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Buhari: The road not travelled

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President Muhammadu Buhari

It is not preposterous, I assume, to begin to talk about the presidential candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari and even the inevitability, deferring only to the will of God, of his second term presidency from May 29, 2019.

The incumbency factor makes his candidacy apparently a done deal because I doubt if anybody in the All Progressives Congress, APC will want to waste his time and money to compete with President Buhari for the party’s ticket. And barring any unforeseen circumstances, his emerging as second term president looks certain judging from the clumsy and tentative manner in which the opposition parties are planning for next year’s election.

I am not by any means doubting the capacity of Buhari’s leading opponents to throw a spanner in the works. I have in mind the ineligible pair of the two ex-presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Ibrahim Babangida, who have already shown their hands and voiced their opposition to Buhari running for a second term but who, unbelievably, don’t seem to have any party in mind with which to pursue their opposition politics.

The PDP is reported to be in search of a saint – somebody in the mould of Buhari, apparently without any blemish – to fly its flag. And the others, the SDP leading the pack, may want to present a common front with the singular desire, as APC once did, to drive Buhari out of the villa, even for the heck of it. But the opposition, disorganised and chaotic in its current disposition, has a hell of a fight do to be able to uproot the ruling APC which, at least for now, also appears equally disorganised and seemingly engaged an infernal battle against itself.

Give or take, the disenchanted Nigerian electorate will next year be presented with a choice between six of one and half a dozen of the other. And my bet, despite all its known drawbacks or deficiencies which are not impossible to redress, Buhari’s APC will trump the others and carry the day.

But before the president hits the road again, it is advisable for his handlers to take stock of the journey so far, to reflect on the right steps and the wrong steps he has taken to know the pitfalls to avoid the second time around. And the time to look at the road not taken, I believe, is now – a time for reflection and a time to think of possible amendments.

On inauguration day, May 29, 2015, the new president made his famous declaration that he now belonged to nobody and he belonged to everybody – meaning, not literally but, philosophically that he had become a father-figure to the whole nation, a symbol of the unity and the collective aspirations of the country with its cultural, ethnic and religious diversity. Meaning that every segment of the society, Muslims or Christians, animists or free thinkers, the rich and the poor, especially the poor, was free to relate with him as their president whether or not they voted for him. And in good measures, he to show them care and love and, above all, empathy.

Buhari would do well to embark on a forensic examination of how much he had lived up to these noble and patriotic sentiments, three years down the line. He should also look back and see how much of this patriotic sentiment was reflected in his presidential actions and utterances.

On assumption of office, he came with some vision and a clear idea of what he wanted to do differently in pursuit of the party’s change agenda. In summary, his ambition for the country was broken down into three broadly based flanks – the economy, the fight against corruption and insecurity broadly represented by the Boko Haram insurgency.

Buhari appears, however, as someone who has been fated to preside over the affairs of this country in difficult times when the economy is headed for the rocks. As it was in 1984 when he was picked by his military colleagues as Head of State, after the military coup that aborted the Second Republic, so it was in 2015 when, after more than 30 years in political wilderness, Nigerians elected him as president to save the country from corruption and its horrendous economic paralysis.

The last three years have, no doubt, been a mixed bag of good and bad times for the president. He had battled the Boko Haram insurgents sufficiently to the extent that he chased them out of the territories over which they had foisted their flags and proclaimed their caliphate. The elated officials of government had coined the phrase of “degrading” the insurgents. This, without freeing the Chibok girls who have spent more than four years in captivity and without having an answer to the sporadic suicide attacks in the suburbs of Maiduguri killing many Muslims in the mosques. Then all of a sudden, the insurgents launched a major offensive – they quietly but efficiently drove into Dapchi, a sleepy town in Yobe State, and carted away 110 girl students.

Without any shred of doubt, this was a major embarrassment for the Buhari administration. Not many people believed that the abduction of the girls and their release 31 days later was not orchestrated by some fifth columnists in or out of government to score cheap political popularity. This notion gained traction with Buhari’s puzzling comparison of the efficiency of his government’s handling of the Dapchi girl’s episode with the lackadaisical approach of the Jonathan administration to the abduction of the Chibok girls, majority of whom still remains in captivity.

As if insecurity had developed an unusual capacity to grow and multiply like the mushroom, the hitherto incipient herdsmen-farmers clash in places like Zamfara, Kaduna and parts of Taraba State have since morphed into full blown civil war of sorts with daily killings especially in Benue State.

As if those behind this carnage are determined to set the whole country on fire, they have had to seek a religious dimension to it. Early morning mass for a burial ceremony became an occasion for the devil to visit a church in Benue State where they massacred 19 people including two priests. The church obviously was not the farm where the cattle graze and he priests were not the farmers who have been the targets of the cattle herdsmen.

As it turned out, this latest attack on the church had nothing to do with cattle herdsmen. Reports have fingered a fellow indigene of the state on the devil’s mission to kill and maim to give the dog a bad name and to escalate the crisis and make it look like it is the Muslims who are killing Christians or the Fulani herdsmen killing the Tivs.

Unfortunately this is the picture out there. And that is the picture that was presented to the U.S. President Donald Trump who used the occasion of President Buhari’s visit to plead that a stop be put to the killings of Christians in Nigeria. President Buhari, clearly a prisoner of protocol, was handicapped. Otherwise, I had thought he would, equally as loudly, have told his host that it was a national tragedy that affects both the Christians and the Muslims in equal measures.

In fact, more Muslims have been killed since the unfortunate carnage started but it is silly and inhuman to even begin to compare the figures; one life is as important as another. And no religion permits the taking of another person’s life unjustly and illegally.

Buhari is entitled to feel elated by the apparent endorsement of President Trump. Trump had praised our president to the high heavens and seemed even childishly patronising. Truth be told, the war against corruption is being vigorously fought. But it needs to be all-embracing and evenly spread, not to give any impression that there are some sacred cows. The Maina and the Babachir saga, for example, represent a stain on the apparently unblemished integrity of the administration.

So is the unchecked rascality and monumental corruption going on in the states, especially those controlled by the APC.


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