HIS handlers have turned him into a media sensation. Every known superlative has been used in describing him and his presidential aspiration. He has been written into a mythical figure.
While he is yet to be touted as the natural successor to immortal Nelson Mandela as Africa’s next beacon of hope, he has been severally projected as the iconic late American president, Abraham Lincoln, who lost all elections to win the presidency in 1860.
Former military head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari’s sojourn in politics since 2000 is definitely not completely analogous to the charismatic American president, having been head of state before and running only for the presidency unlike Lincoln, who started from the lowest rung.
But like Lincoln, Buhari had lost all the three political contests he had engaged in, losing to a South-Westerner, a northern brother and a South-Southerner, with the forthcoming being seen as his best chance to clinch the top-job as a civilian leader.
The journey to what many are tagging the Lincoln odyssey for Buhari commenced officially on Thursday, with his run-away victory at the presidential primaries of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, beating a host of others, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who had an anti-climatic outing, given the hype that heralded his participation in the exercise.
The party would have quaked if the outcome of the exercise had been different. The coalition of four parties that metamorphosed into APC was without pretension built around Buhari’s projected presidential run. He was almost taken for granted as the party’s candidate to face Presidential Goodluck Jonathan in the February presidential election before the coming into the race of Atiku and Kano State governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso, with the governor being rumoured as the anointed of one of the most formidable caucuses in the party, the Progressive Governors Forum.
Suddenly, the race thought to be a coronation ceremony assumed a real competition status and but for the last-minute horse-trading and mutually-beneficial understanding, the unexpected almost happened.
Despite his initial covert support for the embattled Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, former Lagos State governor and national leader of the party, Senator Bola Tinubu, was undoubtedly the enforcer-in-chief for Buhari and the landslide he recorded in the exercise.
Tinubu had allegedly developed a cold feet on the Buhari presidential project when the idea of him running with the retired general as his vice president in a Muslim/Muslim ticket, tumbled against solid public opprobrium, and reportedly threw his weight behind Tambuwal in an alleged bid to have a presidency he could have leveraged on.
The solid resolve of other leaders and elders of the party to have Buhari as the candidate was said to have led to the pressure on Tambuwal to drop out of the race and seek Sokoto governorship, with Tinubu said to be left with no choice but to embrace his “first political love” Buhari and work towards his emergence.
Apart from certain silent financiers of Buhari, Tinubu and the former Minister of FCT, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai were the face of Buhari’s primaries campaign, with both also using their massive media influence to project him as “The Candidate.”
While Tinubu was said to be in charge of the traditional media, el-Rufai reportedly coordinated the new media.
A masterstroke by Tinubu was getting the exercise to take place in Lagos, after the move had been initially rejected by the other aspirants apart from Buhari. Moves to make Edo State a compromise venue was rejected by the Tinubu group, which eventually had its way. Despite the national chairman of the party Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, coming from Edo State, the suspicion around Governor Adams Oshiomhole’s politics and the influence he would have on the exercise as the chief security officer of the state reportedly compelled the Lagos caucus to be adamant on Lagos as the venue.
There were claims and counter-claims on whether the Edo governor would run for president and the day his aides were confirming it, he was in Abuja denying it. Seen as an ally of a former head of state who is not favourably disposed to a Buhari return to the presidency, nothing was allowed to be left to chance in dealing with the Edo strongman.
The politics of vice presidential candidate also said to have enhanced Buhari’s chances. Both South-South and South-West caucuses in the party are laying claim to the second spot, with both Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers and Babatunde Fashola of Lagos on the card. It is learnt that Fashola is Buhari’s choice which is expected to sweep South-West for him, given Fashola’s high performance rating, with the issue of religion being the only snag, though the general has said he is open to a Muslim/Muslim ticket if the party sanctioned it.
A source disclosed that a shocker might be in the offing over the choice as Tinubu himself could take the slot if the party said yes to Muslim/Muslim ticket.
Despite the national chairman of the party being from his zone, Amaechi is reportedly hopeful that the issue of religion would sway the number two job in his favour. Both governors reportedly deployed massive financial and material support for Buhari.
The argument of those pushing for Fashola is that Amaechi would deliver just a state while the critically-acclaimed Lagos governor would bring a zone on board the ticket.
With the outcome of the poll, those at the heart of the formation of the largest opposition party in the country had spoken loudly to those who joined from the ruling PDP that while they would be well-received, the top prize would not be immediate for them, with the way both Kwankwaso and Atiku fell.
One major attraction of the Buhari candidacy has always been the 12 million votes he recorded in the last presidential election on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), despite forming the party a few months before the said election, after being frustrated out of the equally-defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
He is seen as the party’s most prized asset when it comes to vote-bagging and his cult following among the Talakawas in the North is seen as irreplaceable by any other candidate. He is, however, not the favourite of the elite and his candidacy, once again, would be a contest between the northern elite and the Talakawas in the zone.
The ticket Buhari is holding now is different from 2011’s. This is more national in scope. The South-West dominant political group, under the leadership of Tinubu, which travelled alone in 2011, is now a part of the ticket Buhari is holding, which is generating a lot of hope that it is a ticket that could herald him and the opposition into Aso Rock next year.
Buhari has obviously surged in the poll with his huge popularity in the build-up to the exercise, with the outcome confirming him as the main pillar of the party in presidential contest, but inter-party affairs are always a different ball-game, as some of the myth built around his candidacy may not stand when the campaign begins against Jonathan of PDP.
Projected as the anti-corruption candidate and a change-agent, he would be going into the contest with a united house as Atiku, his main challenger, had congratulated him, but it remains to be seen if the perception built around him by his party would match the reality of the campaign materials the other side would bring to the table.
Buhari is surely the right man for the job in his party, but would he be fourth time lucky with Nigerians?
Culled from TRIBUNE