Demonising Candidate Muhammadu Buhari By Abiodun Komolafe

“A competent leader can get efficient service from poor troops while, on the contrary, an incapable leader can demoralize the best of troops – John J. Pershing

THOUGH belated, President Goodluck Jonathan’s resolve to confront the Boko Haram insurgency that has for some time been threatening Nigeria’s sovereignty is a welcome development. From July 26, 2009, when police allegedly killed Mohammed Yusuf, the sect’s leader; and, with more than 13,000 lives already lost and property worth billions of naira destroyed, that, under the present dispensation, Boko Haram has gained so much notoriety that the sect is now rated as world’s second deadliest terror organization; and Nigeria, world’s second deadliest place to live in, is no longer news.

Also, though President Jonathan’s phlegmatic disposition to Nigeria’s multifaceted challenges has badly damaged the reputation of his administration, that the military has at last woken up to its constitutional responsibilities clearly demonstrates the ‘will’ and the ‘way’ essence of leadership.

Jonathan’s failures in some key indicators of leadership brings to the fore Muhammadu Buhari’s recent speech at the Royal Institute of Internal Affairs, popularly called Chatham House, London, which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has unsurprisingly dubbed “a charade.” At a time like this, one is tempted to ask: what’s Buhari’s sin and why does the ruling party fear him to the toxic point of wishing him dead?

But for the way politics is played in this part of the world, Buhari’s past is not all that of fairy tales as he came in when the country needed a saviour. Apart from efforts by the retired General to stabilize our economy when he held sway as Head of State, students of history would always remember the roles played by him in firmly dealing with the once-dreaded Maitatsine fanatics. Also, the environmental sanitation exercise, as enshrined in his ‘War Against Indiscipline’ programme, is, till date, in use. Unlike the other man who “underestimated” Boko Haram for the better part of his almost six year-rule, a significant achievement of Buhari’s speech at Chatham House was his promise to lead the war against Boko Haram insurgents, a clear departure from the present system which favours dancing on the graves of victims. Another was his “taking responsibility for whatever happened under” his “watch” as a “military dictator.” Buhari promised that, with him in power, world powers “would not have any cause to worry any longer about Nigeria. Which, of course, is one of the rarest attributes of a good leader.

It is an undeniable fact that Nigeria, a country divinely endowed with human and material resources, is wounded and needs somebody to heal her wounds. Ironically however, President Jonathan has not done much in practical terms to bring “universal decencies of humanity” to a “country which has been pretty short on decency.” Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, through the Kantin Kwari Textile Market incident in Kano, demonstrated the responsibility of power and the responsiveness of leadership. In 2013, President Barrack Obama and his wife, Michelle, partook of an interfaith memorial service for the victims of the bombing at the Boston Marathon in Boston. And, late last year, President Nawaz Sharif had to relocate to Peshawar Region to “supervise operations”, following the gruesome murder of 141 people by Pakistan Taliban. But, after the April 14, 2014 kidnap of more than 200 schoolgirls in Bornu State, it took the president more than two weeks to accept that Chibok was even a town within Nigeria’s geo-political landscape.

Nigeria’s political demons and their short memories! It is disgusting to note that Buhari haters continue to heap the blame for the sudden death of the Second Republic solely at the doorstep of the “converted democrat”. But for how long shall we pretend as if Ibrahim Babangida, Jonathan’s newfound father, was not a principal participant in the project for which only Buhari is now being demonized? David Mark, David Jang, Olabode George, John Shagaya, Muhammadu Magoro, among others: as we speak, are there not more ex-coupists in the ruling party, even, in President Jonathan’s government, than in all the opposition political parties? And, at the risk of sounding immodest, was the tenure of Colonel Ahmadu Alli as Federal Commissioner for Education more rewarding than General Buhari’s as Head of Stat? Curiously, isn’t it this ‘Alli Must Go’ professional who’s now championing the cause of Jonathan’s reelection?

Ten kings, ten epochs! Gone are the days when kings were anointed by prophets. Then, King David would never embark on a trip without seeking the face of God through Prophet Samuel and any steps taken by Ahab’s Royal House without Elijah’s prophetic input was always incomplete. Now – and, for obvious reasons, too – our lords spiritual have sold clerical honour to the principalities of pecuniary conveniences. That’s why the “Islamization” hate campaign against Buhari, especially, by a section of the Christian South is a filthy tactic which, if not well-managed, is an invitation to poisonous emotions, especially, if a section of the Muslim North decides to retaliate by taking urging adherents of Islam not to vote for Jonathan for the ‘fear of Christianizing the country.’ In my considered opinion, the ‘Conversion Campaigns’ of the First Republic ought to have taught us some hard lessons on the aftereffects of the manipulation of religion.

Yes! Ours is a country with opportunities but a very bad situation. Yes! We have dug a very deep hole in the past; now, we have got to find our way out of it. But why are some political parties regarded as ‘Chop-I-Chop’ in structure while others are seen as ‘Chop Alone’ in composition? What type of ‘different strokes’ leadership is it that finds Dieppriye Alameseigha’s pardonable without contemplating forgiveness for Tafa Balogun? Indeed, what message is a campaign organization that has as its mouthpiece a ‘standing trial’ personality sending out to the outside world? Widening the scope, some five years ago, who on earth would have thought that the ‘son’ Olusegun Obasanjo godfathered to power would end up spearheading efforts that eventually sent the godfather out of the ruling party? Wait a minute: why is a 72-year old retired military officer being looked up to as the saviour with “the capacity to “change the present” and make Nigeria great?

I reject the notion that sabotage is the main reason for President Jonathan’s inability to deliver on key sectors of the economy. On the other hand, I concede to the fact that it is his inability to act presidential that has ‘transformed’ him into a victim of good luck who derives pleasure from being tossed around by every wind of change. Similarly, that opposition leaders could illegally acquire private jets without appropriate agencies applying sanctions if, when and where necessary, only confirms the Commander-in-Chief’s inability to combat corruption. Hence the excuse that Buhari is “an old horse, too weak to lead” is not only lame, it is also a shameful rehearsal of how far we have fared as a country and as a people.
Sad that Nigeria has become a tale of the ‘kettle’ and the ‘pot’. If APC is “desperate to capture power”, why is PDP desperate to hang on to power? On the other hand, if Buhari’s sin is his becoming a “perennial candidate”, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva has shown that it is achievable if it is genuinely desired. If it is his age, Obafemi Awolowo (74 years in 1983); Nnamdi Azikiwe (79 years in 1983); Nelson Mandela (71 years in 1994); and Manmohan Singh (72 years in 2004), among others, have also shown that age is just a number. Again, if his demonization is as a result of some incumbency advantage unduly conferred on the ruling party by a lopsided system, I believe the Daura-born politician has supplied an appropriate answer in his famous Chatham House speech.

On a serious note, even as all odds are Buhari’s favour, any thought that PDP governors in the North, unarguably more in number than APC’s, would sit down, lazily, and watch power taken off them without putting up a fight should be perished. In the same vein, those banking on the judiciary, not only as the last hope of the common man but also as an important arm of government expected to deliver justice had better review Justice Ayo Salami’s ordeal. Hence the need for the opposition leaders in the North to take the issue of incitement to violence very seriously. Who knows: the violence that attended the Year 2011 presidential election was one forcible twist thrown into the camp of the-now rested Congress for Progressive Change, CPC by the ‘other party’ for the thrower to have its way!

In the words of Vince Lombardi, “the difference between a successful person and others is not lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge but rather a lack of will.” As we gradually move towards March 28, 2015, the prayer on our lips should revolve around getting it right this time. But, how? By voting Buhari or tolerating Jonathan? In other words, should we opt for ‘Change’ or stick to ‘Continuity’? Either option: in whose interest and at what cost?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria!

*Komolafe writes in from Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State (ijebujesa@yahoo.co.uk)

abiodun KOMOLAFE, AMNIM,

O20, Okenisa Street,

PO Box 153,

Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State.

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