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Tuesday, 9 July 2013

On Pius Adesanmi’s “Eebu O So: Tinubu, Buhari, And Their Supporters” By Uchenna Osigwe

Professor Pius Adesanmi was rather magnanimous in pointing out the achievements of Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos state and those of Muhammadu Buhari, former head of state. His problem, however, seems to be that the supporters of these two political heavy weights come across as insulting, especially to Pius. So he wants to tell those apologists why and where their principals are wanting. In the process he managed to throw in some insults of his own!
The achievements of these two men are no mean feat. And Pius listed those, but then turned around to belittle them. Then he gave an order to Buhari’s handlers to begin to mould him in his (Adesanmi’s) own image, or else... Haba! The achievements of these two men and their supporters should be rightly celebrated because I think it’s largely thanks to people like them that we can today meaningfully talk of a viable opposition to the rot that is PDP, otherwise we’ll be talking of one party state today. These two guys could easily have joined the PDP and thereby join in the amala politics of the party, but thankfully they chose not to. Are they perfect? Certainly not, and that is why they should be criticized. But productive criticisms are usually constructive. For instance, before repeating the PDP allegation that Tinubu imposed his daughter on the traders as their leader, it might be good to hear from the other side. I don’t think anybody, including Tinubu, can easily impose leaders on traders without them fighting back, especially now he’s not the governor. You may be inadvertently ascribing to the man more powers than he actually wields. My own criticism of Tinubu is born out of his utterances, especially during the 2011 elections; which is why I for one don’t really believe that Tinubu’s latest romance with Buhari is genuine. I would, of course, love to be proved wrong. I have also criticized Buhari, again based on his utterances in the run up to the 2007 elections.
At the risk of sounding pedantic, the point is not that “Buhari is the only living Nigerian capable of this and that,” as Pius alleges, but rather the issue is this: among those who stand a REAL chance of becoming president 2015, who among them has the pedigree of Buhari? We asked this question before Jonathan was selected. Now that question stares us tauntingly in the face again! Sure, there are millions of Nigerians who can do better than Buhari in many ways, including yours sincerely, including Pius himself. But the real question is how many of us stand a real chance of winning in an election? It’s not too much to expect Pius to understand this.
To claim that some of Buhari supporters are fundamentalists because they put up a robust defence of the General is rubbish! I’m a die-hard supporter of Buhari and I don’t consider myself in any way, shape or form, remotely fundamentalist! Pius you’re wittingly or unwittingly insulting the intelligence of Nigerians who genuinely support the candidacy of Buhari based on his personal integrity which even you grudgingly acknowledge! Pius forgot to mention those who insult Buhari supporters with unprintable venoms, or doesn’t that count as insult? The truth is that with the advent of social media, every Musa and Tunde, every Obi and Tamuno can post their venoms online to poison the public space. These people have no inkling what a mature discussion is all about. They cut across the political and ethnic divides. To confine them to ‘fundamentalist’ supporters of Buhari is a sloppy characterization which unfortunately is aimed at demonizing the General even if only by proxy.
Pius then moves to his highfalutin advice to Buhari and his teeming supporters. Funny that a man is being maligned for what he didn’t do, for not fulfilling assignments people like Pius expect him to fulfill if he wants to be their president. I know one thing for sure: whatever Buhari says is bound to be taken out of context, twisted to fit the narrative his detractors have woven for over a decade now, whether it was said in Damaturu, in Otuocha or Otuoke; whether it was said in AIT, BBC, or NTA. Buhari is neither a lecturer nor an orator. There is no doubt that he gets many, many invitations. But unlike the thieving elites, Buhari doesn’t have a private jet and his income is limited to his pension, believe it or not. I reckon his wealthy well wishers foot his travel expenses. Despite that, if Buhari is all over the place as some people are suggesting, his detractors will say that he is desperate to become president, bla bla bla. If a man whose cook and driver—in whose hands his live literally rests—are Christians, whose daughter is reportedly married to an Igbo, whose running mates have always been southern Christians, have not escaped the charge of being a Muslim fanatic and northern irredentist, what good will travelling all over the south do for those who have already made up their minds about him eons ago? I mean, if people continue to call him a Muslim fanatic even after he chose a Christian pastor as running mate, don’t you think it’s a hopeless case trying to convince them? For your information, Pius, again sorry if I sound pedantic, more than any major politician in Nigerian, Buhari’s genuine support cuts right across the country: there are Ibibios, Igbos, Yorubas, Kanuris, Biroms, Ijaws, Ikweres, Ogonis, Tivs, Idomas, etc, etc, who will stake their very lives for the sake of Buhari because they know he’s an honest man! The point is that for the thieving elites, Buhari is a marked man. Recently a poster so badly construed that it’s evidently clear to any discerning mind that it’s the work of detractors, was all over Abuja calling Buhari the messiah Nigerians have been expecting, bla bla bla... Of course Buhari wasted no time in denouncing that hatchet job. Expect such shenanigans to continue as long as Buhari shows interest in ruling the country again. No one in our political scene elicits the kind of passion Buhari does. And this says volumes.
Pius claims that Buhari “releases northern and Islamic irredentist statements to the rest of the country in interviews granted the Hausa service of BBC and VOA, going as far as to carelessly equate a legitimate clamp down on Boko Haram with a war against the North…” That Pius sees the killing spree currently going in the north as “legitimate clamp down on Boko Haram” beggars belief. One would have hoped that his understanding of Buhari’s statement were better than that of the average ‘Nigerian’ understanding. As one wit said, not going beyond the average is what keeps the average low.
All politics is local. Tinubu for instance couldn’t have achieved what he achieved without a solid political base. If in doubt, ask Pat Utomi. So if Buhari comes out against the killings in the north in the name of ‘fighting’ Boko Haram, we should understand it as such. Whole villages have been razed and thousands of innocent people, including women and children, killed by the government troops. Buhari should be foolish not to speak out against that because he wants to be president. He has consistently condemned Boko Haram—never mind that such condemnations don’t make good press because they don’t fit the narrative. So speaking out against the atrocities of government troops should not honestly be construed as supporting the insurgents no matter how it is twisted. Nor should he be misunderstood when he pointed out that those Niger Delta criminals who call themselves liberation fighters are just that: criminals. What is good for one should be good for the other. But now it’s very lucrative to be a militant in the Niger Delta. Apart from being in government, it’s the next quickest way to become a multi-billionaire! Recently they publicly claimed responsibility for slaughtering nine police officers and kept custody of their corpses for sometime; they claimed responsibility for bombing Abuja on Independence Day, and have been promising to continue to make the country ungovernable. Both Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants are enemies of the state who strive to make the country ungovernable and should be treated as such, no double standards please. Recently President Jonathan stated the obvious fact which is that there are more Muslim victims of Boko Haram than Christian victims. If Buhari made that statement, it should have been put down as one of the reasons why he should never be president of Nigeria!
Discerning minds know that there’s no real clampdown on Boko Haram as such. Jonathan has never been serious about rooting out the criminals. In fact he IS thoroughly confused about the simplest task of a commander in chief, so the Boko Haram menace simply overwhelms him. By now we should at least have had some of the real sponsors of Boko Haram arrested and prosecuted. Instead what we’ve had so far is at best a haphazard approach to the menace and at worse a killing spree in the name of rooting out the insurgents. It is not because Buhari said it. Indeed, the American secretary of state recently warned Nigerian authorities about the human rights abuses connected with the fight against the insurgents. As reported by the New York Times of 17 May 2013: “Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States was ‘deeply concerned about the fighting in northeastern Nigeria following President Jonathan’s declaration of a state of emergency,’ and that we are also deeply concerned by credible allegations that Nigerian security forces are committing gross human rights violations, which, in turn, only escalate the violence and fuel extremism.” In the New York Times of 25 May 2013, Kerry was again reported as saying, when asked about the situation in northern Nigeria: “One person’s atrocity does not excuse another’s, Mr. Kerry said, when asked about reports of serious human rights violations by Nigerian forces.” Buhari has not said anything different. He was simply calling it as he saw it. But because he’s Buhari, Pius feels free to characterize his statements as “northern and Islamic irredentist statements”! It’s really sad that many Nigerians think ONLY through the prism of religion and ethnicity!
Many innocent civilians, especially women and children have been killed in the name of fighting the insurgents, tens of thousands of Nigerians have become refugees, whole towns and villages—think of Baga and Bama—have been razed to the ground in the name of fighting Boko Haram, despite all that, the insurgents have remained strong. The Jonathan government simply doesn’t know what to do with the Boko Haram menace except to try to make political capital out of it. So far what we have is a mishmash of incoherent and poorly thought out approaches. They’re simultaneously fighting them and offering them amnesty and also proscribing them!
Concerning the age of Buhari, Pius seems to be in this absurd reasoning that young age a good president makes. This is just a manifestation of an abject ignorance of history. It could be even worse: a band wagon effect. America, Britain, France, Canada, Kenya, Benin, Senegal, Ghana, etc, etc, have young presidents, so Nigeria must step forward and say ‘me too.’ “Imitation is suicide” says Ralph Waldo Emerson in his classic essay “Self Reliance.” The man, John XXIII, soon to be made a saint, who revolutionized the Catholic Church via Vatican II was 77 years old when he was elected pope. Incumbent Pope Francis is 76, and is ably leading more than 1.2 billion Catholics before our very eyes. Winston Churchill was 77 years old when he was elected prime minister of Britain after failing countless times. Today there are basically only two former Prime Ministers of Britain: Churchill and the others. General de Gaulle was 70 years old when he became the president of France; there are many more examples. There are also people who became leaders at a relatively young age and did well. Doing well or not doing well has nothing to do with age as such unless one is ignorant of history. Awolowo became premier of the western region at the age of 45 and did very well. But no one would doubt that he would have performed any less had he won the presidential elections of 1979 or 1983 when he was already in his 70s. Buhari became president at the age of 41 and did very well. And just like Awo, no one doubts that he’ll do at least as well in his 70s. The relationship between performance and age in most human endeavours cannot be straitjacketed as Pius seems to be claiming here.
Pius once proposed to us that bishop Kukah should run for president. This was a man who ran back from overseas to run Obasanjo’s farcical ‘Constitutional Conference’ whose mandate was ostensibly to rewrite the Constitution in order to allow the Owu chief to transform himself into an emperor. In such a post Kukah couldn’t but speak from both sides of his mouth. And it seems he remains ever close to the parasitic ruling establishment.
For Pius it’s hard to know where insult stops and real debate begins. If you come telling people that Buhari is an irredentist, you’ve killed debate right there and you shouldn’t be surprised if your interlocutor responds in kind. You’re pontificating for Buhari what he should do if he wants to win the presidency as if you just arrived from planet mars! Need one remind you that since 1999 the presidency has never been won: the thieving elites have always chosen who to give the presidency to, for obvious reasons. Buhari’s most insidious opponents are from the northern oligarchic establishment. Is it too much to expect Pius to know that?
In the spirit of your article, and expecting that Sahara reporters publishes this, I take it you mean we should criticize everything and everyone. So my question is, what exactly are you trying to say? Are you saying that Buhari is a northern irredentist and a Boko Haram apologist and an old man and therefore shouldn’t run for president? But, if he’s really thinking of running, then he better start running all over the country giving speeches and begging people to stop seeing him as an old religious fanatic who’s pushing a northern agenda? If that is your point, then it should have been better if you didn’t interrupt your self-imposed break. To pay you back in your own coin: your article is an insult on the intelligence of any above average Nigerian who knows what our real political problems are.

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