BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN
His brief grasp of government between 1984 and 1985 was relatively unimpressive. He did not salvage Nigeria as promised. His government’s trade policy hinged on counter trade was largely crude. Even the issue of discipline where he is today largely celebrated was punctured with the exposure of the contradictory action of his number two who breached the regime’s order barring under-aged from going for hajj.
But General Muhammadu Buhari still remains a political phenomenon, albeit a largely underachieving one.
In his Supreme Military Council, SMC, he was circumscribed by largely ambitious military politicians. It was as such not surprising that his hard stance on issues turned into good currency for his rivals to make mincemeat of him and achieve their own life long political ambitions.
Indeed, Buhari, as military head of state, ruled as if there was no tomorrow. Now, at the twilight of his public life, The General, as he is largely celebrated by fans across the north, is obviously desperate to salvage a nation he claims is in the throes of maladministration.
After three consecutive defeats in the hands of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Buhari had suggested that he would leave the scene after the 2011 presidential elections. Before the suggestion could take root, the general quickly reversed himself putting himself again in reckoning in the nation’s political chess game.
That reversal has been followed with such snide remarks as to whether he must be president?
Indeed, not a few are worried by the seemingly naïve political gesticulations of Buhari. That is despite the several accounts of those who have dealt with him anddescribe him as a good man and a religious moderate.
However, such unbiased comments have largely been overshadowed by the political faux pas of the general and the machinations of the Obasanjo-Atiku Campaign Organisation ahead of the 2003 election. The Obasanjo campaign almost successfully recast Buhari as a religious extremist unworthy of leading a multi-religious and multi-cultural nation as Nigeria.
Different types of mud were indeed slung on him with the active collaboration of some sections of the media before that election. However, of all the mud on him, only the garb of religious extremism really stuck.
Attempts to soil his image using his stewardship of the Petroleum (Special) Task Fund, PTF were largely unsuccessful and almost bounced back at the instigators in a way that some prayer warriors would say ‘back to sender.’
When the Obasanjo administration reportedly threatened to probe the activities of the PTF under Buhari, it, by some accounts precipitated the untimely death of Buhari’s Man Friday, who he had reportedly delegated most of the task of the PTF.
But beside that casualty, the probe report, which indicted the successor administration at the PTF appointed by President Obasanjo largely exonerated Buhari.
For a man like Buhari, who has held some of the most politically exposed jobs in the country, including military governor of the defunct Northeast State, minister of petroleum and chairman of PTF, it is remarkable that Buhari has not been once indicted for any act of corruption. Those who have known him say that he has indeed been faithful almost to the kobo.
It is this rare attribute of integrity that has largely won Buhari acclaim from Nigeria’s long suffering masses and the disdain of the political elite, who would panic at the thought of enrobing him with political power.
Across the North and South, the disdain for Buhari from the political elite is almost unanimous. Some in that class pretended only for a brief period to believe in Buhari but once they got political power in his name, they immediately deserted the general.
Today, General Buhari at the twilight of his long period of political exposure is faced with the crucial choice of abiding with the dogma of his ways which have not helped, or bending to achieve the revolution the masses desire.
Recently, he has been flocking with those he once condemned, those that betrayed him in his former party and even partnering with the preacher who was famously quoted as saying that “That tall man” is not the answer to our needs.
Buhari is indeed turning into a politician, but he fearfully could make a mess of it!