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May 14, 2011

Buhari, Next Big Mistake: The General and Politics

An understanding of party politics (as opposed to military dictatorship), consistent message to the public, consistency in pushing his ideas through party structures rather than jumping ship, being open about all his agenda for the country. On all of these points, all indications are that Buhari is yet to mature politically. At 69 years that is a gross thing to say about a politician. But Buhari is no politician. What image does a weeping General cut in the public eye in a traditional Africa society? empathy? If he feels so strongly about his desires and his goals why are they not clearly articulated? And who says he must be President to achieve them? Instead his actions and statements are now held in the media as leading the incitement to violence and his legacy is about to be washed off. Even Awolowo was called the “best President Nigeria never had” What about Buhari, Ribadu, Shakarau? What will history remember them for? The 2011 elections may not score 100% as free and fair but almost everyone agrees it is the best we have had in a 15 years. Any candidate that was defeated in this polls who fails to accept defeat, congratulate the winner and plan ahead for an effective role in the polity from now till the next 4 years is making a big mistake. For someone like Buhari he is actually destroying any voter appeal he may have had.

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buhari at onisha_nairalandsource: nairaland.com

If Buhari really is serious about his plans and promises which he made during the campaign now is the time to build on them and position himself for a run in 2015. At 75years, by 2015 he may not be able to run again but he can prepare grounds for a more compelling challenge by his party, CPC, by 2015. For once he should square his shoulders like giant and let someone stand on it. That would benefit the country, his vision and his legacy. And how is he going to do that? Some of the promises he made during the campaign may have popular appeal. His anti-corruption credentials is enough for him to start pushing for laws that will further reform INEC, public service and government. He promised to remove the immunity of public office holders, including that of the president. Of course that could be an extreme in real terms but it is a position that could help bring some moderation in government and check the powers of the executive.

Buhari/CPC campaign promises

Benin city, Monday 28th March 2011: "There will be no room for corruption and indiscipline when the CPC comes to power. We will make sure people get drinking water. Teachers will be re-trained and classrooms will be built. Hospitals and health centres will be equipped. This is what CPC stands for." (Thisday 29 March) Just a coincidence, standing on the podium with Buhari on this occasion was Alhaji Hassan Lawal, a former Labour minister, who is now being charged for corruption by EFCC. Talk about “follow my words not my action” and this is classic Buhari. Isn’t it time to change that perception?

Ibadan, 14 March 2011. Buhari promises to restore true federalism. (Leadership 15 March)

Ibadan, 22 March 2007. Buhari promises to pay off the national debt. Which was then put conservatively at N3trillion. (Thisday 23 March 2007)

Abuja, Monday 28 February 2011. ”We will amend the constitution to remove immunity from prosecution for elected officers in criminal cases,”  (Buhari Campaign Manifesto) Amending the constitution with a controlled National Assembly and most state governors from will be a tall order even with a CPC government. But never mind, the thought is welcome.

Maiduguri, Saturday 12 March 2011. “to utilise the Lake Chad is one of our priorities. Doing so would enable farmers, fishermen and cattle rearers to realise more earnings”. (Buhari at CPC North-east campaign flag off)

Lokoja, Wednesday 30 March 2011. “It is a common knowledge that the steel company [Ajaokuta Steel Company and Itakpe Iron Ore Company] is one of the biggest  economic gates. When we come to power, we will open the gate and make it operational and the economy will take off”. (Buhari at CPC Campaign rally at Lokoja)

Several promises were made by Buhari and CPC at various stops during the camping. Many more was made by Ribadu and Shekarau but it seems all the promises were made on the premise that they win the presidential polls outright at first ballot. This is not politics. Politics is about connecting with the aspirations of the people in a sustained way even in the face of defeat. If they truly meant what they promised then all is not lost. For the opposition, it would always be difficult to rule with still in control of the National assembly and most states.

It will be a big mistake if the opposition ACN, CPC and ANPP give up on their promises and decide to lie low till 2015. This has always been their biggest mistake. The opposition parties must now start differentiating themselves from the business-as-usual and mount a sustained challenge to excesses and create a connectedness with the governed. They must focus on winning some states and constituencies back and be seen to identify with the public in non-aggressive manner. Elections are never won by one man. Elections are won by superior organisation and broad based appeal across the spectrum of the society. If CPC did win the presidential elections and lost as much governorship, and national assembly seats as it stands now, fulfilling its five point agenda (see www.buhari4change.com) would still be unachievable. They would either fail woefully or push the country to the brink of breakdown of law once more. There is no two ways about that. So it is really a good thing that CPC lost the presidential poll.

A breakdown of party strengths shows CPC trailing , ACN and ANPP. With victory in Imo state by Okorocha, APGA has also moved up to become the fourth major party overtaking both CPC and LP.

* PDP -Presidency, 24 governors, 73 senators, 191 Reps
* ACN- 6 governors, 16 senators, 52 Reps
* ANPP – 3 governors, 7 senators, 20 Reps
* CPC – 1 governor (Nasarawa), 7 senators, 35 Reps
* LP – 1 governor, 3 senators, 8 Reps
* APGA – 1 governor, 1 senator, 2 Reps
* DPP -1 senator
* Accord Party – 4 Reps
* PPN – 1 Rep      (source Vanguard, 6 May 2011)

With less than 5% of elective offices held by CPC the party is in no position to make any difference in governance even as an opposition but they could position the party well for any future elections and sustain the charge to win back the country if they really think ahead. What about the proposed merger with ACN? Who says that should now be thrown away? How about if they merge with ACN and ANPP then woe one south eastern party (may be the APGA) and prepare ground for a solid opposition to the right now. Even a general cooperation between ACN, CPC and APGA could significantly balance the polity at the moment. Now is the best time to start on these things and get tested on the credentials of the governors within that coalition, on how many legislations they can push through the NASS or by how many unpopular laws they repeal or stop from passing through the NASS. I makes no sense for CPC and ACN to be preaching that is corrupt whereas their Reps, senators and Governors are in on all the deals. Take the current inquest about the N10billion salaries/entitlements of lawmakers; can CPC and ACN senators and Reps raise their voice and tell us they are not part of the miss-appropriation committees?

Keeping silent and going into retirement is Buhari’s next biggest mistake. Same goes for all opposition candidates. And that is not good for politics and is definitely not good for democracy and for the country. By retiring now Buhari would just be following his own tradition: wait for some other people to prop you up once again when needed and trumpet his anti-corruption credentials once more. He will just be proving the general notion true: he is always waiting to be propped up and hosted by others. If he really had the good intentions who says he must be president to achieve it?  On his official campaign website is this quote:

“As I look forward to the road ahead, I am optimistic because I believe Nigeria best days are still to come. Our country has a bright future, but we must work together to ensure that our shared prosperity creates new and better opportunities for us” (Muhammadu Buhari, www.buhari4change.com)

The question is, does Muhammadu Buhari believe this or is it just another rhetoric from the speech writers. Time will tell.
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2 comments:

Muhammad NaIya said...

Any unbiased observer can testify to the massive CASH infusions during the last elections. This coupled with ther rather open partisanship of the Security Agencies certainly tainted any mandate. Buhari is not alone in feeling that the 2011 Polls were not really FREE and FAIR in the true sense of the word.

steugene said...

nigerian elections has always been a cash cow. see http://www.southelevation.com/2010/09/2011-campaign-funding.html but give some credit to this election and its management. it is still far better. nigerians must move forward now & continue the reformation. thank you.

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