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Friday, 1 August 2014

Dear God, Buhari Must Not Die

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By Simon Kolawole
We have many reasons to be thankful that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari survived the bomb attack in Kaduna on Wednesday. I’m not trying to suggest that the lives of those who died are worthless - or that we should be less thankful for several other lives that were saved. Personally, Kaduna means a lot to me. That is where I have the largest concentration of my relatives. My elder sister, my nieces and nephews, my uncles and aunties - plenty of them - live in Kaduna. Many of them were born there. Kaduna is where they see as home. To cap it all, my dear grandma, on whose palms I grew up, currently lives in Kaduna. I, therefore, have a lot of stake in Kaduna.

The peace of Kaduna means much to me. Anytime there is violence in the state, I am always in panic. It’s been like that since the Kafanchan riots of March 1987. My mum used to live in Zaria, with two of my siblings. It was no fun trying to find out if they were safe in those days when there was no SMS or Whatsapp. Last Wednesday, I went into the panic mode again immediately I heard of the blasts. I started working my phone like a mad man to be sure my people were safe. So, there is every reason for me to be thankful for those who escaped the attack  - and to be sorry for the unfortunate victims.

But Buhari stands out for a reason. If he had died in that attack - which he described as a “clear assassination attempt” - I shiver to think of the consequences. I don’t know of any Nigerian politician today who has a genuine following like Buhari, even if this emotion is not shared nationally. Buhari’s following, in my opinion, ranks next to that enjoyed by politicians such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These guys were demi-gods. They enjoyed natural following - devoid of bags of rice and gallons of kerosene.

I grew up thinking Awo was next to God. I remember the 1983 elections. According to the fable that we were being fed with, Awo had promised to relocate to the moon if he lost the presidential election. And so, as innocent children, we usually gathered in the evening to look at Awo in the moon. We convinced ourselves that we actually saw him. That is the stuff fanatical following is made of. It has nothing to do with naira and kobo. I don’t know of any Nigerian politician today who enjoys anything close to this devotion and affection  - apart from Buhari.

Who wants Buhari dead? Five possibilities are being bandied around. One, perhaps he just accidentally ran into a situation. Two, perhaps Boko Haram has decided to take him out. Three, maybe people within his party are trying to uproot him - because of 2015. Four, maybe it is people outside party - also because of 2015. Five, maybe it is some agent provocateur out to plunge Nigeria into Rwanda-like ethnic crisis. In a country where no single assassination case has been resolved, we would have been left to work with permutations and theories for the rest of our lives if Buhari had been killed.

The first possibility is ruled out because this is clearly not an accident. The bombers chased him, tried to block him and eventually denoted a bomb around his convoy. I saw what would pass for bullet marks on his car. If this was accidental, then we can only say maybe it’s a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps, it was someone else they thought was in the car. But from all descriptions, the assailants knew what they were doing. They came for Buhari. For someone who was a soldier all his life and had been a military head of state, I would rather believe his words that it was a clear assassination attempt. He knew what he saw.

The second possibility - that it could be Boko Haram  - also baffles me a bit. I have never seen Buhari as someone to be targeted by Boko Haram. And my reasoning is not complicated. The people Boko Haram has gone after are those they perceive to be exploiters and enemies of the people. I said “perceive”. Buhari, in the North today, does not represent an oppressor or a sell-out. Maybe the insurgents were offended by his criticism of them in recent times. It could be that since terrorism’s biggest fuel is embarrassing the government and enjoying publicity from it, taking out a big fish Buhari would add a huge feather to their cap.

There is a third possibility - that it is politicians within his party who want to take him out before the presidential primaries. According to the theorists, Buhari has become a problem for the APC big boys  - they cannot live with him, yet they cannot live without him. Clearly, it would be very difficult for APC to justify not giving its presidential ticket to this immensely popular politician who got 12 million votes in 2011 without inducing any voter. Killing Buhari, according to these theorists, would solve the dilemma and whip up sympathy for APC ahead of the 2015 elections. But Buhari is a massive asset - whether or not he gets the party’s ticket - so why would they kill him?

The fourth possibility: could it be the PDP that is trying to snuff life out of Buhari? A theory says this could be PDP’s way of making re-election a smooth ride for President Goodluck Jonathan.  Buhari has not only been a formidable opposition candidate since 2003, he has also been a vocal figure in criticising the PDP-led governments. So, maybe they want to silence him for good. However, PDP stalwarts would tell you Buhari is a very beatable opponent for Jonathan because they have perfected a way of de-marketing the retired general. They think Buhari is Jonathan’s favourite opponent that they know how to handle.

Finally, could an agent provocateur be on the prowl - neither APC nor PDP? Someone trying every means possible to set Nigeria on fire? Maybe they are trying to go for targets that can inflame passions and make the people pour into the streets and start killing one another and destroying property. Imagine if Buhari had been killed and it was interpreted as a North/South, Muslim/Christian issue. With the kind of fanatical support Buhari enjoys in the North, we would still be dealing with reprisals and counter-reprisals across the country today. Ethno-religious passions are so inflamed in Nigeria right now that a little spark can lead to months of untold crisis.

So many theories. So many possibilities. To be honest, I don’t even know what to believe. But I know one thing: God has done innocent Nigerians a big favour by sparing Buhari’s life.
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And Four 
Other Things...
EBOLA ALERT
Ladies and gentlemen, an Ebola case has finally been confirmed in Nigeria. We can choose to live in denial and say it is a lie  or we can choose to admit the reality and begin to take measures to avoid being afflicted. It is one disease that kills without mercy. Nine out of 10 victims don’t survive it. There is yet no cure for it. There is no vaccine for it. Ebola kills as quickly as possible. Fatality takes days, not weeks or months or years. Let us take all care to avoid this plague. Caution. 

THE RIGHT THING
Of the many factors that I listed as contributing to building collapse in my article last week, was I surprised that cement generated the most interest? As I said, countries such as China and India have upgraded to 42.5mpa - unquestionably the world’s most potent cement because of its setting strength, yield and adherence capability. I’m yet to hear any sane person argue that 32.5mpa is equal to or better than 42.5mpa. But human beings, by nature, must resist any attempt to raise the bar. Luckily, industry players are only asking for more time to upgrade. However, I insist this is just a start. Government must henceforth ENFORCE construction standards. Indisputable.

SACKING ZAKZAKY
Friday’s tragic incident involving members of the Shi’a sect in Zaria, Kaduna State, is one we can do without. The sect, led by Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky, was on its annual Quds rally - to protest the Israeli bombardment of Gaza which has claimed close to 1,000 lives so far. The face-off with Nigerian security forces consumed at least 10 sect members, reportedly including three sons of El Zakzaky. How can this bloodshed be avoided in the future? People have a right to protest, so we need to know what actually went wrong. And we can’t afford to open another battle front now, with Boko Haram still on the rampage. Baffling.

KESHI QUANDARY
Now that we have beaten FIFA to its game by following legitimate procedures in removing the NFF chairman, Alhaji Aminu Maigari, I hope the authorities will not deceive themselves into believing they can ever pacify former Super Eagles’ coach, Stephen Keshi, by re-engaging his services. Keshi, both as player and coach, has never been the darling of authorities, not in Africa at least. He wins Nations Cup, resigns and then reconsiders. He reaches second round of World Cup, resigns and then reconsiders. As the authorities move to renew his contract, they should fully brace up for the turbulence ahead. Cracking.

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