Nigeria has an abundance of everything. Not just crude oil, solid minerals and agro-produce. Just watch the street corners and newsstands after a match and you realise this is a country with as many football coaches and technical advisers as there are football fans. They all have the perfect recipe that would have ensured the national teams always win their matches even as if the players of the other nations were on the pitch to solicit candies. The specialty has even extended to foreign clubs that are followed with a mass zombie obsession.
The country now even has more payroll masters, accountants, realtors, investment advisers, actuaries and just any other field of expertise rolled into one. These skills now possessed by roughly half of the population are being generously applied without demand for any requisite fees from those who have them as they ponder over the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai’s property in Dubai. Buratai and the Army made a fair disclosure that he acquired the said property with personal savings after some people hoping to make political capital out of it had twisted the fact in an online publication. It was further revealed that the said property were properly declared as expected by law.
So the buzz has been across the country – from the nosy ignorance peddling passengers in shared taxis on the streets to their more privileged relations in the blogosphere – the outrage has been typified by the question: how was he able to save that much to buy the property? Coming from the portion of the population to whom the term ‘saving’ is alien one can easily understand their perplexity that anyone can pull off the discipline to move forward where they have chosen to lavish their meagre resources on the inconsequential while further wasting precious time that could have been converted to money on deliberating on issues for which they have processing capacities that falls below their capacity as football coaches or technical advisers.
By the way, in all the ongoing national calculus about Buratai’s salary and Dubai property, few had cared to balance their imaginary books with the proceeds from the farms that the COAS reportedly has. For a people that have become addicted to a government stimulated economy that runs mostly on crude oil revenue its was to be expected that they cannot appreciate how much a trailer load of mangoes would fetch for instance or what a truckload of grains amounted to in monetary terms. To the extent that a N40000 price tag on a basket of tomatoes arising from the recent shortage could not prick their interest in farming it is easily understandable why they are fixated on crunching figures from salaries alone.
A direct consequence of this failure to be circumspect is that instead of the ‘vilification of Buratai’ that was the rallying cry of this horde they ended up singing the ‘pontification of Buratai’. They instead ended up portraying him as an epitome of a public servant who still does the right thing as his accusers continue to struggle to prove him wrong. The impression they are leaving the more rational part of the population with is that the COAS is not a public servant to be associated with only at night and therefore deserves awards and commendation.
I am thus rather seeing it that his enemies have helped him to proof his saint hood because at the very least, the numerous allegations and his ability to clear himself have earned him a good name in the society. Even in the blogosphere and on social media where the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ has it highest number of sufferers, cursory checks of aggregated comments reveals opinions are now shifting in his favor.
The comments however reveal something more troubling. The larger number of the critical comments are persons that have actively canvassed separatist positions in the past with calls to break up the country. This would suggest those attempting to criminalize a personal investment where no crime has been committed are the Biafra separatists who dread Buratai’s name for refusing them the opportunity to break our country into pieces. Next are those can no longer make slush funds out of Boko Haram insurgency that has been largely degraded. There have been reports that they are the ones providing the financial backbone for what appears like serious reporting but is actually lynch mob in action.
But these pseudo specialists that have failed from their analysis of even the weather to football and more recently Buratai’s solvency omitted a few details in their hurry to secure a conviction in the court of public opinion.
The COAS has been able to meet the high expectations of his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander in Chief even when part of the same gangs beatifying him today depleted the inventory while claiming weapons were being procured. He has brought greater transparency to the running of the Army and that counts as something before our reformist president. The Minister of Defence, Alhaji Dan Ali has similarly expressed confidence in the COAS while clearing him of wrong doing.
Now that detractors have contrary to their plan make a saint of General Buratai one can only wonder what great thing they will unwittingly do for him next time. And by the way, they can do this even greater thing for him without laying claims to be experts in any field.
****Attah is National Secretary, Stand Up Nigeria and contributed this piece from Abuja.