Last Monday, the All-Progressives Congress likely standard bearer in the 2019 presidential election finally verbalised the message we had long inferred from his body language. The somewhat shock announcement came during his party’s National Executive Committee meeting in Abuja, a day before the president left for London to attend to commonwealth and health matters. It took even his closest aides by surprise, although we always knew he would run. Recall the opening line of the 25th December, 2015 edition of this column: ‘President Muhammadu Buhari, sure as eggs is eggs, shall exercise his inalienable human and constitutional right of seeking a second electoral helping’.
So, after everything, the president will run again. That was how I exclaimed to myself the moment the news filtered out. While assimilating the decision, my mind wandered off to picturing the face of the man and seeking to understand how his mind works. I didn’t get anywhere on that mental enterprise.
It is not easy to decode the man, Muhammadu Buhari. Everything about him is a puzzle. Who apart from Candidate Buhari ever ran for office in a country as certificate-crazy as Nigeria and didn’t have to show his educational papers? Which other Nigerian public office holder’s wife, apart from President Buhari’s Aisha, ever went public with a criticism of the husband’s in-office performance?
Who knows and can name one other Nigerian, living or dead, who got away with or survived just about anything? If you are waiting for me to name such anything, here you are: flagrant nepotism, abysmal non-performance, etc. Who can show me one other Nigerian who enjoys Buhari-like nationwide cult following for nothing? Imagine someone who promised change in 2015 providing nil in 2018 but draws substantial applause the moment he summoned courage to declare for 2019!
There are some things about the man from Daura that tickle me, though. I have coined them into lessons that I continue to learn from him. There are so many of them but, because of space or the lack of it, I shall serve just half a dozen. Of course, the first two border on integrity and patience.
Before 2015, when Nigerians across political divides discussed past leaders who didn’t help themselves to the public till, almost-always we unanimously agreed that Buhari was number one. When therefore we needed such a man to lead the change we sought, we went for him. It was a befitting conclusion for the man himself considering that was the fourth time he would run for the office. The long-suffering presidential hopeful finally got it.
The third lesson that President Buhari has taught me is political: no matter how awful you perform, you would always have supporters. As a broadcaster, I learned that quite early about my profession. Even presenters who have no business being on air never lack fans who believe they are the best things since ice cream. It’s a fact of life: people would always justify their preferences.
The number four lesson I have learned from this president is that Nigeria and Nigerians are horribly amenable. With just a little power or money or persistence or all three, it is possible to manipulate the country and her one hundred and eighty million-strong population. How else do we explain that in the 21st century a political party and an ethnic group as in the APC and Fulanis would attempt to redefine performance? The Buhari magic would neither let them try anyone else nor any better aspirant to indicate interest.
How much I crave to be like Buhari when I grow up. That brings me to the fifth lesson that he has taught me: once you hold the yam and the knife in Nigeria, you could treat people the way you want, and at the nick of time simply by making overtures to them get them to forgive and forget forever. Look at Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and the southeast region, does the way they now sing Buhari betray what they went through in his hands in the recent past?
Finally, how can I discuss Buhari lessons without an entry on corruption? This president has taught me to lead life so clean that when I get dirty in the process of time, no one would believe or treat it so seriously. No other Nigerian ever enjoyed as much national and indeed international understanding as Muhammadu Buhari. God bless Nigeria!
How not to prepare for re-election
Ten months to the next general elections, our country is all in the mood. Everywhere you turn, everything is about 2019. People are angling for a fresh term or an encore.
That’s the way of politics. Only that in Nigeria, it locks down -rather than enhance- government and governance. The way our politics is wired, no incumbent would focus even sixty percent on governance the remaining year of this tenure.
I think that is a crying shame for our four-yearly democracy. We cannot and should not continue with the madness of squandering a fortune on elections as frequently as we do with little or no dividends. Election is a pyrrhic investment in Nigeria.
However, all of that is a matter for another day. Today, I needed to point out a few unforced errors that those seeking re-election should be wary of. First, the electorate will punish you for the wrongdoings of even your aide(s).
So, offload any such aide. You are not worthy of a second term if you have an aide you cannot fire. Secondly, incumbents should not make promises. That’s for freshers.
Those seeking re-election should flaunt achievements. More than any promise, an achievement can sway the minds of voters. And, never take anyone for granted!