Few days ago, Mr Femi Adesina reminded us of the charge that President Muhammadu Buhari loves to give: ‘live within your means.’ This time, Mr Adesina did it differently. He showed us that President Muhammadu Buhari has always embodied the moral proposition he often recommends that we all imbibe to have our country back from the grip of corruption. What more can we ask of leaders than that they should live exemplarily, by the same principles they recommend for the greatness of the country? Mr Femi Adesina revealed that the president had always lived within his means. The president himself had earlier in February 2019 revealed that his administration was making efforts to run the country within its means. If we add up all of these, it suggests that President Muhammadu Buhari has not been asking us to do what he himself has not been doing as a citizen and as a leader. It will be good to take a walk through the fragments of the president’s life and leadership to which we have access in public spaces to articulate a coherent philosophy of living within one’s means according to President Muhammadu Buhari.
In Mr Femi Adesina’s revelation, we came to understand that President Muhammadu Buhari has been accessing healthcare services in the United Kingdom for well over forty years. To support Mr Adesina’s claim, the president educated his children in best of schools home and abroad, even in his years of grave poverty. These are comforting revelations to those ardent believers in the poverty as piety garland that many have worn around the neck of the president’s public image. The president himself told of a time he became so poor that he could not afford to pay for his nomination form. We were told that he had to divorce a wife because she received financial help from a friend turned enemy. Power with its unrestricted access to the national cake has done nothing to create a schism between the personality of Buhari as a General and that of Buhari as a president. One can only imagine President Muhammadu Buhari’s pains of tolerating a wife that has run a small scale business so prosperously that she hinted in 2019 of a plan to float a university in her husband’s name. One can only imagine the agonies of the president in watching his son crash a multimillion Naira power bike just two years into his presidency. One thing that is comforting in all of these is that the first family is known to live within its means, as the means of the country is the means of the first family.
The poverty as piety tenet of President Muhammadu Buhari radiates from his refusal to prevail on the Code of Conduct Bureau to release the details of his asset declaration both in 2015 and 2019. We could not regard as a barefaced lie the president’s denial of an earlier promise to make his asset declaration document public. He must have done it to preserve the sanity of his followers. No good leader wants to torment his followers with the details of his poverty. It could shock some people to death to find out that two years to the end of his second term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari is yet to join the league of Nigerian billionaires. Anyone who truly knows the old soldier knows he would not want to play on the same side with the likes of Cubana and his boys.
Piety would not allow that. Even the helipad he built in his Daura, funded from the national treasury, is to the glory of his poverty gang. It was a trailblazing one from him, being the first president to take such an honour to his humble hometown in a time the country was already smelling an economic recession. That act alone shows the poor that they need no riches to enjoy the beautiful things of life; they only need to seek first political power and, as Kwame Nkrumah said, all other things shall be added unto them. Everything President Muhammadu Buhari now enjoys, including the frequent medical tourism, has always been within his means.
In leadership, President Muhammadu Buhari has remained as austere as General Muhammadu Buhari was in his days.
Being naturally intolerant of waste, he oversaw the swelling of the size of the Federal Government. Under his watch, new ministries and new agencies of the Federal Government sprang up, some of them to undertake a responsibility that only a unit of an existing agency was doing not so badly. In running with the vision of the president, almost every bill introduced in the National Assembly proposes a new agency. At a point, those agencies became so many that if the president did not forget to appoint leaders for some, he would appoint to lead others with individuals who were long dead. President Muhammadu Buhari is overseeing the bulging of the Federal Government because it is within the means of the country. Even in economic directionlessness, Nigeria can afford so much waste. What better way is there for a country to live within its means than to go shopping for loans from multilateral to bilateral sources? A country that now expends on loan servicing almost all its monthly revenue is truly living within its means. If future generations equally learn to lead the country within its means, they will be able to borrow even more.
Shockingly, some people are reneging on their allegiance to President Muhammadu Buhari on the discovery that he now appears to them as someone who have been moderately comfortable economically all his public life. If you fall into that category, perhaps you have never known the person you claim to love and follow. Suddenly, he no longer resembles the Muhammadu Buhari of your mythical creation. To your disappointment, what the president has always advocated is that people should live within their means. No doubt he has marketed himself in the past as a man of little means, but you must have missed the difference between little means and no means. His integrity has always rest on his living within his means. That is why he walked clean of all allegations as the leader of Petroleum Trust Fund under whose watch billions of Naira was looted. How could you accuse yourself of fraudulent self-enrichment someone who is known to live within his means?
If you now have a problem with President Muhammadu Buhari’s charge to live within your means after six years of following the pious leader, you must have been secretly coveting the prosperity of the wicked. There is no greater virtue than to be satisfied by what one possesses. In the New Nigeria that President Muhammadu Buhari has come to build by personal and leadership examples, only people who have resolved to live within their means can survive. All you need to do is to know your means. If poverty is your means, live within it. If wealth is yours, live within it. To help the poor maintain their poverty, he has done enough in cash transfer like the 5,000 Naira COVID-19 funds, the 10,000 Naira trader money, and the 20,000 to 40,000 Naira N-Power schemes. To you his weary supporters he still says: ‘live within your means and damn the consequences.’
Oladapo wrote from the University of Ibadan.