Why Buhari May Not Defeat Jonathan By Abimbola Adelakun
Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, recently dismissed insinuations he would be a running mate to the All Progressives Congress presidential aspirant, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.). Since the recrudescence of Buhari’s campaign, Fashola’s rejection is proof that some folk in the APC still have their feet on the grounds of reality after all.
Buhari has been running for presidency since 2003 and though his feet are not yet tired, there is something tiresome about his recurring candidacy. For one, a lot of intellectual energy is usually expended analysing him and the many baggage he represents. In the process, core issues that should be tackled at election time get suspended.
It is perhaps a testimony to Buhari’s political capital that he can overshadow the terrain and send tremors into the camp of the incumbent candidate and his party. His entrance into the 2011 race gave that election the vivacity it badly needed. This time, however, if the APC fields Buhari against President Goodluck Jonathan, the odds may not be in their favour. The APC cannot present itself as a party with an ideology of change and still field a 72-year-old man who will want to run two terms that will expire when he is 81.
That is why pairing Buhari with Fashola appealed to the merchandisers of the idea. They are being pragmatic. Each time Buhari gets on his messianic horse and rides onto the political arena, he comes with the same unevolved message of ridding Nigeria of corruption and rescuing our wretched souls from our collective national misery.
Even the most ardent Buharist is careful to not ascribe to him either lofty visions of nation building or revolutionary economic ideas and ideals; Buhari lacks this ethos and such message will likely be doomed before it even leaves the idea factory. But there is one solution to this yawning absence: to pair him with a younger, vibrant, intelligent and charismatic leader.
The idea is, while Buhari purportedly solves the corruption problem, his deputy will do the harder -and perhaps more cerebral- job of rebuilding Nigeria’s crumbling institutions. It is for this reason he has run with colourful running mates in the past – Chuba Okadigbo in 2003; Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in 2007 and Pastor Tunde Bakare in 2011. They are all selected on the basis of region, religion and perhaps an even more important consideration – they can implement developmental policies.
In fact, even Buhari so premises his persona over the social liberatory ideas he should be seen espousing that his latest presidential declaration speech was shorn of inspiration; it barely sparked zeal in anyone who wants a change from the miasma Nigeria is stuck due to centuries of ignorant leadership.
Although one can argue that Nigeria’s problems barely change, and therefore the language with which we tackle them cannot but remain the same. Yet, by sticking to the same recycled stuff, it shows that Buhari has not acquired a complex understanding of how to deal with Nigeria’s issues. The static and repetitive nature of his ideas is just as frightening as Jonathan’s cluelessness. If anything will ever be achieved while he is in office, it would have to be left to his deputy who would also give Buhari’s campaign the missing phrenic colour.
Yet, those who tout this idea always seem to miss one point: they over-romanticise the relationship between a president and the vice-president and how it will play out. In a democracy, the office of the VP is not of that much consequence and is easily subjected to humiliation by an insecure principal who does not want to be supplanted.
It was President Harry Truman that once said, “Look at all the vice-presidents in history. Where are they? They were about as useful as a cow’s fifth teat.”
Nigeria’s recent history shows how tenuous this relationship can be in the examples of Olusegun Obasanjo and Abubakar Atiku; Governor Rasheed Ladoja and Adebayo-Alao-Akala; Governor Bola Tinubu and Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele and so on. The instances where we hardly hear of rancour between the principal executive and deputy are those where the former has managed to keep a tight rein on the latter, depriving him or her of funds or relevance that can boost his or her public profile. Why would anyone imagine Buhari – assuming he manages to hook a good VP candidate – not clamp down on any assertiveness such a person tries to display?
As things stand, Nigeria needs a strong and viable candidate, one with creative imagination and a vision. Buhari does not come across as the person who can fit this profile. It is not enough that he is said to have a panacea for corruption – assuming he can actually achieve that under a lopsided democratic system– he should also advance a development agenda. He should display an ability to espouse ideas that resonate far more meaningfully than what currently obtains.
Unlike what his advisers think, corruption is not Nigeria’s sole problem even if it appears that way and Buhari’s Spartanism is not a guarantee of either innovation or foresight. If you subtract corruption from the present government, it will still not achieve a bounce.
In the few months before election, is there any possibility that Buhari will have a better run this time and probably defeat President Jonathan? It is doubtful. Even though many Nigerians are probably weary of Jonathan’s government by now, they are still practical enough to understand that another four years of Jonathan’s government will not kill them. It might bring Nigeria to her knees but at the same time, it is a pain that can be endured.
Buhari’s candidature may end up producing a boomerang effect that will likely favour Jonathan. Those who have previously planned to fold their arms on Election Day will be motivated into voting Jonathan, warts and all, just to keep Buhari far from Aso Rock. He has not demonstrated that he represents real change and there is real danger in giving up the familiar cluelessness of Jonathan for an untried one.
There are other reasons to be afraid of a Buhari presidency: his plebian following. Those who oppose Buhari for his perceived fundamentalism forget that Buhari is no religious nut; he is a religion himself. His followers are largely those that believe in him with unexamined devotion. Anybody with such authority over people’s minds should not be tried with the absolutism of power the Nigerian brand of democracy endows on a political leader. Those who oppose Buhari are very aware of this and that is another reason to keep him far from Aso Rock Villa come 2015.
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