2011: THE NORTH MUST PUT ITS BEST FOOT FORWARD (3)
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat my position on power rotation. It is unconstitutional, maybe even undemocratic, and just a child of necessity spawned by our experiences of the past, in which a certain region-the North-has held power for the greater part of our national life.
It is convenient, at least for now, to rotate power between the North and South for a maximum two terms of eight years, but as our democracy grows, we will move on to maturity, and leave childish ways.
Anyone can then rise from any part of the land, run for any office, and get it by virtue of majority votes, as democracy is a game of numbers. But before then, I feel 2011 belongs to the North. Yes, candidates from other parts have inalienable rights to run since we're in a democracy, they will have their say, but the voters will have their way. No hassles, as they say. Therefore, let Goodluck Jonathan's posters flood not just Abuja, but the nooks and crannies of the country. It's his right. Dreams are free, no one can deny him of his right to envision or visualise his own political future. But a southern president in 2011? An uphill task, a mere chasing after the winds, if you ask me. But then, I may be wrong.
For the third week running, we are looking at aspirants and candidates from the North, a region we're asking to put its best foot forward this time. In 2007, they were clobbered senseless by Olusegun Obasanjo, who foisted on them a candidate who was hardly the best the region could produce, a development that led the country into serious trouble.
We have talked about Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida in passing. His payday cometh soon. We have mentioned Bamanga Tukur, Murtala Nyako, and dwelt extensively last week on Gen Aliyu Gusau. All we're saying is, the best, the best, nothing but the best from the North for the 2011 race. Otherwise, they'll fritter the golden chance once again, as they've done from 2007 till now.
Muhammadu Buhari. Two times candidate on platform of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP), now possibly the presidential flagbearer of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). A very viable, feasible, vibrant possibility from the North. But can he be president? Will certain forces let him?
Plenty reactions have trailed this series in the past three weeks. The respondents will equally have their day soon. And what some people have said is that Nigeria, not just the North, must put its best foot forward in 2011. To me, one of those best feet is Muhammadu Buhari, the former military head of state from Daura, in Katsina State. But can he be an elected president? Will certain forces let him?
Buhari will be running third time for the nation's number one position, and who says he may not be third time lucky. Didn't Attah Mills of Ghana get it at the third outing? Some people are already asking Buhari to retire, having aspired twice unsuccessfully. No, it's the man's right to run, particularly seeing the circumstances of the last two presidential elections, the validity of which he contested up to the Supreme Court. He only lost narrowly (4 - 3) in the last one.
What strengths will Buhari bring to the table? And what inherent weaknesses? I have never hidden my love for the man who ruled us with an iron fist between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985. It was one regime Nigeria needed then, and despite some shortcomings, it had enough strength to have taken us out of the woods in different spheres of our national life. But the forces of reaction toppled the regime, and we are where we are today. In March, 2009, I did a piece with the title, 'Maybe we should apologize to Buhari.' I still stand by what I wrote:
'He was whipping us into line, but we revolted, and rejoiced when a gap-toothed General came, flashing smiles that eventually turned out to be daggers in our underbellies… Does Nigeria owe Buhari an apology? I think so. He wanted to reconfigure us as military leader, we said no. He sought the position twice through the ballot box, twice we schemed and wangled him out. Pity.'
What is Buhari's greatest strength? For me, it his sterling display of integrity and incorruptibility. Imagine the positions the man has held. Governor. Minister of Petroleum. Head of State. Chairman, Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). And yet, during the last campaigns, there were rallies and meetings Buhari could not attend both home and abroad, simply because there was no money. Despite all those posts he held? Some others were never governor, never minister, never PTF chairman. They were only head of state (which Buhari also was) and they are today richer than many West African states put together, and have obscene mansions built on several acres of hilltop.
Do they still make people like Buhari anymore? I doubt.
Let me give you a snippet from an essay on Buhari written by eminent virologist, Prof Tam David-West, and scheduled to be published in Saturday Sun tomorrow. ' In 2007, General Buhari, as a not-to-be- ignored candidate for the Presidency, was scoffed at and mocked by his political adversaries that he couldn't raise even N10 million for a particular scheduled rally. Others raised ten times, hundred times… Most staggeringly unbelievable in Nigeria. A former Head of State? A former military Governor of a state (North- East State) that is now broken into six states? A former Petroleum Minister? Indeed, an extra-ordinary Nigerian in and out of uniform…'
Buhari had many opportunities to steal us blind in the very plum positions he held. He did not. We now have every cause to believe that our treasury will be safe with him. He will utilise the resources of the land for the good of the larger number. But then, can he be president through the ballot box?
Yes, I love Buhari, I would want him as my president. He's frank, forthright, honest. But can he be president? Does he have the platform?
Whatever we say of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), it is the nation's largest party today, and whoever has the ticket of the party may be as good as being president. Of course, I don't like that fact, but I must be honest enough to admit it. Therefore, to get rid of this army of occupation called PDP, we need a coalition, a broad based political alignment, which was attempted through the National Democratic Movement. There was an attempt to form a mega-party, and politicians like Buhari, Atiku Abubakar, Bola Tinubu, Attahiru Bafarawa, Balarabe Musa, and many others, came together. Of course, they were strange bedfellows in terms of political ideology, but they needed that closing of ranks if the PDP would be torpedoed. At the end, the move collapsed, due to lack of capacity to subjugate personal ambition for the greater goal, by the individuals. Today, they are all scattered into weak platforms, which cannot give the PDP a run for its money. Atiku is back in PDP, ensconced in the same chair he once defaecated upon, pontificating from both sides of the mouth.
Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Can this raise a finger against the almighty PDP? The ANPP was the next largest party in the country, Buhari could not wrest power from the PDP on its platform. Will he now do it through CPC? Tough, surely.
Many other issues are raised against Buhari by some of his antagonists. He's a religious zealot. He's a Fulani jingoist. His regime killed through retroactive decrees. And many others. Well, there's a difference between religious zealotry and fanaticism. And how many of us are not really ethnic jingoists in this country? But my own other area of worry is something that should really be a strength, which may become a weakness, a good that may be evil spoken of. Buhari's inflexibility. Hear what Theophilus Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff, said of him:
'Buhari is one of the most upright officers the Nigerian Army has produced. Very clean, a very strict officer. A very inflexible person. Too rigid, too inflexible to hold a political post. If you are in politics, you must be flexible, you must compromise from time to time. In politics, they call it pragmatism.'
From my mail box
What Nigeria needs
Nigeria needs people of courage who have discipline and patriotism as a way of life, not behind-the-screen actors whose temperaments are unknown. Spymasters can head EFCC, ICPC or SSS, not our heterogeneous country. Thanks for the new know-your-aspirants series. I can't wait to read more.
•Dr Nwusulor E. E.
One of our problems is that past leaders have been foisted on us. They made no promises and owed us none. Those who were ready were either denied or had their tenure cut short. It used to be the Kaduna mafia, but now a cabal.
•Dr King Achukwu, Lagos.
Good piece, good reasoning
Good piece, good reasoning. But don't you think a northern president will go for a second term, thereby making it 12 years instead of 8 for the north?
•Patrick Idung, Calabar
Re: The North should put its best foot forward
Your column always gladdens my heart. The North should not put an evil man as its best foot forward. Majority of us know who is 'evil' among the prospective northern candidates.
Posers for Gen Gusau
Gen Aliyu Gusau can never win an election that is free and fair. What legacy does he have in his local government? How many people did he give scholarships? Some of his people are living in our area in Ibadan, he has not supported them. Are you praying for such man to become president?
•Alhaji Danladi Yaro, Sabo, Ibadan.
Will he leave after one term?
If a northern president emerges in 2011, will he leave after a term? I hope Jonathan and other southerners, including you, will not cry 'had I known' in the future.
•Dr. Nwagwu Kelechi, Lagos
I don't share your position
I don't share your position on power rotation. It's easy to analyse, scrutinise and talk about the problems in Nigeria, but we need people who can do something about them. Let Nigeria put her best foot forward.
•Prince Chidoruo, Port Harcourt
Haba Femi, you hate IBB with such passion. His day hasn't come in your line up, but you've started to bomb him.
•Jude Edoziem, Onitsha
No constitutional backing
You are a wonderful and thoughtful writer, but you emphasis on PDP rotational arrangement is getting me weary because it lacks constitutional backing.
•Capt J. Onyema
They've rocked our boat
Your piece on Gusau is fantastic. But all of them are in the same boat, and they've rocked our boat in different ways. We need no General.
Nothing lasts forever
If the North likes, let them continue to think we are still in the military era. Nothing lasts forever. Time and events have shown that Nigeria will be owned by her people.
Dr. L.S.A Nwajiaku, Nnewi
Let's pray for electoral reforms
Let's pray for good electoral reforms that will ensure the best candidate emerges as president, regardless of region or party
Dr. Abubakar Kotos, Yola