Buhari Victory and Atiku’s Concession – A Good Omen for Nigerian Democracy By Wumi Akintide
Why is change the only constant in nature so difficult for Nigerians to embrace? As a historian I do know that change can be painful on the short run but for Democracy the world over, it is the real deal and it is very therapeutic for a nation like Nigeria which has been held in bondage for far too long by a one party dictatorship which has changed her name far too often to create an illusion of change where there is none. It moved from NPC to NPN then to NRC and right now to PDP with cosmetic modifications here and there and it manages to attract members from each of the six political zones of Nigeria and members from other opposition members parties like the defunct NCNC, the defunct Action Group and NEPU led by Aminu Kano and some splinter groups from the Middle Belt opposition party led by the late Joseph Tarka and the Calabar Ogoja and River political group led by elder statesmen like Wenike Briggs of Rivers State. Of course the two leaders, Joseph Tarka and Wenike Briggs were all old associates of Obafemi Awolowo and their parties were affiliates of the old Action Group while NEPU was an affiliate of the NCNC led by late Ogbuefi Nnamdi Azikiwe.
The drift to the NPN followed the realignment of forces caused by the creation of states in Nigeria along the lines initially envisaged by Obafemi Awolowo the greatest democrat of all among his peers even though some of you reading this might disagree, but I firmly hold the belief that Obafemi Awolowo was head and shoulders above his peers when it came to his dreams about how true Federalism could have been achieved in Nigeria as clearly espoused in his brilliant “Path to Nigerian Freedom” that many of you may have read.
The world has turned one full circle as I can now see some parallels between Obafemi Awolowo and General Mohammadu Buhari who in many ways can be seen now as an Awolowo clone even though the two came to where they were in Nigerian politics travelling completely different routes. Both Awolowo and Buhari who were both as disciplined and incorruptible as they come had tried no less than 3 times to rule Nigeria but were frustrated on each occasion even though they offered the best dreams imaginable for Nigeria and could easily have turned Nigeria around if they were allowed to practice what they were preaching. Buhari got a chance to do that for nearly 2 years as a military ruler before he was tossed out of power by Ibarahim Babaagida and Sani Abacha who thought Buhari was too disciplined and incorruptible for Nigeria of their dream. The duo of Buhari and idiagbon would have cleaned up the Augean stable of Nigeria just like Captain Sankara tried to do at the Central African Republic before his assassination.
If Buhari had been a corrupt man, no Nigerian dead or alive could have been richer than him if you consider all the most lucrative positions he had held in Government as a Fulani power broker military man from the North. I knew the man from my days in the Military Headquarters of Nigeria when he just rose from being a Captain to a Major. Nigeria would never find a more disciplined and corruption- free leader whose only goal in life as he said in his victory speech as a nominee of the Mega Opposition Party was to change and empower Nigeria to be the country of our dreams. Some have said he could not change Nigeria like he did as a military man for two years because his hands would be tied by the forces of Democracy which thrives on building consensus and persuasion. But that man had one thing going for him above and beyond the merits of a Goodluck Jonathan. That thing is his integrity and leadership by example. The greatest problem Nigeria faces today is Corruption/Indiscipline. The two maladies the “fons et origo” of Nigeria problems right at this moment in our history and the best Presidential material to harness the two is Mohammadu Buhari without any question in my mind. I compared his victory speech he himself wrote with the one drafted for Jonathan by Reuben Abati who tried in that speech to tell Nigerians what he thought they needed to hear even though the substance of the whole speech was predicated on half-truth and crap to say the least.
I returned from Nigeria this morning after a 3 week fact-finding visit to Nigeria working a freelance journalist for the best News outlet for Nigeria outside the mainstream press. I am talking of Sahara Reporters and Television based in New York. I plan to do a series on my finding between now and the February 2015 Presidential Elections in Nigeria. This write-up is the first salvo of the series.
I used to think that the APC was in many ways the carbon copy of the PDP and I said so loud and clear in some of my previous writings which is more or less saying that the alternative to the PDP is not promising enough for me to suggest that Nigerians would be wasting their votes to return the PDP and President Jonathan in 2015. With what I saw during my extensive visit to Nigeria in the last 3 weeks and with all the research I have been doing on the subject, I can tell you any of you reading this that the APC is not a carbon copy of the PDP as I have insinuated before. I gate-crashed myself into both the primaries of the PDP in Abuja and the one for the APC at the Surulere Stadium in Lagos presided over by former Governor Kayode Fayemi as returning officer while former Governor John Oyegun a senior colleague of mine at the Federal Public Service presided as the Chairman.
I had earlier on predicted in an article that Nigerians should not be surprised if Buhari loses to Atiku in a secret ballot voting by delegates. What I witnessed from last Tuesday was to Wednesday was as close it could ever get to any of the political conventions of the two major political parties in the United States. Kayode Fayemi and John Oyegun did a marvelous job and their delegates and the major candidates in the Primary behaved and performed in a way I could not have imagined. President Jonathan and the PDP have a major problem in the February elections if Professor Jega and his INEC would sincerely and honestly discharge their duties and responsibilities as independent umpires in that election. I now believe that Buhari would give Jonathan a run for his money and could go on to win by a bigger margin than anybody could have believed possible in Nigeria. It is a prediction and I am making it because it is the truth.
Majority of grass root Nigerian voters I spoke to on the trip on no less than 21 out of the 36 states believed that if Buhari wins his party’s nomination and if he goes on to name a credible running mate like Governor Amaechi or Oshiomhole or better still a Governor Fashola whose only disqualifiers to some is his religion, they all believed that Buhari would trounce Jonathan in a free and fair election because they all had it up to their necks with Jonathan and the PDP and their tissue of lies which was neatly packaged in paragraphs 53 to 59 of Jonathan’s speech where the President asked a few rhetorical questions which would have been answered with a resounding “No” in America if the primary Convention were being held in any city in the United States.
The APC should just look at each of those questions and ask Nigerian voters if they were better off today than they were 6 years ago when Jonathan took over from Umaru Yar Adua. The whole election is going to turn on that rhetorical question and the statement once credited to Jonathan that there were Boko Haram sponsors in his Cabinet. No presidential candidate in America could ever have survived the commercials that would riddle the air wave on those two observations. I would add a third for the APC. They ought to take up Jonathan on his claim as a transformational President because Nigeria is worse off today all things considered than she has even been.
I am a southerner and a Christian and I am supposed to be rooting for Jonathan but I cannot in good conscience be rooting for him just like the hundreds of voters I spoke to on this trip. I would be the first to say again that Jonathan made a horrendous mistake by not stepping down for the 2015 election. His credibility as a statesman would have been enhanced had he just told Nigerians all he wanted was conduct a credible elections for Nigeria that would allow the best man candidate to win for once in Nigeria history like once happened when Ibrahim Babangida conducted the most credible elections in Nigeria but allowed himself to be prevailed upon by Abacha to annul the same elections as confirmed to Sahara Reporters in a television interview at the Sahara studio in New York when Professor Nwosu laid it all out for the whole world to know what led Babangida to the most egregious mistake of his political career. The man wanted to do good and to allow M.K.O. Abiola to claim his well -deserved mandate but he changed his mind at the last minute due to the pressures put on him by Sani Abacha who had his own agenda and wanted to be a head of State by all means. You all can go to the archives of Sahara Reporters and TV to read the whole report of the Nwosu’s interview.
President Jonathan has forfeited his claim to running in 2015 because he has failed and failed woefully in my opinion. If Professor Jega does his job as he is supposed to do it, I cannot see a pathway to a Jonathan victory in 2015.
Abubakar Atiku did the right thing by issuing a concession statement congratulating Buhari. But the taste of the pudding is going to be in the eating. If he does not reverse himself to return back to his vomit between now and the election, I would be pleasantly surprised because the PDP now scared to death about losing may now start making advances to some of the losers in the APC and Atiku could well remain a big fish among them giving his track record in Nigerian politics as a habitual decamper-in –chief in the same mold as Tom Ikimi.
My last word in this article is for the average northerners and most especially those of them from the 5 states of Adamawa, Yobe, Bornu and the remaining two states that Buhari once governed as a one time Governor of the Northeastern state at one point in his career. Those northerners know Buhari better than the rest of Nigerians because he had governed them before and they knew the kind of man he was. Those who called Buhari a religious bigot simply don’t know the man. I had a big grouse against Buhari for putting my uncle in detention without trial because he saw my uncle late Joshua Oladimeji Tuki of Akure because he believed my uncle was a front at the National Bank for Adekunle Ajasin’s AD Government. I still remember the incident as if it was yesterday and I am still very unhappy about the development. But would I because of that not vote or support him in 2015. Hell “no” would be my answer. I am convinced that Buhari is the best leader to heal Nigeria right now. We must put sentiments aside in the interest of Nigeria.
I cannot wait to see the mainstream of the Nigerian Press organize a 3 debates for Jonathan and Buhari where each of them would now defend their record in office and tell Nigerians why each of them deserves our votes in 2015. It should be a debate where the public would be allowed to ask each of the candidates questions they would have no time to rehearse or get coached to answer just like happened between Alhaji Tofa of NCR and Abiola of SDP and just like would have happened between Obasanjo and Olu Falae. Obasanjo dodged the bullet on that occasion hiding in a hotel in Abuja and pretending he was out of the country. He should never have been allowed so to do. Now Jonathan the first Ph.D holder on merit to be President would now have a chance to debate a Buhari a former Head of State and a General in the Nigerian Army who has risen in stature by some of the positions he has held in Government. Such an unrehearsed debate would help Nigerians make up their minds about who deserve their votes in 2015.
Holding elections should be all about making informed choices about our leaders. We must not repeat the same mistake we all made when Obafemi Awolowo who could have given this country the best Government was stopped in his tracks because the Military was just too scared of him because they knew he would make a difference that would ever put the Military in shame. The man meant business and he laid out a plan that would have made Nigeria the moral equivalent of Singapore under Lee Kuan Yu who was a course mate of Obafemi Awolowo during his student days in London.
Buhari is another Obafemi Awolowo. You know I am glad at one level that Buhari at one level cannot appreciate some of the excruciating pains Awolowo had to go thru when he told Nigerians there was a yawning gap between an “Oselu” and an “Ojelu” “Oselu” is the good politician creates a legacy for generations yet unborn to benefit from. “Ojelu “on the other hand, only cares about how much he can rip off the state or Government to benefit his own pocket. We need that kind of a leader in 2015 and if such a leader does not live up to his promise after 4 years, the voters would reserve the right to vote him out and put in a better leader. A one party dictatorship like the PDP is a disaster in a Democracy.
Need I say more?
I rest my case.
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