March 22, 2011

Candidacy of Ribadu and Buhari: Too early or Too Late?

The candidacy of Ribadu and Buhari, their promises, trajectory, antecedents and encumbrances to their aspiration are inexplicably running on the same line. Both candidates carry very large scale baggage and polarizing effect as a result of their personalities and previous work or actions. To a large extent they both cancel out each other. The victory of one is directly going to be linked to the failure of the other. And this will be so in many states were they will compete. This is not necessarily linked to the fact that they both hail from the North. One is too early on the presidential ticket and the other is too late. And how do I see that? Let us look at it in slightly more detail.

Ribadu. A former national anti-corruption czar. His reign at the EFCC brought a semblance of respite to the international perception of Nigeria as a scam haven. It also introduced some decorum to the public psychic. Corruption is only measurable in the perception of a people about themselves and about the systems they are players in. See . The perception during the Ribadu era; emanated from the convictions EFCC secured during his time there, most of  which were of well known public enemies. Ribadu’s achievements as EFCC boss is still beyond question and are well enumerated on Wikipedia. At one time the street wisdom was represented in the saying, “…the fear of Ribadu is the beginning of wisdom…”. Fast forward to today, 2011. Most of Ribadu’s political clout and strength is based upon his work as EFCC boss. But this also is his undoing. His term as EFCC boss, towards the end of the ex-President Obasanjo, OBJ, administration, was full of unusual compromises that has sowed distrust in the public mind about his capabilities. And this may yet prove fatal to his ambitions. What was his role in the perceived politically motivated prosecutions towards the end of the OBJ term of office? Why did OBJ suddenly promote him in 2007, towards the end of his, OBJ, term. Was he really as powerful as he may claim to have been as EFCC boss or was he riding on the back of OBJ? His quick demotion in 2008 immediately after OBJ left office; (see Tribune of 06/08/2008 for names of demoted police officers tribune archive no longer available) then his subsequent exile; all point to the fact that his work as EFCC boss was achieved on the back of powerful OBJ support. Is Ribadu’s work as EFCC boss enough credential to commit to him such a monumental task as President? Can he muster the base to pass one legislation through the national assembly known to be headstrong, self serving (at times), and nearly overwhelmingly PDP, whereas Ribadu is swamped by Western politicians in ACN (operated by Tinubu, former governor of Lagos state)? The indication is that Ribadu has lunched his presidential ambition much too soon. He would have repeated his EFCC credential on another portfolio and entrenched himself into party politics, make deals and mingle well before exploring the run for president. I do not expect a miracle overnight. The “cabals”, interests (both national and international) involved in Nigeria are so strong and entrenched that some compromises would be required to progressively and gradually move the country forward. Frankly, OBJ did a great job of this constraint and won for the country many battles. But this is not about OBJ it is about leadership. Ribadu, I doubt, has that capability to peacefully negotiate those bends. Go and ask Dr. Alex Ekwueme, regarded by many as the father of the PDP, but failed to win nomination as PDP presidential candidate in 1999. To be a Nigerian leader, you have to have balls. You have to have a certain level of broad based appeal across the ‘board’ between the rich/elite and poor masses, the north and south and you have to understand who it is you are dealing with. Ribadu has grossly underestimated all these. Which was why he ended up in exile in the first place.

Buhari. What about Buhari. Surely, as former commander in the army (often held up as an incorruptible General) he has got to have the power base to take on just about anyone in the country; right? Wait a minute. That is not necessarily correct! Buhari, a retired general and a former military head of state noted for his war against indiscipline (WAI) during his reign as Head of State. Many Nigerians probably did not know what it means to queue for a s service until WAI was introduced by Buhari/Idiagbon administration. An Igbo friend of mine in those days called him “Bu hari a” which in that language translates to “change agent”. And he meant it. Such was the status of Buhari then. His Achilles heels? Buhari is still regarded as a snob and an aloof leader. He prefers to play in the background undetected and in stealth. His aloofness is the kind of character common to nerds or armoured car drivers in the military; not seen but just felt as everything around crumbles with each blow. Like Ribadu he is not known to have the kind of base, even in the North that is needed to win a presidential election. And like Ribadu, most of his achievements in all his official capacities are directly or indirectly credited to others. For Buhari it is Idiagbon, who gets the credit for being the anchor of his WAI. It is telling that Idiagbon was away in Saudi Arabia when the martial music played out again and Babangida & company took power right under the nose of Buhari in a simple Palace coup, August 1985. Thereafter, Buhari went to sleep. Or shall I say into a coma. Nothing more was heard of him. His house arrest lasted only a couple of months. No one raised a hand for him, no one spoke, no one resisted or called for his release in the ears of the administration not even Buhari himself. So it was, so it remains. He lost his base in the military and in the society. He was no longer a player of consequence till 1999. By the time he was beginning to rouse in 1994 with an appointment at PTF by Abacha many things have happened. His growing association with Abacha was his final straw. Under that oppressive dictatorship, slipping into a home grown imperialism or empire of which Abacha was to be the King, Buhari could not raise a voice (at least in public) against is master, General Sani Abacha. In 1997 the G18 arose to oppose Abacha and his program. Buhari made no move. You cannot blame him. From sleep he was just coming back into relevance with PTF then suddenly his boss, Abacha, was being challenged publicly. Buhari was trying to stay out of everyone’s hair. Even OBJ earned some respect when he spoke against the Dictator and was jailed for it. But when our democracy was won in 1999; Buhari suddenly jumped at the opportunity to express an opinion. He joined the ANPP. But that was too late already. ANPP, though was nationally heeled, was not a match for PDP in that election. He fell out with ANPP and joined/formed the CPC. It is not easy to see how long he can continue to build this party before he retires finally. It is also doubtful what agenda he really, really has up his sleeves. Judging by the programmes he implemented during his time as Head of State, he still intends to run an anti-corruption government. Negative reinforcement that is what I call a run on anti-corruption. Ribadu makes the same mistake as well. It does not work. Nothing beats a positive outlook. It has power to motivate and galvanize. Go and ask accomplished campaign managers elsewhere. Finally, something that Buhari has not answered. In 1984 when he was asked in London when he will return the country to civilian rule since up to that time (in fact throughout his time in office) he never had a plan to return the country to democracy. What was his answer? He said there was going to be a “referendum”. What will the referendum be about? We still do not know. One of his officials was later to say that the administration was looking at introducing a “traditional” or African type government. What was that? Sharia? Boko haram? Saudi style caliphate, were Buhari will be King? Like Abacha wanted to do. Buhari needs to come clean on that and tell us what it was and if he still has those ideologies. If he has, why not run on it and put it the test of a national election? Is he hiding something? Too late, sir. I do not trust Buhari. So do many Nigerians of all regions, tribe and persuasion. Here is what the Northern leaders of thought had to say about him, “…we do not know why we should vote for Buhari or Bakare…”. Well, so much for campaigning. And this was said after the ACF met for the last time before the elections to take place 16days after. Too late?


ade said...


ado said...

excellent writing on buhari. a must read.

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