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What if Buhari doesn’t run in 2019?

By Muyiwa Adetiba

The knives came out from the young and old—and from some unexpected quarters— immediately President Buhari made his desire to contest for the presidency in 2019 official. Some of the criticisms against his eligibility were true. Some were false. Many were exaggerated. All of that is to be expected as they happen even in more advanced democracies.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

But in Nigeria, the sad part is that many of the commentators betray their ethnic and religious biases in their presentation of ‘truths.’ I find it amusing for example when the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) goes on and on about the Islamisation of Nigeria. It forgets the uses and abuses of religious leaders during the last dispensation. It forgets that CAN almost became another arm of government.

It forgets when pulpits became political platforms and churches became campaign rallies. Or when people talk about the economy and try to lay all the blame at the feet of Buhari without recognising that our prostrate economy was partly caused by the profligacy and recklessness of the last government. A fact that it’s Finance Minister had admitted more than once publicly. Or when they talk about the high handedness of Buhari and forget what led to the division of the Governors’ forum.

Or how the First Lady in the last government thought she was the Prime Minister and talked directly to—and often down at—elected high Government officers. Thanks to the whistle blowers, we also now know how Fayose won the Ekiti election. But for the antics of the National Assembly, one could say we’ve had more decorum in governance in this administration than the previous one. This article however, is not about Jonathan.

The reason Buhari made a decisive inroad into the southern part of the country during the last election was because Nigerians were desirous of a change from what Jonathan and PDP represented. We were willing to put the halo of a messiah around the head of whomever would promise that change. It was our fault that we didn’t query the vehicle that brought the change. It was our fault that we didn’t feel any responsibility towards seeing how the change would be effected.

Maybe because we really didn’t want to know. We wanted scrambled eggs without breaking any egg. We wanted life at its corrupt, undisciplined, owambe usual. It was our fault that we expected so much from this dispensation without any logical justification. It was Buhari’s fault however, that his government came to power without an economic blue print or a socio/political road map. The claim that he met the economy in a worse shape than he imagined doesn’t hold much water. It was his fault that he tarried in forming his cabinet.

It was also his fault that he has not held his ministers to any high standard of performance and professionalism. The country has paid dearly for this. It was his fault that his body language, his selection of trusted aides and his comments in foreign lands during the earlier part of his administration, caused some disaffection in the southern part of the country.

The Bible tells us that Eli, a good man and a prophet, fell because his sons were corrupt. Buhari’s ‘children’—those he entrusted sensitive positions to—have also been found wanting. The NNPC is as opaque as it was three years ago when he came in if not more so. Fuel subsidy is threatening our economy. Change is yet to come to the refineries. Those who say the country is ruled by a cabal that does not believe in inclusiveness or fair play probably have their reasons.

Some people along the corridors of Aso Rock are not exactly smelling of roses. The spate of strikes caused by disaffection and impunity goes on as usual. Insecurity, a pillar of this administration, is still very much with us though I personally don’t believe, despite the hysterics, that it is the worst we’ve ever had. In the past decade, we have had cycles of violence from Boko Haram in the far north to Niger-Deltans in the south and Herdsmen in between, all laying claim to swathes of land at some point and generally threatening our security. Two years ago, IPOB which has now become relatively benign, had threatened the psychological unity of the country in a way that no non-violent group has ever done.

We can analyse Buhari’s candidacy and state that many things go against him. His age; his health; his understanding of the problems of the country; his conservative approach to governance; his blinkered view of Nigeria; his penchant to over delegate leading sometimes to abdication of responsibilities; his aloofness and lack of communicative skills. All of these have led to ‘business as usual’ for a country that needs to be fundamentally restructured and shaken up for performance.

A country that needs to be fired up by rhetoric as well as actions. But it must be said of him that no one has found him wanting in terms of corrupt enrichment. We should at least be proud that both the President and his Vice have been found to be above this corrupt fray so far. And despite the noise about hate speeches, the Nigerian space is as free as ever.

There is merit though, in saying he should go to Daura and take care of his health. We really do need a younger, more visionary and fiery leader. But there is merit in those who think the country still needs him for stability. Heavens won’t fall if he decides not to run but APC might. And if APC falls apart, the centre called Nigeria might not hold.

There are people with the arsenal—figuratively in terms of money and literally in terms of arms—to fight to finish should Aso Rock be declared vacant. All is overtly quiet at the war front now but until his decision, interests were being expressed at a frantic pace by people who are not big enough to rally the party around them but are probably big enough to break the party.

A week is said to be too long in politics and I am looking forward to the emergence of an Obama like candidate who will wake up this slumbering giant called Nigeria. Until then, time will tell whether the calmness and stability that Buhari’s declaration has brought to the polity is for the country’s good or we have merely postponed doomsday. An alternative is probably for him to identify a younger, more liberal minded successor whose acceptability he can use his cult like followership and power of incumbency to promote.

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