Buhari’s Scorecard In The Eyes Of The International Community
A CENTRAL feature of the forthcoming general election is the apprehension of post-election violence. It has happened before. A greater percent of those who express misgivings about the specter of violence during and especially after the election, conclude that if not for General Muhammadu Buhari, it would not be so. The testimonies from the previous three elections in which he participated, they argue, bear credence to this association. It is generally held that in both words and gestures, retired General Buhari, does not fail to uphold and evoke the imagery of belligerence and blistering physical exchanges.
At virtually all the campaign rallies, the current Presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) addressed, he emerges with a clenched fist raised in salutation to the people. In contrast to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who waves to the people with open palms, Buhari seems to have something to hide or dedicated to force, in keeping with his military background. In advanced countries, the gestures and non-verbal cues help to reveal the psychological makeup of contestants to political office. The APC presidential candidate is running for the election for a record fourth time with a mixed baggage. Most of those who expound the susceptibility of Buhari to facilitating electoral violence allude to the adage that says the cat is wont to hide its claws to gain the trust of the mouse. By this they believe that the APC presidential candidate has something to hide in his clenched fists.
But away from such associations, other commentators say that what the wiry general has in his backpack are his anti-corruption credentials and aptitude for maintaining security and discipline in Nigeria. Yet despite such positive attributes that tend to presage possible victory for Buhari in his fourth attempt at chasing the presidency, his predilection to use trigger words burdens his ambition like a hunchback.
Experts in contemporary social studies insist that communication has a direct relationship to the issue of electoral violence. For instance, in a scholarly work published in 2012 on political communication and terrorism, Ani Kelechi JohnMary declared that “political development in Nigeria has recorded the growth of multidimensional forms of violence as a major political behavior” in the quest by political actors and groups to attain state power and keep it. Quoting the Human Rights Watch, Ani, said in recent times, over 800 Nigerians lost their lives in post presidential election violence in the country. He maintains that political communication shapes the political behaviour of the citizenry of any country. Available records show that the incidence of electoral violence started gaining momentum from 2003 when General Buhari started his sustained desire to govern the country again through the ballot. It would be uncharitable to relate the escalation of violence into the nation’s political behaviour in 2003 to Buhari’s participation, rather the militarization of the polity was stimulated by the determination of another former military ruler, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to retain presidential power for a second term. During that period, ballot box snatching, rigging, kidnapping, killing of political opponents as well as the unleashing of excessive force on the electorate was evident.
But Buhari’s utterances after he lost the election brought the message home how his mind works about electoral contests. First, there was a mass action organised by his then political party, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) during which the colourful former President of Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, lost his life via inhalation of tear gas by the asthmatic political strategist. With the death of Okadigbo and eventual loss at the election petition tribunal, Buhari cursed silently and went back to the drawing board. Buhari’s public pronouncements prior to the 2003 began to circulate more and more as evidence that he could be a hot head. It was recalled how while addressing an Islamic Seminar in Kaduna, the retired General stated: “I will continue to show openly and inside me the total commitment to the Sharia movement that is sweeping all over Nigeria… God willing, we will not stop the agitation for the total implementation of the Sharia in the country.” Barely a year later, Buhari, for whom the coast was clear to contest the 2003 election had astounded the nation when he called on muslims not to vote for non-muslim candidates at the election. It was also educed how the same Buhari had spurned the Oputa Panel on rights abuses, all pointing to his arrogance, conceit and iconoclastic irreverence to constituted authorities.
Though the 2007 election which he contested the presidential election for the second was characterized by widespread rigging, intimidation and inducement; Buhari’s loss to his kinsman and fellow Fulani, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, left a sour taste in his mouth. That frustration may have informed his declaration that if the 2011 election, which he was to contest against President Goodluck Jonathan, a candidate from the South-South minority were rigged, there would be trouble! And, as if to lend credence to his avowals, the violence, loss of lives and destruction of private and public property that trailed the 2011 election, were monumental and unprecedented. Add to that the intensification of the Boko Haram insurgency, the association of violence to Buhari has stuck. Many people believe that the former military head of state is interested in the presidency for vengeance purposes and to advance the cause of sharia legal system in the country.
However, it is consequent on the APC presidential candidate’s disposition to violence more than his perceived Islamic fundamentalism tendency that a group, the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice, has urged his prosecution at the International Criminal Court, ICC, The Hague for “orchestrating” the 2011 post-election violence in parts of Northern of Nigeria. Made up of about 17 non-governmental organisations, the group, which operates in Northern states of Nigeria released a statement at Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. Signed by the secretary for Research and Documentation, Malam Ibrahim Baba, the group called for the prosecution of Mr. Buhari for orchestrating the 2011 post-election violence in some parts of the North. While claiming that the litigation was for national interest and devoid of partisanship and political colouration; the group revealed that the case was instituted at The Hague since 2011. The group justified its action thus: “Just before the 2011 general elections, the then presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari had categorically directed crowds in Hausa (language) at his campaign rallies in the north but particularly Minna, Kaduna and Maiduguri to protect their votes at all cost including killing and elimination of others.” The group therefore contended that, “like a nightmare, the spirit of victims of 2011 post-election violence is resurrecting today at this venue to re-echo the calls for justice and immediate prosecution of those responsible for imposing tears, sorrow, blood and violence on Nigerians in 2011.” “Another reason for institution of the case is to compel the political class to imbibe the culture of winning election through the sanctity of the ballot box devoid of intimidation, threat, intolerance, hate messages, resorting to self-help and violence,” it added.
But while GMB grapples with the negative profiling as a harbinger of violence, the clouds surrounding his school certificate refuses to clear. The certificate issue has dented the general’s much vaunted integrity and honesty. As he tries to dispel the dust over the non-provision of his certificate, Buhari has provided his traducers with the armour to open big holes on his depositions. For instance, the fact that the APC presidential candidate did not depose in his affidavit of a loss of the certificate continues to feed the public suspicion that no such certificate existed in the first place. Those who know about the prevalence of privilege status extended to northern citizens enjoin Buhari to accept that as at the time of enrolling for the military he had not sat for the school certificate examination, a fact that was alluded to by his former Head teacher’s recommendation that “he will pass Mathematics, Geography and history…” Others make issues out of the statement of result issued by the Government College Katsina for an examination that took place long before the state was created, instead of reproducing the result sheet or transcript to authenticate the veracity of the claim.
The implication of Buhari’s documentation flip-flops and association with electoral violence would amount to loss of credibility in the international community. The compound effect of all these is that should Buhari win the 2015 election, his victory would be smeared by the various gaps existing about his educational qualification as well as qualification to contest the election in the first place. Head or tail, Buhari’s scorecard in the election must occasion some fits of violent agitations! And that, despite the Abuja Peace Accord.