HOURS before Nigerians across 18 states of the Federation returned to the polls to conclude the unfinished business of the last presidential and governorship elections in a so-called supplementary elections, a spokesperson of the President, Garba Shehu, let out word that President Muhammadu Buhari had promised not to impose on Nigerians persons they don’t want as their leaders.
This pitch from the Presidency had a paternal ring to it, and it was clearly meant to reinforce the even more familiar representation of President Buhari as a man of integrity, Mai Gaskiya, in the earthy parlance of the talakawa of the North. President Buhari might indeed be honest in the peculiar manner he has chosen to be.
That’s if we discount the part that pertains to the way he manages to surround himself almost entirely with Nigerians from the close circle of his kith and kin. In short, if we could look beyond the aspects of the president’s ways that reek of nepotism and sectarianism, he might just pass the difficult test of qualifying as a man of integrity.
From a distant remove, it could also be said that there is something about Buhari that suggests a level of decorous conduct that might be very difficult to encounter in many Nigerian politicians who have held high office in the manner the president had. This appears to set him apart from the unconscionable wheeler-dealers in the corridors of power that are ready to do anything in the pursuit of power and wealth. That is, again, looking beyond or outside his sectarian or nepotistic side. But it’s always a difficult thing to remain a person of integrity and still be a successful politician in our part of the world.
In this sense, I define political success in terms of electoral mileage and ascendancy. With the kind of pessimism that decades of massive corruption, grinding poverty and astonishing failure have induced in the ordinary Nigerian, it would be difficult to find that politician that can enter the realm of politics, achieve electoral success and still be expected to stand without soiled hands. If they are not directly stained, then there is a fall guy somewhere doing for them the dirty job that undermines the integrity of many a politician.
It is in this sense that many would find the repeated yarn about President Buhari’s integrity amid massive corruption not only cloying but at once sanctimonious and self-righteous. It might be argued, for example, that after the president had already secured the commitment of some of the major stakeholders in his party in his re-election bid, it was somewhat convenient for him to affect indifference to events in his own party, especially as they affect the electoral fortune of others. We saw how close allies of the president like Ibikunle Amosun and Rochas Okorocha promoted candidates of rival parties to the All Progressives Congress, APC while holding the tickets of the APC for the National Assembly. Both Amosun and Okorocha made clear they would support the president even while openly involved in an adulterous relationship with other parties. It was this same attitude to events in his party that led to the emergence of the voice of Jacob-and-hand-of-Esau Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara-led National Assembly leadership since 2015.
Once Buhari had his position firmly secure, he stood outside the leadership fray in the National Assembly. Had it been his office that was up for grabs would Buhari, it can be argued, have chosen to watch from the sidelines as his supposed integrity would suggest?
Why did the president not fold his hand akimbo and remain unperturbed when campaigns opened for his re-election? Indeed, why did he run back to the same set of individuals that he had apparently abandoned after they helped to elect him in 2015? The truth is that Buhari needed the services of these individuals who were ready to soil their hands, if needs be, in order to see the president re-elected for whatever reasons.
My point, therefore, is that for Buhari to appear to rise above the fray and quotidian politicking that goes into winning and retaining power in Nigeria, the dirty work that undermines integrity has to be undertaken by other persons or groups while he looks away. Which then makes the notion of the president is a person of integrity a moot one.
Nigerians would recall the outcry that greeted the images of bullion vans in the residence of the National Leader of the APC, on the eve of the February 23 elections? In a country where money makes almost all the difference in an election nobody needed to be told what was in the bullion vans or for what they were needed. If sections of the country were overrun with violence in the build-up to and during the elections, certainly members and supporters of the APC like members and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and others, could not have been impervious to the use and threat of violence.
These were aspects of the dirty job of politicking and vote-getting that had to be undertaken by supporters of the president as were those of other office seekers. The so-called Charles Oputa aka Charly Boy-led “Ourmumudon do” lobby that has been torn apart by allegations of bribery running into scores of millions of naira is yet another face of the kind of dirty job that supporters of the president have to execute to help keep his white babanriga spotless.
In this unfolding narrative of “Ourmumudondo”, a spokesperson of the Buhari re-election campaign and supposed human rights lawyer, Festus Keyamo, is alleged to have offered millions of naira disguised as payment for a song in support of Buhari’s presidential election to Charly Boy.
The money is now the bone of contention in the reported face-off between the musician-turned political agitator and Deji Adeyanju, his former comrade. Adeyanju, who has just been released from Kano prison, reportedly accused Charly Boy of betrayal.
Keyamo who is apparently enjoying the outcome of his fire-fighting job on “Ourmumudondo” and rubbing his hands in self-congratulations, wants the world to believe that he is a volunteer’s errand and that there is no iota of truth to what the two leaders of the mumu-deceiving-mumu movement have admitted to.
What this episode tells us again is that for Buhari to keep clean some people must necessarily get dirty- very dirty at that.