by Immanuel James
Watching the endless barter of skirmishes on the social media between President Jonathan’s supporters, and those of General Mohammadu Buhari, one easily reaches the conclusion that many Jonathanians don’t know what is good for them. Rather than celebrate that in General Buhari, their principal has an easy access to electoral victory in the 2015 presidential election, most Jonathanians are wasting their time arguing, highlighting General Buhari’s weaknesses. Do they rather want the APC to suddenly realise the Buhari albatross and push for a Fashola candidacy, which would be President Jonathan’s electoral nemesis?
I have this abiding suspicion that a Buhari candidacy is likely to be the APC’s deliberate, preemptive, congratulatory gift on another Jonathanian win. Or perhaps General Buhari has come to thwart the party’s chance at winning the presidency, that being his own way of wishing President Jonathan, good luck? While it may seem too early to assume that the General will be the party’s standard-bearer in the election, indications are strong to the effect that he will get the ticket.
There is no better way to explain the APC’s likely repetition of the Buhari card other than the suspicion of deliberate self-destruct. When an astute politician loses an election, he goes back to the drawing board: he re-examines all the factors that guaranteed his loss and, if interested in another shot, he initiates programmes in time, aimed at changing those factors to his favour.
For General Buhari, all the factors that cost him particularly the last presidential election, are still there. Nothing has changed – no, things
have changed for him, but for the worse: as usual, part of his Northern support base will be encroached upon by the PDP’s use of a Northern Vice-Presidential candidate, even also by President Jonathan’s penetration of the Northern electorate through a few endearing policies. In the South, Buhari has done nothing serious to endear himself to voters there, so it is likely going to be another Jonathanian landslide in that zone. And considering that the APC has failed to gain a sure footing in the South-East; given also that the party’s clout in the South-West is wearing thinner, the conclusion is in order that a Buhari candidacy is all that the PDP needs for a resounding defeat of the APC.
Buhari’s religious image, mischievously exaggerated by Jonathanian propaganda, has not helped matters. He has been conveniently costumed in the minds of many Nigerians, by permutations and circumstances, as a Boko Haram sympathiser, and by extension, as a force of evil unfit for presidential leadership. His advocacy for amnesty for those butchers helped plot of that theme. Rather than a statesman, the General, through unpopular remarks, comes off as a sectional leader. There is yet the burden of a Northern arrogance that professes entitlement to power, a situation that can generate bluff votes against him. Add that to the narrative of age and threat of mayhem upon electoral defeat – include also that all-important baggage of a despotic military past daubed in rights violations and the truncation of democracy, a baggage soon to become a persistent megaphone invocation against the Buhari choice – and you have a perfect condition for a Jonathanian victory.
There is, however, one important factor that can be explored by the Buhari camp, to rake in more votes among the enlightened electorate: President Jonathan, among other failings, arguably, has been an unblinking spectator of graft in the six years of his presidency. Never, in the history of Nigeria’s democracy, have corrupt politicians been so lucky in a president as in Jonathan! “Stealing”, he once stated, “is not corruption.” Buhari, with a toga of legendary integrity, occasionally debunked though, can make a strong electoral point out of this corruption blemish. But unfortunately for him, the average Nigerian voter, already convinced in his cynicism that all politicians are thieves, is more interested in the ethnicity and religion of a candidate, than in accusations of theft. The enlightened voter who understands the corruption polemics better, is a non-voting, middle-class, Internet analyst!
Given the power of incumbency, and by this I mean specifically its tendency to attract civic yesmanship for material gains, evidenced in massive
endorsements for President Jonathan, from TAN to Nollywood, it will take a very strong, vibrant, charismatic, popular candidate to undo the PDP in the presidential election. That candidate, for the APC, is Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos. A Northern alternative would have been Governor Musa Kwankwaso, who has distinguished himself in governance in his state – but the Kano Governor already strikes an extremist religious impression breaking beer bottles all over the place. Atiku Abubakar is completely out of the question: with his alleged numerous wives and 30 children; his history of political prostitution; and a massive wealth that belies logical explanation for a former customs officer, he represents a flattery of President Jonathan.
Fashola remains the one Nigerian leader that cultivates grace, charisma, integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and confidence. His superitendence of
Lagos in the last seven years, though not without censures, stands out as probably one of Nigeria’s proudest claims to political excellence. This is a man who makes promises and Lagosians, seeing a track-record of fulfillments, believe him. What more does it mean to be a leader than to earn the trust of a people and their understanding in the face of challenges? His simplicity ensures that the evangelism of his brand is carried vicariously on the streets by the ordinary Lagosian, not by billboards and sirens. Fashola is the leader we had been waiting for all these years, whose little shortcomings can be edited by himself in the promise of his listening humility.
But for a polity like ours, driven by the pettiness of ethnicity, power rotation and religion, the APC will not field Fashola against Jonathan.
Nigerians will yet again be treated to a familiar repeat, one that will deliver the ugly certainty of bloodshed from electoral defeat. Buhari’s supporters, unyielding like their principal, will not corner the General to a side and tell him the home truth.
Truth is, the APC is not even offering an alternative blueprint anyway. The party’s manifesto has no propositions for restructuring, for instance.
Rather than propose a credible alternative to a structure in which national budgets are skewed on 73:27 recurrent-capital ratios, due to the federal character imperative, the party is clamouring for power for its own sake, on this same defective arrangement. The impact of federal governance can hardly be felt, no matter the party, so long as the nation spends over 70 percent of its revenues on recurrent expenditure.
At this rate, one can only resign to another four years of Jonathan’s leadership. And this resignation is happening mainly because General Buhari has come that President Jonathan should have power, and have it more abundantly.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.