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It was typical General Mohammed Buhari. “We shall make this nation uncomfortable for those who do not want to play by the rules”, he said while addressing his political associates in Lagos recently. That statement represents the plank on which the Buhari candidacy is supposedly built on – one of integrity, uprightness and anti-corruption. But, let’s be serious, are there genuine reasons to cheer, real reasons to believe that this man as president would be the same man on the campaign train who said all the sweet things? Or is Buhari just a demagogue and an opportunist who wants to make political capital out of the challenges facing our people?

A peep into the past of the retired General, especially his stint as military head-of-state, should provide answer to how fair or unfair he might be as a democratic leader and, especially, how (un)faithful he would be to his very many promises. But any attempt to dig out the military past of the General is often met by accusations from his almost-cultish followers, who argue that the situations are different or that the General has truly become a Born-again democrat, who like Paul, has had his conversion. But the truth is a man rarely changes the core of his personality and the actions he takes are usually drawn from that central part of his being.

Even the ‘Born-again’ Buhari has demonstrated this time and again. In 2003 when he joined the ANPP, most of the party followers, almost all of them from the North, rejoiced that indeed a messiah had come. Buhari had the right credentials. A former head-of-state, he had spoken several times to defend Northern and Islamic interests and was generally seen as brave, populist and Spartan. A great multitude from the North rose up and followed him.

In no time, a lot of them became disappointed and disenchanted. One of them was Ibrahim Little. Little was a gubernatorial aspirant of the ANPP in Kano in 2003. He was no ordinary aspirant. At the time Buhari was hibernating after his sack as the Chairman of PTF, Little had already built a clout as a political leader of note in Kano. He rallied all the discontents and built the structure that was on the verge of defeating Rabiu Kwankwaso, the then governor of the state. Little’s popularity was unrivalled and for many ANPP members in the state, his nomination as the party’s gubernatorial candidate was fait accompli. That’s until Buhari stepped in and imposed Ibrahim Shekarau as the ANPP gubernatorial candidate, even though it was Little who won the primaries. All entreaties to reverse that decision fell on deaf ears and Dictator Buhari had his way.

That was Candidate Buhari not playing by the rules. It was therefore not surprising that by 2007 most of the ANPP governors had fallen out with him because of his over-bearing and dictatorial nature and only gave him halfhearted support during his second presidential run. He wisely read the handwriting on the wall and founded the CPC.

Yet the story is not different as the dictatorial tendency of General Buhari has become obvious in his new party. He has withdrawn tickets from rightful candidates and awarded them to those whose faces he fancies. Abdullahi Adamu Usman, popularly known as Dan China, must be cursing the day he left the ANPP for Buhari’s CPC. Dan China won the gubernatorial primaries of his new party in Bauchi State but was denied the ticket because Buhari said so. The man was so angry that he has cursed the General in several interviews, explaining that Buhari is over-rated when it comes to honesty and integrity. “I do not know what is wrong with Buhari, is it old age, or what?” Dan China asked. No, Mr. China, the problem with the General is not a matter of his age, or the age of his ideas. Buhari was a dictator when he was in his 40’s and if he is still one today it is because that is who he is. The core of his person. No surprise then that he displayed the same attitude in Katsina and Kano where serious attempts were made (and still being made) to supplant the legitimate candidates of the CPC with the General’s cronies. And even in cases where the courts have ruled otherwise, that has not made a difference to General Buhari, who is pursuing what seems like a vendetta against some members of his own party.

So is this change, same of the same or worse of the same? Considering how the man has run his party, it is benumbing that the General and his handlers could campaign on the bases of rule of law, integrity, piety and fair-play. A man who cannot rule his house fairly should not be entrusted with the leadership of the community. This double standard is obvious too in his talk about fighting corruption. In fact, no interview of the General is complete without him boasting of dealing with crooks, expunging immunity clause and chasing corrupt people out of the country. But have you noticed Buhari’s new friends?

One of them is Hassan Lawal, the former Minister of Works who served under the government of Yar’adua and as Labour Minister under Obasanjo. He was a PDP member until a few months ago. But that is not the story. The gist is that Lawal, according to the EFCC, would make the list of the most corrupt politician ever. He is the chief suspect in the N50 billion fraud discovered in the ministry, where contracts were awarded to fictitious companies and a deliberate effort was made to circumvent laid down government procedures on the award of contracts. The man is indirectly responsible for the poor state of our roads, and the consequences thereof, by placing his greed higher than national interest. He is a leading CPC member in Nassarawa and financier of the party.

Another good friend of Buhari is Adamu Aliero, the CPC senatorial candidate in Kebbi Central Zone. Apart from being a member of the cabal who held Nigeria hostage during the Yar’adua imbroglio, Aliero made name for himself as the legendary incompetent Minister of the FCT. After almost two years as Minister, the only notable thing associated with his administration was speed bumps, which were quickly removed immediately a sensible administration came in. An audit of the Aliero’s tenure at FCT revealed a huge lopsided allocation of land in Abuja, with indigenes from his Kebbi state getting the lion share, followed by other states from the North. Southerners hardly got any land in Abuja during his tenure as FCT minister. Add to this are the various weighty allegations of corruption swirling around the head of the former minister, senator and governor. One of these is the N257.1 billion Abuja Airport Road project, which was awarded during his tenure as FCT minister. Yet he is one of the ‘change agents’ of a potential Buhari administration.

But how can Buhari be preaching change when he is in bed with characters like these? If he wins the Presidency, won’t these characters be the nucleus of the new government? This goes to show that the General is just desperate for power and will do anything or say anything to get it, including welcoming with open arms the James Iboris and Lucky Igbenedions of this world, if they decamped to his party.

It is understandable why some Nigerians are giving the General benefit of the doubt. The last 12 years have truly been tough with the PDP whose performance has been anything but sterling. More reason why Nigerians should look before we leap as we cannot afford, to use my mother’s favourite phrase, move from fry pan to fire. Buhari does not look like change to me. The General looks tired, old and in need of a well deserved rest. He should not be on any platform where he is tortured to provide answers to questions he does not understand. Take the last debate. He could barley string two intelligent sentences together and gave almost incoherent answers to questions. On education, he said there was no problem with the sector and on Niger Delta, he said he was going to sit with the people to discover their problems. Really? After the debate I thought his presidential dream was going to collapse because of what is generally accepted as an underwhelming performance. But no, his handlers came up with a new spin, which emphasized his honesty and integrity above his ability to manage the affairs of the state. Yet honesty alone is not enough. A man cannot teach chemistry or physics just because he is honest. To do that, he needs knowledge; especially so, governing a complex state like ours.

Change is eloquent; it is inspiring and provides answers. General Buhari is not change.

Writen by Julius Ogunro.

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