el-Rufai’s Missive As Barometer for Buhari’s Tolerance

By Chukwudi Enekwechi


It took the recent revelations of a letter written about six months ago by the governor of Kaduna State governor to President Muhammadu Buhari for Nigerians to realise that indeed the President tolerates opposing views.

Ordinarily some cynics would have gone to town with the news that the President does not accede to dissenting voices. In fact, if we recall criticisms coming from some very close quarters of Mr. President and his inclination to listen, read and sometimes respond in the most responsible and objective manner, then it shows that his capacity to absorb opposing views is not only strong but also elastic.

Due to his military background, a lot of people tend to hold the view that his administration will clamp down on the media and other strident opposing voices, but nearly two years into his administration, Nigerians are freer than ever in expressing their freedom of speech.

Some people can argue that freedom of expression is a basic tenet of democracies across the globe, and I am quick to concur except that in the case of President Buhari there were reservations and scepticisms.

However, with benefit of hindsight, it is easy to conclude that his love for democracy knows no bounds. As a matter of fact, the media have come to realise that President Buhari, rather than loathe the media, loves them and sees them as partners in the task of nation building.

Lest we forget, President Buhari had told an expectant nation in 2003 that after the collapse of the Berlin wall he became a converted democrat, hence he contested for Nigeria’s presidency for a record four times before winning the election. It follows therefore that by embracing democracy without any inhibitions, he was also obliged to abide by its sacred tenets and obligations, one of which is freedom of expression.

It is therefore not far-fetched to read such letters, articles, interviews, and comments by some close acquaintances like Nasir el-Rufai, his own wife Aisha or other vitriolic columnists.

While in the case of the former, they always tend to proffer constructive criticisms to help in moving the nation forward, there is a view in some quarters that what impels the latter in their vitriolic media attacks is anything but altruistic.

In questioning the motive for some criticisms, perhaps it is necessary to state here that constructive criticisms are usually helpful in bringing development to any community or nation. Constructive criticisms also help to hold governments accountable to the people, and in the case of Nigeria, it is instructive to note that President Buhari devotes time to read and listen to the views and opinions of the people he governs.

In most cases, he had taken some very harsh and unfriendly criticisms in his stride, and even went ahead to act decisively on them. By this, it can be deduced that in his bid to serve Nigerians faithfully, President Buhari has continued to act in ways that tend to promote national peace, love and tolerance.

Presently, his administration has commenced reconstruction of major road infrastructures in the South East region, whereas the PDP administrations, which the zone clung to for sixteen years had no significant project to show for the support they received from the zone.

Therefore to contextualize Governor el-Rufai’s letter to President Buhari in which he tried to dissect the problems inherent in the Nigerian polity under him, one is constrained to draw the conclusion that the governor appears to be putting unnecessary pressure on a performing president.

Or how else will you accept the positions in the missive from the governor when there are positive signs in governance. Primarily, the President has kept faith with Nigerians in delivering on the fight against insurgency, corruption and revival of the economy.

Gladly, despite some negative commentaries, which tend to distract the administration from its set objectives, the President is relentless and sure-footed in delivering on his campaign promises. It must be acknowledged that one factor that is propelling the administration to unprecedented success is the absence of “settlement” in Buhari’s leadership.

In most cases, people who may likely compromise the system have it at the back of their mind the consequences that will follow such indiscretion. The President Muhammadu Buhari administration has demonstrated that it is possible to build a nation where public office will be used to serve the interest of all Nigerians, and not just a few.

The gentleman approach with which President Buhari handled the missive from Mallam el Rufai is a hallmark of tolerance for dissenting opinions, and this will doubtlessly deepen our democracy. In other words he has raised the bar for other leaders to emulate and Nigerians have a duty to always insist that leaders at different levels toe the same line as President Buhari.

Therefore while some cynics may want to widen the gap between the president and the Kaduna state governor by latching onto what ordinarily should pass for a friendly correspondence, the president has instead pulled the carpet from under their feet. Apart from the fact that he is delivering on his campaign promises, he has always availed Nigerians including his critics the opportunity to ventilate their views, and sometimes misplaced frustrations.

Chukwudi Enekwechi, Journalist and Politician, writes from Abuja and can be reached via kwechis19@yahoo.com