In the run-up to the 2003 presidential election, when the man who was then addressed as Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) first indicated interest in returning to power as a civilian, there existed not one clairvoyant in the country. No one foresaw that he would need until his fourth attempt to succeed, nor that the hitherto no-nonsense former military ruler would upon taking office completely radicalise, sorry, I meant to say completely politicianise. In 2015, against the run of expectation, the man who technically defected to the hurriedly-merged All Progressives Congress upstaged then-incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party. That one electoral victory changed Nigeria permanently, for good or for bad.
For the first time in the history of our country, a presidential candidate who was in office and, as things go in Nigeria, in absolute control of the electoral body, the armed forces, the police and of everything and everybody, lost re-election. Truth to tell, that may not have been a first but the immediate aftermath awarded it that branding forever. While the final figures were still being collated, the incumbent, seeing the writing on the wall, chose the unlikeliest and the least appealing of the alternatives before him: a congratulatory phone call to his challenger. That first would resonate in Nigeria every presidential election year!
For a country and a people that have enjoyed democracy only in small doses (apologies Dr. Emmanuel Akpanobong), the 2015 presidential ballot was a clear turning point, thanks to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Also, further confirmations of a major national electoral paradigm shift were seen even if generally undiscussed across the other strata of the general election. More outsiders beat established politicians to win power. The finest example of this being from my home state of Akwa Ibom, where a banker, Deacon Udom Emmanuel, came from nowhere, politically speaking, to be elected governor!
From the foregoing, we could extract at least two fundamental changes that have redefined and would continue to define the Nigerian electoral architecture going forward. Number one, as 2019 looms, incumbents must sink the new political normal of dispensability or conquerability through their skulls. As scary as that might sound to partisan Nigerians like yours truly, it is also simultaneously cheery to every patriotic ear. Number two, in a way, 2015 also broke the lousy jinx of every election ending up in court!
Nigeria owes so much to the immediate past President. I may not like the echo of that because of the other things I know but if I cannot forget bad why can I not remember good? Imagine a voter in this mental topsy-turvy at the polling booth. Yes, election seekers; wake up, wake up: 2019 shall be decided mainly by – wait for it – emotions!
It is not that emotions did not play any role in previous elections, but the post-Jonathan years have proved beyond every reasonable doubt that on the one hand Nigeria has been running on the oil, the sweat and the blood of the minority and on the other by the emotions of the majority. This perennial hydra-headed hypocrisy really got a life and, if you like, became real and touchable in the last three and a half years; what with monumental glaring injustice that even the blind see and the deaf feel. I don’t need to be a south-easterner to condemn my country applying the sledge hammer on IPOB but allowing not even a scarecrow against murderous herdsmen. The latter come from the ‘right’ ethnic group, right?
No savvy, but, unfortunately, try as much as I have, I cannot absolve President Muhammadu Buhari of blames that accrue from these annoying villainies. How could a man, who rode to power on the crest of personal integrity and nationwide popularity, be approaching in just under four years what seems as his last bus stop looking so rejected and dejected? Who did this to this man? Above all, what is in this as takeaway for current and subsequent office holders?
For me, the first-line charge for a public officer in this sickeningly-sensitive country is never to play around with Politics Nigeriana because, like the dog called corruption, it can fight or play back. President Buhari should never have toyed with the idea of politicianising. The President should know that, so far, the un-buharish politics he has played, the ethnic cards he has dealt, the religious hand he has shown, and the executive bills he has signed all give him away, especially to my generation, as a leader who has no place in our present let alone future testament. When he loses re-election (which I pray he doesn’t stand) I shall asterisk his name in red ink as someone who let me down personally.
If I feel so strongly, I wonder how bad it is for Buharists and APC members who gave their all in the making of the man. But, is it too late for the President to salvage what is left of his name and time? Yes, no; your guess is good as mine. God bless Nigeria!
Lessons from Thailand
By the time you read this, a global effort to rescue a football team of 11, 12-year-olds and their 25-year-old coach who got stranded in a dangerous Thai cave for 15 days should have ended successfully. It is such a beauty when human beings stand together in adversity. It leaves you wondering why we always fight or kill ourselves.
Nigeria and others must learn from this Thai experience. We must immediately create security around some of our dangerous natural tourist attractions. Who knows how many lives have been lost in our caves and waterfalls and on our mountains and sundry dangerous spots?