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A General’s Last Fight At The Battle Front By Offor Honest

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his hat into the ring for what should be his last battle to ascend an office he once occupied as a 43 year old Major General. Unlike his last 3 previous attempts, the retired General will first scale the hurdle of winning his party primary before facing the candidate of the ruling party. This would be the fiercest political battle he’ll have to face in his entire political career. It won’t be easy engaging the former Vice President (a man of immense wealth) and Gov. Rabiu kwankwaso (a younger politician with considerable goodwill in the North), in a political fight. He will also need to secure the support of Bola Tinubu, who is arguably the most influential politician in the APC. Since GMB does not the financial muscle to grease the palm of party delegates, he’ll have to rely on his goodwill and impressive credentials to convince his party that he is their best bet.

So much has changed in the 29 years that Buhari left office. The world has gone digital and Nigeria now enjoys democracy. We have made some progress as a nation, but the corruption that existed in those days is still a problem, it has in fact worsened in the hands of civilian leaders. The laxity and indiscipline in the civil service, that necessitated the formation of WAI in that era has deteriorated with many civil servants joining the politicians in stealing government money. Our refineries have been systematically run down to give room for fuel importation and for friends of the government to make money through subsidy payments. It is understandable that admirers of the General would think that his return will mark an end to corruption but it cannot be that easy. While Buhari relied on draconian decrees and the might of the barrel to drive his reforms, he will have to contend with politicians who are legislators and a Justice system that is riddled with so many loopholes and corrupt judicial officers. To navigate this kind of terrain would require fresh thinking and innovation. Being a rigid man, one would wonder if Buhari can think outside the box and if he will be open to alternative opinion.

General Buhari is largely seen as a forthright man, a disciplined soldier, an incorruptible public officer, a consistent politician and a Muslim hardliner. The tag of a religious exteremist has stuck to him like a bad body odour which has refused to go since 2003 when his opponents labeled him as such. I consider it an indefensible failing on the part of Buhari and his handlers that they have allowed that misrepresentation to fester, to the extent that it seems almost impossible to rebut. GMB has had ample chance and time to prove to Nigerians that such a belief is erroneous but unfortunately, he has not been able to do that. He only waits for election periods to sell himself and that is another thing that worries me about him. A good leader is not known by the position he occupies, but by the influence he wields outside public office and how he uses that influence to serve humanity. A good example was when the Boko Haram started their devious activities by targeting Christian worship centers; a good strategist would have leveraged on that opportunity and used his influence to prevail on the murderous insurgents to down their arms. His long silence was misread as a tactic support for the group and further fuelled the fear in certain quarters that he is a Muslim fanatic. He is not popular in the Southern region and has not made much effort in courting their friendship; a factor that has continued to affect his chances in the polls. Many people see it as the arrogance of the ‘born to rule’, who feel that the vote of Northerners is enough to win them the Presidency with or without the support of other power blocs.

If Buhari succeeds this time, I have little doubt that he will perform creditably well especially in refocusing government on the path of financial probity and prudent management of resources. If he loses again, that will mark an end to his dream of leading Nigeria as a democrat. But that should not be the end of his vision for a better Nigeria. General Buhari must put his influence to good use. I worry that the virtues which he embodies, the values which he upholds and the attributes which makes him popular, will die with his dream if he fails again. The General should commit to breeding leaders that share common aspirations with him, new crop of individuals who see politics as a platform for service not for wealth acquisition and younger Politicians who will keep his hope of a better Nigeria alive. I do not know if any GMB foundation exists, if it doesn’t, it’s really a shame. There’s a lot the General can do even outside public office with his overwhelming influence in the North and his enormous goodwill, especially in the area of mentoring, education and strengthening opposition politics.

Nigeria needs GMB whether as President or not!

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