I am not one of Buhari’s fans; not one of his baying cult followers, but I have to concede that the man’s stock is quite high at the moment. The General’s star is shining brightly. His stock has recently skyrocketed. But why is that?
Cult followership I do understand. That happens all the time. Folks with similar but narrow interests that are driven mostly by hatred for a particular cause or hatred of a particular person would always find comfort banding together and are often very shrill in their campaigns. The fading Tea Party in America is a case in point. But apart from such devotees, Buhari also has a lot of...how shall we say?...a lot of unthinking ‘follow-follow’ followers who just parrot what other people say. This number is particularly large and they too are becoming strident. Why is this the case?
Buhari has an unsavory record as a former Head of State. He then proceeded to live out his post-retirement years as a local champion with no real legacy to point at. The General is still the same man. He is the same man who contested the presidency against Obasanjo, a Yoruba man, in 2003 and lost. He contested against Yar’Adua, a Hausa-Fulani, in 2007 and lost. He tried again in 2011 against Jonathan, an Ijaw chap. He lost again. So what has changed now? All the people clamoring for Buhari today, including the ones who appear ready to lay down their life for him, where were they in 2003, 2007 and in 2011?
What has changed? Well, a couple of things.
First, enter the Yorubas. Nigeria has three main tribes of which the Yoruba is one. In fact they are one of the more dynamic – certainly in terms of political awareness. President Jonathan however, through sheer incompetence laced with a lethal dose of complacency, completely sidelined the Yorubas in the scheme of things in Nigeria. Throughout his first term, no Yoruba featured in any major post in Nigeria under Jonathan. Nothing! Even the Central Bank passed tantalisingly right under the Yoruba firmament. It was only last year that the President belatedly appointed one colorless bloke from Ondo as his Chief of Staff after Mike Oghiadomhe was eased out. It was a vexing tokenism that came way too late in the day.
So it was only a matter of time before the Yorubas would look past Jonathan for business. Restructuring and sovereign national conference would have to wait. Similarly, the uncompromising value hitherto placed on solid education here can wait too. Even if my laptop was contesting the election against Jonathan, the president will still lose the Yoruba vote. Bola Tinubu, the current avant-garde leader of the Yorubas has been waiting and scheming how he might get himself into Aso Rock. And when Buhari was astute enough to talk himself into Tinubu’s good books again, another lethal brew, a formidable opposition was birthed.
Even Obasanjo, the man who laid the foundation upon which the PDP’s perversion, do-or-die doctrine and lawlessness was erected, is supporting Buhari – although OBJ’s electoral value at the moment is lower than a snake’s belly.
The other thing that has changed is the ‘sudden discovery’ of Buhari by the Southwest media. Buhari had made it his grim evangelical mission to decapitate the Yoruba leadership between 1984 and 85. Whilst he was doing that, the man still found time to completely emasculate the Press. But today, all of that is forgiven. In fact, some in that media have been working overtime to wipe the slate clean and even deny that Buhari ever put a foot wrong. Though Buhari himself never said so, he has been totally repackaged a changed man by that same Press corridor. How do you like your irony! But why is that? He has Jonathan for an opponent, and here, it’s anybody but Jonathan.
Be that as it may, Buhari 4th edition and the sleek operations of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been a blessing to Nigeria’s political development. They have possibly changed the face of electioneering in Nigeria forever. If we look past the threat of violence and people’s fears, this season’s campaign has been more sophisticated and more challenging than what used to obtain here. The bar has been substantially raised and the standard is a lot more serious. It’s just a shame that the APC has chosen not to participate in pre-election debates. But I understand that too. Sources within the party have revealed that despite long hours of coaching and preparation, General Buhari persistently performed abysmally, jumbling up things and forgetting over 80% of things that had just been relayed to him.
The behemoth that is the PDP has gone largely unchallenged in Nigeria in terms of coherent opposition so much so they have begun to take the voters for granted. 16 years of unfettered looting and treating the populace with sneering disdain has made the PDP grandees complacent. If the PDP thought they were going to get an easy ride back into power, they were mistaken; and that too is a good thing.
What still bothers me though is the blackmail tool that is Boko Haram that was used and which yet lurks in the background. A change in government – particularly in the direction we are been urged to do – seems to me to be too close to acquiescing to the demand of Boko Haram sponsors. I fear that if we yield to this, a dangerous precedent is set, and a perpetual threat hangs over all of us, coiled up miserably somewhere, only to be whipped out whenever anyone feels sufficiently aggrieved.
And all of that is the Buhari factor...