The headline of this article was lifted from a story in the New York Times published recently, but it’s something I had pondered before I stumbled on it. It speaks directly to the current political realities in our dear country. Most of the people the writer spoke to, pointed at the level of insecurity as the reason for their support for Buhari. “The state is collapsing and everybody is frightened,” Jibrin Ibrahim, a Political Scientist with the Centre for Democracy and Development in Abuja, told the New York Times.
The story is coming on the heels of the recent acknowledgment by the United States Government, that the escalation in the activities of Boko Haram is linked to the 2015 election. The U.S State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said in her daily briefing recently: “There has been a sharp escalation in the number of reported casualties; we do believe the election is a factor’’ – “Boko Haram has tended to, particularly around something like an election, use political issues or sensitivities to try to enflame tensions,” she said. “We have seen that as one of their tactics and that is why it is so important to move forward with the election, because we believe it’s important.”
For those who still doubt that Boko Haram is political, the recent escalation in the murderous reign of terror by this devilish sect as the election approaches is your answer. It confirms the long-held suspicion of the true motivation of those behind the sect. Of late, the sect has become more audacious in its activities, killing and maiming thousands all in a bid to create more resentment, disenchantment and fear in the minds of the people and consequently influence the upcoming election.
But more specifically, give momentum to the APC presidential candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Interestingly, it is achieving that objective, as Buhari has been harping on the deteriorating security situation as a campaign strategy at every stop in his tour. It has become a vote winner for the old soldier who some now believe may well possess the magic wand against the sect. With each new attack, he wins new converts and the deadlier and more audacious the attacks, the more converts are won for the general. While it may well be true that the satanic sect acts on its own, this probability pales in the face of statements from some leaders of thought from the region. If this is a coincidence, how many coincidences do we get before they stop being coincidences?
It is doubtful if the level of insecurity we have seen and experienced in the country, especially in the North-east wasn’t this bad whether Buhari would have been a strong contender as he is today. The violence we are seeing today bears a direct correlation with the avowed commitment by elements of the northern establishment to make the country ungovernable should one of their sons not win the 2011 presidential election. They have done just that, and have left no one in any doubt about what they want for peace to reign. Those same elements came out to announce to the whole world that “Buhari is the candidate of the North.” I waited patiently to no avail for our reformed and rebranded “saint Buhari” to disown that statement. Instead, he basked in it, as he accepted the regional candidacy of the North, contrary to what his promoters want us to believe that he isn’t an ethno-religious bigot. Had he promptly cautioned those elements with a strong rebuke, that he is a candidate of Nigeria for Nigerians, perhaps, one would have been less suspicious of his motive for seeking power. A section of the media excitedly played it up in a fitting endorsement of Buhari, practically declaring victory for the general before the election.
The complicity and silence of the northern establishment, especially its intelligentsia, in the face of premeditated violence against fellow citizens of this country and the subtle support they give the sect has created a monster with which they have frightened Nigerians into supporting Buhari – “the North’s candidate” in the March election, – and is being portrayed as the man who can bring enduring peace.
Recall here that when the state of emergency was declared and was yielding desired results at the initial stage, this same northern establishment, Borno Elders Forum and the so-called leaders of thought, rose stoutly against the federal government, accusing the military of human rights abuses. They even threatened to drag the former army chief, General Azubuike Ihejirika, to the International Criminal Court (ICC), for trial. The foreign press spread this allegation of rights violation like wildfire and helped to stamp the tag on Nigeria. This is now what is cited by America as the reason for frustrating arms purchases by our country to fight the sect. With the deadly escalation in the activities of the terrorists, the northern establishment readily point to it as the strong reason Jonathan should be voted out and why Buhari will be a suitable replacement.
Beyond anything else, Buhari’s supposed appeal is predicated on his military background and his famed no-nonsense approach to issues.
If it had stopped at that, of course his candidacy would have looked very appealing, but the clear danger is that Buhari is more complicated than just the above attributes.
I hate to sound like a broken record, but I must restate it here. As I have stated in other articles and will continue to state until proved wrong, Buhari is no change agent as he lacks the broad-minded world-view to lead and inspire change. His past as documented in our record books is not only a personal catastrophe, but a clear and present danger for the country.
For the life of me, how can it ever be right for Buhari to have even condemned federal government’s state of emergency declared in the North-east to stem the murderous sect? How can it ever be right for him to have said that the state of emergency was an injustice to the North? How can it ever be right for Buhari to have said that while the federal government gives special treatment to Niger Delta militants, the same government was killing Boko Haram members and demolishing their houses?
He made these statements after the sect had killed and maimed thousands, including students who were burnt, while churches, mosques, businesses such as banks, shops, markets, government properties were destroyed.
The reality of what we face is frightening, even though some people want to make us believe that it is okay for him to benefit from a crime against humanity being committed daily by the very people he once spoke in their defence.
I am at pains to understand how a man so full of contradictions can symbolise change and become the face of the Nigeria of our dreams. I am in pains to see the Facebook and Twitter generation fall over themselves for Buhari, as those who should know turn a blind eye to all the red-flags and danger signals, saying they don’t care, provided Jonathan goes. But they should care because “the future is greater than the passing present” and the lessons of the past must act as guides to the future otherwise we are condemned to repeat the same mistakes.
Most of the people rooting for Buhari simplify their arguments to the convenience of today’s needs, and fail to appraise events on the basis of how we got here. The fierce urgency of the nation’s security needs appears to have browbeaten our people to submission irrespective of the greater danger that may lie ahead. While the current government cannot totally be absolved of blame in the mishandling of the Boko Haram menace, fact even the President has acknowledged the struggle for power by the North is largely to blame for the current security challenges in the country.
Buhari’s greatest strength for looking good in the election is the insecurity the country is currently facing. He has consistently stated that he would stabilise the North-east and wipe out the terrorists. As good as it sounds, he has been short on details on how he will deal with the terrorists.
While it is true that his military background is easily seen as a plus, it would be simplistic to think that this alone would scare the terrorists.
Buhari is trained in conventional military tactics and warfare where you know your enemy, the rules of engagement are defined and territorial borders well known. He retired 31 years ago; a lot has changed even within the conventional tactics of military engagementsince then.
What we face now is an asymmetric warfare where the unseen enemy largely dictates the fight, where borders are not clearly defined and your enemy lives amongst the ordinary people on the streets. They strike at will when you least expect through various means such as suicide bombings, planting of explosives in markets and densely populated places for maximum effect. We are even facing an escalated form of it where the enemy is now venturing to seize territories.
Does Buhari understand all this? The world is facing a campaign of terror like never before with Al Qaeda leading the pack and spreading its terror franchise across to radical Muslim groups around the world such as Al Shabaab, Islamic State, Boko Haram, etc.
Buahri has not shown that he understands the current security challenges we face. All we hear from him is “I will stabilise the North-east, I will fight Boko Haram.” How do you fight an implacable, bloodthirsty enemy with a heavy dose of religious extremism? The answer is still up in the air.
Should Nigerians hand him the mandate, it would amount to the biggest “ransom” ever extracted from a people, – and it frightens me to no end where that will possibly lead us as a country. I worry very much that in some peoples’ desperate quest for power and its privileges, all the institutions of state are being brought down on the altar of politics.
Buhari’s campaign tours are usually marked with enthusiastic crowds but his messages always come across as weak. He looks frail, aloof, uninspiring and disappointing when given the microphone to address the people. It is doubtful if he has addressed a rally continuously for five minutes. Yet, this is the man who now symbolises change;- the same person who has refused to participate in the debates on how he will move the country forward.
Citing bias, Buhari is avoiding a debate and his supporters are quick to offer support to his position pointing out that Jonathan did not participate in one of the debates in 2011.
It is a shame that a party that wants to break away from the past and do things differently and more transparently will now cite Jonathan’s non-participation in 2011 in one debate as an excuse to justify its own morbid fears about its candidate’s abilities. And contrary to what they want us to believe, sources within the party revealed that allowing Buhari to debate on live television won’t serve its electoral interests. Several days of simulation and coaching in preparation for the debates failed dismally to yield the desired results, as the old man kept forgetting, rambling and jumbling up what he was taught by his coaches.
It is noteworthy that about eighty per cent of what he was taken through, he could not recall a few minutes later. Worried by this, APC took the decision not to expose him to Nigerians who they fear will desert him in droves. They are coming up with all sorts of stupid excuses as reason for non-participation.
I have often wondered how President Jonathan got himself in the situation he is today. How did he manage to erode the goodwill he enjoyed among a cross-section of Nigerians so much so, that many youths now prefer Buhari (72) to navigate them to the future – a possibility they wouldn’t have even considered in the past. I think it boils down largely to the same security issue I had earlier pointed out. The president’s handling of this all important issue has been less than impressive, as he failed to take decisive action much earlier. Also important, he sometimes comes across as aloof to the plight of victims of Boko Haram, thereby losing several vital moments to connect and feel the pains of the victims.
With the presidential election just more than a month away, the choice before Nigerians is as stark as never before and the stakes have never been higher. The language of discourse is full of threats and promise of violence, such that you will think we are approaching end times. This is further exacerbated by the threats coming from the National Chairman of All Progressive Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie Oyegun, that his party would form a parallel government if it loses; matched against that, are threats of war from some supposedly reformed ex-militants of Ijaw extraction if Jonathan loses the upcoming election.
There is an ominous cloud hanging precariously in the air as D-day approaches. For those of us who have no other country but Nigeria, my appeal to those beating the war drums is this;- burn down your father’s house first before torching your neighbour’s.