Akinola: Odds in favour of Buhari
“THE one picture you would hate to see in your dreams is that of the very opponent of the team you are supporting, clutching a massive trophy and jubilating all over the place! Not just once had one experienced a “nightmarish” dream of this nature and not just once had “Joseph the Octopus” proved to be revealing exactly what was about to happen.
Of course, it should not be interpreted as if one does not want Major-General Muhammadu Buhari to be the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but what the hell was he doing in my dream smiling so broadly as he acknowledged shouts of “congratulations” from a horde of adoring supporters? The man can hardly manage a smile in real life and neither is he the candidate one would ordinarily be rooting for. However, a warning would seem to have come from the unknown: “do not bet your house against General Muhammadu Buhari becoming [the next] president unless you are equally prepared to be homeless!””
The above extracts are from an article I wrote in the run-up to the 2011 presidential elections, having dreamt that General Muhammadu Buhari won the election. Of course, he did not; but, who knows, it could have been a distant event that one had foreseen!
In trying to rationalise the circumstances that could have made it a dream-come-true for Buhari, I examined the controversy that surrounded the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan over the zoning philosophy of his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). That controversy, more or less, pitched the northern leadership against him. I also examined the possibility that the then so-called progressive parties might actually co-operate among themselves in order to counterbalance the influence and power of the PDP. An attempt made in that direction did not succeed.
Quite a lot has changed since 2011 and the aforementioned factors, more than ever before, will have implications for the direction of the presidency come February 14.
Firstly, the once splinter progressive parties have coalesced into the All Progressives Congress (APC), thanks to the centralising influence of the institution of the presidency. The February presidential election will be fought in what is a two-party competition between the PDP and APC. Buhari could be the beneficiary of this new development, as he now competes for the presidency under the platform of a political party which, unlike his defunct Congress for Political Change (CPC), enjoys nationwide support.
Secondly, the February elections will reveal the extent to which the intra-party crisis in the PDP – a crisis which led to the defection of five of its governors to the rival APC – has resulted in the loss or gain of popular support in the various constituencies. I have attempted to explain the causes of the crisis in the PDP by three factors: “1. A frosty relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Rotimi Amaehi of Rivers State; 2. An allegation of arbitrariness on the part of the immediate past PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur; and 3. The perceived ambition of President Jonathan to seek re-election in 2015 in contradiction of a supposed agreement that he would not be doing so.” (see my book, Party Coalitions in Nigeria (2014), pp. 129-130).
Cleavage, be it of ethnicity or religion, is the worst of political problems. You hardly can resolve the problem of cleavage by preaching to people to forget about those things they hold very dear to their hearts. There are not a few in the North who feel the South had dominated the presidency for the greater part of the current Republic; they will grab the opportunity provided by the candidacy of Muhammadu Buhari in ensuring that the pendulum of political power swings back to their region.
Finally, Buhari faces an incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, who may be having problems with economic and security issues. Allegations of escalating official corruption and Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East may have overshadowed the modest achievements of Goodluck Jonathan. Of course, diverse sentiments will compete and contend in the 2015 elections, but there are not a few who would want to reward or punish him on their perception of his stewardship during the past four years. Buhari, himself a former leader, has his own “baggages” but he enjoys the perception of being one disciplined individual who passionately resents corruption. Corruption has been that most deadly virus afflicting the Nigerian state.
There is hardly any doubt that the days ahead will be quite interesting. What we must continue to do is educate our peoples about the entails of democracy as a game where the minority must have its say while the majority has its way. Why, for instance, would you want to throw the nation into chaos just because someone has lost an election, even when another member of your ethnic or religious constituency could be a beneficiary in the near future? Why would you want the stigma of “intolerant democrats” stamped permanently on you and your people? Our nation must unite behind whoever wins the February presidential election . Hopefully, it will be free and fair.
• Dr. Akinola wrote from Oxford, UK.