By Abubakar Usman
The title of this article would come as a surprise to many, especially those who know me and how much I have supported the candidature of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) since the 2003 election when he decided to join the race for the presidency. But if they understand the saying that life is all about change, they will see sense in the reason why I have taken the position expressed in this piece.
I grew up to know General Muhammadu Buhari as that Nigeria Head of State whose administration between 1983 and 1985 brought some level of discipline to public life, especially in the tackling of corruption that was prevalent at that time. I was to learn much later that Buhari also made gains in many areas that would have taken the country to greater heights if he were to remain beyond the August 17, 1985 date that he was overthrown by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
Buhari for example made gains in terms of reducing inflation by refusing to devalue the Nigerian Naira as advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). He moved to improve the nation’s economy by curbing imports of needless goods and introduced a barter trade policy where illegally bunkered crude oil seized from oil thieves where exchanged with the importation of needful goods like machineries to increase our industrial output and create employment, a policy that enabled the country to export above its OPEC quota.
During his sojourn as Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a body funded from increased revenue earnings to pursue developmental projects around the country, Gen. Buhari demonstrated high level of transparency and accountability in the administration of the organisation. In what “New Africa” report in 1998 described as a rare success story, Buhari developed the country’s infrastructure in a manner that is unprecedented. Road and bridges were built, hospitals were equipped with drug and facilities, instructional material were provided to schools at various levels but to mention a few.
Armed with this information, I had no difficulty throwing my weight in support of the General when he decided to contest for the country’s number one seat in 2003 and still supported him all through to the 2011 election. I campaigned in the little way I can to ensure his success, and till tomorrow, it is a decision I remain proud of.
Though I understand that Buhari’s regime between 1983 and 1985 when IBB overthrew him had some serious issues of human right abuses, such as passing of decrees curbing press freedom and allowing for opponents to be detained up to three months without formal charges, as well as the banning of strikes among Nigerian workers, I simply weighed the positive and negative aftermath of his regime to arrive at my decision. The selling point I saw is his uprightness and stand against corruption. With my believe that the number one problem bedeviling the growth and development of Nigeria is corruption, I see Buhari as that man who can effectively put things to shape in Nigeria by ensuring that corruption becomes a thing of the past
The hope and believe that I have about Buhari got bolstered barely two months ago when I had the opportunity to sit one-on-one with him in the company of other youths in Kaduna discussing how Nigeria got to where it is today and the enormity of work that needs to be done to pull her out of the mess. Answering to questions put to him, you can feel the passion and love for the country burning in his response.
He told us that at the age of 70, he has nothing else to protect other than the interest of his grand children and the people of Nigeria. He told us how as a true believer, whether Christian or Muslim, you don’t give up in a cause you believe will liberate the people from hunger, poverty, deprivation etc and so won’t give up in his quest to see that Nigeria takes its rightful place as a nation whose resources is enough to make her one of the greatest country in the world.
If I do not know all these about the General, I would have been swayed by the campaign of calumny that has been mounted against him since 2003. Since the man made the bold decision of contesting for the president of Nigeria, it has been one form of mud sliding or the other. The aim is simply to damage the Buhari brand so that they can continue with the looting and destruction of the country. Thos who are objective enough and have not joined the campaign of hate against the man might be wondering why this is happening, but the reasons are not farfetched and I shall tell why.
In Nigeria, elections have become something more about sentiments and public perception; such that if you do not have these two factors in your favour, you are almost certain to lose no matter how good you are to man that office. Winning elections based on issues or what you have to offer is a far cry from what we see.
Take the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as Nigeria’s President in 2011 for example. Did he win because he was able to convince Nigerians that the country will be truly transformed as promised? Jonathan got the votes of Nigerians purely on the basis of sentiment and public perception in his favour.
Factors like the fate he suffered during the health saga of late President Umaru Yaradua where a tiny group of cabal held the nation to a standstill, the thinking of many Nigerians that a Niger Delta person be allowed to have a go at the presidency and propaganda campaigns like “I have no shoes” simply worked in his favour.
With Buhari showing interest once again in running for the number one seat in the next general election that is fast approaching and given the comments from certain personalities from the Northern and Southern parts of the country, there is nothing to show that the same sentiment and perception will not play a major role in who becomes the President come 2015. This no doubt is responsible for the renewed onslaught on the person of Buhari all in the grand scheme of swaying the public from voting him in 2015.
Buhari’s crime is all because he expresses opinions as a Nigerian most of which are misinterpreted to suit certain interest. This is one man who have been battling to correct the people’s perception about him, especially to the southerners and Christian population since the time he was erroneously misquoted as saying Muslims should vote for a Muslim candidate in 2003, only to be credited in recent time to a statement that seem to portray him as being in support of terrorism in Nigeria. The retired General was quoted to have said “They (the Niger-Delta militants) were trained in some skills and were given employment, but the ones in the north were being killed and their houses were being demolished.”
Personally, I feel saddened that Buhari made that comment, not because I know he meant it literally, but because as someone who has been bobby trapped, he needed to have been careful about the opinion he expresses so that he won’t continue to fall into the trap of the enemy. In my opinion, what the General meant was that there should not be double standards in dealing with those that perpetrates crime.
Kind of, if you must reward crime, reward all the criminals and if you must punish for crime, punish all the criminals, but given an initial impression of who people think the man is and the need to nail him at every slightest opportunity by those whose interest it is, you will hardly find anyone who will read beyond what the statement credited to him actually meant.
I had in a previous article stated that since the Federal Government decided to reward the Niger Delta militants even after revolting against the state, it should not be a different ball game for the Boko Haram members if they decide they also want amnesty. Agreed that the menace of Boko Haram is more deadly and untold compare to that of the Niger Delta militants and that the militants where agitating for a genuine cause, while that of the Boko Haram is either unknown or seen to be irrational, my argument had been that a crime is a crime and should be treated as such, no matter the motive behind it.
The difference in my comment and that of General Buhari is that mine as an ordinary citizen stays within the confines of where it is said or expressed, but for Buhari as a national figure and as someone whom they want to bury at all cost, they will make it grace the headlines of newspapers and force it to remain in peoples memory for as long as possible.
A lot of people make comments that are inflammatory, sectional and inciting, but are never overblown or misinterpreted as always in the case of Buhari. Suffice to add that majority of those against the candidature of Gen. Buhari for the number one seat or his person as a whole do not genuinely do so because they actually believed he is what many think he is.
They probably do not just like his being upright, ability to curb corruption and enthrone justice, otherwise how anyone would explain that Buhari’s comments are easily tied to one form of evil or the other, while that of other notable personalities are allowed to pass. President Jonathan in 2010 for example exonerated MEND for the Oct 1 bombings despite the group claiming responsibility for the attack. How many people called him a member of MEND or said he is supporting militancy?
Like I said earlier, I do not think Buhari literally meant what was said in that comment and I agree that given the stereotype and perception and his place in the society, I would have been far better if he didn’t say it at all, but assuming he actually meant it; did he say anything different from what actually transpired? Were the Niger-Delta militants not trained in some skills and given employment despite committing crime against the state, whether or not their agitations are genuine or not?
Back to the issue of perception and why I wonder what Buhari’s detractor stand to benefit from dragging him in the mud, I can bet it that if Buhari announce today that he is quitting politics, all this mud sliding will seize, because it seems to me that the target is to ensure that he does not even contest at all, let alone winning; but why the fear?
The truth is that the stake, especially at this critical moment is bigger than one individual. The immediate challenge is to have PDP who have inflicted us with pains and untold hardship for the past 14 years removed from power and a government who will give us a new lease of life enthroned.
Nigeria needs a leader who is qualified and competent to tackle corruption, solve the nation’s power problems, create employment, ensure security of lives and properties and improve the welfare of every Nigerians. If the APC feels General Muhammadu Buhari is the most competent person amongst its fold that should fly the flag of the party in 2015, let thy will be done. The APC may not be the messiah, but at least it will throw up a healthy competition and give the people the chance to choose.
While some of us support Buhari with the belief that he is competent to take Nigeria away from its current mess, some other persons are of the opinion that he has nothing to offer and do not want him to emerge as president. However, I think that should be left for Nigerians to decide at the ballot.
If Nigerians believe that Jonathan is still the man that Nigeria needs, let the votes be given to him and Buhari once again stopped from leading the country. The 2015 election is probably going to be the last he will ever contest or participate actively, but whatever we decide, let our votes be based on merits and not sentiments.
To the supporters of General Muhammadu Buhari, do not allow them to convince you that he is not fit to become Nigeria’s president. The aim from the onset is to ensure that he does not stand a chance of even standing for an election, let alone winning and this does not have to do with people in the PDP alone. Those against the Buhari’s ambition are not just people in the PDP, they cut across party lines. You will even find many of them in the APC and the reason for that are very obvious; they want the status quo to remain.
As for the General himself, I advise him not to be swayed by the hate campaign. If he feels he has what it takes to lead Nigeria out of her present problem, he should go ahead and contest the election. Let Nigerians be the ones that will use their hands to reject him. At least, his conscience will be clear that he didn’t keep quiet when he needed to speak.
Abubakar Sidiq Usman is an Urban Planning Consultant; Blogger and an Active Citizen working towards a better Nigeria. He blogs HEREand can be engaged directly on twitter @Abusidiqu