#SoundOff: General Buhari’s Illusory Superiority Is Truncating His Presidency

#SoundOff: General Buhari’s Illusory Superiority Is Truncating His Presidency

By Edward Oparaoji | Op-Ed Contributor on September 1, 2015
Buhari APC
Former Nigerian Military Ruler Muhammadu Buhari speaks during the presidential primary of the party in Lagos today. | Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

With the recent discordance, repugnance and uproar in our polity instigated by the recent lopsided anti-corruption policy directions and the key political appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari, questions have been raised as to his intellectual capacity and or wisdom to comprehend the complexity of and govern Nigeria. Buhari, who has either been in government or supported by government for most of his life, has had a small cadre of loyalist that share or shape his world view and consist his comfort zone.

Steven Handel, a psychology blogger at The Emotion Machine commented, “Knowing what you don’t know is an important kind of wisdom… That too often we fall into the delusion of thinking we know a lot more than we really do, a condition commonly known as illusory superiority. This can often make us stubborn in our beliefs and unwilling to accept new information. Ultimately, it stagnates our growth.”

On ascension to the Presidency, one would have expected Buhari to reach out beyond his comfort zone for a more comprehensive needs assessment for the nation, and then followed by plan of action. But no, not Buhari, he already knows it all. The same attitude that got him removed from office, by his own military colleagues, barely 18 months into his dictatorial rule in 1985. Today, he has run into another buzz-saw, emanating from same lack of curiosity and inclusion of other views.

Buhari was voted into office largely on his singular focus on fighting corruption. Commonsense would dictate that his first line of action on assuming office would be the appointment of an Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to advise on and craft the strategies to drive this this initiative. Buhari, apparently, is his own AGF.

It is no rocket science that every modern state rests and thrives on a tripod namely national security, economy, and domestic affair pillars. The leaders of these various pillars are most likely to be at the decision making table, with the president.

Till date the heads of the Army, Department of State Security, DSS, (representing national security pillar), Petroleum (representing the economy pillar), Secretary to the Federal Government, and Chief of Staff of the President (representing Domestic affairs) have been filled by Northerners who are all close associates of Buhari. The head of the DSS is even a cousin of the president. No wonder most Nigerians, across party and regional lines have condemned these appointments as obscene and unfair.

Although we all make mistakes, but what distinguishes a leader is the ability to timely acknowledge and effectively correct your mistakes. It is the Chinese philosopher Confucius who said, “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.” However, rather than proffer sensible corrective measures, Buhari and his team have engaged in patronizing “baby talk to” Nigerians.

In a futile attempt to spin the lack of national character representation in these key appointments a presidential media aide when asked if the South- East and other parts of the country, who are complaining of being marginalized by Buhari would be compensated, he said “appointments so far made by the President were just a few out of so many that would be made by the President…..There will be ministers, heads of government departments, federal boards and ambassadors. At the end of the exercise, no part of the country will be left feeling left out.” Really? I guess he forgot other equally very essential roles like dog catchers, palm wine tappers and sewage drainers!

Buhari has made it clear he doesn’t need ministers to govern; he would have done without them, if it wasn’t for the pesky constitutional requirement. It is therefore worthless and doesn’t matter if you gave the South-East all the available ministerial, board and ambassadorial positions, which guarantees no access to the decision-making table.

Unless Buhari has truly written off and willing to lose the South-East forever, he must as a matter of urgency, re-do these key appointments to accommodate all the geo-political zones. Confucius, my favorite philosopher also stated that “It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs.” I want to believe that Buhari has good intentions with his actions, but there is a proverb that says “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

To save his presidency, Buhari must exorcize his illusory superiority traits, reach out, consult widely, and reconstitute leadership of Nigeria’s national security, economy, and domestic affair pillars, to ensure equitable geo-political representation.

Edward Oparaoji is a professor of pharmacy and chairman, Nigerian-American Leadership Council, a Washington DC Based think-tank. Connect with him on Facebook.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.


  1. Prof. Oparaoji hardly misfires in his early salvos. At the beginning of the tenure of the governor of Imo state in eastern Nigeria, Oparaoji labelled the governor a clown in government house. Events seem to be proving Oparaoji right after four years of the governor’s tenure.

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