Buhari’s Laboured Opposition

Killers of the garden variety in Buhari’s Nigeria chose to rain on his parade a week he and his quarrelsome political party were going through the motions of attempting to reclaim lost ground.
The rampaging phenomenon of killings at will which has taken many parts northern of Nigeria as hostage made a stop in Plateau State, a place that has had deep scars of violence etched into its history.
Communities there resumed gory killings on a scale not seen in the last few years, and those curious enough to ask the reason this time were rewarded with a host of answers rooted in a complex past with triggers in new grievances and provocations.
For the two days that the Convention of the All Progressives’ Congress (APC) was held at the Eagle Square in Abuja, quite possibly hundreds of travelers and villagers were dying at the hands of mobs.
A nation numbed by largescale bloodletting in Zamfara, Benue, Taraba, Kaduna, Borno, Adamawa, Kogi and Nasarawa states merely noted the resumption of hostilities in familiar killing fields of Plateau.
President Buhari visited the state capital a few days after the Convention and told community leaders that he and his security chiefs will do better to protect them.
It is doubtful if any one believed him.
Not one person with responsibility for the failure of security has been sanctioned, in the classic mode of Buhari’s style.
The supreme irony that a president who came to power on the back of popular outrage over the absence of security and run-away corruption under President Jonathan was now presiding over a more insecure nation, paralyzed by the same corruption he has failed to defeat, appears lost to the political opposition.
A periodic whimper from the largest opposition party, the PDP, tepid editorials and loud silence from civil society organizations underline the poverty of the opposition to the nation’s downward spiral into more violence and anarchy.
The prognosis is for more violence, as communities lose faith in the government’s willingness or ability to protect them, and murderous groups and bandits detect increasing weakness on the part of security agencies.
As President Buhari gets set to begin the stressful attempt for another four years as Nigeria’s leader, the opposition lends him additional muscle by its weakness or virtual absence.
Even in the face of near-certainty that it will be defeated by Buhari’s steamroller in 2014, the PDP fought desperately to stop the emergence of a Buhari presidency, by all means fair and foul.
It would now appear that the PDP’s defeat was fatal, because it has proved stubbornly incapable of recovery even when faced with the gift of a president whose record renders him even more vulnerable than Jonathan.
It has a dozen presidential hopefuls, all angling for its ticket, but its name, brand, reputation and prospects offend so many Nigerians outside Buhari’s small band of fanatics that they would rather elect Buhari to run another government managed by a handful of incompetent hands, fueled by excuses.
If it has any thinkers, they must have convinced its leadership of the value doing things the same way, or at least without a vision and a programme that is radically different from Buhari’s limiting plans to heal the nation by simply jailing as many opponents, corrupt and powerful people as he can.
Perhaps the PDP hopes it will receive a major lifeline from that gang of defectors, the nPDP, which crippled it and provided much of the fuel that drove the APC contraption to victory in 2015.
From all appearances, the former compatriots are thinking of making up, but the nPDP itself is paralyzed by indecision, conflicting ambitions of its key members and the daunting challenges of getting the PDP to re-invent itself.
It is caught between the certainty that it has to leave the APC after it has said everything nasty about it, and the nightmare of having too many choices.
It could go with any or a number of political parties salivating at the prospect of its assets, but it could also miscalculate very badly.
There is no time to unmake mistakes.
Then it has to decide who will best serve its interest in elective positions, a challenge that will test the strength of its commitment to start June 2019 without Buhari as president.
The creation of an electoral option to president Buhari will be difficult under the circumstances, but it is not impossible.
That he can weather the challenge of a huge effort to ensure that he is defeated is also a distinct possibility.
There are palpable fears over what will be the fate of the nation after eight years of a Buhari presidency, or even during his second term.
A large segment of the elite fear a vengeful leader with a huge score to settle, and a long list of enemies to jail.
Many other Nigerians are disappointed that their very high expectations have been dashed, their poverty has worsened, and their lives are less secure.
His famed fanatical followers are difficult to measure in actual numbers, but they represent a potent source of threat to those who will end his journey in 2019.
Buhari presidency has polarized the nation dangerously, and the competition to return or replace him will be desperate and damaging to national unity and security.
The future of the nation depends on the ability of the electoral process to decide who will be president in 2019.
President Buhari will have a tough time convincing Nigerian that he will do better than other candidates, but his opposition appears to give him an undeserved advantage by its obtuse ineffectiveness.
Still, in the next few weeks, the nation could see a frenzy of activities to create a platform, possibly a coalition of the desperate, the fearful and the traditional opposition to Buhari that will lay a claim of deserving the next mandate.
To succeed, it will have to produce a candidate that will fight corruption better than Buhari, one that can lead the nation to arrest alarming scale of insecurity, restore vital linkages and trust between communities, and restore hope of the young in Nigeria’s future.
Time is the one vital ingredient it lacks.
With every passing day, it looks like the opposition has conceded a second term for Buhari by default.
If Buhari is re-elected, it will not be because of his sterling record.
It is very likely to be that he has had no opposition capable of making the case that it can take over and run a better nation than him.
Abubakar writes from Abuja

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