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Image: General Buhari/Sharegist
Everyone is out with his own opinion, the polity is heating up, the aspirants are ever prepared and the stakes couldn’t be higher. We are in a battle for the soul of Nigeria. The presidential race seems to have quickly been trimmed to a two horse race between the incumbent President Jonathan of the PDP and General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC.
The myriad of sticks and stones being hurled around in the virtual political streets in the wake of the Buhari’s candidacy have prompted an analysis of the various issues involved. I pose a simple question: what is wrong with Buhari?
Before I continue, I am neither a Buhari fan nor the greatest advocate of his candidacy. I must admit, however, that in my opinion – and I sure am entitled to my opinion – he represents a better option to a government of shame and mediocrity.
One of President Jonathan’s attack hounds, His Eminence, Sir Doyin Okupe, declared few days ago: “Buhari is a religious bigot and should be ashamed”. For many years now, I have known the meaning and various shades of definition of the term ‘bigotry’, however I was sent back to ‘re-understand’ what I thought I knew. From my study, I summarized the meaning of the word: “A person who regards and/or mistreats members of a different religious belief with hatred and intolerance”.
What exactly is the case against Buhari? And why has he been so labelled? Well, there seems to be this myth that the man signed or attempted to sign a pact to “Islamize” Nigeria. I called it a myth because, like me, a majority of young Nigerians were either unborn or too young to know what happened if anything ever happened. And from those who were old enough at the time, I have not seen any evidence in print or electronic media substantiating those claims. Again, Gen. Buhari was asked on live TV his thoughts about the rumored Muslim/Muslim ticket of the APC. As straightforward as ever, he replied that if it is the choice of Nigerians, then so be it. I was not only impressed, I was filled with admiration for his forthrightness. He could have so easily shied away from that point of view because of the sensitivity of the issue or his candidacy. He did not.
It beats me how Nigerians, like the proverbial sheep, always fall cheaply fall for religious sentiments thrown by members of one political party about another’s candidate. Do you not get the point friends? It is a mere game for them. The same candidate that they mudsling today, if he falls in their camp tomorrow, they will come back to sugarcoat him before your very eyes.
Now let’s talk about Buhari and Sharia law. It is no secret, as statements credited to him have shown, that the General is an unapologetic follower of the Sharia and he does not deny it. Why this is a problem for us (or many of us) is understandable. Many of us are afraid of the gory stories that emanate from some of the northern states where Sharia is in practice. But this fear I must admit is borne out of ignorance of the Sharia law, what it stands for and its mode of operation. Many of us really do confuse ‘jungle justice’ for Sharia once we find out it was meted out by northern Muslims. Wrong.
I remember, as a secondary school student with a very good grasp and understanding of national issues, registering strong opposition in the debate about implementing Sharia in all states of the federation during the Obasanjo era. As a practicing lawyer, looking back, my passionate ignorance at the time amuses me greatly.
I still firmly believe that it is of absolutely no use implementing the Sharia in states that do not have an overwhelming majority of muslim population. This is merely an opinion and I keep to that opinion bearing in mind that wherever the Sharia is implemented, Muslim state or not, you are not bound by the Sharia unless you are subject to it anyway. Just like the Islamic law of inheritance, the fact that it is recognized in your state does not mean it will apply to you if you are not a muslim.
A good example is Kwara. The Islamic inheritance law is recognized but as a Christian living in Kwara state, I do not even have to know that it exists! Such is the application of the Sharia in Nigeria. Buhari is a practicing muslim, his holy book recommends/commands Sharia, he is an advocate of Sharia, the laws of the Federal Republic recognize Sharia. What is our problem really? For all its worth, nothing said, nothing evidenced, and nothing perceived should make anyone refer to General Buhari as a religious bigot.
Well, he’s not a religious bigot but he’s 72, some argue.
Time is too precious to be spent making an issue about General Buhari’s age. He is 72 years old. Suddenly that became our problem.
I agree that the APC could have fielded a younger candidate; but please, they held party primaries. The younger, probably better, people were either not contesting or were soundly beaten at the primaries. Guess what, Buhari emerged. The question I ask while not making any direct assumptions is: would you rather vote an incompetent 50 year old than a competent 70 year old? The answer is obvious. Why don’t we then face the issues which for me are simple; GEJ for reelection, GMB for election. Make a choice!
Again I ask, can we justify our anger at the inaction of the youth by taking it out on Buhari? It is absolutely ridiculous to even consider that. Do we satisfy our sympathy for the plight of the maligned youths or express our frustration by voting Jonathan? Is Goodluck Jonathan that paragon of youthfulness and intellectualism that we wish to showcase?
Since Jonathan’s media hounds have resorted to comparing him with Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Lee Kuan Yew and most recently JESUS CHRIST! Permit me to ask how old the great Mandela was when he became the South African President? Seventy six (76). Okay, does that say something?
I hear someone asking whether Buhari went to prison or could go to prison for 27 years like Mandela. My answer is simple, no. He did not and I cannot speak for his willingness to do so. But South Africa voted Mandela because he had what they needed, it wasn’t a sympathy election. It was a nationalist selection. They believed Mandela had what it took to take the rainbow nation to the next level, and he did deliver. When he left in 1999, how old was he? Do the maths. Need I say more?Nigerians, IF for other considerations(emphasis on if), we believe Buhari has what it takes to bring sanity to the government and bring an end to a rule of mediocrity, I believe I’ve said enough for us to see that his age has nothing to do with it.
But then Buhari is desperate. Isn’t he?
Many have accused the General of being desperate to ascend the apex seat. Just how does anyone name Buhari desperate? How? Then the next minute, the same person will use Abraham Lincoln as motivation. Please quit being ridiculous. Is it an African thing or we are just allergic to seeing the positives in our own? Or we just cannot do without a campaign of disparagement and calumny? Should it be a thing of derision or a thing of motivation that a candidate keeps running for a position in which he has emerged runner-up on several occasions.
Buhari definitely did not force himself upon the APC. He won the party primaries. He could so easily have lost contesting against individuals who are strong candidates in their own rights like Atiku Abubakar, Sam Nda-Isaiah and Rochas Okorocha yet he won. Many people have made a lot of noise about how a person like Babatunde Fashola should have been given a chance. I agree, but hey, Mr. Fashola did not contest the primaries. Buhari’s fault?
Some unfortunate statements have been credited to Buhari, which I wouldn’t attempt to defend. In 2011, he said the country would be made ungovernable should the PDP rig the presidential elections. The PDP did rig the elections, and violence ensued mostly traced to supporters of the CPC. Buhari was quiet, like a wounded lion. He had lost the election by a great margin despite raking up 12 million votes. His silence was questioned. People said he needed to speak up so that his supposed supporters would stop the violence. He did speak up. He appealed to the violent youths to give peace a chance. Some did, others did not.
Voices in the media called for Buhari to apologize for the post election violence. Of course he did not. I wouldn’t either and for obvious reasons. Remember Nigerians, a panel of inquiry into the post election violence was set up by the Goodluck Jonathan Administration. The panel came up with a report that did not indict Gen. Buhari. Where is that report today? Your guess is as good as mine. Why label him desperate?
But he was a dictator and will always be. Really?
Whew! Are we still discussing Buhari? I made this the last point because, in my opinion, it is the most ridiculous. I hear some ‘educated’ folks and some supposed students of politics saying that since Buhari was a dictator during his last regime, then Nigerians can expect more of the same. How lame!
Of course I admit, General Buhari of 1983 was a dictator. He was a military head of state remember, and that was the system in which he was called to function at the time. His supposed dictatorial tendencies at the time were used to full positive and negative effect but then again, within a system which allowed it. Should we now believe that Buhari would walk into Aso Rock and start barking orders?
Given that his party may not even have a controlling majority in the National Assembly; given that his party may not even be in control of more than half of the states of the federation; and given that there will be a mighty opposition party in the shape and colour of PDP watching every step and misstep alike? Come on Nigerians. Now, those are only just the political checks. What about the primary democratic system of separation of powers, of checks and balances? None of which existed during his “dictatorial regime”. How can he then be a dictator?
Having said this, I ask; Can Buhari become the president in 2015? Yes. Should he be contesting in 2015? Yes. Will he win the election in 2015? That is up to all of us Nigerians. However, we cannot afford to make our choices based on cheap and unsubstantiated political ‘sticks’ and ‘stones’ being hurled around the virtual streets by self serving politicians.
Being stuck with making a choice between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari is not a position many Nigerians will like to be. As a respected senior colleague Ayo Sogunro aptly put it: “it is a dangerous place to be”. For this reason, our choices have to be objective and the bases of our choices must be conscious, calculated and based on an evaluation of the character strengths and weaknesses of the candidates, our national interest and nothing more.
So, I ask again, what is wrong with Buhari? You know the answer. God bless Nigeria!
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