Post Buhari Declaration: My plea to Atiku & Co. …By Emmanuel Ariyo
Since the return of democracy to Nigeria in the year 1999, this will be the first time a single unit opposition party will have at least one governor in each of the 6 geo-political zones of the country going into the general elections. Even more pronounced is the fact that three major economic nerve centres of Lagos, Kano and Rivers are all controlled by the opposition. This has made the APC a very strong emerging force to reckon with. Little wonder why it has become the new bride of many political heavy weights eyeing the office of the presidency. Some of the top contenders for the presidential ticket of the party are the Governor of Kano state Engr Rabiu Kwankwaso; Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State; Major-General (rtd) and former head of state Muhammadu Buhari , and also former vice-president Alhaji Abubarkar Atiku among many other contenders.
After a very long wait by Nigerians, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) on Wednesday the 15th of October 2014 formally declared his ambition to run for the office of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria in the 2015 general elections, on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This was some weeks after the former vice president Abubakar Atiku also made his official declaration for same office on the platform of the same party. The Governors of Imo and Kano are yet to formally make their own respective declarations. Though, it is believed that Governor Rochas Okorocha might just withdraw from the race, since he has the multiple options of running for second term as governor of Imo state or as vice to the eventual presidential flag bearer of the party.
Though the earlier declaration event by former vice president Atiku was very public, it was without the sort of fanfare witnessed during that of Major-General Muhammad Buhari(rtd). In stepping out for the race, the retired General and three times Presidential Candidate took out time to personally visit prominent party members to extend invitation to them to attend the declaration event at Eagle square Abuja. Surprisingly, the camp of the former vice president Abubakar Atiku didn’t consider such a move necessary. On this issue of declaration, how a sound politician like Abubakar Atiku simply planned like a General without men while Ex-General Buhari executed his declaration like an astute politician is a scenario I find very interesting. Is it a sign of what is to come? Only time will tell.
Any ways what cannot be disputed is the fact that these set of declarations have set the political atmosphere in the APC and at the national level into a not unexpected frenzy. President Goodluck Jonathan who had been playing hide and seek all the while, has finally been forced to accept he will contest. That is not without mentioning that the President had earlier secured a somewhat unusual endorsement of his party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the sole candidate for the presidential elections. The merit and demerit of this endorsement will be discussed another day, today’s piece will concentrate more on the internal agitation within the APC.
In what looks like a sharp contrast to the past, it must be said that this time around it appears the opposition party is actually spoilt for choice in the number of candidates that wants to fly its flag in the presidential race against the ruling party. This is partly based on merit and also the less than satisfactory performance of the ruling party at the helms of affair. However, accomplishing this feat against a ruling party that has shown more than once that it is ready to do just whatever it takes to achieve its proclamation of ruling Nigeria for at least 60 years, even if it has failed repeatedly to solve the problems of Nigerians, will certainly not be an ice cream party. The APC will need to get all its very important moves right. This includes but not limited to the choice of candidate that bears the torch of the party at the presidential level.
Though I earlier asserted that APC is spoilt for choice this time around. Under the current political context that our dear nation Nigeria has found herself, the best person to fly the ticket of the APC among the very keen contenders in my opinion is undoubtedly General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) a.k.a. The People’s General. I have had the privilege of voting in every general election since 1999, he has never had my vote before. Even in 2011 when I considered him the best out of the available options, he still failed to earn my vote because when it mattered most in the eye of former cynics like me, he failed to show us that he was fully tuned into democratic and political norms. He allowed a very promising political alliance to collapse without any effective back up. All he needed to do for a better outing was what politics demanded-dialogue; demand some, and concede some-but he fell short.
Fast forward to post 2011, not only has he been dialoguing and building bridges across hitherto existing political divides freely and effectively, he also played a major role in the first ever successful merger of opposition parties in Nigeria, which gave birth to the APC. Now I kind of believe God knew better in 2011, so he delayed the idea to now, when it would be most potent. With due respect to all other aspirants on the APC platform, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) more than any other aspirant embodies more of the traits that an average Nigerian wants to see in any leader and party that seeks to be taken seriously. Nigerians are not looking for an angel without blemish, because angels simply do not live as humans, certainly not in Nigeria.
We ask for a Nigerian with an ideology as constant as the northern star; Buhari is heads and shoulders above his pairs in this regard. Yes Buhari has contested for presidency three consecutive times and lost, he has never for once fallen for the temptation of straying to the ruling party PDP to achieve his ambition even when that could well have been an easier route. Why is this so? Because he believes there’s something fundamentally wrong with the politics and governance style of the ruling party. Whereas he stood firm all through with his beliefs even in the face of hopelessness, same cannot be said of some of his fellow contestants. I used to be a very strong admirer of former vice president Atiku Abubakar. Back in the year 2006, I had just finished service and was yet to resume a full time job. I had a lot of time on my hands, and dutifully followed national politics. I remember how I used to jump up like I had won a jackpot each time Alhaji Atiku secured victory in court cases versus his former boss President Olusegun Obasanjo. But today, that enthusiasm has long fizzled out, thanks to the flip flopping activities of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. If the truth must be told, I am not alone in this feeling, many more Nigerians feel same way or even worse.
Impunity and its offspring corruption have not only taken over, they have managed to secure immunity in today’s Nigeria. And lovers of these terrible vices that have held our country down, relegating it a banana republic in the eyes of the world will do everything within their powers to maintain status quo. It has never been this good for them. Come 2015, majority of Nigerians who have become the victim, are eager to vote for a candidate that can war against corruption from within and without. We don’t want any scam corruption fighter again. In this regard the PDP has concluded that it is delighted and satisfied with the current type of war on corruption, the kind of crusade where corruption is not stealing (apologies to President Jonathan). That makes the APC the only available alternative party to go to. Again based on antecedents, trend and public perception, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) ranks as the most capable Politician today not only in APC but in Nigeria that can strip these devastating vices of the immunity they currently enjoy at the moment. Our country will never be a giant, until impunity and corruption is substantially vanquished from the land. Until APC presents Nigerians with a true anti corruption crusader, it will continually be viewed as a variant of PDP.
Everywhere in the world politics is money and money is a very potent weapon in politics. Obama back in 2012 reportedly ran the most expensive campaign in US history, raising more than $1 billion in campaign funds. So money like human resource is very vital in politics and to political parties, especially in Nigeria where more than 70% of our population remains very poor. That however shouldn’t be a licence for money bags to feel superior to other aspirants. It takes much more than financial war chest to win the hearts of the majority, certainly not against a ruling party and government that is yet to convincingly tell Nigerians the whereabouts of over $10 billion. If the size of financial war chest had always been the major determinant in elections, it would have been nearly impossible to defeat PDP in any election. Hence another reason the APC should ride on the over 12 million bankable votes that Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) carries with him free of charge. This would allow the party deploy resources on winning additional votes, not starting from the scratch. As a matter of fact I don’t see any of the other aspirants that guarantee 12 million votes free of charge. Nor do I see any with the sort of original ideas Buhari has on national security being a retired military general and former head of state.
The APC should brace up for the challenges ahead, provide a level playing field for all the aspirants while also exploring the possibility of a democratic consensus among the aspirants. In case a consensus cannot be reached democratically, the party should go for the open primaries while ensuring it does all within its legitimate powers to ensure that an unpopular candidate does not cash the ticket of the party. Like most if not all the APC Presidential aspirants, I see the high possibility of an APC victory in the 2015 presidential election. But as tempting as this eventuality could be, the earlier the better the aspirants come to the not too comfortable reality that just one of them will get the opportunity to make this dream a reality. Moses did all that had to be done for the peace of Israel but God chose Joshua to lead the children of Israel to the Promised Land. As it was then so shall it be again in the APC. Only one out of the many capable hands will get the chance to lead. I admonish all the contenders to support that which is best for the party. Everyone should bring to the table their human, technical, intellectual, strategic and material resources, for the overall success of the party.
The next general elections unlike previous elections will be difficult to arrange by the political class. The obvious infighting has suddenly made it possible for Nigerians to play a big role in who becomes the next President. The amount of mass appeal each aspirant and eventual Presidential candidate on the platform of the APC enjoys will be very crucial. Hence my plea with every one of them to become selfless while placing the interest of the party uppermost in their hearts.
Dear APC and APC Presidential Aspirants, if by your acts of omission or commission you fluff this great opportunity that beckons, please know that you would have lost whatever respect and sympathy you have in the eye of millions of Nigerians who are yearning for change. You would have played your ignominious part in ensuring that the PDP rules and ruin us for at least 60 years! Also note that Emperor GEJ, as he will then be, will take no prisoners. He will come after all of you one by one and worst of all Nigerians wouldn’t give a damn what he does with you guys.
Forewarned is forearmed!
Note: That Governor Rabiu Kwankwaso declared shortly before this was published. However my opinion remains substantially the same.
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