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OUR PRESIDENT IS IN LOVE By Dare BABARINSA

Dare BABARINSA
Dare BABARINSA

It is not an easy thing for a king or a president to fall in love. First, a president has a mighty pen with which he can get almost anything done. Dylan Thomas the poet states:

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“The hand that signed the paper, felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country.”

There is nothing as mighty as a president’s hand, especially if the president is your neigbour. Having a president as your neighbor can be a pleasant and also troublesome experience. In those days when the ruler of Nigeria was living in Doddan Barracks, the neigbours in Ikoyi knew they would enjoy good electricity supply. But then occasionally, there was the stirring in the barracks like during the Gideon Orkar coup of 1990 when the neigbour saw hell.

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Things are different now. There are bloody civilians sharing the same precinct with the current Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. The Aso Rock Presidential Villa is still the President’s address, but he has neigbours who have their private houses in that neighbourhood. But they don’t enjoy what the President’s neighbours are enjoying now in Katsina State.

President Muhammadu Buhari is the ruler of Nigeria now and his neigbours in Daura, his hometown, know that indeed. His second coming has changed the town and transformed Katsina State into something bigger. During his first outing as Nigerian ruler in 1984 to 1985, the people of Daura hardly felt his impact. Then after barely 20 months in power he was toppled by his old friend, General Ibrahim Babangida, his Chief of Army Staff, and carted off into detention.

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In the end, Buhari returned to Daura a sober man, raised his cattle and minded his business. Somerset Maugham, the famous British novelist once said, “A prime-minister out of office is a pompous rhetorician and a general without an army is a tamed hero of a market town.” Katsina was a market town.

Then Buhari’s old friend, General Sani Abacha died suddenly in 1998 and within 12 months, General Abdulsalami Abubakar declared opened again the business of politics. Buhari, the old military dictator, became born-again. All along, patriotism has always been the blood in his patriotic heart. It led him to launch War Against Indiscipline, WAI, and do a lot of marvelous things during his short stay in power along with his unsmiling deputy, Major-General Babatunde Idiagbon.

Buhari was brought to power when on December 31, 1983, then Brigadier Sani Abacha made his dawn broadcast, announcing the sacking of President Shehu Shagari and his crowd of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN. The Second Republic was consigned to the garbage heap of history.

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But history beckoned to Buhari after his old boss, General Olusegun Obasanjo, became our elected President on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party. After valiantly but vainly leading sorties against the ruling PDP fortress, he realized he needed help. I don’t know whose idea it was that All Progressives Congress, APC amalgam should be formed, but in the end, it came into life. In the team that birthed this new amalgam were the likes of Chief Bisi Akande, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Chief Orji Uzor Kalu, Dr Bukola Saraki, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Chief Adeniyi Adebayo, Chief Audu Ogbe, Aminu Tambuwal and many other chieftains. It was an unstoppable force uprooting the hitherto unmovable PDP.

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan found himself in premature retirement in 2015 and he moved to his village of Otuoke, a sober man. It was at this time that our dear President, General Muhammadu Buhari, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, fell in love.

Love is a powerful force. “Love recognizes no barriers,” says the great African American poet, Maya Angelou. “It jumps hurdles, it leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination.”

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What Angelou did not know is that when you have power, love can also be full of certainty. So our President, who is in love with Nigeria, finds a space in his patriotic heart, to fall strongly in love with his native Daura and his home state of Katsina. This time around, he would not just retire quietly to his farm and tend his cattle when his terms expire in 2023. He would create enough reasons for the people of Daura and Katsina to remember his love and the certainty of his deeds.

Since his coming to power in 2015, President Buhari has directed Federal projects, some of dubious utility and value, to his native Katsina State.

Therefore, the state has become the beneficiary of billions of naira Federal projects. I will only mention three. First is the Transportation University which is being built at a frenetic pace because the President wants to deliver it before his retirement. Second is the refinery when all over the world, refineries are seeing as a private sector business and when Nigeria’s biggest businessman, Aliko Dangote, is building perhaps the world biggest refinery in Lagos. Third is the rail line from Kano to Daura.

The only apparent reason why these projects are sited in Katsina State is because it is the President’s home state.

Since Buhari became the tenant of Aso-Rock in 2015, Katsina State has attracted more than 10 multi-billion naira federal projects.

Ekiti State has attracted none. Some states may have fared worse. All Nigeria voted for the President, both for the first and the repeated time.

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Katsina has been lucky to be a state of power just like two other states in the Federation.

The state has produced two Presidents, Umarru Musa Yar’Adua and Buhari. Niger State too has produced General Ibrahim Babangida and General Abudulsalami Abubakar. Ogun State has produced Chief Ernest Shonekan, the Head of the Interim National Government that succeeded General Babangida. Ogun is also the home state of Chief Obasanjo.

None of these leaders has shown such partiality to his home state. Not even President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who took a Federal University to his home village of Otuoke in Bayelsa State.

What our dear President is doing is not really so new in Africa. When Field Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko was the self-proclaimed President of Zaire, now Congo Democratic Republic, he turned his home town of Gbadolite into an alternative capital for the country. He built for it a modern airport, colleges, supermarkets and malls. He forgot to build the 1,150 kilometre road between Gbadolite and Kinshasa, the country’s capital since the president, like a true African big man, only travelled by air.

Some years ago, I visited too Yamoussoukro, the hometown of the first President of Cote d’Ivoire, Felix Houphouet-Boigny. Of course, the town has its own airport and Houphouet-Boigny’s private palace sat in the middle of a cocoa plantation like an edifice conjured up by Aladdin lamp.

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But time and place are different now and we expect President Buhari, considering his experience and the kind of coalition that brought him to power, to now use the remaining years of his presidency to reflect his statesmanship and his impartiality. His place in history is assured. He should not damage it by reckless parochialism and indefensible nepotism. He needs to redefine his love.

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