Nigeria: Buhari is not Mandela

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared he would be seeking a second term in office. This was not a surprise to many. His body language and actions hitherto suggested that would likely be the case. And in line with tradition, he made it seem like he was begged to re-contest. The upside, at least, is that it puts a lid on speculations about his intentions. What then for those within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party who were hoping Mr Buhari would take the Nelson Mandela option? (The respected former South African leader and father of the nation served only one term as president; even as he could easily win a second one.) Senate President Bukola Saraki, who has also announced his intention to run, would likely now need to find another party to fulfil his ambition, for instance. Mr Saraki could opt to challenge Mr Buhari in the party’s primaries, though. A test of Mr Buhari’s clout would be whether he is able to get his party to adopt him as a consensus candidate. With so much division within the APC, this may be difficult, however. So if Mr Buhari is really serious about his second term bid, he would have to literally block the chances of all the other presidential contenders within his party. As those who are really serious about challenging the president would likely defect to other political parties, he could well be saved the trouble.

Rights & wisdom
One Nigerian senator whose political activities I like following was recently accused of murder by the police. That is his “wahala” [local parlance for trouble], as we say in these parts. Fortunate man that he is, though, news broke shortly afterwards that his accuser was tortured by the police to frame him. In his own case at least, evidence of his “innocence” came out just in time. It certainly helped that he got wind of the “plot” beforehand. Some are not so lucky. A more colourful but probably not as well-read colleague of the afro-haired senator would be defending similar charges in court very soon. Again, that is his own wahala: he knew the game before joining it. There is a common characteristic of the politicians – mostly senators – who are suddenly grappling with one trouble or the other. They are either at odds with their state governors or acting against Mr Buhari’s interests or both. The first senator, together with the other two senators of his state, recently blocked a proposed World Bank loan by their governor. Even as the senator is one of the reasonable ones, he likely had a political motive. For the second senator cited, he uses every opportunity to discredit his state governor. Such is the rancour between the two that it is believed the senator’s recent legal troubles could be traced to the conflict.

Incidentally, the two mentioned senators hail from the north-central geopolitical zone of the country. The views of the first, who likes to use Roman analogies to describe national events and in the process vouchsafe privileged information that he would otherwise not be able to divulge, are apt for the message of my column this week. When Mr Buhari made his “surprise” announcement to run again, much to the discomfiture and surprise of some state governors present at the APC’s national executive committee meeting where it took place, the said senator tweeted about the great matter thus: “Now that Baba decided not to be a Mandela, we hope he become a Deng [Xiaoping] and not Augustus Pinochet”. It was a rebuke. Just so the point is not missed, he tweeted further on the issue the day after: “Plebeians of Rome; When Pompey broke the promissum of his last chariot stop, thee pelted him; When Caesar broke the promissum of his unus term, thee blessed him”. Just for the fun of it, I will leave you to decipher what he meant. (Hint: He was comparing two presidents.). By the way, the activist senator is perhaps one of Mr Buhari’s staunchest supporters, who like the others who genuinely wish the president well, see how Mr Buhari’s surprisingly positive legacy in such a treacherous political environment like Nigeria may be about to be destroyed. These fears may be needless, of course.

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