don.

Egwu wrote that, as in­hu­mane as it was to talk about some­one’s par­lous health, the dis­hon­esty of Nige­ria’s cur­rent lead­ers war­ranted it.

“In an ideal world, this is a non-ques­tion. The propo­si­tion car­ries the un­mis­tak­able un­der­tones of cal­lous­ness and mis­chief. For the ob­vi­ous rea­son that Pres­i­dent Buhari has been in a pro­tracted state of in­ca­pac­i­ta­tion, it is in­hu­man to spec­u­late in his electabil­ity as if he were some blue chip stock,” wrote Egwu.

He went on to state that “the un­named ail­ment he suf­fers from has over­whelmed him to the point of being his pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. The sur­vival­ist quest for re­cov­ery has ren­dered him un­avail­able to lead. There­fore, it goes with­out say­ing that he can­not be re-elected to carry on as a for­eign-based, ab­sen­tee pres­i­dent.”

He was right. Buhari has been miss­ing in ac­tion since May 7. Few out­side the fam­ily have had ac­cess to him. Even Act­ing Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo has hardly spo­ken to him and it has been re­ported that in the few times they have had con­tact, Buhari has been barely au­di­ble.

Buhari’s ab­sence and his re­fusal to let go of power has had very real con­se­quences. It took a whole month af­ter the 7.44 trillion naira (R305.5 bil­lion) an­nual budget was passed by the Na­tional Assem­bly for him to al­low Os­in­bajo to sign it into law. There are sev­eral other ma­jor de­ci­sions that have been sim­i­larly af­fected.

This lowly news­pa­per­man is aware that most South Africans would not mind if their own pres­i­dent van­ished for 50 days. They would be pleased to be given a break from his il­log­i­cal and in­co­her­ent ram­blings. And they would also be relieved to hear that he was un­able to carry out the late night in­struc­tions from Atul, Rajesh and the other Sax­on­wold brothers.

But this is the real world. Coun­tries have to be run and the peo­ple who run them are gov­ern­ments that are led by heads of state.

A se­ri­ous nation such as Nige­ria – which is one of the three most pow­er­ful on the con­ti­nent, along with South Africa and Egypt – can­not af­ford to be rud­der­less for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod. While we South Africans would be happy for our head of state to dis­ap­pear, the fact is that he is the one who is con­sti­tu­tion­ally em­pow­ered to sign the big doc­u­ments and make the ma­jor de­ci­sions. As dif­fi­cult as this is to spit out, we need him.

Nige­ria has learnt to with­stand pe­ri­ods like these be­cause the post-in­de­pen­dence era has been char­ac­terised by in­sta­bil­ity and a de­gree of or­gan­ised chaos. Over those five and a half decades, Nige­ri­ans have de­vel­oped an ad­mirable tough­ness that en­ables them to defy the in­ad­e­qua­cies of their gov­ern­ments.

As proud as they are as a peo­ple, Nige­ri­ans will tell how ashamed they are of the be­trayal of the in­de­pen­dence dream.

The re­source-rich and densely pop­u­lated coun­try should be in the up­per quin­tiles of de­vel­op­ment in­dices – and cer­tainly above its ri­val, South Africa.

Nige­ri­ans’ en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit and re­source­ful­ness should have made the nation a win­ning one. Yet this is not the case. On some in­dices they rank be­low coun­tries that are con­sid­ered ba­nana re­publics. In re­cent years, Nige­ria has ex­pe­ri­enced false dawns po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally. Each time it has been dragged back into dark­ness by bad lead­ers.

The be­tray­ers of Nige­ria’s dream were mainly the political, mil­i­tary and busi­ness elites. The in­tel­lec­tu­als also al­lowed it to hap­pen by giv­ing up and head­ing off to safer and more cere­brally re­ward­ing lo­cales abroad. The masses also threw their hands up in sur­ren­der and al­lowed these elites free rein.

The ac­cep­tance of ab­nor­mal­ity is what makes it pos­si­ble for Buhari and his acolytes to dis­re­spect the repub­lic and its peo­ple so much that they keep an in­valid in the high­est seat, and then lie re­peat­edly to the pop­u­la­tion about his con­di­tion.

There is a de­ter­mined ef­fort to ram this ac­cep­tance of ab­nor­mal­ity down the throats of South Africans. Just lis­ten to the ca­cophonous mob of anti-con­sti­tu­tion­al­ists that has co­a­lesced around the pres­i­dent and his pre­ferred suc­ces­sor.

One of them – ANC Women’s League sec­re­tary­gen­eral Meokgo Matuba – this week told News24 that the Con­sti­tu­tion needs to be changed to put more power in the hands of Par­lia­ment, tame the ju­di­ciary and chap­ter 9 in­sti­tu­tions, and curb the SA Re­serve Bank’s in­de­pen­dence.

Her hair-rais­ing com­ments in­cluded ques­tion­ing why the Con­sti­tu­tional Court should be the nation’s fi­nal ar­biter whose de­ci­sions could not be over­turned. And there was this beauty, which just took the breath away: “If I am the state pres­i­dent, there are pow­ers and func­tions that I have in terms of the Con­sti­tu­tion. When I ex­er­cise those pow­ers, I am taken to court. Then I must ex­plain why I can’t use my pow­ers,” she said.

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