2015 and the Buhari debate By Abdullahi Ahmed

Of recent, the media is once again aglow with the debate of why General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), the man many see as the ultimate saviour for this country, should, or should not give a shot at the presidency comes 2015. The debate, even if riddled with sentimentality, is obviously being upped to the ante of a critical national question at this juncture when all well meaning Nigerians are dedicated to groping for alternative leadership for the country.

While Femi Adesina’s thesis that many of those calling for Buhari to step aside are simply doing it because “they are afraid of him” may sound convincing, it is actually a fallacious stance – indeed a subtle blackmail to shut people with sincere interventions. For among Buhari’s sincerest admirers there is quite a significant number of them who had a rethink, after Buhari’s failed attempt for the third time in 2011. To those Nigerians in this group, the General should quit the race and back someone who is credible and with competitive advantages to drive home victory. And there are many valid reasons for these calls, often hinged on the vulnerability of the Buhari brand which is so much damaged that many a Nigerian have being induced with doubts about the man. One needs no proof to back this claim as it has been proved time and again by the voting pattern from across the country. It is therefore the saying that once beaten, twice shy that made people who were otherwise emotionally attached to the cause of Buhari to have a rethink. It is a consensus among most keen observers of Buhari’s foray into politics that serially losing the elections could not just be attributed to rigging. But instead of the General and his team to conduct self-searching introspection, they keep riding on the egoistic pony that he is being rigged out and his victory is assured in the next election. But this pressure on Buhari to contest again and again, has since been discovered to be a fraudulent money spinner for some people who literally boxed him in a corner, massaging his ego for their own ends.

This is how for three consecutive times the General would contest and lose and commence a legal proceeding that has by now become synonymous with the man. The torturous litigation process, thanks to slow and cumbersome nature of Nigeria’s legal system, only further embitter the Buhari crowd as the courts throw out the petitions, time and again. Obviously frustrated, the man vowed not to stand for the elections again, after the 2011 elections. But his actions and words still point to the contrary. The pressure is also still there.
While some of us where happy that he was shedding off some of the people who have been his albatrosses since 2003, now a new set of converts – ex-PDP spin masters are forming another formidable shell around him. They are also coming with similar infamous agenda of his past lieutenants; pressurised the man to contest, print posters alongside him (or use his name to extort aspirants), carry him around to campaign for all manner of aspirants and use him to smuggle in or step down candidates.

Over the years, as he grudgingly move from one electioneering marathon to another, the General keep losing grip on what was cult-like followership. While the impact is not readily visible among the grassroots crowd in the North, it has actually deflated among the ranks of people that matter – core politicians and strong supporters. The figure also keeps nose-diving in the South. What is the elixir for this? Buhari and his close circuit of associates would not want to find out.

As the Buhari aspiration debate heats up, leading into the General’s intervention late last week, one fundamental issue is what Eric Osagie raised in his recent column on Buhari – is the man indispensable? Yes, Nigerians overwhelmingly agree on and appreciate the man’s honesty and integrity. But is he the only honest person among the 170 million of us, capable of leading the country? However, there is a section of his staunch supporters who -albeit dangerously- advance this line of thought. Such epithets should be drummed for dictators and emperors, not a democrat, even if a dilettante.

At over 70 years, Buhari cannot be said to be the best thing to happen to Nigeria if elected. The inevitability stunt was chanted for many past leaders and those who aspired to lead. They blacked out, Nigeria moved on. It is a brainless thought for anyone to think Buhari is the only competent and trustworthy Nigerian to lead the country. Indeed, even within the folds of his All Progressives Congress (APC), there are many well groomed people that could discharge such a responsibility as well as he could, or even better. But the blackmail that the ticket, and the competence, all belong to him, make many of them lie low.

Only last month, Abba Mahmood’s critical but honest essay, went viral on the social media. Mahmood, himself a staunch Buhari supporter, until lately, offered what many felt was an honest analysis of the situation and raised many questions that are at once vital and discomforting for those whose only route to fame and fortune is to fly under the wings of the General.

“If Buhari himself will be honest with himself,” Mahmood wrote, inter alia “he should own up that he is not what Nigeria needs, at least anymore. His 2015 candidature will be more of a distraction from main issues in a way that will allow incumbent forces a leeway back to power. Of course he can play a major role but his talk of if-my-party-fields-me-I will-contest is more of a forked tongue oratory than actual humility. It will not hurt him to admit that what Nigeria needs is not a man with a good image but someone who has a vision, and the energy and charisma to drive it; and that he is just not that person.”

Mahmood’s position above was re-echoed by The Punch columnist, Abimbola Adunni Adelakun, who, writing under the title “The Honesty Buhari Needs”, argued that Buhari’s handlers should present something beyond personal integrity and honesty in selling the former head of state to Nigerians. While no one doubt those labels, it is a consensus that good leaders are not marked by their personal conduct, of their choice not to be corrupt, significant as that could be especially in the present day Nigeria. However, the stench is too much and the Augean staple could only be cleaned by someone who is firm, energetic, sincere and in sync with the current trends of governance here, and on the world stage not a septuagenarian who would only rely on second-hand submissions and ideas.

Ahmed wrote from Wuse 2, Abuja. Email:

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