Thursday, 9 June 2016

The general in his labyrinth

If he's looking for evocative literature as well as a break from Nigerian politics during his ten-day visit to London, President Muhammadu Buhari should read 'The General in His Labyrinth' by Gabriel Garcia Márquez. One of the late Colombian writer's most political novels, it tells the story of General Simón Bolívar's efforts to unite South America. Márquez retells how Bolívar gets trapped in the labyrinth of sectional and regional interests.

Almost two hundred years on, there are some important parallels with contemporary Nigeria. Many had hoped that Buhari's epic journey from stern general to born-again democrat and finally presidential election winner last year with a massive popular mandate would open a new chapter for Nigeria.

Goodluck Jonathan, the defeated incumbent, was also in London this week hosted by Bloomberg News, arguing for a Bill of Rights for all Nigerians. Yet when Africa Confidential asked him for his views on Buhari's anti-corruption campaign, he demurred and aides whisked him into another room. A few days earlier, Jonathan and another ex-President, Olusegun Obasanjo, had met Buhari in Abuja to discuss the increasingly fractious political climate.

Continuing clashes in the north-east and Middle Belt, and a determined campaign by militants known as the Niger Delta Avengers to close down the oil industry are undermining Buhari's mandate. Uniting the country again has become top priority if this general is to break out of his labyrinth.

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