Once again, Nigeria is at crossroads and in dire need of a leader to steer the ship of state out of troubled waters. It is a time when only a leader that has the right vision, courage and tenacity would do. Such a leader must have a proper understanding of the socio-economic and political dynamics of the country.
The said leader must be able to interpret the readings on the political compass and be able to deploy his readings to good use. Leadership and to a large extent, governance is about people. It is even more so in a democracy where leaders are chosen by the people and power flows from them through the ballot box. In Nigeria, the next general election comes up in about 12 months and the political actors are already warming up for the power tussle.
No matter the way we look at it, the presidential race is surely going to be a tough one as the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will be seeking a renewal of his mandate while prominent politicians from other political parties would be seeking the opportunity to oust him.
If he will be seeking re-election, what are the issues starring him in the face? And if not, who succeeds him? Will the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo step into the ring or another contender from the President’s Fulani/Hausa stock come in to complete the North’s two terms?
President Buhari’s ascension to power in 2015 was historic, given the fact that he won a popular mandate, defeating the then incumbent, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan who was seeking re-election. A number of factors made the defeat of Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) possible.
The PDP, which has ruled the country for a record 16 consecutive years, was in crisis and split along ethno-religious lines. The fragmentation of the PDP was worsened by the unprecedented merger of about four opposition political parties. In no time the mega party became a life boat for the many aggrieved people where fleeing from the then ruling party. The campaigns leading to the elections were not only fierce and ferocious but heavily laced with bitterness and primordial sentiments.
In addition, the opposition deployed enormous propaganda against the PDP so much so that even the international community bought into the agenda for regime change in Nigeria The APC came to power with popular support and tremendous goodwill particularly when it presented itself as the all knowing group and promised to right all the wrongs in the polity. Today, the political atmosphere in Nigeria has changed as Buhari, the poster boy of the APC has failed to deliver the change he and his party promised.
For instance, the APC made a thousand and one promises to the electorate during the campaigns only to deny these promises after assuming power. It has also disowned its campaign documents containing the programmes it promised to unleash on the country. Even some aspects of the party’s manifesto have become subjects of controversy as the APC appears not ready to be held accountable for anything.
On his own part, Buhari has accepted that he campaigned on three key issues namely to fight corruption, combat insecurity and revive the economy. True to his promise, he fought the anti-graft war and recovered billions of Naira, though the war is manifestly selective. Today opinions are divided as to the extent he had succeeded or failed to deliver on these three promises.
Penultimate week, a former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, issued a damming statement on the Buhari administration, scoring him low on almost all fronts. Obasanjo, who was one of those who supported the emergence of the APC and the candidacy of Buhari in the 2015 presidential poll, is so disappointed that he had to issue a red card to the regime. The report encapsulated all the lapses and failings of the regime including “nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness, the President’s poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics which has led to wittingly or unwittingly making the nation more divided and inequality has widened and become more pronounced. It also has effect on general national security. The third is passing the buck.’’
Talking about clannishness, it is visible even to the blind that his appointment favoured his Hausa/Fulani kinsmen to the detriment of other sections of the country.
The National Security Adviser, the Director- General of the local and foreign intelligence agencies- DSS and NIA respectively- are both in the hands of Katsina people; not just Fulanis from the north but from Katsina. Such a thing, it has been observed, has never happened in Nigeria. The composition of the entire Security Council is made up of Fulanis, and the only person in their midst is the Chief of Defence Staff, a Yoruba man, who does not command any troops.
And the entire Igboland does not have anybody in that council. This act, Chief Chekwas Okirie, Chairman of the UPP has said, violates the content of Section 14 of the 1999 Constitution, which preaches federal character. Section 14 (3) of the Constitution says: “The composition of government of the federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from states or section of the country.”
Obasanjo, having pronounced the current administration a failure, advised Buhari not to bother to seek re-election but to quietly go home to attend to his health and cattle ranch at the expiration of his current tenure. The Obasanjo report card on Buhari and APC is a major hurdle that Buhari must cross if he must set out on the journey to 2019. Most of the issues raised revolve around the worsening state of insecurity across Nigeria and the fight against corruption which is seen in many circles as biased and less than transparent.
Militancy and selective intervention
Buhari’s selective response to the militancy in the Niger Delta, the South-East and middle belt is another issue that can ruin his ambition in 2019. Political pundits find it inexcusable that he ordered the army, as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces to storm the South-Souht and South-East in Operations Crocodile Smile and Python Dance respectively but saw no reason to give teeth to Operation Safe Haven in the Middle Belt. The murderous activities of Fulani herdsmen in Benue, Nassarawa, Kaduna and Taraba are glaring references in this regard. The murder of 73 Benue people, destruction of their farm lands and villages without a strong statement from the President is still source of great concern.
The Chairman Benue State Council of Chief and The Tor Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Professor James Ortrse Ayatse, said the invasion of his domain by strange armed herdsmen killing, destroying farmlands of our people and burning down their houses, is not only barbaric but a “well planned out and well coordinated genocide on the Tiv people.” Though over 300 people have been reportedly arrested, up till today, the killings go on, such that traditional and religious leaders last week called on the President and indeed the Federal Government to stop the killings. Only recently were military troops deployed to Benue on the orders of the President.
Buhari will have an uphill task renewing his mandate and returning to Aso Rock after the 2019 elections for other factors. Apart from his abysmal performance in the last three years, he will have to contend with the wounds he has inflicted on the psyche of the electorate in different parts of the country. In the South-East, he will be confronted with deep seated animosity over the marginalisation of the people and the sledge hammer treatment his government gave to the agitation of the Indigenous People of Biafra.
The people in the South-South region will equally be waiting for him to explain the policies of his government that are perceived to have been negative to the region. In the Middle Belt, Buhari will not escape the anger of the minority tribes of the North who have been slaughtered in their hundreds by Fulani herdsmen over the last three years. Even in the South-West which is a major stakeholder in this government, the discerning voters would be asking questions about the Eldorado they were promised in 2015. Perhaps, only the far North, Buhari’s traditional stronghold where voter education is very poor and elections are based purely on tribal and religious sentiment, would the APC train have smooth ride.
Professor of International Law and Ju- rispurdence, Prof. Akin Oyebode said Obasanjo should be applauded for his intervention. “I think it is the most interesting story in the country since the beginning of the year. The Obasanjo statement seems to have entered the caveat about the choices facing the country in 2019. I must point out that Obasanjo is not the first person to advise the incumbent president not to seek re-election in 2019.
“I think Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie, not too long ago, said that Buhari should not make a fool of himself, that he should take an honorable exit from power and go and nurse himself to good health. Also, Mrs. Buhari had advised her husband not to give it a second try and that if he was going to do so he should count her out of those that would support that endeavour.
Quite sincerely, Chief Obasanjo is merely articulating what many of the friends of President Buhari ought to be telling him. “Many of those people are self-seekers, selfservers and self-opinionated people who are afraid of telling the president the truth. I think the nation should be grateful to Obasanjo for his intervention at a very critical period of the nation’s history. I think Obasanjo has his eyes on history.” However, there are some Nigerians who have called for caution over Obasanjo’s letter to President, Muhammadu Buhari.
A public interest lawyer and former National Secretary of the Labour Party, Dr. Kayode Ajulo said that while the letter was timely and captures the mood of the nation, Nigerians must not allow themselves to be used to advance a cause they do not fully understand its origins and dimensions.
Ajulo said that while Obasanjo canvassed some candid views, the tone and intent of the letter to the effect that Buhari should do the needful by stepping down from the presidential race come 2019 is at best suspicious and might have some ulterior motives.
“Yes, Obasanjo is ably competent and eminently qualified to see and say what it is concerning the project Nigeria. After all, he’s been through the seasons. But in arriving at his conclusions, President Olusegun Obasanjo throws around such emotive lexis as ‘needful’ and ‘honour’, as remedial intents, and making the unfortunate mistake of not taking into cognisance the fundamental right of President Buhari, to wit, the right to stand in for an election with all criteria set by law duly met.
“The right to vote and be voted for is a fundamental human right of an individual derivable from the constitution, same which afford President Buhari the right to vie for any political office – if he so deems fit. From this right of any Nigerian to participate in the government of their country, as embedded in the federal constitution and other human rights obligations, nationally and internationally, President Buhari, being adult, full citizen of Nigeria has by virtue of Sections 131 and 137 (1) c at least a tenure left to run for office as President. His winning or losing election in the event that he re-contests, however, is not within the capacity of any sole Nigerian to anticipate, irrespective.”
That said, the imperative is on the Nigerian people to determine who leads them again by conveying preference through their votes. “Meanwhile, without cashing on the wings of public opinion, there’s already a certain feel of communal statement about President Buhari. Nigerians will determine, in due course, the propriety or otherwise of the purported second tenure ambition- with or without a forerunner’s political pontifications.
“Let’s be reminded that the three cardinal promises made by this administration to the Nigerian people was the eradication of the trio of poverty, corruption and insecurity. Even a cursory look at the state of the nation shows that in all of the above indices, this administration has scored low. If their response is more of promises at the polls, then it is the responsibility of the suffering populace to say their displeasure and steal the show from its caftan-ed crew.
This is without regard to any arrogated political authority,” Ajulo said. Similarly, a civil society organisation, Vanguard for Transparent Leadership and Democracy, (VATLAD), has disagreed with Obasanjo on some of the contents of his letter.
National President of VATLAD, Comrade Odafe Igbini said Obasanjo lacked the moral right to write such a letter. Igbini argued that while Obasanjo was correct in his assessment and damning verdict on President Buhari, it was wrong for him to call on President Buhari not to seek a second term come 2019. “We have critically and objectively perused the statement issued by former President Obasanjo accusing President Buhari of poor performance in government in areas of poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty, condonation of misdeed, among others and based on which he advised him to step aside and not seek second term come 2019.
A social critic and former member of the National Assembly, Dr. Junaid Mohamned told Sunday Telegraph in an interview that although the last election was won based on the presumed pedigree of Buhari and the goodwill he enjoyed among Nigerians, it might be difficult for the APC to reenact such a resounding victory in 2019. Muhammed fears that the present administration might become desperate in its bid to renew its mandate.
“The incumbent in this dispensation has somehow been having a false belief that they need to produce lots of money to win the next election and we know when such money comes, it comes from the Ex-Chequer. This money is stolen.
“Now if those who won election in 2015, imagine that they cannot win in 2019 unless they make huge amounts of money in billions, you can see that we have not learnt any lessons. Like the pogroms, we learnt nothing and we forgot nothing.
“I don’t believe they have done enough to win the election and if they rig the election or think that they can buy their way by corrupting the security services- Armed Forces, Police and the other paramilitary institutions, there may be very serious consequences for that; they would be courting trouble. If they lose the election and they refuse to go, the country may be heading for the rocks,” he said.
How Buhari will navigate this in the face of growing opposition, emergence of the “Third Force,” though peopled by those with affiliation with the PDP, a party yet to come free of the baggage of years of misrule, still remains to be seen. One thing is certain though – the nation needs a new leader, not a cabal or geriatrics, but a visionary and dynamic one to steer it out of the woods.