Sharing my thoughts and putting my message accross
A few months ago, I wrote an article in which I implied that Nigerians should blame the arrogance of the Northern elite if our lame-duck President Jonathan is returned to Aso Rock in 2015. Five months to the scheduled elections in February, all signs are pointing to the fragility of the opposition in a self-staged display of self-laceration. While Nigeria may be a land of chronic and negative wonders, where unimaginable treats are achieved in all aspects of life, the current political scenario playing out in public gaze is simply unusual if not unprecedented in democratic settings.
For some time now, I have invested some efforts in the project of straining my brain for a recollection of any democracy in living memory that has witnessed the persistent and serial feature of one and the same circle of actors for competitive political offices. It is not so much the trouble of featuring the same circle of persons in a land that is rich in competence and fallacies that bugs my mind so badly, but the reality that such persons have failed serially in the tasks they set themselves.
The names Abubakar Atiku and Muhammadu Buhari are the names of frontline political personalities in Nigeria, whose mention should ordinarily command respect in the face of their antecedent and dispositions in years gone-by. While the first may have been an actor of yesterday, the latter is a doyen and political principal of yesteryear. From Germany through Great Britain to the United States of America, it is a rarity to find the same political personality running for the same office three to four times consecutively after failure on each occasion. After all, the saying goes that time is no respecter of persons and waits for no traveler.
Customarily, politicians move on and define new objectives to live up to when the adventurous quest for political power fails to yield the desired result. Never in Nigeria!
Today’s Nigeria is such that is rife with intense political bickering and social calamities in a scale that has never before been witnessed in over 40 years of the country’s inaugural history. From corruption through homicide to the serious yearning for secession, instability has never been as bad. It is a country, in which a gang leader declares in a television interview that naturally goes viral on the social media, that the President of the country “will not dare” to decide against running for re-election. The celebrity gangster makes this declaration with all imaginable doses of self-confidence not even mulling the fear of a presidential reprimand or contradiction by the President’s men to say the least of the President himself. He is after all, the President’s man in flesh and blood.
Never in the history of Nigeria has it become so clear that the President shares political power with clandestine forces that are unknown to the electorates. The level of the entrenchment of corruption with untouchable powers of the oil sector and the level of government collaboration with warring and divisive sectional separatists for the purpose of salvaging what is left of the limited scope of power that the President has carved out for himself has left Nigeria ostracized internationally. The country now struggles with the pariah status next to Sani Abacha’s Nigeria.
In other words, the setting couldn’t have been more conducive for the definite and sure removal of the incumbent President in the elections five months away and his prosecution thereafter. That would be the case in a normal democracy. Never in Nigeria! Today, there is a murmured consensus that the President may be returned “unopposed”.
“The reason?” you may want to ask. Arrogance, misplaced priorities and the egoistic sense of overestimated relevance! In the absence of a credible replacement that the electorates can trust across-the-board, the result is the persistence of the status quo with the less foul of all bad eggs. Short: the Nigerian opposition is in shambles.
With the name of a former Vice President featuring prominently in the opposition’s list of potential replacement for a fragile President that has virtually been counted out, the opposition cuts a pathetic figure today, from the cake of electability. This is a politician, who stood out predominantly for insubordination to his former boss and was used by friends and foes whose priority was to get rid of the common enemy at the time. He is a former Vice President who was marked so conspicuously as an unmarketable presidential material by the false friends who allied with him in his unholy battle and stands accused today, of corruption by major foreign forces. If this is the hope that the opposition presents to a downtrodden and weary nation, then it stands to be pitied and consoled for its impending defeat that will have been forced down the throat of a reluctant crowd.
The most prominent and even more controversial is the retired General Muhammadu Buhari who has a track record of modesty in his personal disposition. Some attribute a no-nonsense attitude to him because it was the flagship tenor of the “War Against Indiscipline” that symbolized his era as a military head of state. His track record of modesty is informed by the fact that no single finger is pointed at him on suspicion of being the 6th richest African leader through wealth that is suspected stolen in his days as the military head of state.
While it may and most probably “is” true that General Muhammadu Buhari is a modest personality in terms of living an ordinary life and does not amass wealth or condone larceny of any sort on public properties, there are yet some indisputable and credible facts informing the fears and suspicions that people have against his die-hard dream of ruling Nigeria again at all costs, after his military adventure. This stubborn insistence alone raises questions about his personal motives. Some sharp-tongued assertions even suspect his regrets at choosing to live a modest life that leaves him as the laughing stock of peers being the last among equals. This suspicion is however, not founded on any objective or credible premise.
If the truth must be told, the charismatic personality and poster-child celebrity of the Buhari military days that wore the cap of discipline and no-nonsense attitude was his own deputy General Tunde Idiagbon of blessed memory, who seemed to have served in a functional power-sharing arrangement. With Idiagbon today as a Presidential candidate, there would have been less controversy in the rank and file. Our literary Professor Dr. Wole Soyinka rightly pointed out in 2007, the most potent scare radiated by General Muhammadu Buhari. Citing several examples of double standards in General Buhari’s conduct, he stated thus: “The conduct of the Buhari regime after his coup was not merely one of double, triple, multiple standards but a cynical travesty of justice”.
One prominent example was Buhari’s decision to keep former President Shehu Shagari, who was toppled from the seat of power by the Buhari coup, under house arrest while his powerless Vice President Dr. Alex Ekweme was locked up in the then maximum security prison in Kirikiri. A former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance Abubakar Alhaji Alhaji, who was caught in flagrante in some hormone-driven escapade in far-away Austria was entrenched in a foreign exchange scandal. “Alhaji Alhaji kept, not one, but several undeclared foreign accounts, and he had no business being in possession of the large amount of foreign currency of which he was robbed by his overnight companion.” Buhari’s government looked the other way only to slam a draconian prison sentence on Fela Anikulapo Kuti for possessing foreign currencies required for the upkeep of his band on overseas trip
If anything, General Muhammadu Buhari does not make any secret of his personal sense of intransigence, religious embrace and sectional alignment.
At this dire and critical juncture of Nigeria’s existence standing on the brink of disintegration, the prominent thug of the Niger Delta refers to himself as one who clamors for the dissolution of Nigeria. This indeed, is the period, in my humble opinion, in which Nigeria requires a unifying but resolute and strong leader.
Muhammadu Buhari is resolute and strong and is indeed, the type of leader that Nigeria would need at the present moment were it not for his divisive nature. General Muhammadu Buhari unapologetically transmits the impression that he is a Northern Nigerian before being a Nigerian. Any pretense that these antecedents will not be made manifest in an eventual Buhari Presidency will be sheer wishful thinking on the part of anyone who wishes to keep Nigeria above regional and sectional divisions.
General Muhammadu Buhari’s insistence on being the king at all cost rather than the kingmaker will always remain a source of stunning consternation. After all, his moral authority would have given him all the leverages he needed to groom a worthy replacement for the ill-fated Goodluck Jonathan, who he may now force down the throat of Nigerians again with his obstinate disposition.
I have no doubt that an eventual Buhari’s Nigeria will stand a good chance of crushing the diabolic mafia of the oil sector and the mafia of the power sector that the lame-duck Goodluck Jonathan has simply capitulated to. The crucial question however, will be the extent to which he may wish to assert his passion for the northern domination of the entire country – an imbalance that Olusegun Obasanjo had largely corrected in favor of meritocracy. After all, the General has never made any secret of his clamor for the return of power to the north, which on the face of it is so irrelevant to every well-meaning Nigerian after the Jonathan disaster, as long as any such northerner places Nigeria first. This is the core factor that informs the general fear and suspicion of Buhari’s sincerity.
In the face of all these, it becomes compelling to ask why the opposition APC – the only party, on whose shoulders popular hope for the removal of Jonathan rests at the moment – forced itself into this tight corner of uncertainty. Why wasn’t the usefulness of General Buhari tapped in other more efficient capacities? Does anyone expect heaven to fall if General Buhari loses the election? Should his popularity in the north make people lose sight of the deep suspicion of his motives in the south? After all, until their performance in their various offices, no one knew Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El-Rufai. Was there no one to be groomed for proper leadership? This is one of the predominant weaknesses of African leaders, who characteristically place themselves above all collective considerations.
While advanced age is and cannot be a factor for judging competence and eligibility, serial failure in one venture should serve as a moral burden on any reasonable contender, who chooses to stake a reputation for national salvation.
At the present moment though, it is yet too early to foretell Buhari’s failure against Jonathan. If it happens all the same, no one should be surprised and pretend not to have seen it coming. Then posterity and history will be left to judge the saboteurs of national interest when Nigeria needed them most. Should Buhari however succeed in achieving the impossible against all odds, by removing the Jonathan burden from Nigeria’s back, we will wish him all the best and caution him very strongly, to make amends to any desire for regional dominance and focus on keeping Nigeria one and making Nigerians proud to belong to the union.