Buhari’s right to run, Obasanjo’s right to warn

Fola Ojo

He was holidaying in the United States when some of his acolytes in government informed him that the military dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, had made plans to throw him in the slammer and silence him forever. He in turn sent a message publicly to the dictator not to try it. He dared Abacha and took the next flight back home. On his arrival, awaiting military snoopers slid him in shackles. They dragged him shamelessly and whisked the old man away to an unknown destination. Jungle justice through a military tribunal came crushing down with some vile verdict. Thirty years behind bars for being an “enemy” of the state. That was in 1995. Abacha was determined to snuff life out of him while in prison. But jammed and rammed between the alluring and fetching thighs of some Indian Delilahs and African Jezebels, the dictator suddenly died of a heart attack.

From 2013 through 2014, he warned sitting President Goodluck Jonathan not to run for re-election. Money-milking sycophants around Jonathan incited and coaxed the former president against his benefactor. He was called many ugly names from a “motor park tout” to raggedy old man who had outlived his usefulness and relevance for daring to ask their principal not to run.  Election time came in March 2015, so also did the shellacking at the polls by one Muhammadu Buhari from Daura.  Jonathan lost by about three million votes! Scales came off his eyes, and the gentle man from Otuoke tendered an unreserved apology to the man he had called mean names. Jonathan, today, is a good and loyal disciple to the man who helped him to become president.

Dr.Mathew Aremu Okikiola Olusegun Obasanjo’s 13-page letter to President Buhari is the latest phenomenon stirring up a spatio-temporal hubbub in Nigerian towns and villages. Obasanjo is not a Buharist. That nomenclature is for those who perceive Buhari as a god.  Baba is not one of them. He was Buhari’s boss during their military days. Before the 2015 election, Baba said these words: “I see Buhari as the next President and Jonathan is aware of that…a General is always a General…” Baba voted for Buhari in the election that made power change hands from the PDP to the APC.

A few days ago, Baba again sounded an alarm bell asking the President not to run for re-election in 2019. He wants him to go back to Daura with the remnants of his integrity intact.

Why must Buhari listen to Obasanjo? In a democracy, does anyone possess the right to force an eligible candidate to refrain from running or contesting an election? No! Is Buhari not his own man, the President of over 180 million Nigerians home and abroad and an expanse of land that measures 923,768 km, a GDP of about $490bn, active duty personnel in three armed services, totalling approximately 200,000 troops and 300,000 paramilitary personnel, and the leader of the giant of Africa? Yes! But also in a democracy, a failing and ticky-tacky politician does not have the right to think he has the right to be elected or re-elected by coercion. Buhari will decide what he wants to do. Baba’s opinions as expressed in the latest letter are not just his. They are of faces we don’t see; and voices we don’t hear publicly. And Buhari knows them all. Hit the streets and knock on palace doors, the same answer you may get.

The Presidency may want us to believe that recent critical voices are those of the corrupt who want corruption to linger on forever. No! The rising and intensifying voices of recriminations against Buhari are not of those who wished he died when he was sick, or who abhor him for all he stands for or against. They are coming from many who prayed for him that he became President; and who stood shoulder to shoulder with him during the odyssey of the campaign and ensured he won. Aisha, the President’s wife in the other room, is one of those voices. Many of these voices are close to Mr. President today.

When a man seeks political power, he has volunteered himself as a problem solver. If he can’t solve the problems, then he has become a problem multiplier. If he multiplies the people’s problems, then they have the right to say: He is not the one, we will look for another. No sentiment; no vacillating, no loyalty and commitment to what appears to be presidential cluelessness. This is about human lives and destinies of millions of people. It is how democracy works! It is not a personal bickering between Obasanjo and Buhari.

Has Buhari done some good? You bet, he has. Many of those facts were outlined yesterday in Lai Mohammed’s rebuttal to Obasanjo’s letter, and I believe them. But of what good is money generated while the owners of the money (ordinary Nigerians) continue to hunger, lose weight, lose hope; and die famished? Of what good is money generated and the people are exasperated? People embrace a candidate based on perception and emotion. This is not just about the economy. It is about perceived clannishness and ethnic jingoism. It is about too many shady men; in some shady business; and for shady purposes in the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and not penalised for their malfeasances. It is about one-sided fight against corruption. It is about Fulani herdsmen butchering men and women with impunity. It is about rampage and ruining of farmlands all across Nigeria. And it is about presidential dawdling and dillydallying. The President had said he was not in a hurry to get the business of the people done. He wants to take his time to fix Nigeria. That is a pharaonic error. If Buhari is not in a hurry, hurting Nigerians are. By next year and in a hurry, the same people who got him into office are warming up to get him out. That is what Obasanjo’s letter and Aisha’s cry for help are saying. But, like Jonathan, the President won’t hear them.

In any global environment of poverty and hunger, unconditional loyalty and commitment are impossible finds. If you desire loyalty and commitment from a hungry man, you have to pay for it; and it’s not cheap. And there are too many hungry people in Nigeria. It is difficult for a hungry man to listen to a seasoned sermonette of patience as he grows pale in famine. It is difficult to appeal for calm when men have not been paid salaries for 18 months. It is a steep climb to offer succouring speeches to men and women who feel like their lives are being stripped off them before their eyes by more powerful people in power.

Truth is unbending, unbended, self-defending, widely defended, sacred and constant.  But in Nigeria, it is not only coloured and doctored, it is also easily mangled and freely maligned. Unfortunately, growth and development, peace and progress will dwell only where truth feels at ease. Just like what happened in the days of Jonathan, men around President Buhari are not telling him the truth. There is much more going on, President Buhari must switch on the button of introspection. We want Buhari to succeed. When the tide rises, all boats float. If Nigeria becomes a place of peace and prosperity, we all get to benefit. IF it fails, we all partake. It is unfortunate that after all the efforts of Nigerians to get Buhari elected, Nigerians are still searching for a man who will stand for them as Mahatma Gandhi stood up for Indians, as Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for Black Americans, and as Madiba Mandela stood up for Black South Africans. These men stood for all; not just for a few. Can Buhari still be that man? I hope it’s not too late.

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