BY Frisky Larr
Today, President Muhammadu Buhari is in a position that no one can envy. His ride to power followed a rough terrain. He had critics including myself. He had admirers too. They were full of hopes in what his military-induced sense of obstinacy would bring to bear on Governance in a Jonathan-battered Nigeria. After all, Olusegun Obasanjo before him, had shown how easily a former military General could step on toes for the good of the country, at least, in his own perception. He also had haters and die-hard ones at that. His irredeemable haters will have nothing to do with his ethnic descent. They consider northern Nigerians as enemies of the country for their historical arrogance in leadership. Above all else, though, they naturally detest his military home-based attachment to the unity of Nigeria and that is what the minds that are endeared to his predecessor hated and still hate the most. Buhari was known for modesty and a measured lifestyle. Not known to be corrupt or encouraging corruption!
To make Buhari President, we the critics – and “we” were in the shadow of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka – had to make an about face on Buhari to see the back of Goodluck Jonathan with his destructive agenda.
Everyone, except the separatist-minded and non-patriotic Nigerians, was full of hope when Muhammadu Buhari became President. His phlegmatic inaugural speech was, however, everything else but revolutionary. It was the initial shot that struck momentum in the spine. It was soon followed by a long-drawn wait for a cabinet that bore the early signs of unpreparedness on the part of the new President. These negative surprises were willfully suppressed by an overwhelming audience of supporters, who were convinced deep down their heart that this President is, nevertheless, the messiah they envision him to be.
And when cleansing started, he did not disappoint. He ordered the relocation of the central military command to the epicenter of insurgency and in rapid succession, the insurgents soon realized why the Nigerian Armed Forces had a regional reputation. The military was redeemed from the chain of battlefield disgraces that Buhari’s predecessor had subjected it to, in the aftermath of corruption, pillaging and willful decimation.
Henceforth, priority was given to the adequate funding and equipment of the armed forces with armory and no longer the arming of militants in the creeks.
In a parallel action, the President quickly turned his attention to the corruption that crippled the military and started from his own tribal kinsman, who served as the arrowhead of the National Security Advisory Team, Sambo Dasuki. He was arrested and his financial crimes credibly exposed. Today, he languishes in detention and hardly anyone has tears to shed for him in the light of the gravity of what he collaborated in. This has, so far, made it difficult for critics and haters to wear the President the cloak of tribal and ethnic bigotry. The battle against corruption was launched in earnest. Partial revelations began to make the round and it became apparent, who got what share of which bounty and at what point in time. Money was recovered in quiet domestic diplomacy and prominent arrests were made to signal to the larger audience that the government meant business.
Unfortunately, however, it was becoming apparent, in the run-up to the inauguration of the administration, that the fiscal life of the administration was bound to be constrained by some money crunch of sort. The price of the economy’s mainstay had crumbled to a shocking depth in the global market. The economy was going to be cash-strapped and all the ambitious projects that were promised and predicated on a projected level of earnings were bound to run into trouble. A barrel of oil that has sold over several years, for an average of $100.00 on the global market suddenly fell to as low as $30.00. Recession crept in inevitably. While this made neutral minds and admirers of the President sad, it made his haters upbeat and elated. They wasted no time, hammering on what they characterized as the President’s inefficiency. They were promptly tagged “The Wailers” since there was nothing the President did or will do that they will ever appreciate in spite of obvious adverse conditions.
One after the other, problems multiplied for the President. As the noose tightened around efforts to recover looted funds and as former President Jonathan continued to feature prominently in looting-related confessions, calls grew, for the questioning of the ex-President. In the absence of sufficient proceeds of oil sales though, it became incumbent on the government to concentrate on recovering stolen funds. Then the enemies suddenly mounted a formidable front. Sabotage actions began to take hold and the saboteurs called themselves the Niger Delta Avengers. Oil pipelines were blown in succession and output fell dramatically in addition to the plummeting market prices.
From nowhere and seemingly, without warning, a new secessionist movement launched destabilizing activities in the East and was led by a little know anti-intellectual youngster of immense nuisance value.
It was difficult not to point accusing fingers at the President’s immediate predecessor in the face of the bitterness that trailed his ejection from power. A novum in the political history of Nigeria, where incumbents hitherto, never lost elections!
The President’s Health
One bizarre feature of President Muhammadu Buhari’s governance since inauguration, has always been his profound invisibility. Many times over, Nigerians clamored for reassuring public addresses by the President in puzzling times when the President’s authority was challenged or the sovereignty of the country threatened. One highly interesting development was noted when news emerged of acts of corruption perpetrated by the President’s inner circle. Most dramatic, was the charge of millions of Naira brazenly spent on grass-trimming. Insinuations emerged, of some elements in the government’s circle that have hijacked a part of leadership. In each of these cases, the President excelled in silence and inaction when the folks expected decisive and intimidating leadership to draw the line on errant adventurers.
Then, the President would often launch surprising actions to take corrupt officers unaware. Most notable was the attempted cleanup of the judiciary that is littered with corrupt judges. It was a cosmetic venture of one step forward, two steps backward that, in the end, virtually left the status quo largely intact. Nothing was followed through.
Everyone had problem, understanding what the driving forces of the President were. No reaction to credible charges of corruption and power-grab by his inner circle. No visible address to the nation to show that someone was in charge. In more than two years in office, the President has hosted just one comprehensive media chat.
Then, news broke out that the President had serious health problems (probably life-threatening) that required a long-drawn residence overseas for proper medical attention.
A few things but not all, began to make more sense. His shortage of appetite for and inability to wage an all-out war on the enemies of the country could be appreciated against the backdrop of his declining health.
In the long period of his absence on medical leave, the President respected and honored all the relevant constitutional obligations to empower his deputy in his absence much to the chagrin of his inner cabinet, who would have loved to wield his powers. A novum in the country’s political history. A huge success and a serious problem at the same time since it became incumbent upon the President to address the obnoxious deal of a daring cabal.
In spite of his silence and health-induced absence, within which secessionist agitations thrived almost uncontrolled, he soon moved to restore the unity of the country upon recovery and return to the country much as he had wrestled down Boko Haram long before it. He had also resolved the Avenger’s challenge with visible ease albeit with non-transparent compromises.
The extent of damage that was done to the economy inherited by the President’s government is well known to the discerning mind. The worst single hallmark was the fact that the owing of salaries by government institutions simply became a routine affair over the years in the face of boom and plenty. At a point, the preceding government took to borrowing from banks to pay Federal employees. Pension allocations were simply stolen, and pensioners left to wallow in pains. Contractors’ fees were routinely owed till “thine Kingdom comes”. The foreign reserves that several governments had struggled to boost for the rainy day, were simply stolen and depleted in the understanding that a President from the Niger Delta, which ‘lays the golden egg’, was simply taking or stealing back what rightly belonged to him.
That a nation with a serious intention to grow and better the lot of its citizens cannot thrive on this pedestrian mentality to say the least of the practice of owing salaries and pensions, is undisputable to the discerning mind. On this note, President Buhari launched a fight against many adversities to rectify this basic requirement of fixing the economy, without which no progress can ever be made. The President has released bailout funds repeatedly, to help states return the payment of wages and salaries to normalcy while revenue inflow had dropped dramatically. Yet, some states resisted this blatantly and with impunity invoking their autonomy in the running of their states. The bailout funds were misappropriated, partly stolen while some states continue to owe salaries all the same, without outrage from the wider public – not even the employees that are owed. President Buhari has moved to reset the clock of routine and regular pension payments to normalcy, while revenue intake has fallen dramatically. The recession that greeted the government’s initial days in office with the crash of crude oil price and little reserves to fall back on, has long fizzled out.
The foreign reserves that are accumulated for the rainy day is now back on track and are being boosted once again. Infrastructural projects are reported to be quietly on course. Now, I hear that the construction of the second Niger Bridge to ease the traffic link of the East with the rest of the nation, has quietly made enormous progress.
Much as it counts as a part of the President’s weakness, the fight against corruption is also one of the President’s success stories. His daring attack on the corrupt judiciary was unprecedented. That will go down in history. Unfortunately, it wasn’t followed through to the bitter end.
That avowed enemies of the administration will have none of this should not change a thing in the perception of the obvious. In part, the enemies do not only live in denial, they take active steps to sabotage progress. That, practically, explains the recent surge in the kidnapping of skilled foreign workers in the country as one act of sabotage to scare off foreign investment, while pipeline sabotage now seems to have become a bit more difficult to execute. And thank goodness, the price of crude oil is bouncing back while efforts at diversifying the economy is quietly in progress.
The greatest weakness of President Buhari and his administration has been his election as President. To make Buhari the President of Nigeria, the leading priority of many well-meaning Nigerians, was to see the back of a disastrous Goodluck Jonathan. Many forces teamed up and the forces were not homogenous in purpose. While some were “sowing seeds”, others were genuinely interested in the good of the country. One notable force that had and always has the good of Nigeria at heart was and remains former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
How much President Buhari is presently at the mercy of any of the forces who “sowed seeds”, who they are and where they are is largely unknown. But it is true that the very expensive campaign that he ran to win the Presidency was financed by someone. It is also true that his own wife has had cause to cry out repeatedly, that President Buhari is being held hostage by the elements. Many of the President’s supporters do this privately too.
The President has the ill-advised habit of avoiding dialogue with the country when it is most needed. Precisely then, his silence turns out to be poison. By now, the President is well aware of the presence of a cabal in his inner circle burning to usurp his powers and even doing so at any opportunity given. The role reportedly played by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation to undermine Acting President Osinbanjo during the sick leave of the President is not forgotten. Cries of corruption in his inner circle are growing louder by the day and when action is taken, it is obstinately slow and largely cosmetic or too little, too late. Matters that should be referred to the EFCC for action are often referred to commissions of enquiry with reports that never see the light of day.
While it is incumbent on the President to choose his lieutenants and aides from amongst people that he can best work with, it is also a recipe for disaster to work covertly or overtly, to rekindle the age-old nostalgia for the northern dominance of political power. Even though I consider cries of the extreme northern dominance of the President’s team as superfluous and irrelevant, I still do not think that the cries should be obstinately ignored. This is now even termed ‘nepotism’ in some quarters. Here, President Buhari should have learnt a lot from the color-blindness of Olusegun Obasanjo in the tribal ordering of things. So far, President Buhari has stuck strictly, to the constitutional requirements of the Federal Character and is doing the rest in line with tribal dictates. Even though I have no problem with this at all since those northerners are Nigerians, many others would have followed my line of reasoning if performance by such people was unblemished and corruption was not involved.
In the fight against corruption, many steps have been taken. Yet, the real big bang is waiting to be seen. Aside the half-hearted incursion into the Judiciary, no intimidating, deterrent or exemplary case or cases has/have been recorded. No doubt, a lot of quiet diplomacy may have led to the recovery of stolen funds. Yet, it is, unfortunately, not the essence of fighting corruption. Fighting corruption, the Ribadu-style is the language that Nigerians understand best no matter how much minority deviants will preach one element or the other, of the rule of law. It must not be one-sided. But it must be spectacular to provide a semblance, at least, that no one is above the law. Disgrace the culprits openly and they are well known everywhere. Prominent prosecutions cannot be done for Nigeria only in England while James Ibori comes back to town to become a kingmaker and not warned sternly to take a back seat for being a discredited role-model. Again, Buhari failed to embrace this crucial lesson from the Obasanjo days and it boils back to the question, who the silent “seed-sowers” may be behind the scene. Even though this assumption of “seed-sowers” may be wrong completely, the fact alone that the President’s approach and attitude have encouraged this insinuation is serious enough as quality lapses and omission.
The reason that President Buhari still remains silent on the serious issue of the Fulani herdsmen and the troubles surrounding their activities is puzzling indeed and may have been the last straw for many observers. Thank goodness, the debate in public space has now served to provide information also, on the herdsmen’s own side of the story that the public had hitherto, known little about. The President has nonetheless continued to do what he does best, namely remaining silent. If the President had applied this obstinacy of silence to the open fighting of corruption and step on powerful toes stubbornly, no matter whose ox is gored, his solid public base would have forever remained reassured and prove battle-ready.
The Obasanjo Conundrum
Now, like every other observer, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is no doubt, also troubled by multiple developments, most of which the public may not even be aware of. I have, therefore, had reasons to be troubled by the reaction of a few intellectuals, to the recent open letter of the former President admonishing the incumbent on his performance and possible future ambitions. From my intellectual friends, I always expect more constructive caution. Social media road-boys for whom the forums represent an outlet for a limited scope of self-realization will always do what they do best, namely abuse and vilify the former President. That will not come as a surprise. The intellectuals, however, always owe a duty to separate the wheat from the chaff.
From my information so far, I have reasons to believe that the problems of the Fulani herdsmen that have been allowed to persist for so long, may have played a crucial role in the timing of President Obasanjo’s letter to the incumbent President. President Buhari’s inordinate and obstinate silence on the issue has not helped matters any bit.
While I feel very uncomfortable with President Obasanjo’s accusation of the incumbent President’s dismal performance on the economic front because I know the challenges that the Buhari administration has had to confront and the steps it has taken to solve the basic problems, without which progress can never be made, I am, nonetheless, very cautious because I do not know what President Obasanjo knows that is beyond my reach. Since I have the very rare privilege of direct interaction with the former President, I will hold my breath until I meet him personally for a very frank exchange that he always permits and learn my lessons from him in the usual fashion.
So far, Nigerians are aware of a marauding cabal in the President’s inner circle and the charges of corruption associated with them. Who knows the extent and depth of this malaise and how strongly they are impacting the President’s performance? Does former President Obasanjo know more? Does anyone know why President Buhari is not overhauling the engine of his government in spite of the loud outcry also from his own wife? Would former President Obasanjo lose confidence in the system completely and call for a coalition of well-meaning individuals without a serious cause? What simplistic self-actualization would the former President need at this point in his life that he has never had?
Till the present moment, the public has no clue, what President Buhari’s health challenges were or are. He is an old man that is not growing younger. His health dossier was never made public and Nigerians do not know the nature of the President’s health challenges. Who knows the extent and depth of these challenges and their possible impediment on the President’s capabilities?
President Obasanjo’s submission is impatiently predicated on “early recovery and substantial growth” in the economy. Would he say this unless he knows of a serious restraining condition on the President’s part?
While I also feel very uncomfortable that President Obasanjo is presently gaining applause from the wrong side of the fence, which he himself will not cherish, I fully understand that the Obasanjo conundrum will remain unresolved in the precarious Presidency of Muhammadu Buhari, until the questions asked above are genuinely answered. For now, helpless separatists and irrational haters of the person Buhari, may seek comfort in the submissions of the former President as much they will, the fact will ever remain that President Obasanjo is principally driven by nothing less than patriotic, nation-building and never separatist or hate-based sentiments and precisely this makes the strictly fact-based reaction of President Buhari’s team and the APC a constructive move to make.
Frisky Larr is the author of “Lost in Democracy” (amongst others) advancing possible indigenous alternatives to democracy as a political system in Africa.
SOUTH WEST VERDICT ON BUHARI THE TRIBALIST
I didn’t know you are this politically savvy. I just read your submission that sounded more like a statement issued by Ologbodiyan, the Publicity Secretary of PDP full of inaccuracies and more of wishful thinking than a dispassionate analysis. Your post arrogates to Atiku structures he doesn’t possess. Titi is his first wife but has never been able to deliver Ijesha not to talk of Osun state to him in any of the elections he has been involved in. Buhari has always beaten him in Adamawa his home state in all the elections they both have been involved with. Go and check your data. Who is the power broker in the north that can beat the cult followership Buhari enjoys there?
Except for Saraki in Kwara, Atiku has no advantage anywhere else in the northcentral and I can assure you, this time, Saraki will be given a run for his money. Mark it Bukola will struggle to return to the National Assembly. I concede the entire southeast to Atiku and that is being magnanimous. However APGA might embarrass him there. The entire south south is free for all but the game changer is an Akpabio. Nobody can take Edo from Buhari, Delta is an open fight. Wike must keep an eye open when sleeping otherwise he is a goner; ditto Akwa Ibom and perhaps Cross River too.
There is absolutely nothing for Atiku in the southwest. Forget about Afenifere. Baba Adebanjo cannot deliver his Iperu or something like that to Atiku. They are just grandstanding. They took Jonathan’s money in 2015 yet the poor guy was thoroughly embarrassed in the southwest. The only vulnerable state here is Ondo and there is nobody of substance to deliver Ondo to them.
Yes,Buhari is nepotic, tribalistic, who is not? Jonathan’s DSS- Ekpeyong from the south south, his chief of Army Staff – Ihejirika from the southeast and General Minima from the south south. The entire Financial architecture were Ibos from the Finance Minister to the CBN Governor, to AMCON MD to the Sovereign Wealth MD. Mention it, they were either from the southeast or South South. The only position of substance the southwest got under Jonathan was the Minister of Agriculture, all other Yoruba people were either town criers like Doyin Okupe or Shola Omole.
Don’t be deceived, Atiku will not do any better. Buhari’s government is the best the southwest has ever got in the history of the Federal government of Nigeria. Shine your eyes, Atiku’s government will only turn Yoruba people to Tea boys and Messangers in Abuja. Wike has already shown us in clear terms what to expect when he said we don’t deserve the position of the chairman of the party.
Yes, the economy is still limping, the fact is, only a miracle worker can turn the Nigerian economy which was destroyed over 16 years around in 3 years. No democratic government has the nerve to take the kind of decisions that can turn the economy around in 8 years. But we can arrest the hemorrhaging of the National treasury by these looters.
Other than working in custom where has Atiku worked that he made the difference and we all know what goes on in Custom even with a man of integrity as the CG, we all know how the Custom service is. His other experience is in Aso Rock as VP where he and his Oga in 8 years couldn’t add a megawatt of electricity to the National grid, ran all the refineries aground that today Nigeria is importing 90% of its fuel consumption. Even ordinary Lagos – Ibadan Express road they could not reconstruct in 8 years.
Rather than adding value to that government Atiku was busy amassing wealth in the most despicable way that his Oga has no kind words for him. This is apart from undermining the same government he was the second in hierarchy. A perfidious character. No wonder, his Oga gave him a Testimonial that cannot be presented anywhere in the world.
Yes, age is not on his side, he is not technologically savvy and ancient in his ideas, however, within a year of assuming power Buhari completed the Kaduna – Abuja rail line. He had the choice of abandoning this project to start a new one like Ambode did in Lagos, he is completing a brand new Lagos-Ibadan Standard gauge railway in just about one year period. He is building the biggest Deep Seaport in Africa in Lekki, a 3050 Megawatt Mambilla Power station in Taraba which has been on the drawing board for over 50years is under construction, the second Niger Bridge that his predecessors have been budgeting for year in year out in the last 16years with no bridge in sight and budgeted money disappeared is advancing under his administration. The biggest Refinery in Africa will come on stream in Lekki in about 18 months and at least 6 Modular Refineries are under construction with 2 operational now. Another one will be operational before the end of the year. All these in less than 4years. Haba e e beru Olorun. Give credit where it is deserved.
I am surprised that even people who otherwise are very intelligent allow these scoundrels to scam them for the umpteenth time. Atiku has nothing to offer this country. He is only coming for another heist and a fulfillment of a personal life ambition which is at variance to the people’s interest.
If in less than 10 years Nigeria has lost over N10 trillion to corruption you will agree with me that Nigeria’s Public Enemy number one is corruption. Atiku is the “wrongest” person to fight this war, rather he will only compound our misery. Buhari is not a Saint and he is everything but not avaricious. Of all the contestants with the best chance of winning the election, Buhari is the most disposed to fighting corruption.
All the PDP aspirants including Atiku are just another A’love of our youth in Ondo, out to scam the poor folks of the little they have.
© Coalition of a better Nigeria from the South-West.
Pendulum: Can Atiku Abubakar Defeat Muhammadu Buhari in 2019? By Dele Momodu
By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, interesting times are here again. And the ways of God are mysterious indeed. This time last week, no one was sure who would ultimately emerge as the quintessential leader of opposition for the general elections in our dear beloved country which comes up in February next year. There were about 12 assorted gladiators lined up and seeking the Presidential ticket of PDP, which truly needs to redeem itself urgently from the vestiges of near death. For the most part, its national convention in Port Harcourt went smoothly.
Even its worst critics attest to the fact that it was effectively well organised and set the right tone for the regeneration of the democratic credentials of the Party. What was more remarkable, a candidate emerged without rancour or the usual bickering that attends such highly contentious contests. Virtually all the other aspirants immediately aligned with their chosen candidate, former Vice President of Nigeria, the Wazirin Adamawa, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Since then, both traditional and social media have ignited with blazing fire with both positive and negative comments about the outcome. Atiku himself wasted no time in seeking the support of everyone, whether members of his Party or not. He’s smart and knowledgeable to know that he will need more than votes of the Party faithful alone to win the stiff electoral battle ahead.
As he emphasised in my two previous interviews with him in the last couple of months, he has redeemed his pledge to pick a Vice Presidential candidate from the South East of Nigeria, a move many Nigerians have applauded, and embraced, as a masterstroke. The choice of former Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State is seen by some analysts as the first step towards the restructuring Atiku and company have been mouthing from the rooftops in recent times. Apart from this, Peter Obi is seen by many as a seasoned technocrat and astute businessman with credible and capable government experience and service. The Igbos have rightly complained that they have had neither the Presidential or Vice-Presidential slot since 1983, some 35 years ago, when Dr Alex Ekwueme, of blessed memory, was President Shehu Shagari’s deputy. Buhari has an equally formidable person, who also boasts intimidating credentials and capabilities, as his Vice-President in Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Obi comes with an array of impressive academic, business and political credentials and achievements. He is a Philosophy graduate from the University of Nsukka. He has improved and enhanced himself with academic and practical studies at Harvard Business School, London School of Economics, Kellogg School of Management, University of Columbia, Said Business School, Oxford University, George Business School, Cambridge University and Lagos Business School. These have sharpened his entrepreneurial, management and leadership skills which he clearly utilised in the 8 years that he was Governor of Anambra State between 2006 and 2014.
Peter Obi is a recipient of many national and international awards notably the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation Award for which his State won US$1 million for its immunisation programme. He created an enabling environment for industrial development in Anambra State which saw the likes of SABMiller, the 2nd largest brewery in the world establishing their first Greenfield facility in Anambra State. Similarly, Innoson Motors established their internationally acclaimed plant where they manufacture their made in Nigeria vehicles. Obi adds unquantifiable value to the Atiku candidacy in much the same way as Vice President Osinbajo has done for President Buhari. The battle of the Vice-Presidential candidates may well be the tipping point of these forthcoming elections. We will revisit the contest between this highly esteemed and acclaimed gentlemen soon.
The battle for the control of Nigeria’s jugular in 2019 is all set and looks like a straight fight between Buhari/Osinbajo and Abubakar/Obi, except a miracle, or some magic, erupts and one of the fringe candidates pulls a monumental surprise by defeating both teams in what must be close to a volcanic eruption in Nigeria. I personally do not see that happening.
The battle will be tough because old rivalries will also come into play. Buhari needs to prove and revalidate his seeming invincibility which seems to be waning if my reading of the pulse of public opinion is accurate. As the incumbent, Buhari controls the appurtenances of power. His ego is at stake. Like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Buhari came back to power as a retired army General and former military Head of State. Obasanjo was able to complete two terms and Buhari would definitely wish to equal that feat even if he can’t surpass it because of constitutional limitations. Buhari is not known to be a self-acclaimed democrat. The aspect of his brand that has brought him this far is his no-nonsense posturing. A man who would destroy and obliterate all looters and oppressors, by any means possible, if allowed to have his way. This has endeared him to a multitude of totally loyal die-hard supporters. His disciples swear by his name and they are willing to fly to heaven and back to prove their ardent fervour and love for him.
Buhari comes into the boxing ring with a daunting personality and attributes. He is tall and gangling, even if seemingly frail, but his punches are capable of deadly effect. Unlike Obasanjo or Atiku, many have said this President is not going to bow to any public opinion and go away without a whimper. Fingers are being pointed at the recent over-militarisation of the democratic process and suspected manipulation of the electoral body, INEC. Whether imaginary or not, or imagination just running riot, no one can easily dismiss certain unseemly electoral practices and possibilities in next year’s elections. We hope that the desperation to remain in power will not go as far as besmirching the view of how far our democracy has been deepened by the fact of President Goodluck Jonathan, accepting the will of the people, and handing over power to President Buhari without any fuss.
The Buhari government won’t accept the tag of incompetence many have affixed to it. They have already compiled a long list of their projects and accomplishments. They have argued that government is a continuum and they are fixing incomplete projects abandoned by its predecessors. Good point. They are correcting the rot of nearly two decades. While they may appear slow, and sluggish, to those of us on the outside, they are insisting they have had to be methodical and painstaking in their work. Perhaps, they are right, we are not sure.
FromAtiku’s side, he comes with an effervescent, ever smiling easy going demeanour and personality. He is renowned for his great flexibility and negotiation skills, a shrewd manager of men and women and resources. However, when required he is known to possess a steely resolve necessary to head a country like Nigeria. Atiku comes with a controversial and colourful past though, not least because of the unrelenting assault and pummelling about his character that he had been subjected to by his former boss, President Olusegun Obasanjo. This is veritable easy meat and fodder for APC to deploy in rubbishing his candidacy and demonstrating his unfitness to be President of this great nation.
We should expect Atiku and his campaign team to go all out on the offensive and try to debunk all the criticisms, arguments and jibes that APC will propel at him. The harsh disparaging and denigrating diatribe as well as the strident blame game the Buhari government has perfected will have to be met head on by Atiku and his forces. It will not be easy as so much damage has been done to Atiku in the past by the perception of him as an unreliable corrupt politician. On his part Atiku can point to the fact that notwithstanding all the many allegations made against him, nobody has yet been made to make any stick. He has consistently maintained his innocence and dared anyone to prove otherwise.
Nobody has called his bluff, if bluff it is! Indeed, he has pointedly referred to the claimed American albatross hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, that it is but a mere figment of imagination of his inept traducers. As Atiku says, he has never been charged or indicted for any offence either in Nigeria or elsewhere. the American Government has never declared him wanted. He has applied for an American visa on a few occasions, but this has not been granted. If indeed he was wanted in America, surely his visa would have been granted to enable him visit and be arrested. The American Government has never denied either of these claims. On the contrary, that Government has also stated that Atiku is not wanted. In my view, that should put an end to the matter.
The Buhari Presidency is not without its shortcomings and negatives. I expect the Atiku campaign to focus heavily on those areas where the Nigerian public have been most critical of the Buhari administration. They will undoubtedly point at the precarious economic condition of Nigerians and Nigeria and blame Buhari for creating panic in the system. On this aspect, Buhari obviously relies on the fact that oil prices dipped violently when he assumed power, but nonetheless his Government has grown foreign reserves to US$44 million and maintained the Naira at a steady level in the past year. Critics of this position point to the fact that oil prices have now increased to a level not contemplated by the Government, which has increased borrowing to an unprecedented level and appears to have heavily mortgaged Nigeria to the Chinese through the exceptionally and dangerously ominous high level of borrowing from that country.
The Government has also revived and revitalised transportation through its resuscitation of the road and rail networks. The opposition PDP has always claimed that Government is a continuum, and it was PDP that conceived, started and almost completed these projects, none of which this administration could claim to have commenced itself. Atiku and his team will also enjoy castigating the Buhari government as being overly dependent on taxing business and ordinary Nigerians to death. Atiku will also naturally present, and sell, himself as a successful businessman and try to portray Buhari as a novice who lacks business acumen and therefore is not business friendly. Atiku will contend that Buhari has never had a head, or acumen, for business which accounts for why Nigeria is on the verge of an economic precipice even as the dark shadows that loomed globally at the beginning of his tenure have lifted considerably and there should have been prosperity in the land. Atiku says he has a well-structured economic blueprint, whilst the government is presently adopting and applying a slapdash and inimical approach to the economy.
Furthermore, the Atiku camp will exploit the heightened insecurity in the country especially by the infamous herdsmen which the government appears to be treating glibly. They will also point to the apparent resurgence of the Boko Haram insurgency despite what the Buhari administration will claim are the valiant efforts of our security forces. The agitation by IPOB and its followers continues relentlessly. The manner in which the Government has handled the situation is something that the opposition Party is expected to capitalise upon.
WhileBuhari would tout his anti-corruption pedigree, Atiku would lampoon it as nothing but grandstanding and at the very best a witch-hunt of the opposition Party. Atiku will contend that most of those who have defected to the ruling Party have had grave allegations of corruption levelled against them in the past, but these have mysteriously disappeared as soon as they jumped shipped and landed with the ruling Party. In addition, I can foresee the opposition claiming that almost all of the so-called achievements of the Buhari Government in relation to corruption originated from the Jonathan administration and that within the highest level of government corruption is rife and thriving and being studiously overlooked by the President because they concern his friends and cronies. The ding-dong claims and counter-claims will dovetail into other areas and continue unabated until well after the general elections.
The most critical area would be how to get the numbers together to win. Buhari will come in with anything between 10 million to 12 million guaranteed votes, as always. Most of those votes would come from North West and North East. For whatever reason, I believe that more people will be stated to have voted in this election than in 2015. In my estimation the victor will need to garner at least 18 million votes for success. What is not certain is if North East would abandon its own son now that it has the brightest chance since Tafawa Balewa from Bauchi became Prime Minister in the First republic. PDP will play its traditional joker from the South East and South South axis. Buhari and Atiku require humongous votes from about four out of six regions. Buhari would target North East, North West, North Central and South West while Atiku will target North East (as his home base), North Central (as an endangered zone supposedly mismanaged by the APC Government), South East, South South and enough of a chunk from South West. Let no one rule Atiku out of those five zones, in the present mood across the country. If Atiku gallops away, continuously, as it seems at the moment, he might obliterate Buhari in a devastating defeat.
As tough as it may seem, after running for a record 25 years, perhaps this may be Atiku’s date with destiny and his final battle.
ATIKU VS BUHARI: THE BATTLE TO RECLAIM NIGERIA HAS BEGUN
By: Mike Ozekhome San
For over three weeks, Nigerians waited with bated breath (Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice”), suspended animation and cryogenics, as to who would be the presidential candidate of the PDP. The APC’s presidential candidate, sitting president, Muhammadu Buhari, had been known for over six months.
I had predicated long ago, even before he indicated interest, that no one in the APC would dare contest against him. It was simply inconceivable that mere mortals would dare contest against their sacred deity, nay, their “sinless” and “stainless” god, at whose altar they worship and offer sacrifices, atonement and oblation. His cult-like followership conceives him as the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of Nigeria. they argue that he is imbued with a redemptive messianism. Buhari’s party, the APC as presently constituted, is a fierce, ruthless amalgam of strange bed fellows, ensconced in a cabalistic coven that broods no opposition, dissent, or plurality of opinions. Any perceived disagreement by a member is treated as high treason against the bacchanalian gods and patriarchs of the party that must be ruthlessly squashed and vanquished.
TURNING AMBODE TO NOBODY
When Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State took the unusual detour of challenging his godfather and benefactor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it was simply the hubris and swagger of a man stupidly wrestling with his personal Chi. I knew what the outcome would be, and I said so loudly. I knew that the Jagaban would reduce Ambode from “somebody” to “nobody”. Tinubu had been bitten twice; in Ondo (Akeredolu’s emergence against his will and his preference for Olusegun Abraham); and in Lagos (Fashola’s three-ministeries-in-one cache, just to humiliate him). He knew that no tested General loads the gun, cocks and lowers it without shooting, just because of genuflections and pleas by interested parties. Such a general would have displayed his archiles heel, and his opponents would pierce it with éclat and flourish.
So, Tinubu detonated the “Ogbunigwe” bomb against Ambode. In an election in which Ambode stood no chance at all (never mind his later “gra-gra”, swash buckling, and chivalrous grandstanding). Notwithstanding his name calling of Jide Sanwo-Olu as a fake dollar fraudster and psychiatric patient who went through rehabilitation), little known Sanwo-Olu scored 970,851 humongous votes to silence Ambode’s miserly 72,901.
The very APC NWC panel which had been sent from Abuja to supervise the election, cried blue murder. Former Cross River state Governor, Clement Ebri (a gentleman per excellence), who headed the castrated panel, sulked and literally wept. He cried foul, arguing that the very ballot papers and membership slips which were to be used for the election had not even been distributed. But, the APC Lagos state chairman, Tunde Balogun, demurred.
He urged Lagosians to go and vote with only APC membership ID Cards, a step Ambode had kicked against, as he argued it would disenfranchise his teeming supporters. In politics, anything goes. Fair is foul and foul is fair (witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth), Act 1, scene 1). Ebri had nonetheless gone ahead and invalidated the primaries, as he posited the NWC never authorised the exercise. He said it violated laid down modalities, including the turning in of the list of officials that would supervise the election.
What gentleman Ebri did not reckon with was that the fight was well beyond him. It was dirty “roforofo” fight for the soul, heart, pulse and more importantly, purse, of Lagos state, the richest state in Nigeria; a state whose monthly IGR alone is enough to cater for the entire annual budget of some other states. It was a fight for power, influence, and more significantly, relevance in 2019. So, Ebri was crippled enough to eat his words, bite the humble pie, and later cajoled to personally declare Sanwo-Olu the winner of the controversial election.
The APC leadership had made it clear to him he was sent to Lagos to merely “supervise” and not to “organize” the governorship elections. Such is Nigerian politics, sorry politricks. Such is the intoxicating effect of power, a stimulant and aphrodisiac (Henry Kissinger). With power, you can access cheep money, fame, wealth and more power.
X – RAYING THE APC AND PDP PRIMARIES
Rewind to Atiku and Buhari. Let’s first inquire into the mode of emergence of Buhari and Atiku as presidential candidates of the APC and PDP, respectfully. The former’s primaries was vulgar, outrageous, ugly. It insulted the sensibilities and self-esteem of Nigerians. Buhari, the sole candidate, against whom no serious person dared contest, allegedly polled 14.8M votes to emerge the candidate.
Even Aisha, his wife, has since pooh-poohed the APC primaries, describing them in very strong words as “unfair and lacking in integrity”.
Asiha, who is 2016, had cried out about a powerful cabal holding her husband hostage, and in 2017, described the abysmal lack of health facilities in the Aso Villa Clinic, wondered how “such impunity could take place under his (APC chairman’s) watch”. She immediately dissociated herself from “such unfairness, be neutral and speak for the voiceless”. Aisha should know better, even if PMB merely regards her as the woman “in za oza (in the other) room”.
This is not all. A coalition of five other APC presidential Aspirants have also decried Buhari’s victory. Nigerians have been gasping for breath to decipher how Buhari could have singly-handedly harvested a bumper 14,842,072 votes at an only APC primaries, which was merely affirmed by only 7000 delegates at Eagle square, Abuja. Nigerians are wondering how Buhari polled a colossal 2,931,235 votes from only 484 wards of the 44 LGAs of Kano State alone. Governor Ganduje of Kano state had told a bewildered nation that Kano state which had posted only 1.9 million votes for Buhari just barely 3 years ago), now, suddenly has 3,720,000 registered voters, out of which Buhari alone garnered a galactic 2,931,235 votes in an uncontested primary! Nigerians wonder how one million voters could have emerged suddenly in only three years. Nigerians are scratching their heads because in 2015, the entire votes Buhari scored in the nationwide election were 15,424,921 (53.95%). And 3 years later, he is getting from only his party, humongous votes which are a mere 582,849 less than his 2015 national haul? Many Nigerians are contending that the rigging of 2019 election has actually commenced and is being fast-tracked.
Let us now go to the main bowl of the Adokie Amiesimaka stadium, Port Harcourt. At a keenly contested election, whose transparency, integrity, freeness and fairness have been widely applauded, even by PDP critics, Atiku garnered 1,532 votes to dust his challengers – Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state (693); Senate President, Bukola Saraki (317); former Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwakwanso (158); former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido (96).
The former Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, Kabiru Turaki, SAN, polled 65 votes, Ahmed Makarfi, former caretaker of PDP (74 votes); former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Bafarawa (48 votes), former Senate President, David Mark (35 votes); former Plateau state Governor, Jonah Jang (19 votes); and Dr Datti Ahmed (5 votes). The primaries were intense, engaging, and had all the trappings of a major election.
All aspirants had criss-crossed the length and breadth of Nigeria, pleading for votes. It is generally believed that the winner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, Waziri Adamawa, is the best candidate to challenge Buhari’s three years of lack luster performance, unfulfilled promises, economic stagnation, good will mismanagement, enthronement of more insecurity and fear (Boko Harm and the daily orgy by Herdsmen across Nigeria); and the geometrical escalation of corruption (2nd most corrupt country in West Africa and 148th least corrupt country in the world, courtesy 2017 Transparency International corruption perception Index).
Nigerians thus yearn for a candidate that would boldly and courageously interrogate Buhari’s opague credentials, as to why, under his very watch, Nigeria has overtaken India as the world’s poverty capital (Brookings Institution report), when in actual fact, he met a Nigeria that was the biggest economy in Africa (over $500billion, rebased economy, having overtaken South Africa).
Today, Nigeria, with a population of barely 200 million people has beaten India, with a staggering population of 1.324 billion people, as a the poverty capital of the world, with the highest number of extremely poor people. The number of poor people increases by six people per minute. Nigerians appear tired of the worn out, sing-song mantra about so called integrity, alleged fight against corruption and a simulated false defeat of still very potent Boko Haram. They have since realised that these are mere propaganda stunts, having heard it over and over again, for over 3 years, like a stuck record. They behold their lives going down the drains of wretchedness, in strangulating and asphyxiating economic quagmire.
The national euphoria about Atiku is not without foundation. In 2015, Nigerians had queued up behind Buhari, expecting a momentous and apocalyptic rebirth, economic resurgimento and earth shaking standard of living, with their welfare and security firmly protected more than ever before. They argued then, upon Buhari’s alleged lack of academic qualification (mere WAEC certificate) being questioned, that they were ready and willing to vote for Buhari, even with an Agege bread paper or NEPA bill.
Such was the national inebriation and political insobriety that when he won the presidential election, a Nigerian trekked all the way from Lagos to Abuja in celebration; while another rode a bicycle from Kaduna to Abuja. But, they have all since been greatly disappointed. Buhari has since displayed unbelievable cluelessness and total lack of capacity to govern and navigate the myriads of problems besetting Nigeria. He has even increased them, leading to mass hopelessness, haplessness, melancholy, dejection, destitution, insecurity, more corruption (now wholly privatized), abject penury and gnashing of teeth.
Never before, since the amalgamation of Northern and Southern protectorates to found the contraption called Nigeria, has there been so much divisiveness, hatred, nepotism, clannishness, ethnocentricism, cronyism, fascism, favouritism and mediocrity in government. It is therefore clear that Nigerians yearn for a change –a genuine change to change the change.
Those who had sworn that the PDP aspirants will come out tearing the umbrella apart, were shocked at the spirit of camaraderie, conviviality and concession of defeat by losers. Atiku strolled in, thrown up by destiny. He would, like Buhari, be having his 4th shot at the Nigerian presidency. But, can he win? Can he defeat Buhari, with the power of incumbency? Yes, Atiku can. And he will. Very easily. Here is why. Next week: How Atiku can beat Buhari.
THOUGHTS FOR THE WEEK
”Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.” (Robin S. Sharma)
“Every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path?’ If you don’t ask those questions, your governance will not be good.” (Pope Francis)
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