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Friday, 20 September 2013

The Buhari factor in 2015 (I)

 by Adamu Adamu

In 2011, the North was like the proverbial Moschus deer that has musk inside it but saunters off into the bush looking for grass.
It was around that time that some of the elite in the North said the region was looking for a Northern consensus candidature to support. An elaborate selection process, which was to do no good to the region’s electoral fortunes and which made its eventual defeat undeniable, got underway. But while it was going on, there was already a candidate who is a Northerner drawing overflow multitudes, sometimes in their ecstatic frenzy—from Sokoto to Maiduguri; from Borgu to Yola, and from Kano to Lokoja.
It is now difficult to escape the conclu-sion that they decided to arrive at their consensus candidate only to oppose the consensus already reached by their own people; and probably that might explain why the choice had to be confined to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, as if it was the only party in the country or the only party in which there were Northerners.
Clearly, there was and is an anti-Buhari animus on the Northern political scene, which hasn’t diminished in spite of the failure of that consensus arrangement. And with the launching of what appears to be another strident media campaign against Buhari’s candidature, it is safe to assume that another consensus arrangement is probably underway.
But, what exactly do they have against Buhari that they have to hide behind untenable arguments to oppose the candidature of the person who is the most popular candidate in the country today? Below are some of their arguments.
Some have accused General Buhari of sectionalism and religious fanaticism, because the Supreme Military Council during his time as head of state was not balanced, as demanded by the nation’s constitution, which the soldiers had suspended. Nobody cared to find out whether it was a situation he himself found given; and, more importantly, no one asked the right question, which was: Did his regime display any sectional or religious bias in its policies or actions? While a reflection of sectional or religious federal character is something officially promoted, it must be admitted that in the first place having to reflect federal character is not the best of situations. The ideal ought to have been that impartiality will be shown by all persons as a matter of course.
Others have charged that at 71 Buhari I too old to run for the presidency of this country. If age is going to be a factor in elections, this is perhaps the first time that it will be allowed to do so. When he first ran for the office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo was officially 62 and when he left office at the end of his second term, after failing to arrange an unconstitutional third term, he was 70. But if it was true that his real age was 82 at his first inauguration, that would have made him 90 when he vacated Aso Rock in 2007.
And just last month Robert Mugabe was sworn in as president of Zimbabwe at 89, and while this is a ripe age for a president by any standard, we must not fail to note that even at this age, Mugabe remains the best African leader alive today. To us, popularity with the West is not an admissible index of the acceptability and suitability of leadership or the utility of a presidency.
By the time former U.S. President Ronald Reagan left the White House he was 89. And at least America, if not the world, remembers him not as a failed president hampered by age, but as its most popular president in recent memory. Indeed, age doesn’t seem to count that much even in leadership matters of greater moment. A little over six months ago, Jorge Cardinal Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis at the age of 76; and as Pontiff, he is head of state of the Vatican, and is the spiritual guide of the worldwide Catholic community which, if it were a country, would have been more populous than the People’s Republic of China.
Some of the reasons given to stop Buhari can be quite ludicrous. For instance, isn’t it ridiculous to ask Buhari not to run because he has run too many times, and turn around to say because of this he is desperate for the office? There are many who believe that, in view of the declared winners in past presidential elections, Buhari has always been the better option; and, certainly, it doesn’t make any sense to blame the better option for presenting himself: it is rather the electorate that should be chided for choosing the worse one.
That which Buhari seeks is something he has had and held before; and has generally done well in it to great national and nostalgic acclaim. So it is not something that for him will ever be a do-or-die affair, if at, any moment, he had appeared to critics as desperate, it couldn’t have been due to any desperation for the office itself; for, he had not in the past used it for personal gain to justify such over the top effort to regain it for the prebendal privileges it confers on those who abuse it.
Perhaps it is clear even to his critics that Buhari will not lose anything by not getting the presidency of this country; but the nation probably stands to lose so much if it fails to get that electrifying effect of a Buhari presidency which Nigeria needs to get it firmly on the way to real and permanent reform.
And there are still those who, because of Nigeria’s sad experience of prolonged military rule, frown at soldiers being in politics—and Buhari in particular for being so authentically soldierly. These critics can accept any other, or even no, profession as adequate preparation for jumping into politics—except, paradoxically enough, the military profession whose very essence is training for the leadership and command of men. If politics is the profession for leading society, then the best preparation for it is, no doubt, a military career. They can frown at the military mindset and scoff at its undemocratic command structure, but they can’t fault its efficacy as the best practical preparation for leadership for the individual.
As if this is not enough, they have gone on to accuse Buhari of the excesses of military rule; but this can by no means constitute a proper charge against an individual. The rule itself is an aberration, and its inevitable excesses a matter for collective responsibility of the soldiers who struck and the bloody civilians who applauded their putsch. If Buhari should be charged for anything, it should be for any illegalities, if any, that he committed or for the excesses of his regime that were committed due only to any personal proclivities of his.
On the whole, in trying to castigate Buhari for what they believe is a promise he has made not to run for the presidency, which they imagine he is now about to break, his critics actually only succeed in adjusting the halo of probity and integrity even more firmly on his head.
First of all, and thank you very; here is a politician whose every word people believe because they know he always speaks only the truth; and they will have been astonished if he says what he doesn’t. So far as we know, no politician in Nigeria has ever been held or raised up to this standard.
Secondly, perhaps what genuine critics ought to have done in the circumstance was to ask whether it was a good decision—and it wasn’t—before they try to hold him up to it. This is because if you promise to do a bad thing, there is no moral obligation on you to carry it through; in fact there is the express obligation that you must not do it.
Third, they are saying they can’t trust Buhari to be president because he has changed his mind about his candidature; but isn’t this an indication of the sincerity of a mind, that it can and will change in the light of facts not available to it at the time of decision or in the face of superior argument? And in this, somehow, critics of Buhari see no contradiction in the fact that they are the ones insisting now that he shouldn’t change his mind, when a moment ago they were the ones who were accusing him of inflexibility, saying he can’t be president because he doesn’t change his mind once it is made up. These twin charges actually answer, discredit and cancel each other.
And in their haste to crucify him, critics of Buhari often forget that leadership is behaviour and attitude, not a post or a position; and it is a question of vision, not of youthfulness; and in a democracy, for it to be legal, it must be based on the people’s consent. And this consent if what the new consensus will be fighting.
[Note: For the purposes of full disclosure, I must declare that in addition to being a columnist, I am Special Assistant to General Muhammadu Buhari: and I say this only so that I may give readers, who may not know this fact, all the information they need to have to decide on the objectivity of what I have put down here—and, having possession of this fact, determine whether in the circumstance I have kept faith with, or abused, the privileges and powers of column writing.]


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