There is no easy way to say this; but while the recently ‘returned’ President Muhammadu Buhari was away in London for over 100 days, and just as everyone, from the President’s arch rivals to his diehard fans, were devouring themselves over his long absence, rats, presumably tiny and absolutely mere mortal rats, commandeered the executive office of the Commander in Chief of the most populous black nation in the world.
What exactly the rats did in that office, we may never find out, but so great was their impact that they have managed to prevent the President from resuming in his office despite a triumphant return. It takes special rats to achieve such a feat, and the closest expression of rodentic bravery that I can allude to is Remy, the rat-turned-chef in the 2007 universally acclaimed movie, Ratatouille.
Ratatouille is one movie that you can never get tired of watching. There, Remy the rat dreams of becoming a cook like his idol, the late chef Auguste Gusteau, and he realises the dream on the head of his human friend, whose hair he pulls to dictate the creation of amazing delicacies. Remy’s human friend, named Alfredo Linguini, is as a lousy and unskilled garbage boy at a Restaurant, and together they cook meals that win the acclaim of the meanest and strictest of connoisseurs, embodying the theme of the movie, “Anyone Can Cook.”
In many ways, Ratatouille the film is like Nigeria, and that’s not just because both are movies that you can never get tired of. Nor is it only due to the fact that the President’s office is currently occupied by one of Remy the Rat’s distant cousins. Ratatouille and Nigeria share slightly similar themes; whilst the former illustrates that anyone can cook, the latter seeks to demonstrate that “Anyone Can Lead.”
From declaration of his candidacy to his current reign as President, Buhari’s advocates have been in an evolving debate on the premise that “Anyone can lead.” During the 2015 election campaign they argued that Buhari could be an effective president despite his age, they contested the narrative that because Buhari was once a dictator, he couldn’t abide by democratic principles and they posited that despite Buhari’s role in the Nigerian Civil War and his perceived divisiveness, he could unite the country. Now that he is president, the new segment of the same debate is whether Buhari can be efficient in his duties and responsibilities despite his ill-health. In all phases of this long-running argument, Buhari’s advocates have maintained that, “Yes, anyone can lead,” and I agree with them.
I believe, as do Buhari’s advocates, that neither illness nor age can inhibit good leadership; what is key is the integrity, commitment, strong will, talent and vision to lead the country. This is, in a way, demonstrated in Ratatouille. In the movie, Remy can cook, not just because he is a rat (and loves to eat), but because he has the talent, determination and commitment to learn and master the art of cooking. And the people who end up falling in love with Remy do so, not because he is some random rat, but because he prepares amazing delicacies. That is a similar yardstick with which we could judge the Buhari presidency–not by whether he can lead, of course, anyone can lead, but by how he has led.
And how has Buhari led?
Has Buhari been an effective president despite his age and ill health? The economy is not in any better shape than when he took office, poverty rates are worsening by any yardstick we apply, wealth and income inequality is skyrocketing and criminal activities are, in fact, exacerbating.
Has Buhari, despite once a dictator, abided by democratic principles? Under his Presidency, several people have been held in custody regardless of court verdicts to release them, most notable of which are Sambo Dasuki, Ibrahim Zakzaky and Nnamdi Kanu, who has eventually been released.
Has Buhari, despite his role in the Nigerian Civil War and his perceived divisiveness, brought the country together? Nigeria is now much more divided than at any time since the Civil War 50 years ago.
So, yes, anyone can lead. But how well? Perhaps there is something to learn from the Rats after all.