2019: Can Buhari survive gang-up of the generals?

2019: Can Buhari survive gang-up of the generals?
March 05 19:00 2018 Print This Article

By Danladi Garba

Indeed, this is an interesting time in Nigeria’s political history. And it is so for many reasons chief among which is the uncertainty surrounding President Muhammadu Buhari’s reelection bid or otherwise in the forthcoming general elections in 2019.

Though the President is yet to make a decision on his next political destination known, his body language and the pronouncements made by some of his aides and political associates tend to suggest he will seek a second term.

In fact, even the pronouncements of some of the President’s political foes, topnotch politicians and members of the intelligence cadre, and the so-called advise given to the President urging him to jettison the idea of seeking reelection, as negative as they are, tend to give impression that Buhari, indeed, nurses an aspiration to be a two-time elected leader.

Only recently, a former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, through an open letter, called on the President not to contest for his seat again in next year‘s election. Similarly, former president Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB), via a public statement which he was quick to deny, advised the President against seeking reelection.

Specifically, Obasanjo, in his vituperations against the President, talks about impunity when he said: “There were serious allegations of round-tripping against some inner caucus of the Presidency which would seem to have been condoned. I wonder if such actions do not amount to corruption and financial crime, then what is it? Culture of condonation and turning blind eye will cover up rather than clean up. And going to justice must be with clean hands.”

Obasanjo also accused the President of nepotism, which he said borders “on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court.”

A week after Obasanjo asked the President not to seek re-election, IBB also issued a statement asking Nigerians to vote President Muhammadu Buhari out of office next year. In a press statement released recently by his spokesman, Kassim Afegbua, he, however, enjoined Nigerians to co-operate with Buhari until his tenure ends.

Babangida said it was time to sacrifice “personal ambition” for “national interest” and added that he will support a fresh breed of leadership in the 2019 elections.

IBB said: “In the past few months also, I have taken time to reflect on a number of issues plaguing the country. I get frightened by their dimensions. I get worried by their colourations. I get perplexed by their gory themes. From Southern Kaduna to Taraba state, from Benue state to Rivers, from Edo state to Zamfara, it has been a theatre of blood with cake of crimson. In Dansadau in Zamfara state recently, North-West of Nigeria, over 200 souls were wasted for no justifiable reason. The pogrom in Benue state, said IBB, has left him wondering if truly this is the same country “some of us fought to keep together.”

IBB said that he was alarmed by the amount of blood-letting across the country, claiming that: “Nigeria is now being described as a land where blood flows like river, where tears have refused to dry up. Almost on a daily basis, we are both mourning and grieving, and often times left helpless by the sophistication of crimes.”

Agreed, it can be argued that whosoever chooses to neglect political advise of these two weighty generals may do so at his or her own peril, and if previous repercussions that trailed their so-called advise are anything to go by, this statement cannot be further away from the truth.

In fact, so powerful are these two generals as well as General Abdulsalam Abubakar (retired) and General TY Danjuma (retired) that they have been involved in choosing Nigerian leaders since the 70s; and now it appears that Obasanjo and IBB have deserted the President.

General Abubakar also visited the President on February 13. Did he convey the same message? Mind you, in the 2013 letter he wrote to former President Goodluck Ebere Jonathan titled “Before It Is Too Late,” Obasanjo copied IBB, General Abubakar and TY Danjuma, which means they may always be together.

Why is it that the unwritten presidential code in the United States of America where former presidents don’t publicly criticise the sitting president does not apply here? Of course, answers to these questions can only be provided through time, but it must be asked if the letters written by Obasanjo and IBB are appropriate, considering that the two power brokers have unfettered access to the President.

It is argued, and the argument can hardly be faulted, that the President is, by his nature, a listening person and attaches huge importance to advise from those who senior him in age and profession, like Obasanjo. And, he Obasanjo, like others, know that.

It’s true that Obasanjo has made a career out of attacking all leaders since 1979. Before Buhari, he launched ferocious media attacks against President Shehu Shagari, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), General Sani Abacha, President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and President Goodluck Jonathan.

Rightly, Nigerians respect his views on how the country should be governed, even if he criticised on issues that he was patently guilty of, mainly because the messages were apt and appropriate. But analysts believe that this time, his message is not apt. it’s not appropriate. It’s not to the right President. It’s not from the right messenger.

And, above all, some analysts are of the view that like the IBB, Obasanjo’s message will and cannot be heeded or taken seriously by Nigerians, not Nigerians don’t respect them anymore, but because this time, unlike in previous times, the president is delivering, especially in the area of anti-corruption, an area where both IBB and Obasanjo have done, in the opinion of many, far less than Buhari.

For example, Obasanjo, in his letter, complains about corruption even as Nigerians knew his alleged role in the Halliburton and Siemens scandals. Again, under Obasanjo, a certain Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Defence was implicated in N421 million scandal and what happened? The prosecution of the case was ended by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice via Nolle Prosequi.

Lest we forget, for eight years under Obasanjo, Nigeria imported fuel, as corrupt as that process is, with little or no effort from his administration to refurbish local refineries and end the petroleum subsidy payment regime. And, guess, who benefited from the importation exercise? They were Obasanjo’s friends and financiers in the PDP.

Also regrettably, Obasanjo, an engineer, failed to resolve electricity problem in the eight years that he ruled as a civilian president, with about 16 billion dollars spent on power by his administration.

As for the federal highways, Obasanjo met and left them in terrible state for the eight years that he was in power.

On the issue of insecurity, the now dreadful Boko Haram started under his administration. If he had aborted it at its infant stage, Nigeria would have saved lives that were lost and the billions of dollars used in buying weapons to fight the sect.

In the Niger Delta, militancy started there in 2004 and flourished under Obasanjo’s watch while cases of kidnapping expatriates and local oil workers and bombing of oil installations became the order of the day. At a stage, daily crude oil production fell to about 900,000 barrels, from the then 2.5 million barrels per day.

Under IBB, the debilitating Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was introduced and ruthlessly implemented despite its excruciating pains and unpatriotic experience.

Precisely, it is the sordid and uneventful past of the authors of the letters to the President and the performance and popularity of Buhari that made their recent action uncalled for.

No wonder, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Professor Itse Sagay described Obasanjo’s letter as insulting. Sagay, in a statement in Abuja said: “I saw Obasanjo’s comments and I could not believe my eyes, that a man who tried to get a third term is discouraging someone else from getting a second term. It doesn’t make sense. I think it is insulting for a man who wanted third term to tell somebody else not to want second term. It is most inappropriate, and for a former head of state to say so is most improper.”

All said, however, can Buhari survive gang-up of the generals? Are Nigerians interested in their message of the generals? Can he win reelection in 2019? Will his popularity pay him off this time around? Will he confine the generals permanently to the dustbin of history or to the “retirees’ club” as Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu said?

As things are now in the country, political pundits believe that the President still stands the chance of emerging victorious in the forthcoming elections considering his towering personality and acceptability by the populace. Because there seems to be a consensus that opponents of the President are mostly who, in one way or the other, had their toes matched by him or their toes are set to be matched by him. Meaning, his opponents are mainly those oppose to his style of administration which is anchored on honesty, transparency and merit.

Unfortunately, these are virtues considered by established politicians to be alien to the nation’s style of governance and politicking. Buhari’s style, in effect, does not emphasise granting of undue favours, sycophancy and corruption which politicians are used to feed on or have their friends and hangers-on benefit from.

It would take a miracle to have disciplined leaders, like Buhari, to succeed in this type of society because when such leaders emerge they would be largely opposed by corrupt politicians who are used to the “short cut” approach of doing things.

And today, many Nigerians believe that the President is been criticised by enemies of of the country because the ideal things he is doing to sanitise the nation makes no sense to them.

The value systems the President is bringing to the society is conflicting with the ones that topnotch politicians are used to, leading to their condemnation, clashes, conflicts, controversies and disagreement witnessed across the country which, unfortunately, the so-called leaders and unpatriotic politicians blame the present administration for failing to control.

Yet, any leader that wishes to develop this country must, like Buhari, alter the way things are done. Thankfully, Nigerians now realise that fact and, above all, know that until we change, nothing changes.

This realisation among Nigerians is, of course, the reason why the President holds the ace, despite the strong opposition coming from the quarters of those considered as frustrated and unpatriotic leaders and politicians in the build-up to the 2019 presidential elections.