By Ochereome Nnanna
THERE is nothing unusual or new about the self-serving antics of government hirelings and political jobbers like Femi Adesina, one of the Presidential spokesmen, waxing rhapsodic about the electoral appeal or might of their principals. Adesina said President Muhammadu Buhari would win the presidential election in 2019. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Babachir Lawal (some call him the “grass-cutter”) was the first to break this earth-shattering news that Buhari would run again in 2019.
This monkey business was “invented” by Chief Tony Anenih who, as a close confidant of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, way back in 2001, announced that there was no vacancy in Aso Rock in 2003.
Buhari will run for a second term, provided he is strong enough to stand on his feet for at least five minutes at a time. It is almost “inhuman” to expect a Nigerian politician already on the throne to just walk away simply because of a general perception of poor performance. After all, Chief Gabriel Igbinedion once told Edo people: “pikin wen fail exam dey repeat, nor be so?” That was his retort to talks of his son, Governor Lucky Igbinedion’s poor performance in his first term.
At least, the Igbinedions were frank enough to admit that Lucky failed but should be given another chance. Most politicians and their appointees and cronies, always award “credible performance” to themselves as Adesina and Garba Shehu have already claimed for Buhari. As I write, there is this headline on this morning’s Leadership Newspaper front page which reads: “We’ll Fix Economy Frontally As We Did Corruption, Insecurity – PMB”.
Which insecurity or corruption has the Buhari government “fixed”? Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, is still alive by the Army’s own admission, still attacking villages, burning them down, abducting women and raining suicide bombs on Maiduguri almost daily. Armed herdsmen from Buhari’s ethnic background have become the world’s fourth largest killing machine under our President’s watch. There is more insecurity now than in May 2015. Under Buhari, the security agencies and Police have become partial and sectional, with the ways they have handled the armed herdsmen janjaweed crimes, pro-Biafra protests, the Ile-Ife ethnic clashes between Yorubas and Hausas, among others. Most of the so-called corrupt people being prosecuted at the courts are going scot-free due to lack of credible evidence for their conviction.
The government is shielding a growing number of its officials accused of corruption, including the chief anti-corruption Czar himself. If this is the “frontal” way the regime intends to “fix” the economy through its newbie Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,ERGP, unveiled two years behind time, then we must curb our expectations. The truth is that in Nigeria, incumbents do not win re-election due to approval rating by the electorate. They simply grab it. The Buhari regime had, from Day One, set up the structures to enable him to grab a second term. We will return to this shortly.
It is true though that if elections are held today Buhari will win, for the trite reason that there is no known political rival both within and outside his party. They will eventually show up; in fact, soon. Those who will contest against him within his party will be wasting their time and resources for the simple fact that it is Herculean to upstage an incumbent during party primaries. A president (or governor) holds the proverbial “yam and knife”, which makes him a beautiful bride among politicians. He also holds the whip (security and anti-graft agencies) to beat stubborn goats into line. Which party man or woman would really want to be at odds with such a candidate? Put the other way round, who wouldn’t want to be his “friend”, performance or not?
The story will be a lot different soon when the Supreme Court settles the leadership crisis in the main rival People’s Democratic Party, PDP. If the Senator Ahmed Makarfi main body of the Party gets it, it is game-on. If the Nmodu Sheriff faction retains it, the main body of the party might float an alternative platform which might also appeal to All Progressives Congress, APC, rebels and castaways. If they are able to find a popular and credible Northern candidate to square up against Buhari, with the advantage of eight more years for the North against Buhari’s four, we might be in for an exciting transitional politics. In that case, the remaining PDP in Sheriff’s grip could rapidly atrophy the way the Alliance for Democracy, AD, which once controlled all six states of the South West, became a mere “portmanteau” political party that it is today.
Unfortunately, Buhari’s ERGP economic roadmap is coming at the tail-end of the performance phase of his four-year calendar. It is coming at the onset of the political phase of it when governance gradually takes the back seat. How would the regime be able to combine governance with a political transition? Buhari’s political machine will have to lean heavily on his power of incumbency to get him re-elected. They will simply award themselves non-existent creditable performance, knowing that the huge financial “war chest” accumulated in the past two years of handling the economy of the nation could get for them what performance fails to do.
With his kinsmen, women and close cronies calling the shots at the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the military, Police and security apparatuses, Buhari can “win” again. It will take more than a sweeping revolution for these institutions of state authority and agencies of coercion to do their work in an unbiased fashion during the 2019 transitional polls. President Buhari did not appoint the heads of these strategic Federal institutions in a manner conducive to unbiased performance. Your own kinsmen will not preside over your defeat. It is not in their personal interest to be above board and risk being swept away with your defeat.
A president that wants a credible, patriotic and unbiased performance of strategic state institutions is seen by the way he staffs their top echelons. President Goodluck Jonathan bowed to popular wishes and gave INEC Chairmanship to someone he did not know beforehand, Professor Attahiru Jega. If he had retained Professor Maurice Iwu or given it to a core Ijaw nationalist, he would never have lost his re-election bid.
Jonathan gave the office of National Security Adviser, NSA, to Northerners (General Aliyu Gusau and Col. Sambo Dasuki). He made Northerners, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar and Suleiman Abba, Inspectors-General of Police who organised and supervised the election in which he was defeated. Jonathan probably thought that appeasing the North with all the juicy security and other appointments would help get re-elected. It backfired because most of them either joined the tide that swept out or simply did nothing to stop it (a betrayal of trust).
Buhari started from Day One to ensure he kept most of the institutions that ensure a president’s long-term stay in power “within the family”. This is the main factor that underpins the confidence of Babachir Lawal, Femi Adesina and others about Buhari’s positive electoral outlook in 2019.
It is true that Nigerians have burst the myth that an incumbent president cannot be voted out. However, it happened to Jonathan because he created the institutional platform and fertile ground to make it possible. By totally reversing the trend set by Jonathan, Buhari has assured his own power of incumbency beyond anything we have seen since the dawn of our renascent democracy 19 years ago. He has put himself beyond the mere power of our electoral votes.
That is why, in spite of the poor performance of the APC Federal Government, more sweet-tooth politicians are crossing over to the APC.