Buhari: Truth Is Also Sweet By By Sani Zorro
Two qualities – integrity and clarity are elements that endear me to columnists and their opinions. Leadership’s Abba Mahmoud earns my admiration on both scores, but I am afraid his piece, “Buhari: The Truth is Bitter (Leadership, 15:08:13), cannot sail through without a contest, a few of his fine points against General Muhammadu Buhari’s electability as Nigeria’s president, notwithstanding.
Be that as it may, this intervention is least intended at joining issues with the author, but, would rather seek to reformat the debate about the General’s suitability as a candidate or otherwise, in the upcoming 2015 elections.
I am one with Abba’s concern that instead of abating, the mediatized campaign against Buhari’s candidature is rather on the incline among vocal groups and critical constituencies of our polity. This should naturally be of concern to Buhari’s enlightened lieutenants and strategists as our trip toward 2015, starts to gather pace.
But, there is a flip side to everything, including the likelihood that 2015 issues, challenges and electoral patterns could alter, and not necessarily follow the shape, or sequence of past elections.
Events, more than personalities help to define history. By this logic, it is highly likely that the 2015 presidential race would both be won and lost by the nature of intricate alliances and realignments across elite spectrums, parties and blocks, zones, intra and inter-faith groups, and the rest of them.
For example, there can be no doubt that the key roles played by General Buhari and his strong block in the process leading to the birth of the All Progressives Congress (APC), have, and will continue to give him an edge over neophytes and less tested aspirants within the party’s fold.
Down grading Buhari therefore, as a mere “inspirational leader”, does not only amount to short-changing him, but can also be a misreading of the prevailing dynamics in the context of both his party, and Nigeria, respectively, and an assumption that cannot stand on two legs.
Unlike your columnist, I was rather momentarily detained by the thoughts of candidate- Buhari’s relatively advanced age, when he will turn 72 in 2015, but not on account of back-tracking on his words not to run again after his frustrated efforts in the past. Given our circumstance, I think we should neither worry about both.
About 30 years ago in what is now Russia, President Leonid Brezhnev died at 79, in 1982, his successor, Konstantin Chernenko expired at 73, two years later, while Yuri Andropov left the stage at 70, immediately afterwards.
With Chief Tony Anenih, saying politics starts at 80, Bamanga Tukur, dancing to its musical tunes at 78, Tanko Yakasai, and Edwin Clark, stimulated by its energy drinks at 87, and 86, respectively, and Bisi Akande radiating in its allure at 74, I am not sure if today’s Nigeria is not at the same spot as the defunct Soviet Union (USSR), of 30 years earlier, on account of our old men as co-pilots in power cockpits.
True, “the electoral worth of a politician is measured by how he or she is able to consistently win elections”, wrote Abba. But, even on this assumption, writing off General Buhari as a failure, may be a grave error in this case. Yes, he met 9 ANPP governors in 2003, and their figure dwindled to only 3, by the time he left the party.
Assuming he drove the two-thirds of them away, you still cannot, but credit Buhari with how he defied electoral permutations, with 12.2 million “official” votes, and zero-state governor in 2011, just 400,000 less than the 12.6 million votes he polled with all the support he “enjoyed” from his 9 governors in 2003!
What I however, regard as most problematic with Buhari: The Truth Is Bitter”, was the author’s subscription to former Ambassador Campell’s perception of our subject matter as not commanding the support of “most powerful traditional rulers in the North”, a view Mallam Abba said was on account of a 1984 disputation with the traditional monarchs of Kano, and Ile-Ife, respectively.
Fact is, time has since healed the tensions of that epoch. In 2003, for example, Buhari battled to control his flowing tears as the multitude of Kano people literally locked down the capital city, poured out into its streets, and headed to the palace of the highly regarded Emir, with the General in tow, during his first visit as a presidential candidate. Since then, he regards the Emir’s palace as home, and is accepted as one its sons, after all, Daura, Buhari’s birth place and the origin of the ethnic Hausa was part of old Kano province, before the creation of states in 1968.
Pray, how did President Goodluck Jonathan, made away with 87.28 percent of the votes in defunct ACN-controlled Edo State, after the equally powerful monarch of Benin had given the visiting president and his entourage a cold shoulder, in the count down to the 2011 elections.
While it is obvious that Buhari’s maligned image as a chauvinist was contrived and mediatized over time, I do not think that this battered image prevailing in the south and north-central axis is beyond reconstruction. After all, wasn’t that of ex-dictator Olusegun Obasanjo white-washed and sold to the nation, both in the build-up to his 1999 election, and half way through his first tenure, and to the same critical and hostile south west, the native home of the former president? The truth can be sweet, too.
It is untrue that Buhari has never won in Katsina, his home state. In 2011, he polled 70.99 per cent of the presidential votes cast against President Jonathan’s 26.13 per cent in that state.
In my opinion, Abba’s piece seem to suffer an analytical blind spot only because it targeted General Buhari’s ‘weaknesses’ and ‘threats’, as opposed to a SWOT analysis that would have unveiled the man’s “strengths” and “opportunities” as well.
Given this method, our subject matter may have even been found deficient in political communication, without a bridge to the corporate world, and, on account of age, lacking in imaginative ideas that match the expectations of today’s youths, or conform with the demands of a post-modern society. But, such could have also shown how Buhari would have made up for these perceived deficits with an untainted image of incorruptibility, integrity and self-discipline.
For me therefore, General Buhari’s career seems to hang somewhere between that of Abraham Lincoln, and Neil Kinnock, respectively. While the former suffered 8 election defeats, but finally became one of America’s greatest leaders, the latter became United Kingdom’s longest serving opposition leader who did not become a prime minister. Yet, he even preferred the honorific, “Man of Principle”, as suggested by his father, far above his status of “Member of Parliament” (MP), which he was, for most of his active life.
With Buhari as a moral asset, and the political colossus, Asiwaju Ahmad Bola Tinibu as the other pillar, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has already set the stage for an epic battle of ideas, and of hearts and minds. The two also represent the most populous and homogenous political zones across the north-south divide.
A scenario of the two gladiators as partners on the APC ticket is not only an ideal counter-weight to the ruling PDP, it is a combination capable of shaping our country’s evolution towards a dominant two-party system based on clear ideologies, existing along others on the fringe. To live and die for a principle is as fulfilling as the privilege of serving in the highest office of the land. Such should be the sustainable value to our system of leaders like Buhari, in both the interim and the long run. And here again lies the convergence of truth as a bitter-sweet pill.
— Zoro, a former president of NUJ wrote in from Abuja.
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