Buhari’s Campaign, Debate By Proxy, By Festus Adedayo
President Muhammadu Buhari shocked the world last week and ipso facto pushed his contentious name and credentials into the Guinness Book of Records. Even his admirers who bear cultic allegiance to his leadership credentials were serially shocked. At a time when those who claim to see doom in his second term candidacy wondered how the president would weather the rigor of campaigns and its very demanding pressure, he shocked them to their marrows.
At the launch of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Council held in Abuja last week, the president said he had appointed Tinubu the co-chairman of his campaign coordination. His alibi was that, even though he would be involved in the campaign, his major bother would be to ensure that governance does not suffer in the next two months or so during which the presidential election is going to take place. He had said: “Even though we have only 40 days, this campaign is going to task us all because we intend to touch all corners of our great and vast country. But I must also add that, though we will all be deeply involved, I would like to assure the nation that I will do my part. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, my co-chairman, will be fully in charge and is going to be on 24-hour vigil. That is to say, the operational buck of this campaign stops at his table and I, therefore, urge all of us in the leadership of this campaign, in the field operations on the campaign trail and in the Secretariat to consult with Asiwaju whenever guidance is needed,” he had said.
While his political opponents, political scientists and even the world in entirety were fazed by this unprecedented political novelty, the rank of Tinubu’s political followers, comparable only to a widespread army of bees, exploded into unqualified joy. It was an indication that Tinubu had eventually drowned his political adversaries, a coterie of which had grown, especially in the South West of Nigeria, his followers say. Since his inauguration, Tinubu himself has increased his political grandstanding. He hit some imaginary political foes, especially the opposing Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and threw shells on their faces. Not only has Tinubu been trying to establish the inclement foe-ship of Atiku Abubakar, he has extended this into a narrative of an implacable hatred for the Yoruba by the PDP.
The infernal hatred for Tinubu by and interloping interference of Olusegun Obasanjo, which manifested in the seizure of Lagos federal allocation by Obasanjo, a contentious issue in the South West, Tinubu has attempted to appropriate into this war of February. “Atiku was the Vice President of this country when the local government allocation for Lagos State was seized. When we led a protest to Atiku then, he said ‘go away, go and comply,’” Tinubu was quoted to have said. He however failed to explain why or how he eventually after this so-called role in the allocation issue, he went into his vomit and serially parleyed with this selfsame foe in the person of Abubakar in their political voyages thereafter. This is the same man Tinubu now attempts to fetishize as an enemy.
When Tinubu began this harangue and Atiku asked him to tell Nigerians what his (Tinubu’s) role was in Obasanjo’s Operation Take Over South West and how Atiku allegedly came to his and the South West’s rescue which prevented Obasanjo’s conquistadorial plan of totally routing the region from coming to manifestation, he kept mute. One would have expected a Tinubu who truly believes and is convinced in the now ending four year term of Buhari to begin to sell the candidature by telling the world what he had brought the way of Nigerians during this period, rather than engaging in ad hominien arguments of attacking him.
Anyway, this decision of President Buhari to absent self from his own presidential campaign has been trending all over the world. An admixture of mockery, disdain and bewilderment has attended this decision that ostensibly has no precedent. How could a man be absent at his own presidential campaign? If a presidential campaign is a referendum on the candidacy of a man who seeks to be elected, is this position delegable? If there is a lacuna in the law which allows this, is there also a lacuna in morality that allows a politician, especially one aspiring for the highest office in the land, to do this? This is the question that has been on the lips of the people as they marvel at the absurdly novel presidential campaign committee put together by the President.
The absurdity of the decision has provoked discussions in political and academic circles. What could be responsible for this decision and why did Buhari choose to take this it? Could it be because of the allegation that he could not withstand the mental and physical rigour that go into election campaigns, especially having to traverse the length and breadth of the country to seek the people’s votes? Could it be that the president and his party, the APC, were just too confident of the votes of the people and couldn’t care about the presence of the President at those rallies? The other seemingly illogical but pertinent question to ask as a result of this decision is, could Buhari’s absence from the campaign podium be an attempt to shield himself from the scrutiny of the people?
The question that pertains to the state of the President’s health probably being the reason why he wants to absent himself from the campaign podium becomes very germane for Nigerians to ask because, as we speak, no one can say for sure what ails or ailed the President. Buhari, you will recall, suddenly disappeared from the radar in 2017. A caterwaul of rumours began to emanate from the four corners of Nigeria as to his whereabouts. While some claim that he had been afflicted by a terminal disease which was only a matter of time before he bowed out, some other rumours countered this. Like we had during the Umaru Yar’Adua era, a cabal whose interest was not for the correct state of health of Buhari to be communicated to the world sprang up. This cabal was said to have initiated many presidential policies in the president’s absence which were solely geared towards individual and ethnic advantages. While Buhari was receiving treatment in the United Kingdom, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was also allegedly summoned by the cabal to see his principal. It was such a messy contraption managed and fanned by propaganda and outright falsehood that Nigeria became a laughing stock in the estimation of an international community which did not see any ceremony in a president carrying an existential can of ill health which is an accepted fate of every mortal. Indeed, the sane world believes that obfuscating the president’s health as the top hierarchy of the President’s kitchen cabinet did was a manifestation of our unfavourable, yet unpleasant past of monarchical infallibility, where the king was perceived as incapable of taking ill like a mere mortal.
To those who reckoned that he would lose the battle, Buhari later on shocked all of them. He even came out to put the lies of his media handlers in perspective by telling the world that he was indeed very sick and had had a blood transfusion. Since then, his physical health has taken a positive shine, with many still believing that the president does not have the agility and capability demanded to administer a Nigeria with its complexities and variegated challenges. Indeed, many suggested that he should not attempt to contest the 2019 elections, submitting that it would be a disservice to the people of Nigeria for a Buhari whose health is a guesswork to offer self for another rigorous four-year tenure which would invariably be administered on his behalf by proxies.
So, on the campaign, who will mount the podium, with a microphone, asking for the people’s votes? Would it be Tinubu? If it is Tinubu, who then will be the rightful and beneficial owner of the mandate so campaigned for in absentia? Will it still be Buhari or Tinubu? This further brings the question of what texture the mandate so gotten and given by a proxy will have. Will it be right to refer to Buhari as the owner of such mandate? The anxiety and euphoria in the Tinubu camp over this ceding of the sole right to man the Buhari campaign to him is baffling and smacks of a truncated narrative.
Political pundits who are aware of the blood pressure of politics in Nigeria and the South West in particular have posited that Tinubu is on the hustling for the 2023 presidential election and has been positioning self to run for the election. This was why, the pundits reasoned, he was very particular about routing Ibikunle Amosun when the latter was coasting home to victory in the quest to create a new hegemony for the South West power base. With his ostensible rout of Amosun from the equation of power in the region, the coast seems to be clear for Tinubu now in the quest for re-ascendancy. Governors in the Amosun team who earlier queued behind him in their disdain for Tinubu’s hegemony have been whipped back to line. Sola Oke, Ondo governor’s nemesis, for instance, was recently nominated into the APC election team. The governorship elections in the rest of the states whose batons of power are going to be exchanged in about two months’ time, Tinubu seems to be on top of it as the top contestants are on the apron strings of the Bourdillon. The target is that, when push comes to shove, as the saying goes, Tinubu would have the South West to bargain with in his quest to be enthroned the president of Nigeria.
It does occur to me, however, that the greatest casualty in this incongruous equation would be Tinubu himself. It is almost a certainty that the combination of Buhari and the hawks who surround him would never allow power to go to the South West and if it does, would never be comfortable with the idea of ceding it to Buhari, a man whom, in the confines of their bedroom, they have scant respect for. With the way the president and this cabal treated Tinubu ignominiously immediately Buhari took over power in 2015, it is obvious that they will repeat same immediately they take over power in February, which will necessarily necessitate their liquidation of the man they call Jagaban Borgu.
For us as a people, the incongruity of Buhari ceding the power for his campaign to Tinubu should bother us. Those who think there is nothing wrong in it should be put on record that they indeed made this astonishing commentary. We will all face the consequences of where we stand in this presidential election that is afoot. For a Buhari who will not be in the presidential debate for Nigerians to one on one scan the rightness of his candidature, as he will be represented by proxy; and who will be campaigned for by proxy, we should not complain if at the end of the day, he runs a post-2019 government by proxy as he is doing at the moment. The discourse on the rightness or wrongness of Buhari being campaigned for by proxy confirms Eurocentric historians’ claim that the Blackman is an eternal fool. It stands against reason that a man who wants our votes cannot stand before us to canvass the votes. Where we stand as individuals shouldn’t have anything to do with this equation. Let us not reason on account of political party, where we hail from or keep silent from standing on the queue of what is equitable and fair, so that the man does not dies in us. As Jamaican musician, Peter Tosh, admonishes: we do not have too long to wait. It is coming close to payday for us all, no matter where we belong.
Onnoghen’s Removal Roulette
Those who have come to realize that Nigeria is a wheel of musical cheer can never be shocked about anything that emanates from the podium of power in Nigeria. Just like this trending news that has seized the news wave in the last 24 hours or so. It is to the effect that, all things being equal, the Federal Government, led by President Muhammadu Buhari, may be arraigning the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen in court tomorrow. At the moment, government has reportedly asked him to immediately vacate his office over alleged sundry assets declaration issues. The charge is said to have been filed at the time of writing this, preparatory to Onnoghen being charged for this alleged crime. He was said to have failed to declare his assets, as well as being in possession of a domiciliary account. Among others, he was said to have made a deposit of $10,000 many consecutive times in 2011, before he was made the CJN. The pleading of government at the CCT would be that he be asked to resign from his position.
A civil society group, Anti-corruption and Research-based Data Initiative (ARDI) had petitioned government dated January 7, 2019 and it was said to have been stamped ‘Received’ at the office of the Code of Conduct Tribunal Chairman on January 9. What that means is that, within five days, the Nigerian government would go down in history as exhibiting a swiftness to prosecute an office holder that is not native to the Nigerian establishment.
Already, tongues are wagging on the actual motive of government in seeking Onnoghen’s removal. It raises curious questions as well. If government knew all these, all this while, why appoint him? If it didn’t, why did it become imperative now? While some claim that it is aimed at removing Onnoghen before next month’s election so that he does not stand against the projected judicial determination of where the presidential election swings, some have also said that Onnoghen has been standing in the way of some judicial impunities that the government seeks to foist on Nigeria. Government, it is said, is frustrated by the judicial outcomes of Zamfara and Rivers’ APC candidature for the upcoming elections, said to be the handiwork of Onnoghen.
The list of impunities is also rising. As we speak, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, whom the constitution deems to have retired, having attained the mandatory years in service, is not only in power but has been taking consequential decisions which, on the surface, are not with the awareness or concurrence of law.
It is a known constitutional fact that while the president has the powers to remove Onnoghen, it can only do this through the advice of the National Judicial Commission (NJC) which Onnoghen statutorily heads, with the approval of the Senate. His removal also follows same pattern. So why would the president’s henchmen seek this crude and notorious military-like path when it is obvious that he is treading a wrong path? What level of commitment or hard-work will necessitate the period of initiation of a petition, to the time of filing the case in court, to be this swift, except it has the notorious backing of presidential raw power? What is obvious in all this is that there is a desperation on the path of the Federal Government which is not rule of law-compliant and raises suspicion. It is apparent that this desperation is a recipe for a total destruction that is visible to even the blind.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.