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2019 and the way forward

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The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo


Today, I have decided to treat one serious matter with all the seriousness it commands. It is the matter of who becomes President in 2019. Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent is not saying anything, either vocally or through his usual body language. He is just quiet, leaving so much about his intention in 2019 to guess work and the antics of the now celebrated cabal in Aso Rock Villa. There is apparently no reason for this numbness. The key issue of ill health appears evidently settled and the President has no other clear impediment on the road to 2019, except himself.

He has been up and doing everything presidential since his return from the second medical vacation in London that lasted 105 days. Also, no proposal about another prolonged medical vacation in London has been sent to the Senate. For the first time in the last two years, it is right to say President Buhari is hale and hearty. On the whole, things are looking up for the President. Nobody, except Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, in the All Progressives Congress (APC), is discussing 2019 seriously. Everybody is waiting for the President to say something before other things can come.

It is a legitimate aspiration if the President who will be 76 years old in 2019 decides to stand for re-election. The constitution says so in Chapter Six Section 135. But a cocktail of factors, one of which is the alleged pre-2015 agreement for Buhari to do one term and then clear the way for others is causing little unbelief in a 2019 Buhari project. His new-found vigour and vitality notwithstanding, health is also a factor. Yet another is his inexplicable aversion, even under a democracy and atmosphere of geo-ethnic tensions, to engage to resolve burning national issues.

And then in real governance, there have been more reasons to doubt Buhari than there have been to believe him. Overall, the integrity test is not adding up. People are still cutting grass in the desert with N250 million. Five hundred million naira obtained in just one underhand deal is regarded as chicken feed that shouldn’t attract serious attention from the anti-corruption agencies. The story of Nigeria’s economic incapacitation after the PDP years was believed until the breaking of a fresh story only two weeks ago of how Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) rapidly awarded contracts amounting to $25billion in about three months.

That sum is not chicken feed. It is about 25 percent larger than the national budget of N7trillion and about 85 percent the size of the country’s external reserves of $30billion. This has not made President Buhari to issue any quotable quote on the $25billion contract bazaar at the NNPC, except his plea for the matter to be taken off the public space and settled amicably as it is done in family disputes between the whistle blower, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, the junior minister in the petroleum resources ministry and the contracts giver, Dr. Maikanti Baru, the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the NNPC.

Since then, Dr. Kachikwu has been talking as if he was misquoted by the press, especially after NNPC came up with what looked like an explanation of the deals. The man is disappointing me. I had thought he was smarter. He has abandoned the main matter and has been beating about the bush. Five percent of $25 billion is $1.25billion. This is the fee for blowing the whistle on Baru and it is legitimate earning. Many of the people listed in Forbes Magazine as world richest do not have that kind of money. Kachikwu should resign as a lame duck junior minister and ask for his whistle blower fee, which is more than good to take home to Onicha-Ugbo.

Sorry for the digression. As I was saying, on the matter of 2019, the odds against Buhari are many and visible too. Nigerians are looking for somebody with a strategy to fix the economy, the skewed polity, poor infrastructure and other failed aspects of national life, not somebody with a truck load of integrity and good intention, both of which are by products of a good strategy.

But we have to be fair to Buhari. If Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who is much older than Buhari and a Yoruba man could have his two terms and had even asked for a third, why can’t Buhari have his own two terms for justice sake? Can we in all sincerity say Obasanjo was better than Buhari? The whole debate about national question is also about perceived injustices in the Nigerian system. I advise therefore that we approach equity with clean hands as we handle this delicate matter of Buhari and 2019.

First, I am not persuaded by the argument of Aisha Alhassan that there was agreement for Buhari to do a single term. Which agreement is she talking about? Even if there was one, it can be broken to pieces and it will not be the first time that it will be happening. Obasanjo broke agreements and even aspired to break the constitution itself. Heavens did not fall. Goodluck Jonathan also broke agreement. It was only Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who did not live long enough to be tested on compliance that did not break agreement.

Even before the recent series of agreement breaking, General Yakubu Gowon had broken one as far back as 1975 regarding transition from military regime to a democratic government. Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida was a serial agreement breaker; so was late Gen. Sani Abacha. Agreement breaking in Nigeria is not a big deal. I think what we can do is to work out a mechanism for Buhari to break one more agreement with the least uproar.

And this is actually the point I want to make today. I have been listening to Mrs. Aisha Buhari since she became First Lady. She is always on point. She was the first to draw attention to the existence of complete strangers in Aso Rock, who are causing her husband to do strange things like abandoning trusted allies in the battle of 2015 and vowed not to campaign for his re-election in 2019 if the trend persisted. This was before the complications that precipitated the prolonged medical vacations in UK. Upon her arrival from UK in one of her visits to see her sick husband, she noted gleefully that at the appointed time, which would be very soon, the jackals and hyenas, in apparent reference to the same set of stranger dwellers in Aso Rock Villa, would be hunted and thrown out of the villa.

And only last week, she told the Chief Medical Director of Aso Rock Clinic, Dr. Husain Munir to be ready to account for the N3.1 billion allocation to the clinic in the 2017 budget. The First Lady was angry because the clinic with big budget could not handle her little health challenge and she had had to turn elsewhere for solution after declining suggestion to also embark on a medical vacation abroad.

The First Lady has managed to communicate nicely all the time. No First Lady in the history of Nigeria has shown this degree of acumen. I shall resist exposing too much of her here, but to only say the much she has manifested in two and half years is enough to inform a good assessment. She is intelligent, detribalized, passionate, patriotic, educated and civilized. Above all, she is young and vibrant. These are the same qualities we have been searching for since May 29, 2015 to move Nigeria forward.

My point therefore is this: instead of allowing Buhari to go empty handed in 2019 and risk a backlash that could cause monkeys and dogs to swim in their own blood, I will vote for a deal to make Aisha do the other four years so that the equation can be peacefully balanced. It is in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe that this kind of leadership transition was first contemplated a couple of years back. Prof Kole Omotoso had described it then as “sexually transmitted political power.” Have I made some sense?



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