Let me start with a story told by an unrepentant critic of one of our former Presidents. There was no love lost between the two, and the antipathy was mutual. That former President is a rather forceful personality, and loves to have his way. It’s either his way, or no way.
One day, while he still occupied the Presidential Villa, some group of people were invited to pay a visit. The unrelenting critic was among. The President was shaking his guests one after the other, and because it was a breakfast meeting, he had a cup of tea in one hand.
You know what he did when he saw that his adversary was next in line? He separated the teacup and the saucer, holding one in each hand. So he couldn’t shake the next person, pretending that his hands were full. When he got to the next person, he returned the teacup into the saucer, and gave the person a handshake.
The wily man had cleverly avoided someone Buhari at 80: No malicious bone in his body he considered an enemy. This story came to mind as I reflect on President Muhammadu Buhari’s 80th birthday December 17, 2022. This is a man I have served for almost 8 years, and it never ceases to baffle me how large hearted he is, particularly to those who have arrayed themselves against him, and how he responds to them, when they meet.
Some examples. Perhaps the Governor who has excoriated the President most is Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Until very recently, when he showed some conciliation, he had accused Buhari of everything under the sun, including attempted murder. If they were rival wives sharing a husband, it couldn’t have been worse.
But there was the President, simply minding his business, and ignoring the much younger man in Rivers State. He still gave the State everything that was its due. Some weeks ago, the President was invited to commission the newly built ultra-modern complex of the Body of Benchers in Abuja.
As a member of the organization, Gov Wike was on the receiving line. Face to face with one of his harshest critics. What would the President do? Would he separate his teacup and saucer, and walk by?
But no. Buhari shook the Governor warmly. “When two enemies shake hands, a suffering soul shoots out of Purgatory,” wrote someone who’s name I can’t readily recall now. But for President Buhari, this man simply has no enemy. Wike is just a Governor of one of the federations units in the country, and deserves his respect. Amazing!
How about Ayo Fayose, the Irunmole (ethereal spirit) that eats jollof rice. The former Ekiti State Governor had taken a stand against Buhari since 2014, during the campaigns.
There was that infamous advertisement he placed in newspapers, displaying a coffin, and insinuating that if Buhari was elected, he would not last the distance. Fayose’s party was beaten black and blue, and entered President Buhari. What would an average, vengeful person have done, if he were in the mould of the man with the teacup and saucer?
When Buhari came, the Ekiti House of Assembly was largely populated by APC members, whom Fayose had inherited. What to do? Just give a directive: remove that Governor within a week, and he directs the Inspector General of Police to lock down the Assembly chamber.
But not Buhari. Why? Because he has no malicious bone in his body. Fayose served out his term, and I remember the President giving him a warm handshake during a Council of State meeting at the Presidential Villa. Matthew Hassan Kukah. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese. What has he not thrown at the President? Everything, including the kitchen sink. In fact, he uses language you wouldn’t expect an altar boy to employ. He has been after not just the President, even we his spokesmen have not been spared.
He had opened fire on me and my colleague, Mallam Garba Shehu. Trust us, we returned fire for fire, till we decided to ignore him. And there came Bishop Kukah to the Villa some weeks ago, with the Peace Committee headed by former Head of State, Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar. Trust the teacup and saucer man, the Bishop would not have got a handshake.
But what did Buhari do? He exchanged banters with Kukah, and they were caught on camera, laughing together. When the cleric should have gotten a blow to the solar plexus. Lol. Femi Fani-Kayode. My friend, brother and kinsman. What has the President not suffered in his hands? Tons of abuses, malediction, ill will. But when the latter had his Damascus road experience, and found his way back to the APC, who received him at the Presidential Villa? Buhari. I tell you, this man has no malicious bone in his body.
How about Gov Samuel Ortom, and many others? Story for another day. I see some people on television in the morning, abusing both the father and mother of the President. And I get to his residence at dinner time, to see those people at dinner table with him. How large hearted can a person be? I’m sure God must have considered all the virtues Muhammadu Buhari has, and thus decided to spare him. He that has clean hands will grow stronger and stronger, says the Good Book. (Job 17:9).
This Buhari not only has clean hands, he also has a clean heart. Imagine year 2017, when the President had severe health challenges. Between January and August of that year, he was in and out of the country many times, attending to his health.
He could have been a goner, but God said no. And God has the final say, no matter what man may wish or desire. And same Buhari is now 80. Simply amazing! Glory be to God.
By the grace of God, in another five months, the President will land safely. And he will take his well deserved rest, playing with his grandchildren and great grandchildren in his Daura hometown. He’s the man God has shown mercy.
Happy birthday Sir.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity