Abdullahi M. Gulloma
During his recent visit to the United State of America (USA), an official of the country made a statement about President Muhammadu Buhari. Speaking shortly after Buhari’s meeting with his USA counterpart Barrack Obama, the top official declared that with someone of Buhari’s stature at the helms of affairs, black Africa’s most populous nation could now hold its head high in the comity of nations.
Apparently referring to Buhari’s immediate predecessor Goodluck Jonathan, who was variously described as clueless and spineless, the USA official publicly declared that Nigerians could now be proud that they have a leader who inspires confidence and trust wherever he goes.
Given the high profile recognition accorded the President who was barely a couple of weeks old office at that time, who would doubt that well-timed assertion?
That particular visit is, however, not our focus here today. Rather, we are focusing on the President’s two-in-one adventure to Kenya and later Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African Union (AU) on the one hand and his rising profile across the continent on the other. Indeed, less than one year on the hot seat, the soldier-turned-politician is steadily carving a niche for himself as a continental, nay global reference point.
A bit of digression would suffice at this juncture. Only but yesterday, the African continent used to parade a number of colourful politicians like Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano, Julius Nyerere, Jerry Rawlings and the incomparable Nelson Mandela.
When one scans the continent these days, the stage is being monopolized by the likes of Paul Biya, Robert Mugabe and other sit-tight despots masquerading as democrats. In fact, the latest fad among such African strongmen is to cynically manipulate the democratic process with a view to securing third terms for themselves – that is, life presidency by another name. Worse of all, corruption has remained endemic in many a presidential palace on the continent.
By contrast, the Nigerian leader, though barely seven months at the Presidential Villa is like a true breath of fresh air. Rather than covet power for its sake, he has continued to demonstrate that service and leadership by example is his principal reason for being in politics. Small wonder, his profile keeps rising on the international stage. Compared with his contemporaries in Africa, the President can be said to be in a class of his own.
If, therefore, came as little or no surprise that the Nigerian leader was accorded full recognition during his visit to Kenya on Wednesday. From President Uhuru Kenyatta to his top lieutenants, the Kenyas bent over backward to give the President and his entourage the five-star royal treatment they rightly deserve. Check out the reception accorded other African leaders by Kenya in recent times and it would be evident that they hold the President in the highest esteem not only because he presides over the “giant of Africa’’ but because of his uncommon credentials as an incorruptible leader.
Joined by his host, President Kenyatta, and a host of other dignitaries, the President’s first official engagement in that country was the memorial service for Kenyan Soldiers who were killed by the notorious Al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia on January 15. As noted by the Kenyan president, as a leader who came to power at a time when Al-Shabaab’s counterparts in Nigeria (Boko Haram) were running amock in Nigeria and who has waged a successful war against the insurgents, the President’s arrival in Kenya during the anniversary of the grisly Al-shabaab killings was significant.
Speaking not only as a fellow African who shared their pains but as a President whose country has felt the full impacts of terrorists’ heartless indulgence for long, Buhari empathized with the government` and people of Kenya. Kenyans should not waver in their resolve to detect the terrorists who have been, hiding under the cover of religion to wreck havoc on defenseless citizens, he urged.
The President’s delegation included the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Geoffry Onyema; Finance, Kemi Adeosun, and Industry, Trade and Investment, Okewchuckwu Enelamah, among others. On rounding off his trip today (Friday January 29, 2016), the President will proceed to Addis Abba, Ethiopia, for the 26th Summit of African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government. That, needless to say, would be after co-presiding over a Nigeria-Kenya Business forum in Nairobi.
Judging by the royal reception accorded the President, it is becoming crystal clear to all and sundry that after a long hiatus, the African continent has found a statesman in the mould of Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah. Though the jury is still out on this point, morning is truly telling the day in this vein.