Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by Chidi Okereke

Dear President Muhammadu Buhari,

What have we done to you?

When I say ‘we’ I mean Igbo people, those ones from the South Eastern part of Nigeria – that place you have deliberately refused to visit since you became president in 2015.

What have we done to you?

Before you assume I am one of those wailers who do not see anything good about your government, let me give you some background.

Sometime in November 2014, I was in Abuja for a meeting, and coincidentally my father was in Abuja too. I went to say hello to him and I met some of his friends. We were all drinking and talking when the 2015 elections came up. I mentioned that I was supporting Atiku for president and one of them took me on. He asked me why I would support a northerner over ‘our’ own and I reminded him Goodluck Jonathan wasn’t Igbo. I also mentioned that even if GEJ was from Ohafia, our hometown, I still would not support him because I did not like how he was running the affairs of the nation. I listed all the things GEJ hadn’t done for Igbo people, and Nigeria as a whole and assured him that Atiku would do better. He asked me why I was so sure, and I told him I had met Atiku, listened to him speak passionately about Nigeria, read his plans, how articulate and feasible they were, and I was convinced he would be a fantastic president for all.

My uncle (that is what we call our father’s friends) smiled and told me he admired my zeal. But he said he didn’t trust northerners, because of history. He brought up the civil war, the marginalization of Igbo people over time, and said even if Goodluck Jonathan wasn’t Igbo, he was safer than a northerner, and his presidency would not hurt us in the east. I was irritated by his reason but I masked it. I thought he was being backward, recalling a civil war that ended in 1970. I thought he was regressive basing his votes on tribe. My assurance that Atiku would be a president for all Nigerians may have been condescending, but, yeah, I told him that and he wished me goodluck (no pun intended).

Fastforward a month later, you won the APC primaries, resoundingly too. Everybody knew I was a huge Atiku supporter, and I had my personal reservations about you – circa HOS 1983 – 1985, PTF Chairman 1994 and how you’d seemingly not done a lot to improve the world around you since you left power. But I also had a personal belief that rewarding someone who had performed woefully with my support/vote would be sending a wrong message to other politicians – that they can do what they like and we would vote them anyway. So, I pitched my tent with you. My uncle, relatives and friends who understood my campaign for Atiku were flummoxed. What was I doing campaigning for you, a former dictator? I told them I believe 30 years was enough to reform any individual and the Buhari of 1985 was no longer the Buhari of now. I told them you were a reformed democrat, incorruptible, stern, a former soldier who would decimate Boko Haram, and so on and so forth. I showed them that photo of you smiling in Isi Agu – you looked so good.

 

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