By Rafiq Raji, PhD
It was a beautiful Saturday morning. The feeling of freshness (or languor if you had a late Friday night) is like no other, in my experience. After a long and often tiring work week, you awake with the usual jolt at the thought that another busy day beckoned, only to be reminded with good cheer that today is not one of those. The relaxed feeling afterwards is often most exhilarating. Of course, I am not going to go into detail about how people spend that time after this realization. Let us just say, it tends to be most satisfying. So yes, I had a feeling the day was going to be a bright one on the fateful Saturday morning just past. But what was it? The answer would come through soon enough. Muhammadu Buhari was returning home. The ailing Nigerian president had been in England for medical treatment for more than 100 days. Anyone who has been sick knows that what is ordinarily challenging becomes even more so when third parties begin to feign concern. If you are experienced enough, you know most are hypocrites and do not wish you well. If you are wealthy, most are really just wishing you would go kaput so that they can commandeer whatever spoils there are. If you are a political leader, especially one that wields the enormous powers of a Nigerian president, the so-called “hyenas and jackals” just wish you would kick the bucket so they can replace you. And if it looks like God does not seem to be in a hurry, they seek to hasten the process.
Only President Buhari would be able to say what myriad spiritual battles he has had to face since he assumed office two years ago. Not that we should care; afterall he asked for the job. Still, his recent recovery (and victory) is as much a physical one as it is a spiritual one. When Reuben Abati, the former media aide to former president, Goodluck Jonathan, revealed his suspicions about demonic forces at the presidential residence, he was derided. Thankfully, Mr Abati stuck to his guns. Incidentally, the loudest of his critics then are also those who know very intimately well what he was talking about. Muslims are taught about the many creatures of Almighty God and the many dimensions and forms they take. They are also taught that God created man superior to all beings. All, except Him. This is why those who lose their way in search of temporal greatness are first made to degrade themselves before these inferior beings, before the help they seek is provided them. Knee deep into those treacherous waters, they find out too late that whatever supposed good they had hoped for, pales in comparison to what they are forced to give up. Let us just say a significant portion of the Nigerian elite is beholden not to God but to these nefarious forces. And people like Mr Buhari are outliers in the Nigerian context. To these forces, his kind should not be allowed to prevail; lest their own brethren might begin to think there are other ways to glory. (But of course, there are; albeit steep, difficult but ultimately attainable and sustainable.)
In the Islamic understanding, a man for whom God desires a comfortable hereafter, would almost certainly live a life of trials. These come in various forms: sickness, loss, and so on. Short of such tribulations, man is bound to engage in excesses. And since man is almost always sinful, he is bound to suffer some punishment from time to time. A higher understanding makes obvious how this can also be one of the greatest blessings God can bestow on a man. When a man is sick, he is ever aware of his humanity. He is more considerate. He is more empathetic. And more importantly, restraint is forced on him. To the extent that what strength would ordinarily allow him, he is forced to forego, he is not likely to be as erring in his ways as he would typically be. He is less sinful. Mr Buhari is a good man; in the Nigerian context, at least. But he is entrenched in his ways. And so were he to be of full strength, he would likely engage in excesses that could be detrimental to the people he has been ordained to rule for a brief while. He may not have relied on his capable deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, as much as he has now been forced to, for instance. Hopefully, he would allow Prof Osinbajo even more leeway now that the man has proved not only to be diligent but religiously loyal. Incidentally, many of the Muslims and northerners that Mr Buhari put much store in are precisely the ones who betrayed him the most.
Nigeria is a country of many tribes and religions. The nepotism, tribalism and wanton violence (by Fulani herdsmen, for instance) that have characterized his rule thus far are great injustices. There is no justification for any section of the country to be made to feel like this is not their land. Everyone should be free to practice his religion and interact with whoever, insofar as they obey the laws of the land. When Mr Buhari was not as feeble, his posture (or so-called body language) did not suggest that he understood that he was the president of almost 200 million people. It was a great injustice to have used his office to seemingly punish a section of the country because they did not vote for him. Two years on, after much damage within the polity and personal troubles of his own, Mr Buhari now offers some accommodation; albeit with a stick still. No matter. Mr Buhari must do more to correct the injustices under his rule thus far. Otherwise, his recent relief may be fleeting.
Also published in Premium Times Nigeria column. See link viz. http://opinion.premiumtimesng.com/2017/08/23/the-philosophy-in-buharis-recovery-by-rafiq-raji/