By Douglas Anele
The coalition against President Goodluck Jonathan as the 2015 election approached was bolstered by the defection of a significant number of prominent members of the PDP to the newly registered political party amalgam, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Chieftains of the APC realised ab initio that their chances of wresting power from the PDP would be enhanced by selecting Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate, because of his hyperbolised reputation as a disciplinarian with zero tolerance for corruption. Buhari, who had declared after losing to Jonathan in 2011 that he would not contest for any elective position again changed his mind when APC was formed for two main reasons. One, as a typical devout muslim northerner, Buhari really wanted power to return to a scion of the caliphate. Two, encouraged by persuaders seeking political relevance or renaissance, he saw himself as a messiah that would rescue Nigeria from the uninspiring leadership of the PDP.
The contest between Jonathan and Buhari was one of the keenest in Nigerian history. While the PDP tried to project the modest achievements of President Jonathan and relentlessly attacked Buhari as an ageing clannish unrepentant dictator with purist Islamic proclivities unsuitable for contemporary Nigerian society, the APC insistently portrayed Jonathan’s government as hopelessly incompetent, corrupt and clueless. During the campaigns, Buhari promised Nigerians many things, foremost among which were total war against corruption, enhanced security, rapid economic growth, improved infrastructure and political restructuring. Personally, I preferred Jonathan to Buhari largely because, in spite of his mistakes, Jonathan came across as a humble and compassionate human being whereas Buhari seemed somewhat aloof, medievalist, revanchist and dictatorial. The personality contrast between both men leaps into bold relief in their attitude to power. Before the presidential election, Jonathan insisted repeatedly that his ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian, while Buhari threatened that there would be bloodshed if the election did not go the way he wanted. Unknown to southern politicians in APC, the party was seen by the north as a political instrument for recapturing federal power.
Buhari defeated Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election with over two million votes. It can be plausibly argued, given the number of votes declared in the core northern states (particularly Kano) that the APC outrigged PDP in that election. But it is equally likely that if all the illicit or invalid votes credited to the two parties were removed, APC would still have won. Aside from rigging, President Jonathan lost because caliphate power brokers who felt that his decision to jettison the so-called “gentleman’s agreement” on zoning by the PDP was an affront on the north’s claim to the presidency mobilised the entire northern region to ensure that Buhari won. Thus, they instigated massive defection from PDP to APC by prominent northern politicians as the election approached to sabotage Jonathan and ensure that the post of President reverts to the north in 2015.
The second reason was boko haram’s unrelenting violence especially in the north-east. As we argued earlier, the metamorphosis of the group from an obscure salafi Islamic sect into a formidable terrorist organisation was the handiwork of some members of the northern establishment who felt that the north needed the equivalent of militant groups in the Niger Delta as an instrument for pursuing northern interests with violence whenever and wherever necessary. Some northern leaders probably had boko haram in mind when they boasted in October 2010 that “the north will make the country ungovernable for President Jonathan or any other southerner” who becomes President by jettisoning PDP’s zoning formula. Unfortunately, boko haram became a Frankenstein monster: the sect started attacking schools, churches, mosques, christians and muslims indiscriminately, culminating in the kidnap of over two hundred school girls from Chibok.
By the time the 2015 presidential election took place in March 2015, the damage had already been done to President Jonathan’s second term ambition: he was seen as a weak leader who cannot provide security for the people. APC’s propaganda projected Buhari as a former military head of state with relevant combat experience to deal effectively with boko haram. That might also be one of the reasons why President Barak Obama’s administration was favourably disposed to a possible Buhari presidency, although it is plausible that the former American President was impressed by the exaggerated anti-corruption reputation of the latter. Finally, we must accept that the PDP government under President Jonathan provided ammunition for the propaganda machine of the APC by its failure to fight rapacious corruption, diversify the economy, and provide jobs and critical infrastructure needed for sustainable national development.
Now, two years after caliphate henchmen took over power, the positive change promised by the APC has taken Nigeria from the frying pan straight to fire. To be candid, even President Buhari’s ardent supporters such as Dr. Junaid Mohammed and Senator Kanti Bello, are regretting supporting him. There is no aspect of our national life that has progressed meaningfully since the caliphate recaptured power through the APC. President Buhari has performed somewhat above average in fighting both corruption and boko haram. Upon closer inspection, however, several unforced errors have compromised his efforts in these areas. For instance, the anti-corruption programme is targeted mostly against members of the immediate past administration, whereas former military leaders, their cronies and loyalists of President Buhari, including those with corruption petitions in the EFCC against them, are seldom investigated let alone prosecuted.
On the boko haram issue, the claim that it has been defeated is premature. The sect has been seriously degraded, but not completely defeated: its members are still bombing, destroying and killing people on a regular basis with impunity. Concerning the abducted Chibok girls, there are genuine reasons for suspecting that it was a hoax, a red-herring orchestrated by anti-Jonathan forces in the north who used boko haram to cripple his government, and was eventually exploited by leaders of the sect for their own personal interest. The relevant question is: if the girls were really abducted by a terrorist organisation under serious bombardment by government, how was it possible that such a large number of victims who are supposed to be in captivity in extremely challenging conditions seem better fed and clothed than millions of Nigerians living their normal lives across the country?
Without a doubt, President Buhari runs the risk of being adjudged the most nepotic and pro-north leader we have had since independence. By consolidating caliphate colonialism through skewed deployment of federal resources and appointments in favour of the north, he is deliberately telling southerners, particularly south-easterners, that they are second class citizens in Nigeria, that he was serious when he proclaimed that he would treat parts of Nigeria that voted for him (the north and south-west) far better than the ones that did not (south-east and south-south). In Buhari’s archaic Mosaic logic of “a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye,” no one from the south-east was qualified to be a member of his inner sanctum of power, none was good enough to head any of the security agencies and paramilitary organisations in the country.
More crucially, despite the unequalled contributions of Ndigbo to all aspects of our national life nationwide, for Buhari Igboland does not deserve massive industrial and infrastructural investments by the federal government. The President has shown unequivocally that the Igbo are not important stakeholders in his vision for Nigeria. In his political calculus, northern caliphate interests are number one priority; Ndigbo can share the crumbs that fell from the master’s table as envisaged fifty-seven years ago by Sir Ahmadu Bello. Little wonder, then, that the irredentist agitation of Nnamdi Kanu for the actualisation of a sovereign nation of Biafra resonates very well with millions of Igbo youths notwithstanding the cowardly hypocritical stance of the so-called leaders of opinion in Igboland.
But it would be wrong to blame Buhari or jihadist northerners alone for the survival and continuation of caliphate colonialism to this day. The bulk of the blame must go to prominent southerners most of whom even before independence have been sacrificing the collective interests of the south on the altar of myopic ethnic rivalries, petty jealousies and personal interests. As the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel ruefully remarked, the only lesson we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.