A Likeable Losing Legacy

by M.O. Ene

God must be a Nigerian! The fate of Nigeria was to be sealed in the 2015 elections, soaked in bloodbath and sundried in crude oil. The general elections were not supposed to end well; it ended too well that many pinched themselves to ascertain that the peaceful product is physical. It still seems strange, so surreal that some supposedly sane souls make insensitive statements and spoil for silly fights that could turn ugly. Meanwhile, the cold shower of zero-violence has silenced social-media chatterboxes.
There are too many lessons from the elections: President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) has shown that it is never too late to serve your country; that perseverance pays dividends; that political missteps have consequences; and that dictators can still aspire to become democrats… even after 30 years!
At 72, the former military head of state (December 31, 1983 – August 27, 1985) will be the oldest head of state of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is an indictment of younger Nigerians who always call for a change of guards, that Nigeria should be ‘No Country for Old Men’! Alas, a trial of the younger men does not always work out well: 29-year-old Salisu Buhari could not last a year (1999–2000) as Speaker of the House of Representative before he drowned in the Toronto-degree scandal; and 37-year-old Oladimeji Bankole, another Speaker (April 2003– 29 May 2011) was drowned in gross fiscal irresponsibility. There is a generation of governors young enough to be Buhari’s sons who left nothing to show for their four-to-eight years of disservice. Not to forget 57-year-old Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent that Buhari defeated. If Buhari succeeds, Nigerians may embrace the ancestral saying that the grey-haired is wiser; that what an old man sees while seated, a young man may not see from the top of a palm tree.
Buhari never hid his desire to return to the pinnacle of political power and complete the mission he started as a military head of state, a mission to restore discipline in Nigeria’s socioeconomic and political life. To him, it was a war, a war against indiscipline that was truncated by the intervention of General Ibrahim B. Babangida (IBB). In 2003, Buhari made his first bid under ANPP with indomitable former President of the Senate, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, as his running mate.
President Olusegun Obasanjo rolled over Buhari-Okadigbo ticket like a freight train. Obasanjo was so confident of victory he declared that PDP, dubbed the largest political party in Africa, would be in power for 60 years! Obviously, he spoke without considering the tenacity of Buhari that has now made PDP a minority in national assembly and missing in the sprawling executive-arm fortress named Aso Villa – Nigeria’s equivalent of White House.
In 2007, in the aftermath of Obasanjo’s failed elongation of tenure, Buhari again under ANPP succumbed to Obasanjo’s departing train and lost to his fellow Katsina State citizen, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. His running mate was Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
For dallying with the ruling PDP, Buhari dumped ANPP and formed CPC (Congress for Progressive Change). The death of Yar’Adua threw up then VP, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. In 2011 elections, probably to array the fear that he was for Sharia rule, Buhari chose as his running mate a reverend gentleman, a Pentecostal prosperity preacher named Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly, Lagos. Jonathan breezed past Buhari with then nationally-dominant PDP machine.
Buhari was so miffed with the near-miss he declared that the next time election results were tainted, it would be challenged fiercely. Couching his intolerance to rigging in a Hausa proverb, he said: “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”
For 2015, Buhari entered into a political alliance with several opposition parties, mainly ACN and factional “new PDP,” to form All Progressive Congress (APC). Again he chose a pastor-politician named Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, SAN, a law professor and a commissioner for justice and attorney general of Lagos State.
Buhari was able to defeat a sitting president, not only because he persevered and made all the right moves: Jonathan did not help matters either.

He totally misread the resolve of northern Nigerians to retrieve their supposed turn at the presidency, a turn that was truncated with the untimely departure of Yar’Adua. Secondly, he did not step up strongly to stop the internal disquiet in PDP. Thirdly, his overall performance was below average, and he proved to be no match for the cancer of corruption eating Nigeria from the inside. Fourthly, in the run-up to the elections, the First Lady’s meddlesomeness became too apparent with the imposition of candidates.
Besides the ability of APC acolytes to form a formidable opposition and presenting a candidate that needed no introduction, Jonathan and PDP had only themselves to blame for fumbling the ball in their own end of the field. Their shenanigans were wearing thin on discerning denizens. Not only were they unable to curb corruption, they went after the removal of suspect fuel subsidy the wrong way: On January 1, 2012. It left a very bitter taste on many mouths. Then there was the #BringBackOurGirls debacle. Not only was Boko Haram running roughshod over the northeast region and even in Abuja, the injection of Mrs. Patience Jonathan was both sad and comical, especially when juxtaposed with Mrs. Michelle Obama’s classier contribution.
The PDP campaign proper was not focused on any new policies. Erstwhile huffing and puffing ministers were not seen in their states mobilizing the masses to turn out and vote. Fly-by-night operatives took billions of naira and melted away. While PDP was busy looking for high school certificate (of a retired general and former head of state!) and hurling juvenile insults and threats, APC was busy making contacts—home and abroad, endearing its change chant to social-media pundits and presenting a surprisingly eye-candy and much more articulate Aisha Buhari as a better First Lady. It’s no wonder the joke: Patience Jonathan is yet to start packing out of Aso Villa because the election for first lady is yet to hold!
Jonathan lost, but he will forever be remembered as a hero of this era. In all the heat of electioneering, he remained generally calm as the opposition accused him of cluelessness and everything else under the moon. Even his supposedly political godfather, ex-President Obasanjo, did not hide his desire to see Jonathan go under the bridge; doubting Jonathan’s doctorate degree, saying he was not qualified to work in a zoo without proper certification, and accusing the president of plotting a Gbagbo-style exit (after the former President of Cote d’Ivoire who won’t quit without a bloody battle after he lost to Alassane Ouattara, an urbane northern Muslim).
Jonathan bucked all predictions: Before the last results were announced, he called, conceded, and congratulated Buhari as his successor. It is no wonder Jonathan is being proposed to win Mo Ibrahim Foundation award. In a press release, Mr. Ibrahim himself praised the pleasantly-surprising move and noted: “Today, we Africans are all proud of Nigeria and President Jonathan. Thank you Mr. President. If you are seeking a legacy, you have definitely achieved it.”
In losing, therefore, Jonathan secured a legacy of saving ‘baboons and dogs’ from bloodbath; a likeable legacy of not keeping power by any means necessary, of not ‘stepping aside’ (as IBB did)—but stepping out and heading home, of not sitting tight (as Abacha and Obasanjo attempted). He walks away like Abubakar Abdulsalam, who walked away in 1999 when he could have stayed into Y2K. Jonathan walks away without waiting to be pushed out, as Buhari and Gowon, or killed as Tafawa Balewa, J. T. U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, and Murtala Muhammed. He walks away overcoming the jinx of Aso Villa; where two spouses enter and only one exits: Abacha, Obasanjo (Stella), and Yar’Adua.
Many Nigerians are not basking in the euphoria of change. Leopards cannot change their spots, and an old lady does not lose her dance steps to old age. APC and PDP are two partially filled bottles of old and bad wine with a dash of new and untested wine: one is half-full; the other is half-empty. Put differently, the two parties are like the proverbial two knives in a certain household: the sharp knife has no handle, and the one with a handle is blunt. Many APC members have been in PDP for over 15 years, and many that came from other parties are petty political prostitutes. It is doubtful that Buhari, with all the reported good intentions and steely resolve to deliver, will dent the determination of dangerous cabals of corruptors, some of whom are already in bed with him. Buhari is neither Thomas Sankara nor Jerry Rawlings that many Nigerians crave.
When and if sworn in on May 29, 2015, Buhari will also be the second military man after Obasanjo to return as a democrat to the top of a domain they had once occupied as dictators after displacing a previous government by force. Buhari and another strong son of Nigeria named Tunde Idiagbon (incorporating IBB, Abacha, and other military players) truncated the Second Republic regime of Shehu Shagari on the last day of 1983 to stop what was an era of “squandering of riches.” Ironically, Buhari is back to end another era of recklessness and rascality by politicians who see Nigeria as a cash cow to be milked while the rest of the population struggles in their mean mess.
Buhari has an opportunity to show his true nature. According to his wife and one of his daughters, he is a good-natured gentleman, a devout Muslim, and an easy-going fellow. With his VP, Buhari could take Nigeria to a salvation station. In his maiden speech as head of state on January 1, 1984, he said:
“Fellow Nigerians, finally, we have dutifully intervened to save this nation from imminent collapse. We therefore expect all Nigerians, including those who participated directly or indirectly in bringing the nation to this present predicament, to cooperate with us. This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, have no country other than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together. May God bless us all. Good morning.”

Good morning, Mr. President; it’s yet another dawn!

Dr. M. O. Ene writes from
New Jersey, USA

Posted by on Apr 18 2015. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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