Buhari, the opposition and 2019
Beyond the official hectoring about the need for the citizens to be sympathetic towards their sick president, pray for his recovery and not allow themselves to be co-opted on to a malignant campaign of gloating over his predicament is the contempt for the citizens’ expectations of good governance. This disdain is betrayed by President Muhammadu Buhari’s associates’ unvarnished interest in the next election at a time he is hobbled by ill health that has aggravated his inability to effectively deliver his current mandate.
Those who importune the citizens for a pledge of fidelity to this charter of demands do not demonstrate the understanding that they expect of the citizens. Clearly, what they envisage is not the president walking into full recovery, but a single candidacy in 2019 so that they would not lose their privileges of their closeness to power. They talk gleefully about his re-contesting for the presidency in 2019 as though there would not be opposition from any quarter.
Your expectation is misplaced if you think that they would demur at the prospect of their principal losing the election because he has failed to perform in his first term. They do not bother about the ill health of Buhari and the need for him to take good care of his health. Amid this dizzying quest for re-election, we are drawn to the increasing similarity between Buhari’s associates and the wife of Robert Mugabe. Remember, it was Mugabe’s wife who recently declared that the corpse of her 92-year-old husband and president would contest Zimbabwe’s election and win even if he dies before the exercise takes place.
Buhari’s associates are so sure of their principal’s re-election that they just believe that the citizens would suffer a kind of amnesia that would make them lose consciousness of the Hobbesian state to which the Buhari’s tenure has subjected them. They are sure that the citizens would not be concerned with whether the health of the president can make him fit to effectively respond to the challenges of his office.
Indeed, as far as they are concerned, health is not the issue. They just snigger at those who think that the ill health of the president would be a big plus for them. The Buhari’s re-election-obsessed associates are sure that even if Buhari remains in London till 2019 and he does not appear in the public one time to campaign, he would still win the election. Of course, in thinking this way, they are not in conflict with our collective history. For if others have won elections from prison, why should Buhari not win an election from his sickbed? Were we not around when Theodore Orji won an election as governor of Abia State while he was in detention? How about Iyiola Omisore who defeated his opponents in a race for a senatorial seat while he was being detained for alleged complicity in the murder of former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Bola Ige? The Orjis and the Omisores of Nigerian politics would not cease reminding you that they have only followed the path of Kwameh Nkrumah who before them won an election from prison.
It is probably because the members of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) are not unaware of the inevitability of Buhari’s victory in 2019 that they have been decamping in droves to his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Even those who were considered in the light of their previous sterling pedigrees in public office as people of stellar principles who are far removed from political prostitution and who would not whimsically dump their parties have joined the APC. Here, we are reminded of former Senate President Ken Nnamani. Again, the last two weeks witnessed the decamping of former Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu State from APC to PDP. In the same period, former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro who was until recently a fugitive from the law also reportedly joined the APC after returning home to face his charges of corruption.
They are aware that as long as they do not join the APC, they would remain haunted with the charges of corruption. Buhari and his associates have continued to silence anybody who appears to be a threat to his presidential ambition in 2019. This is why Sule Lamido, a former minister and governor, has been arrested and kept in detention. He was alleged to have made inciting statements over the conduct of council election in his state, Jigawa. Yet it was in the same country that Buhari made inciting statements over elections and inflicted on the citizens the apocalyptic prediction of the dog and baboon being soaked in blood if he lost an election and he was not arrested and detained. Musa Kwankwaso who has reportedly declared his presidential ambition is facing harassment from his APC-controlled Kano State government.
Besides, the PDP which is the main opposition party is in disarray. So, even if the leaders of the party were not harassed by the charges of corruption, there is no way they would muster any resistance to the Buhari’s march to single candidacy in 2019.
With the APC’s grand declaration of a lack of vacancy in Aso Rock as long as Buhari is re-contesting, we are being told to cease fantasizing about having a Macron revolution in these climes. We are being told to leave that dream to the French who do not have respect for age and experience and who elected a neophyte as their president.
But we must take cognisance of the fact that the Buhari’s hostility to the opposition could ironically serve as a means of refining the recruitment of presidential candidates that would contest against him. Obviously, those Buhari and his associates can stop from running against him are people with variegated moral handicaps. The challenge for the opposition therefore is to pick somebody whom Buhari and his associates cannot intimidate because he or she is not smeared with financial sleaze and any other form of moral smog. Such a candidate may eventually appeal to the voters and pose a serious challenge to Buhari at the election. But Buhari and his associates must come to terms with the fact that governance is all about the people. They must allow the people to choose who should be their president. They must allow the opposition to flourish. Let there be alternatives for the people to choose from to ensure a robust democracy. In the long run, the people may still choose Buhari despite other presidential candidates if they think he is their best choice.
In that case, it is the will of the people that has prevailed as in his case when the majority of the citizens preferred him to the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. After all, if Jonathan and his PDP had silenced the opposition, Buhari would not have emerged as the president.
As the ruling APC wallows in dismal performance, remorselessly demonstrates crass insensitivity to the plight of the citizens, and still thinks that it is indispensable, it behoves the people to bring politicians to the path of sanity. It is their responsibility to let them know that politics has moved from a fixation on age and ethno-religious ties to ideas that drive development that improve the lot of the people. This they can do by voting for the right people in future elections.