2015 in perspective as Buhari’s North battles Jonathan
It was like a thunderous volley shot at the backyard of current power holders in Nigeria when the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Major General Muhammadu Buhari, offered the parable of the ‘dog and the baboon’ as a warning against possible rigging of national elections to come. Idowu Samuel examines the nuances of issues involved in the Buhari-Jonathan tango ahead of 2015.
Major-General Muhammadu Buhari seems to share very little attributes in common with the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, when putting the styles of politics and leadership ability of the two on a scale.
By far, the Sardauna commanded widespread acceptance and support from the northern political elite, who accorded him the status of a demi god. Sardauna was reputed to be a great mobiliser, a trailblazer, a colossus, fighter of the northern cause and a groomer with the fairest mind. If he remains the only reference point in matters of politics in the North till date, the reason hangs on his ability to raise many of his lieutenants into the status of political juggernauts.
The British colonialists wanted the Sardauna of Sokoto to be Nigeria’s first Prime Minister on a platter of gold in 1959. He declined on principle, and gave the chance to one of his secretaries, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa. The impression is that had Sardauna tarried in mortality, just for half a decade more, he would have smiled to his grave with a picture of a virile, economically balanced and greater North in mind.
Muhammadu Buhari was a soldier and a leader of sort. He is known to be highly uncompromising in principle, less ostentatious, religious to the extreme, often times a recluse, hard to convince, ever combative and above all, parsimonious. It was once suggested that had Buhari been imbued with half the attributes known with the late Sardauna, he would have inherited the presidential power, at least after the death of Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua. Since he joined partisan politics in 2003, Buhari had tried fruitlessly to enlist the full support of the North behind his presidential aspiration.
Before the 2007 elections, Buhari romped himself into a murky kind of controversy when he was quoted as instructing Nigerians to vote for presidential candidate of their choice on the basis of faith. There were Muslims who never take kindly to the logic by the Daura-born military-politician on the pattern of voting he canvassed. His remarks induced the non-Muslims, the liberals and all secularists to ambush him at the polls. Prior to the 2011 presidential election, Buhari again committed a verbal gaffe, when he was quoted as urging his supporters to raise hell, including killing of perceived “infidels” who could be sighted as laying the ground for rigging of the election. Truly, violence sprouted from a section of the North in a seeming obedience by street urchins to the call by Buhari.
Till date, bookmakers have been confused on whether or not to pin the spate of security breaches in the north on the neck of the former head of state of Nigeria.
Yet, Buhari would not let sleeping dog lie. That begging chances await presidential aspirants with clout like him in the face of multiple crises besetting the current government never seemed to matter. Last week, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) presidential candidate taunted the presidency, putting President Goodluck Jonathan and his ruling party in a hollow pillory. He shot a verbal missile in the direction of the rulers of Nigeria when he threatened fire and brimstone over an election to be held three years away. For Nigerians who had seen much of bloodletting since the end of the 2011 elections, the remarks by the former Nigerian head of state was in bad taste.
What Buhari said about possible aftermath of a rigged general election in 2015 was chilling. It ran cold sweat down the spines of Nigerians, who viewed his theory of dog and the baboon being soaked in blood, as uncalled for. But surprisingly, Buhari got instant support from very unusual quarters even as co-competitors have been rising in his defence.
According to statistics on the social media, Buhari’s vituperation and the reactions it generated on 2015 ranked as the hottest gist on the internet, which reportedly hosted more than 1,543 articles and stories from within and outside Nigerians in less than a week. In all, not up to 25 per cent of comments and opinions canvassed on the issue were in favour of the ruling party and the president.
The most instructive defence for Buhari came from the northern state governors, who hinted Nigerians about their own preparedness to ensure that the north produces just a candidate for the 2015 presidential election. The northern governors were invariably passing a message that the kind of solidarity the incumbent president enjoyed from majority of state governors during the 2011 presidential election would not be there again in the event of his possible resolve to attempt a re-contest.
The chairman of the Northern State Governors Form (NSGF), Dr BabangidaAliyu, had assisted in explaining Buhari’s point, calling on Nigerians to listen only to his message and not to him as the messenger. He said, “All of us who are involved in elections; political parties, contestants and voters themselves, we must all be careful so that there would be a semblance of good in whatever we do. But, again, certain people are so much in that position, they should be careful with certain vocabularies they use. So, both ways let’s take it on our own strides and ensure that future elections are made to be transparent and are seemed to be good.”
Professor Tam David West went for the jugular of President Jonathan and his party when he said, “The PDP should give us good governance and stop reacting stupidly to statements it has not put under intellectual scrutiny.”
“I know there are good intellectuals in the PDP, who I respect; some of them are my friends. But a number of things have come out of the PDP that are intellectually fraudulent and stupid. The PDP cannot arrest Buhari for the statement. It has no intellectual or moral basis to arrest him. PDP should use that statement to purge itself of election impunity.”
Buhari’s own party was unsparing in reaction to threat of arrest made to him. It described the government of Jonathan as ethnic based and corrupt.
It was like hitting Buhari below the belt, when the spokesperson for President Jonathan, Reuben Abati averred: “Such a reaction from Buhari is not totally unexpected since he has become a serial election loser who has never taken his past election defeats graciously, even when such elections were generally acknowledged to be free and fair.
“We wish to make it known to Buhari that given his reference to “dogs and baboons”, perhaps his best course of action would be to travel to the zoo of his imagination because President Goodluck Jonathan was elected by human beings to preside over human beings and it is human beings who will determine what happens in Nigeria at any material time, not dogs and baboons.”
The crux of the open brawl between Jonathan and Buhari over 2015 is not unconnected with the early campaign for the next presidential election in Nigeria at the instance of supporters of the president. Since the campaign started, it has been heating up the polity with utter diversion of attention from governance.
From indications, Jonathan and Buhari are embroiled in a war whose end no one would be able to predict for now. All said, it is not known yet which of the duo Nigerians would prefer to enthrone as president by 2015, in the face of multifarious crises that have been confronting Nigeria ever.