2015: Tell Yourself the Truth, General
By Femi Ayelabowo
Here we go again, discussing the presidential ambition of the former military dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari, which he is hoping to realise in the 2015 general elections. The former military head of state from 1983 to 1985, who will be 72 years on December 17, this year, has just declared his intention to contest next year's presidential elections on the platform of the main opposition party, the All progressives Congress (APC). The news is not whether Buhari's declaration was well attended or not. Of course, nobody will contest his ability to draw a sizeable crowd, especially from the pool of his fanatical followers most of whom unfortunately may not be eligible voters. From what has played out so far, it is also getting clear from the body language of the real owners of the APC that Buhari is, in fact, their preferred choice even before the party's convention, leaving the like of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Kano State Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and other pretenders chasing shadows.
It is not difficult to understand the conundrum in which the APC has found itself in the matter of the choice to challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in power since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999. An Atiku candidature for the party may mean an easy victory again for President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, PDP. The former vice president, in spite of his stupendous wealth, mastery in political organisation and mobilization as well as deft stratagem, has been terribly damaged politically by his former boss, former President Olusegun Obasanjo. So, it does not matter how beautiful an economic policy blueprint that Atiku has produced or how lofty his ideas of governing our country might be, his greatest challenge in the 2015 general elections and indeed in the future may well be how he succeeds in convincing our people that he is not what his former boss, Obasanjo, says he is. It is not as if Obasanjo has not made allegations against other aspirants; sadly, Nigerians seem to believe him more on Atiku!
If with Atiku, who is at least known countrywide, APC will suffer a routine loss to the PDP, with the governor of Kano, Kwankwaso, there probably will be no contest at all, as the PDP will supremely run away with victory. Honestly, apart from Kano State, where else in Nigeria can Kwankwaso win a presidential election?
There is also the emerging game plan of the power brokers in APC to keep at bay the horde of the travelling contingents from the PDP now in APC. Although it makes eminent sense for the APC leadership to boast about the big captures it has from the ruling party and the resources they are putting on the table to run the party, yet the truth is that the Tinubus of this world don't trust any of them with any sensitive party position. The former governor of Lagos State hinted that much in his vituperations against Tom Ikimi on his ambition to chair the opposition party.
It is therefore not very difficult now to see the dilemma in which APC has found itself over the choice of its presidential flag bearer in 2015. There is indeed a famine of credible presidential materials within the APC clan. It is perhaps this frustration that has led the party into a Buhari cul-de-sac. The ruling PDP must be having a big laugh now. And, why not? For the umpteenth time, the obstacle between them and retaining their stranglehold on power at the centre is once again likely to be a familiar spirit, one they have mastered how to conquer! Please don't be deceived with the notion that 2015 is going to be different from 2011. Yes, 2015 is going to be different from 2011, 2007, and 2003, but has there been any difference from General Buhari? He is still being played by politicians who are only interested in using his name to attain their own selfish political calculations.
Even in acknowledging the dearth of credible presidential options in the APC, it is pitiable and part of our political crises as a nation that the seemingly best that the main opposition party in our country can offer us in 2015 will be a 72-year old man who was a military dictator way back. Buhari's well documented anti-democracy past aside, can APC leaders in all honesty beat their chests and say that Buhari is the President that Nigeria needs now in this world of restless alterations? I don't think so! The world has moved on so fast away from the Buhari days and the General himself knows this. Since he was ousted by General Ibrahim Babangida in 1985, the only known public service record of the APC presidential hopeful was his outing at the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
A man, who took time to castigate President Jonathan for seemingly dividing and polarising the country in his declaration speech, may have easily forgotten how in carrying out his assignments at PTF, segregated heavily against southern parts of the country. His unhidden discomfort with people from the eastern part of the country, which clearly reflected in his appointments, actions and associations as military leader and politician, is also in the public domain. He did not even bother to campaign in certain areas of the country in the 2011 general elections! And just days ago, his fellow aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, in a veiled attack on him cautioned that the country does not need a religious fanatic or bigot as president in the year ahead.
If there is one attribute General Buhari is credited with, it must be the belief that he is a man of integrity. Just before going into the 2011 elections, he informed Nigerians that he would not seek any elective position afterwards. But here we are again with the old General in our faces for the 2015 elections. Though the General is well within his rights to change his mind on political retirement, it would have been more dignifying for him to stick to the earlier decision than succumb to the pressures of the wicked politicians hovering around him to nurture their own careers. It is quite clear that General Buhari is out of tune with modern governance issues and facts. The way he bandied incorrect comparative data on power generation and agriculture under Jonathan's government to obfuscate the reality on ground speaks eloquently of this. Perhaps it is the time General Buhari told himself the truth that Nigeria deserves more than he can possibly offer!
Mr Ayelabowo contributed this piece from Ibadan via [email protected]
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