Contrary to the mirth some later day revisionists peddle around these days, Buhari was very active in the coup that ousted the Shagari democratic government. In fact, Ebenezer Babatope wrote an article back in 1982 in the Sunday Tribune where he alerted politicians and the nation to “beware of the gangly officer” after Buhari gave a speech in Kano excoriating Shagari’s government in particular, and politicians and democracy in general. For his troubles, Babatope was promptly clamped in jail when Buhari became Head of State; there he remained until Buhari was overthrown.
That wasn’t all.
In early December 1983, an army officer in the 3rd Division, Jos reported to the then governor of Plateau, Chief Solomon Lar that there was coup planning afoot. The officer named Gen Buhari, the Divisional Commander, as leading and participating in some spurious military exercises in the wee hours. Lar reported the matter to President Shagari. Shagari summoned Buhari to find out what was going on. Buhari insisted Shagari tell him the source of his information. Shagari did. January 1984, Lar was in prison. Buhari’s tribunal later handed him a 25 year sentence.
When the Oputa Commission which was looking into past human rights abuses invited Buhari to come and defend himself, the man refused to go. His reaction was dismissive as it was contemptuous. It was the act of a person thinking himself above the law, above all others.
And speaking of seemingly being above the law; for 12 years now, Buhari has been running for President in this Nigeria. In all those years he didn’t think it is for him to take a half day off to go and sort out the matter of his relevant educational certificates to meet the requirement of our electoral laws. What other explanation could there be for this? Nobody could be that careless.
Furthermore, Buhari has never come off as a good manager. As Head of State, it was generally believed that his Deputy, General Idiagbon, was the administrative brianbox. Buhari was the hammer who enforced the overall bleak tone. Later, during his tenure at the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), the template was the same. Following the formal investigation into the affairs of the PTF, it was discovered that a large chunk of money went unaccounted for. Buhari’s response? He was unaware of the funds and how it got to be missing, and that, in any case, he didn’t profit from it. That was it.
Worse, Buhari has no legacy, no track record – thirtysomething years ago, or recently - of grooming a class of intellectuals/doers or of surrounding himself with same. Moreover, in recent interviews and media appearances, Gen Buhari’s non-articulation of anything gives the impression that the man just wants to be president for being president’s sake. He is painfully out of touch and clings on for dear life to his one and only song: corruption.
When Buhari lost the presidential election for the third time in 2011, he asked people to troop out in protest in what he called ‘mass action.’ They did in parts of the North. When the dust settled, the mass action has claimed about 800 lives, a sizeable number of those, innocent Youth Corpers just going about their normal business.
These kinds of thing streaks all the way through Buhari’s vocation in the public domain and it leave some people rightly worried.
But Buhari followers and supporters ignore all of that. They are close to slavish in their devotion and are ever ready to curse and abuse anyone who dares to disagree. They maintain that Buhari is the only Nigerian alive that can rescue the nation. Out of about some 160 million odd souls? Really? And this, in spite of the man’s past record.
1984 – 1985 weren’t good years for Nigeria and Nigerians. The way some of Buhari’s supporters are conducting themselves now, may God help us. Some have even taken to calling the General a king; and you know you are not supposed to question a king. You’ll have to fear that a Buhari presidency might usher-in another round of restrictions on human rights and the right to hold a contrary view.
On top of all of that, Gen Buhari is 72 years old. In all honesty, in this day and age, for a country that is striving to develop, that is too ancient a pool to go searching for a leader. Some folks have reeled out a list of Presidents that were in office during their ‘septuageriatic’ years. However they leave out two important facts: Except for Mandela (for obvious reason) and a very precious few, most of those aged leaders went into office in their younger years; and a majority of such leaders are leading failed and failing States. It is the same way some folks advanced the argument that it was alright for Abacha to transmute into a civilian president because it has been done elsewhere. Some of us love to push perfidious ideas the way a Lithuanian pushes a wheelbarrow. Look around the world; where are those septuagenarians still holding sway today?
To my mind, Nigeria needs a young and dynamic person calling the shots. Nigeria needs a young person with modern education, modern orientation, new thinking, modern technology and modern tools to compete effectively in a whole new world.
Is Buhari a Boko Haram sympathiser? I truly don’t know. But I do know that Boko Haram has been tried before. It was floated in another guise a few years ago when Sharia was introduced with buntings across Northern Nigeria. Even a sacrificial poor chap had his hand surgically sliced off to prove intent but Obasanjo didn’t swallow the bait. OBJ refused to be lured into a divisive political confrontation and got around that trap the way a mountain goat negotiates a corner. And wouldn’t you know it; as soon as another Southern President got-in in 2011, Boko Haram became a full-on military assault and a campaign/political weapon to clobber that President with the intention of disgracing him out of office.
Be that as it may, Jonathan and his government cannot be fully discharged of blame in the way he has approached the Boko Haram insurgence. The none return of the abducted Chibok school girls is a glaring failure.
Another problem Jonathan has going into the election is that, to the average Nigerian voter, the PDP has been in power for almost 16 years with not a whole lot to show for it. Even where there have been some recorded successes, the flagrant corruption of the PDP and its connected friends has become unbearable. People just want change. Anybody but the PDP.
But a lot APC’s candidates who contested for national and state positions were recent PDP decampees. So in real terms, there’s not much difference in ideology or direction. It has all boiled down to this: personality. Jonathan or Buhari?
Jonathan has done a little but his PR has been ineffective. His lack of dynamism and cuddling of corruption is an albatross. We have waited for him to grow into the job but he hasn’t really. He has shied away from some of his responsibilities – though I concede that the security issue, i.e., Boko Haram, is a contrived one. Moreover, Jonathan left his flank horribly exposed by not fully involving the Yorubas in more than four years. That was careless; a situation from which Buhari is now benefiting without doing much to earn it.
Buhari on the other hand is looking backwards too far. While Buhari did bring in a sense of order and queuing up for buses, there were also queues for ‘essential commodities’ like sugar, bread, etc. More importantly, we do not want to start worrying about equity, religious harmony and other socio-isms again. All of that should be left in the past. A big problem of today’s Nigeria is that we still conduct our affairs and arrange our institutions as if we are in a military command structure. That is a grave anomaly and we need to totally break that yoke. Buhari, more than anyone else in Nigeria today represents that anomalous past. We can’t keep doing the same things, with the same people; we can’t keep going back to what has been tried and has failed miserably and be hoping for a different result.
So once again, it seems Jonathan is a very lucky boy indeed. If he has a Fashola, a Donald Duke, an El-Rufai, a Rochas Okorocha, or an Akpabio, for an opponent, we would be talking. However, Buhari to me is the past, a representation of the opposite direction of where a modern nation ought to be headed.
For that reason, I’ll be voting Jonathan.