By Segun Adeniyi
Conceived in September 2015, with the foreword written by Lt. General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) in July this year, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria”, probably took about six months for John N. Paden to write. And, I am sorry to say, this is a rather unserious literary work. Aside the fact that you don’t write the biography of a man like President Muhammadu Buhari within so short a period, this effort is, to put it mildly, very poor.
However, to the extent that it was authorized not only by Mr. Mamman Daura, “a senior adviser of Buhari”, as the author described him, but also by the president himself, then we have to take the account seriously. Therefore, since it is almost like the president telling his own story, those who have problems with the narrative should know where to direct their anger. In fact, Paden made it clear that “this book is based largely on public sources, but has benefited enormously from the full cooperation of President Buhari himself”.
What that means in effect is that the president must have read the manuscript and approved of the entire account before its publication. That, for me, is where the problem lies because if he read the manuscript and approved of the content, President Buhari has done incalculable damage to himself. Since most people, including those who are up in arms against the author, have probably not read the book, let me help them by reproducing the portion that riles the All Progressives Congress (APC) national Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu:
“The APC nominating convention was held in Lagos later in December, in a stadium that could hold the eight thousand local-level delegates. Buhari was overwhelmingly nominated—by nearly 90 percent of the delegates—in large part because delegates saw him as their best hope for change. Kwankwaso was a distant second, followed by Abubakar. The next decision for the convention was who to select as the party’s vice presidential nominee. With Buhari coming from the North West zone, the vice presidency had been ceded to the South West.
“Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the political ‘godfather’ of the South West zone, felt he should be the vice presidential candidate. His protege and the popular governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, was also a possible candidate. Both Tinubu and Fashola were Muslims, which complicated the national balance. A third candidate, Yemi Osinbajo, had been attorney general of Lagos State and was a senior professor and a Christian pastor. When these three names were forwarded to Buhari, he chose Osinbajo, despite enormous pressure from Tinubu….”
That is what Paden wrote which is now causing problem and I can also attest to the fact that it is a grossly inaccurate account because that was not what happened. But before I continue, let me point out a few other fallacies in the book that contains so many gaffes. The author says Buhari won the APC primaries by a margin of 90 percent. A simple Google would confirm the president actually won the December 2014 presidential primaries of the APC with 57 percent of the votes. Then Paden says: “President Jonathan had signed a pledge in 2011 to run for only one term”. I am sure if we ask the author to produce such a document he cannot; because it doesn’t exist.
However, what worries me is the fact that because the book is authorized by the president and has also been written by a renowned American scholar, it is most likely to be a reference point for researchers on Nigeria who will believe what is written therein. That is why it is a disservice to our country.
Perhaps the most egregious claim in the book is this statement: “Despite some last-minute interruptions by Jonathan supporters at INEC headquarters, plus rumours of a takeover by military and security forces to prevent violence, (INEC chairman, Prof. Attahiru) Jega announced the result that Buhari had won….Faced with these results, would Jonathan concede, or challenge the results in courts, where his influence was strong? Several former African heads of state, who had monitored the election for the African Union, held private meetings with Jonathan. They insisted, for the sake of democracy in Africa, that he accept the results. In addition, there was considerable international pressure on Jonathan, including by the Archbishop of Canterbury and western diplomats…”
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This is a pure work of fiction that had no semblance to what happened and is most unfair to President Goodluck Jonathan. The concession and the telephone call to Buhari were done before INEC announced the result many hours later. While my book will deal with what happened between April 28 and May 31 (because it is an area on which I have spoken extensively to many of the principal actors), I don’t think President Buhari read what he is marketing because if he did, I doubt if he would also discredit himself in his own book.
In an interview published in the July edition of Azu Ishiekwene’s magazine, ‘The Interview’, President Buhari, in explaining why he was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida in December 1993, said: “I learnt that Aliyu Gusau, who was in charge of intelligence, took import licence from the ministry of commerce which was in charge of supplies and gave it to Alhaji Mai Deribe. It was worth N100,000, a lot of money at that time. I confronted them and took the case to the Army council in a memo…I wanted Gusau punished.”
However, in Buhari’s book, this is how the author, who happens to be close to members of the Northern establishment, reframed the issue: “Later, General Aliyu Gusau, who had been director of military intelligence under (President Shehu) Shagari and had been brought back in that position by the Buhari team, would argue that Buhari’s coup had been funded by practices such as the sale of import licenses by senior military officers—although this was unknown to Buhari himself at the time.”
The implication of what Paden wrote is that the money Buhari was complaining about was actually used to stage the coup that brought him to power!
To be sure, only one chapter, the eighth one, titled “The challenges of electing a new president”, was devoted to the 2015 election and of the 16 pages, four are devoted to a rehash of a New York Times article. What that means is that the book is really not about Buhari’s ascension to power as president. But several questions beg for answers: Why would a president who has spent only about one and a half years in power be interested in writing the story of his stewardship? What exactly is the purpose of this book that was hastily put together and betrays an abysmal lack of rigour? And assuming he wants his story told, why would the president choose someone who lives thousands of miles away from the Nigerian reality?
The trouble with Parden’s book on Buhari is typical of what is generally wrong with the current administration: an embarrassing lack of attention to details and painstaking authenticity. In a way, the blithe that bedevils this book may be the same devil that smuggled paragraphs of President Barack Obama’s speech into that of our president at the launch of ‘the change begins with me’.
In all, it is a matter of grave concern that a president haunted by serious issues of governance would inflict Paden’s lazy narrative on himself and our country.