By Muyiwa Adetiba
I got a call from a close friend the other day that left me speechless. He had expressed the thoughts that he was wary of a Buhari presidency because of the fear of Islamisation. He is a medical doctor; well travelled and well read.
In our younger days he used to consume Time magazine every week religiously and we are usually on the same page on many issues. Which is why his comment threw me off guard.
Were he to be my mechanic or an unlettered fellow on my street, I would have given his comment the contempt it deserved. How can one man in a democratic setting that operates a constitution Islamise a whole country? To start with, is he going to be allowed to pick an all Muslim cabinet?
Where would his Christian Vice President be; where would the Senate, the House of Rep be when he starts to implement this Jihad? What would happen to the Christian Governors, the Civil Rights Organisations and indeed the over 80 million Christian faithful dotted over the nooks and corners of the country? Would they just simply acquiesce without a whimper? Unfortunately, there are many people, fuelled sometimes by their pastors, who hold on to this belief in every layer of the society. They constitute a force against a Buhari presidency.
Another force is represented by another close friend. In fact, he is a classmate that I have known for about 50 years. He is an economist who was educated abroad and has paid his dues. You would therefore expect that the economic situation in the country would command his attention above all else. Yet his loyalty to Mr Jonathan is unnerving.
He conceded to me that most of his close friends had shifted allegiance but went on to say that if there was only one vote for Jonathan in Lagos, that vote would be his. Why would an otherwise suave, urban man who normally loves to argue, lock his mind on a candidate and refuses even to debate his choice?
The bit I was able to prise from him was unsettling. He finds the born to rule attitude of the Hausa—Fulani ‘very disgusting’. Again, had this been from my mechanic I would not be disturbed by it. But I never expected my friend of many years to resort to a south-south sentiment. Pray, what has the falling price of oil or its management got to do with whether you are Ijaw or Fulani? What have the rising unemployment and the falling Naira got to do with tribe?
Then there are those who have made stupendous amounts of money doing virtually nothing in the past couple of years and who would want the status quo to continue. I live on the Lagos Island and they abound. My son who is still young enough to attend these top clubs and bars talks about people who buy bottles of expensive champagne and Hennessey drinks to any fly that passes by their tables.
These people are afraid that the good times would end with the Buhari presidency. What they are too inebriated to realise is that the economy is in such a strait that the good times would end for many anyway with or without Buhari. Nevertheless, they represent a force against Buhari.
There are also those whose economic and political fortunes were badly affected during the Buhari years and now want their pound of flesh. They will use whatever they have to work on people’s minds and dissuade them against Buhari. And there are those who genuinely believe Jonathan to be a better candidate. They will fight—as is their right—to let him remain in Aso Rock.
Many of these people will operate within the confines of the law and democratic tenets, or at worst on the fringes of it, to deny Buhari the chances of getting to Aso Rock. But that is the beauty of democracy and even die hard Buhari adherents would expect many die hard Jonathan adherents to fight them every inch of the way.
But it does get dangerous when people use other means to deny the people’s will. Many of us have heard the recordings of what happened in Ekiti State. We now know it was much more than stomach infrastructure that got Fayose there. It was the abuse of institutional infrastructure.
It was impunity at its criminal height. And it would be naïve to think this force would not be deployed against Buhari’s ambition. Very close to this, are those who have allegedly imported arms and are poised to use violence if need be, to stop Buhari. I am not for a second, saying that this is limited only to PDP and its supporters; or that only they have the monopoly of violence and intrigues. I am just trying to stay true to my theme. Many of these forces would still ring true if it was another person trying to get to Aso Rock.
Now we get to the most feared, most dangerous force. The powerful, yet largely faceless group of people who have dictated the affairs of this country for years. Its power, like the chameleon, is in its constantly changing ability to gauge the mood of the country and use it to achieve its aim which is to control power.
We saw it in the way June 12 was scuttled. We saw it in the way the contraption called Interim Government was installed. Or the way Abacha took over when it looked like Shonekan might not be able to hold the forte. They were consulted before Abdulsalam took over and consulted again before zeroing on Obasanjo. Neither the choice of Yar’Adua nor Jonathan escaped their input and blessing.
Their major goal is not the economic emancipation of the country but to preserve the nation so it can be milked. They would want the elite system to continue for as long as possible. And when it is time to remove Jonathan, it should be on their terms and with their choice depending on what and who they consider to be expedient.
Make no mistake, these are not democrats and therefore a victory for Buhari or for anybody for that matter at the polls spells catastrophe for them. It would mark the beginning of the end of their hold on Nigeria. The reason our elected leaders don’t listen to us is because we really don’t matter and the day we can democratically choose our leader is the day we have won our freedom. It means we can always vote out an under- performing leader.
This is why I am not holding my breath for Buhari getting there in May. The force that stopped the democratically elected Abiola is still very much around. And it may have engineered the postponement of the February 14 election.
Therefore, if we want to have a democratically elected President, much depends on INEC; much depends on civil rights organisation; much depends on the international community; much depends on the people. We must be prepared to hold out if we want to choose our leaders ourselves.