With Buhari’s hat now in the ring

Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has defied them.

On January 23, former President Olusegun Obasanjo reviewed the president’s performance and in a widely circulated letter, advised him, in military parlance, to dismount from the horse.

The Catholic priest, given to political prophecies, Rev Father Mbaka, had much earlier advised the president not to seek re-election. Priests see what ordinary folks do not.

Perhaps, he looked at the horizon of the president’s political future and noticed the absence of a rainbow.

This week, Buhari ended all speculations on his immediate political future. He would be returning to the hustings next year to plead for the people’s support to remain in Aso Rock for another four years beginning from May 29, next year.

I welcome his defiance of Obasanjo and Mbaka. The battle to prove their oracular pronouncements right or wrong is on from this moment. I can find nothing more exciting than that in this land of grey politics of the self.

I do not think anyone seriously expected the president not to seek re-election in 2019.

It is his constitutional right to exercise to the full. Still, I wonder if his decision was entirely his or he succumbed to pressures from his party and the do-gooders.

APC governors and the others who took it upon themselves to earnestly persuade him to seek re-election have their own political agenda and not necessarily because they love the president.

They acted to type in the sickening culture of sycophancy, for which read, the president is our man.

The president, as I once pointed out in this column, did not need anyone or a group of highly or lowly placed persons to persuade him to exercise his God-given constitutional right to remain, on the constitutional consent of the people, in office for another term of four years.

In a political system that promotes ours versus theirs, no president lacks lackeys.

The governor of Kano State, Dr Mohammed Ganduje, exceeded this degree of sycophancy when he threatened last week he would sue the president if he refused to run.

The right of a citizen to judicially compel a siting president to seek re-election does not seem clear to me from what I see of our legal system. But this, never forget that, is Nigeria.

Now that the president has spoken, I should think the coast is now clear for all those who are ready to take him on where it matters – the polling booths where the lowly decide the political fate of the mighty.

I sympathise with the ambitious men in his party who nursed the ambition to succeed him should he decide to return to Daura from May 29 year. They have the challenge of nursing a different ambition.

Chieftains of the main opposition party, PDP, despite its being effectively in disarray at the moment, are happy about Buhari’s declaration.

Their calculation is that he is the one presidential candidate their own presidential candidate would easily beat at the polls next year.

So, let us expect the big masquerade from that party to show up at the market square any time soon. Some excitement would help to dissipate our gloom on the indigestible cases of the brazen looting in a country fighting corruption.

Buhari’s declaration throws an open challenge to Obasanjo’s third force. Coalition for Nigeria, to use the full name of what the media call the third force, was formed expressly by the former president to force the president to dismount from the country’s most coveted steed.

Now that Buhari has defied the founder of the coalition, we expect Obasanjo to take the next necessary step by formally registering the third force as a political party. It would join a growing list of political parties.

But it is only as a political party that his Coalition for Nigeria would have the people’s mandate to chart our new national direction.

SDP is bestirring itself. No one knows for sure as of now if it would emerge from years of its being side lined to make a good showing in the current season of our election circle. We have 68 registered political parties at the moment.

Most of them are, of course, irrelevant. They are as important to our national politics as a village club at Ologba, Kogi State. What is clear is that never before has the field of our national politics been so crowded.

The more the merrier? NO, the more the more confusion.

Buhari is the main target of all the political calculations. Whatever number of presidential candidates we eventually have are in the critical business of making him a one-term president.

Despite being the incumbent president, he is actually more vulnerable than the unknown faces at the moment who would offer themselves as better candidates for Aso Rock.

Buhari’s vulnerability comes from at least three sources. The first is that he would be running on the basis of his record of performance in office. The flag ship of his achievements is the anti-grant war.

None before him showed a greater determination to take on this blight on our integrity and reputation as a country.

Whatever may be the catalogue of his achievements, his opponents, not unnaturally, would take a rather dim view of his record of them.

Indeed, anyone who wants to take him on has dangerous weapons provided by the president himself, through acts of omission and commission or whatever.

Corruption is not growing less; it is growing more. The state of insecurity in the land cannot be manufactured by political opponents.

Nor is there anything political about a divided country in the president’s watch. His aides have an official duty is to make the president look good and electable next year.

I offer gratis three pieces of advice to the president. One, he should have the courage to save himself from his flatterers and the do-gooders.

If he relies on them in the belief that they are right and his critics are both jealous and wrong, he might find the mountain steeper than he had expected.

Two, 2019 would not be 2015. What worked in his favour then would not work now. The ordinary people who gave him their widow’s mite then are complaining of hunger and the difficult times they are passing through.

In 2015, he was the challenger; in 2019 he would be the challenged.

He is a living example that the power of incumbency to save the political fortunes of an incumbent rides on the back of an eel; hence Jonathan out, Buhari in.

Three, whereas in 2015, a coalition of parties defined their common political interests and united under the newly-formed APC, to put holes through the big umbrella, that coalition seems hell bent on pulling in different directions.

It would be dishonest to suggest that APC is a strong, cohesive political party at the moment.

It is possible that a threat to their common interests might force its chieftains to patch up their differences and unite after a fashion to fight the election battle but it would be a unity dictated by expediency and bound to unravel in the short term.

Our country is at a critical bend in its history. We need a paradigm shift in the nature of our politics and politicking. Our politicians must pull our politics out of the morass of its limited function as a means of winning or capturing power.

Winning elections for the sake of winning is not the primary purpose of politics.

Politics is serious business. It determines national focus and direction. It drives national development.

Everything rides on the back of politics. There can be no national development absent opportunities that make the realisation of personal dreams and aspirations possible.

Buhari, while fighting for his own political survival, must have the courage of a patriot to make or start the process of making that paradigm shift possible.

We must rid our country of the politics of poverty. Money politics, in which power goes to the highest bidder, is the bane of our national development. We need politics of focus and hope infused with intellectualism.

So, the president may wish to take a careful look at the characters his party imposed on the people as state governors in 2015.

They too are the president’s men. Their ill-digested sense of public service rubs on the president’s watch.

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