Gen Buhari had taken shots at the highest political office in the land in 2003, 2007 and 2011, but never made it to the presidency due to a number of factors. However, that is not the focus of this piece.
Shortly before the 2011 polls, the Daura, Katsina State born general, said it was going to be his last time of offering himself for the position of president. Still, his ambition was not realized, and he has maintained a fairly low profile political position since then.
But as 2015 approaches, there are pressures on Gen Buhari to throw his hat into the ring again as a candidate. He turned 70 last December, and would be 72 by the time elections hold in 2015. Too old? Maybe not, as long as he is physically and mentally fit. Our constitution prescribes only a minimum age for the president, and not maximum.
Abdoulaye Wade ruled Senegal in his 80s. Ronald Reagan won election as American president when he was over 70 years old. Robert Mugabe, though not an inspiring example, recently took oath of office for the sixth time as Zimbabwean president. He is almost 90 years old.
For some people, the issue of whether Buhari should run in 2015 or not is not largely about his age, but his pledge in 2011 that he would not offer himself for the position of president again.
Those people believe if he goes back on his words, it would be antithetical, even antipodal to his previous position. And two different positions have now been thrown up. There are those who think Gen Buhari should be convinced to run again, since the Nigerian ship of state is drifting dangerously, and may soon hit the rocks. Former Federal Capital Territory Minister, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, is one of such. No doubt, Buhari has what it takes to save us from doomsday in terms of combating indiscipline, corruption, lawlessness, and generally leading by example. But should he capitulate to the persuaders and run?
Before we answer the question, let us go to the other group, the ones who do not want Buhari to run, simply because they are afraid of him. Yes, three parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigerian Peoples Party, and the Congress for Progressive Change (and there is even a splinter from the All Progressives Grand Alliance) have coalesced to form the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A formidable alliance, if you ask me. This is one political party that can torpedo the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power, where it has ensconced itself since 1999, doing little and promising to be there for minimum of 60 years. But as long as Buhari lives, and is healthy, he poses a potent threat, a veritable stumbling block to the dreams of the PDP. So, they fear him like plague.
And what do they do? They embark on further disinformation, which they had always used against the man over the years: he is a religious bigot, he is sectional, he is inflexible, he is the brain behind Boko Haram. Some people, in their bid to set a trap, even conjured a splinter group of the insurrectionist group, and mentioned Buhari as a man they could trust to broker a ceasefire deal.
A veritable trap, if ever there was one. If he acquiesced, they would say, yes, they listened to him because he was their sponsor. And if he didn’t (as he did not) they would say he’s not a patriot. He could have used his influence to secure a ceasefire, but he did not, simply because he’s not altruistic. Head you lose, tail you lose.
What other mechanism are they using to dissuade Buhari from running in 2015? They are spreading the word that it would be incompatible with his famed integrity if he runs, having said he would never run again in 2011.
The integrity they refused to allow the man use for the good of the entire country, they are now also waving over his head like the sword of Damocles. Integrity is now sin, and it is only in Nigeria that it happens. Pity.
How are the perpetual Buhari opposers (largely for fear of their economic empires) going about the disinformation process? They have thrown the 2011 pledge the man made into public space, ahead of the process that would lead to the APC picking a presidential flag bearer. Anybody else but Buhari would make them comfortable. But if the latter emerges, then they would be in serious trouble.
Do I blame the PDP? I don’t. The political game is all about getting the upper hand. The most colourful politician with the largest cult-like following, particularly in the northern part of the country, is Gen Buhari. And he equally has a large number of discerning supporters in the south.
If he then combines that with the grip the erstwhile Action Congress of Nigeria has on the South-west, then 2015 is a done deal for the opposition. What to do then? Convince Buhari not to run, mobilize public sentiment against him, remind him that keeping to one’s words is part of integrity.
Rather sadly, my friend and colleague, Eric Osagie, has got hoodwinked by the propagandists, and fallen for the fib. Last Monday, at the back page of this newspaper, he wrote under the headline ‘2015: If Buhari runs…’ And what was he saying? “At 70 plus, it is time for Buhari to forget his presidential dream, groom younger leaders to take over from him.
With all due respect, Buhari is not indispensable… If Buhari runs and fails in 2015, he would have finally eroded the Buhari myth, which has kept many of his followers going over the years. And that would be quite tragic. A nation should not lose all its heroes, in the name of politics or whatever… Anyone who truly loves Buhari ought to advise him to take a bow and go, and go on a deserved rest.”
Osagie has a right to his opinion, but that does not necessarily mean it is the gospel truth, or the laws of Medes and Persia, which can never change. This is my own position, looking at Eric Osagie clause by clause: At 70 plus, it is time for Buhari to forget his presidential dream.
True? False. Age has nothing to do with it. If a man remains physically and mentally sound at 80, who says he can’t be president? The constitution allows it. The team that you assemble is what matters, as well as the direction you chart for the team. And do you ever forget a dream? If Abraham Lincoln did, he would not have ever become American president, after failing many times earlier. John Atta Mills ran for three times before he became president in Ghana. A man has a right to his dreams, and it is an infringement on his right to ask him to drop such dreams. God is the one who turns dreams into reality, not any man.
Again, Eric asks Buhari to groom younger leaders to take over from him. The power game is never played that way.
Power is taken, and not handed out. Let the younger people come with integrity, with dedication, with abhorrence for corruption, with charisma and ability to lead by example, and the country would follow them. If a younger person comes with all the attributes we see in Buhari, who says we won’t follow him? Nobody is indispensable, truly, but a country that refuses to put its best men at the helm of affairs is a moral and psychological absurdity.
If Buhari runs and fails in 2015, he would have finally eroded the Buhari myth, Eric Osagie says. Not so. I wouldn’t use the word myth, I’ll rather say Buhari brand. Yes, there is the Buhari brand, and what are its characteristics? Simplicity. Incorruptibility. Public spiritedness. Discipline. Accountability.
And many more! And who should not like this brand? I do, and will ever do. It is a brand that can never fail, be eroded or corroded, no matter what misguided Nigerians do to it. It is a lifelong, time tested, eternal brand. Worry not Eric, the brand lives, and will live.
The writer also said: anyone who truly loves Buhari ought to advise him to take a bow and go on a deserved rest. Not so fast, Eric. You don’t trample on a man’s rights, under the pretext of loving him. His rights are inalienable to him. There are some decisions that a man can make only himself, and you have to respect such decision, if you truly love him.
So, what have I been saying? Should Buhari run in 2015? I have not said yes, I have not said no. I will simply respect whatever decision he takes, because it is within his rights. But to say running despite his promise never to do so again in 2011, would tantamount to loss of integrity, is to pull it to ridiculous level. Who never changes his mind in this world? A change of mind is not irresoluteness.
It is not fickleness. Neither is it vacillation or shilly-shallying. In fact, a man that never changes his mind is one to fear, and run away from. Such would remain stiff and unbending, even in the face of superior arguments. Like Julius Caesar said of Cassius, “such men are dangerous.”
Jesus gave a parable in Matthew 21 verses 28-30. “A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said. Son, go and work today in my vineyard.
“He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not.”
Jesus then asked which of the two sons did the will of his father? Of course, the first one! The conclusion? You can always change your mind to do positive things. It will never lead to loss of credibility or integrity. Shikena.
Truly, Delta no dey carry last
For five days last week, over 300 Nigerian editors congregated in Asaba, Delta State, as we held the 9th edition of the All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC). Theme was ‘Nigeria beyond oil: Role of the editor.’
The subject matter was dissected from different angles. Chief Host, Gov Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, told the Delta State story.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote told the story of his own conglomerate through his Group Managing Director, Engineer Joseph Makoju. Professor Sylvester Monye, Special Adviser to the President on Performance Evaluation and Monitoring, looked at the investment opportunities in non-oil Nigeria, while Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, Minister for Agriculture, took us through the Agriculture Value Chain Roadmap.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Anyim Pius Anyim, painted frightful prospects of what would happen to Nigeria if oil became a non-major revenue earner, while Minister of Information, Labaran Maku, was also on hand to talk about media freedom and national development.
Dr Barclays Ayakoronma, Executive Secretary of National Institute for Cultural Orientation, spoke on the inexhaustibility of tourism as revenue earner, while Mr Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, CEO of Access Bank examined the role of financial institutions in a non-oil economy.
The conference in Asaba will remain a benchmark, as Delta State hosted very well, with Gov Uduaghan personally attending majority of the sessions. His commissioners and aides made sure things worked almost seamlessly. And on Saturday, at the Gala Nite, which lasted into Sunday morning, editors let down their hairs as D’Banj, Omawunmi, and many stand-up comedians performed.
Those who say Delta no dey carry last are quite right. It was typical Delta hospitality.
Back in Lagos Monday, I had sent a text to Gov Uduaghan to appreciate him. And he replied: “We thank God for journey mercies for all participants, and even the good weather. God was on our side.”
Yes, God was on our side. It was my first major outing as President, Nigerian Guild of Editors. And God was with us. May He be there always! Amen.