Now that it’s Buhari…

Last week, Thursday, December 11, 2014, the All Progressives Congress (APC) in her primaries elected Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) as her presidential candidate. In my piece of last week, I did look at the five aspirants and what they had to offer including the grey areas in their candidacy. I would like to quote what I said of a Buhari candidacy: “The problem with Buhari, however, is that his political aspirations evoke very strong and polar emotions for various reasons he himself may have nothing to do with. He can actually beat the PDP and they are wary of that possibility and so they are ready to throw everything into the contest. Therefore, if he wins the APC primaries, we have to brace ourselves up for turbulent and acrimonious elections.”

For a Buhari, under APC, to be able to win in 2015, some serious acts of balancing have to be done. The label of a religious bigot has to be properly addressed, no matter how anyone wants to think that it doesn’t matter, because it matters. If feelers were anything to go by, that was a major factor that delayed the announcement of his running mate until yesterday afternoon when Prof Yomi Osinbajo was selected. But even that presents a problem because it was out in town that Bola Tinubu wanted it and now that he didn’t get it, the hope is that he will be a true party-man to the ticket in the south-west, because he matters, if not, doom awaits it. However, surely, religion matters in these things today in Nigeria and a Muslim-Muslim or a Christian-Christian ticket would pose a problem.

Another major factor is how the Northern Muslims will conduct themselves towards the coming election. If they see and flaunt Buhari’s candidacy as a northern or Muslim thing, then they surely will court the disaffection of others and that will be a kiss of death for that ticket. This is the time that every Nigerian must see himself and all other Nigerians as Nigerians and human beings enough. The APC, and Buhari himself, wants to work on this point sorely.

But surely, this Buhari candidacy is bound to bring with it some reasonable level of positive or negative excitement, depending on where one stands. The very fact that APC is a party that has also come to have a good spread across the country combined with Buhari’s own charisma is a potent reason enough to cause the ruling party to shudder. I stated last week thus: “Gen Muhammadu Buhari brings with him a cult followership amongst the common people, especially in the north, as none other. But beyond that is the fact that his credential of personal integrity and discipline is unimpeachable. He is a person that, as president, should be able to inspire some level of fiscal responsibility and discipline especially within the civil service, which is the engine room of development in any state. Under him, many believe, corruption will shirk by itself and begin to give this country some breathing space. Internationally, many presume him to be able to attract the kind of respect that this nation deserves as he will not go cap in hand looking for validation from some other nation or leader. He should also be able to look in the eyes of these big countries and make only decisions that are in the best interest of Nigeria.”
One of the reasons for positive excitement is the need for a possible change in the leadership of the nation. Since 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been on the saddle of power in Nigeria and it is clear that it has squandered many fantastic opportunities to move this country forward. The disaffections across different lines are palpable. It appears the PDP has lost creativity as to what to do with the country, even though it has boasted that it is going to rule for sixty years non-stop. But with such kind of lethargy in political will and innovation, change is welcome.

The great thing about such party change in power is that it inspires competition by it very disposition. A very simple example is Kano State. Rabiu Kwankwaso was governor between 1999 and 2003; his performance then cannot be said to have been fantastic. In 2011 he came back to take over from his political archrival, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who had beaten him in 2003. This time around, he was determined to out-perform his rival and even his own previous performance. The result is there for all to see; Kano state is a different place.

This is not an argument against a PDP or in support of some opposition in the mould of an APC. It is an argument for the incentive needed for political parties to wake up, knowing that the electorate can vote them out at anytime they perceive them as under-performing. The PDP’s boast of ruling endlessly and without matching it up with good performance is, at best, rude and haughty. If they lose power in 2015, even if for only four years, and they manage to come back in 2019, they will surely have learnt to take people’s mandate more seriously.

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