Thursday, 2 April 2015

(105): We thought this day will not come

At a point even General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), the President-elect of Nigeria, thought that March 28th 2015 will never come. As he said in April 2011, “this campaign is the third and last one for me; since, after it, I will not present myself again for election into office of the president.”, said the General, at the International Conference Centre Abuja. The mood of the Centre was overtaken by emotions, tears being shed, including an unlikely one from General Buhari, politicians like Malam Nasir El-Rufai and Chief Tunde Bakare were overtaken by a sober reflection of those words. 

Unknown to many people, those words actually marked the beginning of the success of the struggle. After the declaration of the results by INEC, a caller from the United States made an appeal in the BBC Hausa’s flagship programme Ra’ayi Riga (have your say), aired every Friday in the evening edition of the programme, pleading with General Buhari never to give up in the struggle to liberate Nigeria; the caller said, the presence of Buhari in politics has already made the difference, and without people like him in politics, it will be difficult for many of our elites to understand that managing the resources of a nation is a call to national duty, not an opportunity to plunder the resources of the nation.

To many of us, the youths, it wasn’t much about General Buhari not contesting, but who will step in to his shoes? Who is the candidate to develop such mass appeal with an impeccable record in public service? Someone who is courageous, fearless and determined, somebody whose mistakes you will certainly believe are made out of the sheer conviction in what he believes is right, rather than through dirty tricks, carefully conspired by our nocturnal politicians.

It wasn’t easy to find one. Those that may exist do not have the charisma and the captivating personality of General Buhari. The good news though was there were some candidates who could be developed for the future. Though not at par with Buhari, but certainly could make their marks if given the opportunity. Some of the names that came to mind were those of Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, then the Central Bank Governor of Nigeria, Malam Nasir El-Rufai, former FCT Minister, Chief Babatunde Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, former EFCC chairman, Governors Adams Oshiomole, Rotimi Amaechi, Dr Kayode Fayemi, General AB Dambazau, former Army Chief and Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso of Kano; all of them have their weaknesses but certainly they provide a glimpse of hope for the future.

Interestingly, with the exception of Malam Sanusi Lamido, now Emir Muhammad Sanusi II of Kano, the rest are still in active politics within the opposition APC, apart from Malam Nuhu Ribadu’s unexpected and unsteady political dilly dallying.  

A key contribution of GMB presidency is to mentor and prepare these kind of personalities for the highest office, at least to fill the psychological vacuum of potential Nigerian leaders, especially with the energy of the immediate and post-independent generation like General Buhari, and his contemporaries reaching a declining stage.

This was a serious topic of discussion especially for those of us living in the diaspora. Such discussions prompted me to write a short opinion piece on 19th April, 2012 entitled “Buhari and political mentorship” published the same week in the Daily Trust, and a couple of other news platforms.
An excerpt from the article suggests that “one of the political stories that dominated the pages of Nigerian newspapers in the last few days was the debate on whether General Muhammadu Buhari should contest the 2015 presidential election. Clearly public opinion was divided on the issue between those who support the idea of Buhari contesting again, and those who think the General should have some rest. I believe General Buhari will make the right decision at the right time. My personal opinion is that he shouldn’t contest, but if he does contest, he has my vote”.
I received a couple of responses, but two standout, one of them from an elder brother, and the other from an influential Nigerian. Both of them disagreed with me, and I saw their point, few weeks letter, this influential Nigerian told me that, “write it on paper, Buhari will contest the 2015 elections, no doubt it”. The rest is now history. 
It requires unquestionable determination, foresight, self-belief and unshaken resolve in doing what is right for GMB to spend twelve years in opposition. Even when President Obasanjo hinted that he might support Buhari to contest the presidential elections in 2007 under the platform of PDP, Buhari remained consistent and stayed in the opposition. Today he has come to political power in his own terms, propelled by the commitment of the Nigerian people to have a government of their choice.
As we celebrate the victory that eluded Nigeria for a long time, we shouldn’t forget the key lessons we can learn from the Buhari struggle. A little comparison from 2003-2015 could be helpful as summarized in the table below. I will make the comparison using 6 criteria, (1) National platform (2) campaign structure (3) funding (4) party politics (5) elite consensus (6) electoral umpire. I hope this could help us understand what is different between 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

National Platform
·         A semi national platform under the ANPP. It has 9 governors out of 36, mainly in Northern Nigeria with some representation in the national assembly from other regions.
·         A weaker national platform under the ANPP with five governors from northern Nigeria only.
·         A regionally strong political party with appeal to the grassroots, CPC, but without an elected official all over Nigeria.
·         A strong national platform under APC spread across the regions of the country.
·         Significant number of elected representatives.
Campaign Structure
·         The Buhari Organisation (TBO).
·         Heavily regional and populated by non-political juggernauts, and some technocrats desperate for change.
·          Strong support from Nigerians in diaspora
·         Same as 2003
·         Same as 2003/2007
·         A strong campaign structure, highly representative of the country
·         Populated by active political actors with strong organizational ability
·         Poor funding, and lack of grass root initiative in raising funds for the campaign.
·         Innovative means of campaign collection using technology was relatively new or untested in the country.
·         Same as 2003
·         Same as 2003/2007
·         Weaker funding due to the party lacking elected officials
·         Strong funding from party officials, elected politicians
·         Grassroots fundraising and utilization of innovative technology for campaign donation
Party Politics
·         Dominated by the People’s Democratic Party
·         Heavily populated by anti-Buhari politicians
·         Not ready to give up political power transparently
·         Using religion to scare and dent the image of Buhari among Nigerians especially non-Muslims
·         Same as 2003
·         Same as 2003/2007

·         Fusion of opposition parties into a single formidable opposition known as the All Progressive Congress (APC
·         Divided ruling party with strong internal opposition
·         Stronger desire for an alternative political platform among Nigerians
·         Use of religion against Buhari ineffective among Nigerians
·         Energized youths with social media platform seeking for change in party politics
Elite Consensus
·         Lack of elite consensus on Buhari presidency
·         Same as 2003
·         Same as 2003/2007
·         Significant elite consensus
·         More favorable international climate
Electoral umpire
·         Highly partial electoral umpire
·         Same as 2003
·         Semi-independent electoral umpire
·         A more independent electoral umpire
·         Use of technology in elections

Buhari is lucky to come to office on a strong national platform with support and political sagacity of the likes of Chiefs Bola Ahmad Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, Bisi Akande, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’I etc. But Buhari is also unlucky to come to office at a time of declining oil prices, dilapidated infrastructure, damaged civil services required to move his programmes and policies, and a huge state of insecurity. The good news is, historical leaders who make the difference emerge in periods of crisis, and we hope and pray that General Buhari succeeds in becoming the brand Nigeria is yawning to get. Nigerians are watching and with Jeganisation, a process that uses technology to prevent electoral fraud, and peacefully bring change of government; the electorates will surely keep their Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC) somewhere safe, and God-willing they will pass their judgment sometime in 2019.

12th Jumada II, 1436,   1st April 2015         15:16

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