Gwazuwang: Buhari As Symbol Of Arewa’s Decline
IN the prevailing hysteria triggered by the charade of change on which General Muhammadu Buhari’s presidential ambition is anchored, it is necessary to step aside for sober reflections on the fate that has befallen the North’s once unassailable political prowess. The last time the people of the North were constrained to give serious thought to the region’s political credentials followed the divinely-determined emergence of Goodluck Jonathan as President and consequently as a leading presidential contender in 2011. Far from being able to consolidate around a consensus candidate from the region, the leadership elite broke up and fragmented the firmament of a united northern front with numerous contenders jostling for the Presidency of Nigeria. As a result of these conflicting ambitions, the very notion of northern solidarity was shattered beyond recognition. Even a last ditch effort to salvage the situation by tasking some northern elders to rekindle the Arewa spirit among its ambitious leaders failed woefully.
From the debris of the decimated political clout of the region, we now survey the landscape only to find a solitary soldier of political fortune in the person of General Buhari towering over all else like a date palm tree in the desert! And the question in need of an answer is: how did Arewa, the haven of national political strategists and power-capturing mafia that presided over the nation’s power politics for decades, end up so bereft of the proverbial men of timber and calibre that its best offer today is a military dictator, desperately incapable of clinching the presidency for the region?
The answer is pretty obvious. The North’s legendary political pre-eminence in national power politics is now at its lowest ebb and it will take more than a solitary soldier’s frantic pursuit of presidency through the ruse of “talakawa” populism to retrieve that lost glory. One only needs to recall the hey days of Arewa political prowess beginning with the sagacious statesmanship of the great Sardauna, Sir Ahmadu Bello who nurtured northern unity to earn national reckoning and superlative influence on the dynamics of political power, and practically packaged the region into the formidable fortress it was then. The Shagari Presidency of the Second Republic also flew the flag of Arewa political ascendancy to the heights of nationalistic integration through the NPN, ushering in a promising era of mature pan-Nigerian democracy that stood the best chance of moving the country forward.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is a damning coincidence to find the same soldier who heralded the untimely termination of the promise of Arewa ascendancy in the Second Republic in 1984, now neck deep in the pathetic partitioning of the north into acrimonious zones of political intolerance and religious bigotry, as a direct outcome of his persistence in pursuit of a parochial inroad to Nigeria’s Presidency. The rise of General Buhari as a septuagenarian contender for leadership in the North is a regrettable indication of the gradual decay and demise of the political culture of the north, which, though born of robust civilian political statesmanship, seems set to be killed and buried by the virus of military usurpation of political power.
But the North cannot afford to be tied to the fading figure of General Buhari who thrives on the misleading notion that only he can rescue the North and Nigeria, selfishly sabotaging the natural process of generational succession that is the elixir of rejuvenation and reinforcement of values, objectives and strategies for the sustainable development and progress of humanity. The tragedy of Buhari’s “sole-leadership” of the North was eloquently described by Nasir El Rufai when in 2010 he candidly and courageously declared: “I was 25 years old when Buhari and Babangida were Heads of State and I am now 50 and they still want to be Head of State. I don’t understand that and I call on the young people of Nigeria to take their future into their hands and ensure that in the next election, they vote for a new generation of leaders.”
In the situation the North finds itself today, with a 73 year old retired general in the ill-fitting role of rallying point and hordes of marginalized youths in a fanatical and violence-prone allegiance to him with ethno-religious sentiments that tolerate no dissent, the future is bleaker for the endangered northerners than for the rest of Nigeria, regardless of the outcome of the 2015 presidential elections. No less disturbing is the apparent apathy if not outright boycott of bold and responsible, political mentoring and leadership for positive citizenship and national integration by the political elite in the north, as a result of which the retired general can have a field day. If only Nasir El Rufai’s courage and conviction was sincere and not susceptible to opportunism, he could have been the best vanguard of the new generation of youth and political elite that Arewa sorely seeks but may never get. Here lies the tragedy of the Buhari Era for the Arewa dream of the Ahmadu Bellos and the Yusuf Maitama Sules.
• Adamu Gwazuwang writes from Abuja