By Clifford Ndujihe, DEPUTY POLITICAL EDITOR
CALL him a veteran presidential candidate and you may not be wrong. Since 2003, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) has been trying to return to power as a civilian head of state, a position he once held as a military ruler and was kicked out from on August 25, 1985.
Buhari first ran for the presidency on the plank of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in 2003 at age 60 and scored 12,710,022 or 32.19 % of the votes in a contest won by former President Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with 24,456,140 (61.94 %) votes.
Four years later, at 64, in 2007, Buhari repeated the contest on ANPP’s platform but, this time, against a fellow northerner, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, as his main challenger. With 6,605,299 (18.72%) votes, he polled about half of what he got in 2003 as Yar’Adua coasted home to victory with 24,638,063 or 69.82 % of the total votes cast.
At 68, in 2011, and contesting under a relatively new party, Congress for Progressive Change CPC), will Buhari make it on his third attempt?
Buhari nods affirmatively to this question. He said reportedly that in a free and fair election, he would triumph. Aside the hope of winning, Buhari said he was driven by the desire to turn things around. “I refuse to give up! I am not used to giving up as a soldier.
And my objective is absolutely clear: It is about our people and our country. Look at the resources we have in this country, look at the human and material resources, look at the quality of people that we have, they have never been fully exploited. And I felt that if am in partisan politics, at least some people will listen to me. At least, this corrupt and undisciplined nation can be reformed somehow. So, we chose a clear objective of bringing this country back from the brink. This is what is driving me”.
Some people, however, seem to believe that it is a burning, personal ambition; that Buhari wants desperately to be president.
The road to Aso Rock
Buhari is not unmindful of the hurdles on his path to Aso Rock – the PDP. So, he embarked on a series of alliance talks with other opposition parties to hammer out a formidable coalition that can withstand the ruling party at the polls.
It was obvious he would go for a running mate from the South-West having run with South-easterners in the past (the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo in 2003) and Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke (in 2007). Leaders of the political parties and groups he was discussing with are led by South-westerners. The groups include Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Mega Summit Movement.
On January 31, after alliance talks with the ACN irredeemably broke down, he announced the Convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, and serving overseer of the Latter Rain Assembly, Pastor Tunde Bakare, as his running mate. If the talks with ACN had jelled, former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, would have emerged as his running partner.
Why Buhari chose Bakare
CPC National publicity secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said Buhari chose Bakare instead of Tinubu because picking Tinubu as running mate would have jeopardised Buhari’s chances.
He noted: “The major reason for the truncation of that alliance is that issue of a running mate for Buhari refused to die. It became a notty issue like an Abiku or an Ogbanje child. While the leadership of ACN had this fixated posturing of a Buhari/Tinubu ticket, we thought otherwise, because we believed and felt that a Tinubu/Buhari would not fly in today’s Nigeria, judging by the socio-political imperatives and exigencies of our time. It did not work in June 1993, so not any more in today’s Nigeria and any party that does it today, does it at its own peril.”
I’ve God’s backing to run with Buhari – Bakare
Indeed, Bakare, who is joining partisan politics for the first time, is expected to add value to the Buhari project.
Bakare once vowed to mobilise 12 million Nigerians to campaign against former military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. It will be interesting if he could mobilise 12 million voters to vote for him and Buhari at the April polls.
Shortly after he was chosen, Bakare reportedly said that God had a hand in his decision to join politics and become a running mate to Buhari, and quoted copiously from the Bible to back up his claims.
A lawyer, PhD holder and formerly a Muslim, Bakare said he accepted the offer to run with Buhari and serve his country after consulting with leading men of God.
“I did not accept the offer to be Buhari’s running mate because of fame and popularity; I already have that. I took it because I want to serve my generation according to the will of God and to change things. I did not lobby for the position but when Buhari called, I accepted the offer. I consulted with those who mattered and with top echelons in Christendom and they gave me the go ahead. We want to change Nigeria perpetually,” he stated.
He was said to have told his congregation last Sunday that among those he consulted was Pastor Enoch Adeboye of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), whom he had antagonised for a while.
My plans for Nigeria – Buhari
If elected, Buhari said to realise his mission of security, stability and prosperity, he would, in his first term in office, pursue four cardinal programmes: institution reforms and strengthening; infrastructural development and rehabilitation; economic reform and diversification; and provision of adequate security and enhancement of social service to the citizenry.
“In Nigeria, poor and inadequate state of our infrastructural facilities especially in agriculture, power and energy, transportation and telecommunications have resulted in devastating consequence, on the economic activities and standards of living of our people.
Therefore, the attainment and maintenance of functional and modern infrastructural facilities in these field is one of the cardinal programmes of CPC during its first term in office,” he said.
To get to Aso Rock and start implementing these programmes, Buhari would have to make good use of his fine attributes or strengths.
His strengths include: determination, integrity, discipline, strong national security and defense credentials, strong anti-corruption credentials, experience as a former head of state, and good political structure especially in the North.
Maximising his strengths, Buhari has to fashion measures to reduce the attenuating effects of his perceived weaknesses such: old age, public perception as Sharia/Islamic proponent, dictator, weak political structure in the South and the hard policies he unfurled on the polity during his 20-month reign as military ruler.
However, Buhari insists that in a free and fair election, his track record in public office would do the magic for him. “When I had the opportunity to lead this country…You try and follow my antecedents as a governor, as minister of petroleum, as head of state, as chairman of PTF (Petroleum Trust Fund); haven’t I tried as an individual wherever I have managed to be accountable and transparent? I believe you can get the answer from your archives,” he said.
It is to be seen how far Buhari would go this time.