General Buhari and the Revisionists
By Johnson Momodu
In a season of electioneering, it should be expected that all manner of ideas, calculations and doublespeak by politicians and their cheerleaders will be given free reign. More so, in a country that truth easily becomes the first casualty of power and influence, it should be equally expected that ferocious attempts to rewrite, tweak or embellish our national history to serve partisan political interests will be made. Already that campaign has started in earnest to revise key events and reconstruct personalities in our national history. That is what is precisely happening now with the deceitful General Muhammadu Buahari makeover project in the media.
Since Buhari declared his intention to run for the office of the President of Nigeria for a record fourth time in 2015, some of the comments and write-ups about the leading aspirant in the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), have been so effusive in the praise of the old soldier that you wonder if the authors actually knew their subject. Yes, some of those materials can be dismissed as sponsored and paid for. But how much can you pay Chief Dele Momodu, one of the finest and easy-to-read columnists in the land? How much can you pay Simon Kolawole, whose ThisDay back page column puts sunshine on most of our Sundays? Chief Audu Ogbeh is one of the few politicians in the country who have managed to project politics as an ennobling service irrespective of the party to which he belongs; how much can you pay the “innocent” Ogbe?
Well, with Ogbeh, you can excuse him for falling cheaply for the new craze in the opposition clan, which is grabbing power at all cost from the ruling PDP and worry later about the means. It was interesting listening to Ogbeh reading out Buhari's profile as he made his way to the podium recently at the Eagle Square in Abuja to declare his interest to run for the office of the president for a record fourth time. Somebody beside me watching the live telecast of the event whispered that Ogbeh was the wrong guy for the assignment he was given because he would not know how to water down Buhari's poor democracy records. But as it turned out, Ogbeh showed that in his political peregrinations, he has properly acclimatized and has also internalised the crooked values of our politicians. Lo and behold, Ogbeh, while praising Buhari's rich past, cleverly omitted the stubborn fact that Buhari overthrew a democratically elected government of the people in 1983. He also brazenly swept under the carpet the gross abuse of human rights that was the signature tune of the Buhari regime, while eulogizing the former head of state on his record of discipline. To be sure, Buhari led a horde of Second Republic politicians, including Ogbeh himself whimsically into detention. So when Ogbeh, now campaign director for Buhari seeks to rewrite history because of an election down the line, he must realise the great disservice he is doing to his fatherland.
Indeed, the attempt at rebranding Buhari appears to be catching fire with the sudden recruitment of people like Chief Dele Momodu, the colourful publisher of the Ovation Magazine. Momodu a once-ran presidential candidate has taken his own revisionism to a level of almost obsession. A good story teller he has been over the years, Momodu now holds us spell bound by his tale of how charming the General can be, how he (Momodu) was swept off his feet by the General by just one chance meeting, and how he has been greatly misunderstood. The Ovation publisher known and respected more for his dexterity in Yoruba language studies is now playing Chike Obi, the mathematician, in trying to project how Buhari will likely sweep the votes in 2015 presidential elections. Unfortunately for him and his forecasts, Maths is based on methods and formulas that must be applied correctly. A wrong formula inexorably leads to the wrong answer or conclusion. Such is the case of Momodu's mathematics that factor in the influence of Ribadu in Benue rather than Adamawa and based on that, gives Benue State, David Mark's state, to the APC and not PDP in 2015.
The truth is that nobody needs Momodu's Jagbajantis , he calls mathematics to understand that the 2015 general elections will be very competitive. Yes, APC has really stepped up its game, no doubt. Yes, PDP has lost some high profile members to the opposition. Yet those drawing a conclusion on that predicting a Buhari victory in 2015 are closing their eyes to the fact that PDP has also gained some high profile members from the opposition. More importantly, the APC prophets in the matter of 2015 have conveniently ignored the fact of the nation's voting behaviour. Since the First Republic, the Southwest has never voted for a northern presidential candidate, no matter the party he belongs. The growing influence of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the region may not change this stubborn fact in 2015!
Much as Ogbeh, Dele Momodu and the growing list of revisionists strive to reconstruct Buhari in the context of our national history, the former head of state must first secure the ticket of his party by beating the former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso in a free and fair primary. When the General becomes APC's presidential candidate, then we will measure how much he has changed from what we know him to be. Yes, how much of an overnight democrat, nationalist, progressive and secularist he has suddenly become, just because of an election in a year's time. Thank God for the gift of our only Nobel Laureate, Professor Soyinka, (whose opinion I believe Momodu respects) for putting in black and white what he termed several years ago as “The Crimes of Buhari”, as if he knew a day of the revisionists will come in 2014. “The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are … not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future”, Professor Soyinka, had warned.
So all ye Buhari new converts united in painting a picture of how Nigeria has become a huge corruption network under President Goodluck Jonathan and how 'Saint' Buhari will be the Messiah must not forget that there is no bigger corruption than the deceitful revision of a people's history – for whatever reason!
Momodu contributed this piece from Benin City via [email protected]
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