…far from the madding crowd.

2019 General Election: Buhari in the General’s Last Fight


Let us be direct about this, will President Muhammadu Buhari win the 2019 Presidential Election or will Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the establishment triumph over him? There are factors you can examine and come to the conclusion that he will not win. We can look at these factors by looking at three groups that will work and are working to ensure that he does not win. In our opinion the three groups are the college of the retired generals led by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, T. Y. Danjuma and Ibrahim Babangida; most sections of the Nigerian media, and the many of the Pentecostals that are beholden to Goodluck Jonathan, led by Bishop David Oyedepo. Each of these groups has their grouses, sometimes correct and sometimes over magnified. And we shall examine them one after the other.

The first group we could clearly see is led by Olusegun Obasanjo. This is because he is the most senior of the lot in terms of military hierarchy and more possibly he seems to be more equipped intellectually and thirdly he is the most available to be puppeteered by the West. He boasts of his connection with old Western leaders who could pull strings for him. The core of the argument of this group is that the current president has not managed the economy well and in actual fact does not have the capacity to do so. To quote from one of Obasanjo’s letters to Buhari, he had said…

In the same letter under reference he had also accused the president of being anti-social as regards the national project. The elaboration being anti-social with regard to the national project is that the president has not or is not reaching out to national or regional power centres. It is as a result of this failure that some of the crises that have festered across the country have found root, Obasanjo and his group contend. But we know that when they say you are being anti-social to the national project, they may be saying that they are not being granted concessions to power of some sorts to enable them settle the hirelings under domain. What to make of this is problematic because for a good number of them, Buhari has never had a good relationship with them, particularly Babangida and the reason for it we know.

The second group is the Nigerian media. Again the problem with this group is not difficult. It owed its origin to Decree No. 4 of 1984, which led to the imprisonment of Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson, both of the Guardian Newspapers. In 2015, in some sense they tried to patch up this relationship but it didn’t last as parties went back to the pre-2015 grudges. But to keep in the realm of the fate of those two journalists is to read the dynamics of history hopelessly wrong. The truth is that the horizon and deft of the Nigerian media have shifted considerably to something else. The Nigerian media have become much more ideologically bankrupt and become susceptible to political manipulations by their owners and a good number of their owners are businessmen. And because of increasing globalization, the landscape of the media has changed. For instance the print media are suffering from low patronage to the extent that it is not difficult for a single politician to pay for their annual budget and they will go to sleep and revel in the publications of half-truths. And buhari seems not to have listened to 80’s song by Given Guthrie’s ain’t nothing going on but the rent. The popular refraign of that song is; no romance without finance.

The third group is the antagonistic wing of the Pentecostal Christian group coalescing under the auspices of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Their antagonism it may not be correct to say owed its origin to the Fulani herdsmen crisis, it has been there as far back as 2007 or earlier, but assumed a mortal dimension in 2014-15 presidential election when a Christian was pitched against a Muslim, with the ideology of the Christian South and Moslem North thrown into the mix. And the conflict generated by the activities of the so called Fulani herdsmen did not help matters, but it rather worsened relationship because as the Christians through CAN argued, government of Buhari by his body language aided or is aiding the activities of the herdsmen. How true this line of argument is/may be a subject of perception.

What chances does the president have to reconcile with these three groups? It does appear he has little chances of reconciliation with them even if he wanted to. In the first place, Obasanjo has led his crowd to embrace Atiku and made us believe that whatever tar of iniquity that was attached to Atiku has been made holy. But the truth is that terms of electoral values, one is in serious doubt what they can bring to the table as they essentially do not have the capacity of attracting followership like Muhammadu Buhari. The trump card they have, in Obasanjo’s nuisance value in the international community. We saw him few days ago at Bali, Indonesia fouling the air against the Nigerian government. Nobody is sure how many foreign capitals as he can go to, to drop his poisons with the hope that his minders will hear him. But his limiting factor is that Atiku Abubakar is not a good product considering the trail of odorous conducts around him, which Obasanjo himself helped to put out there in the international domain. But that may be the reason it might be easier too to sell Atiku as the morality of the so called international community hinges on the immoral. A corrupt Atiku, may even be the perfect guy as they will have him in their hip-pocket just as the Americans believe that Trump cuddles to the Russians because they have some dirt on him.

To understand the capacity of the media generally and Nigeria in particular is similar to the story by Mario Puzo in his books; The Last Don. A mafia executioner was sent on an assignment to recover debt and thereafter kill the debtor for reasons of some transgression. He lost the transgressing debtor in the mist until he got words where to find him. When he got there, the debtor drew a gun and fired at him. In retaliation he shot back and killed the debtor, but the killing was in the open, as the killing was in the open and witnesses saw him. He was subsequently arrested and charged to court for murder. When the Don was informed of this and reminded that the situation was dire, he responded that they should spread some cash around and by that way memories would fade, and justice will be done. In the end that was what happened as witnesses began to deny seeing what they saw and all sorts in the end, the mafia hit man walked away a freeman as he was found not guilty. We can safely predict that as the 2019 elections get closer and closer, the men that spread more money not just in terms of advert spaces, but oiling the pen of editorial henchmen, feature writers and media executives will be converted to saints even if they are Lucifer’s henchmen. Already Buhari has lost the battle in that sphere if we remember the Gwen Guthrie’s song.

We believe that the group with the greater difficulty in all this is CAN as it will need to explain to its members how they come to suffer the sudden blindness that has made them to see the miracle of one Fulani and Muslim with the same pedigree as the man they loved to traduce for his ethnic and religious belief. Well they may have to borrow for a line from George Orwell’s Animal Farm that; not all Fulani/Muslim are bad. But it will be an uphill task as the clear dichotomy provided by the Jonathan and Buhari squaring off does not exist. Though it is reasoned that they will built their case around the Fulani herdsmen problem, but again they are in a bind as Atiku Abubakar has a sizeable share of the cattle roaming around everywhere across the country. The problem with CAN is that it is not a progressive anti-government organisation as we have in Latin America. It has been gravely polluted by the ideology of prosperity preaching.

But for the president to concentrate his energy squarely on the above issues is like a man that is carrying elephant on his head to be picking crickets with his toes. The president’s elephant is the Nigerian economy which to paraphrase Buju Benton borders on government officials churning out figures of performance and the masses in the country living in misery. All the indices point in the direction that the people are living in conditions worse than 2015, as cost of living has worsened and peoples’ purchasing power is on a downward slide. And hope is difficult to generate about the way out. And it is the soil of this hopelessness that Atiku and Obasanjo are sowing their hope of a triumph. The government would argue that it has put in place the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP). A reading of the ERGP clearly shows that it is leaning heavier on capital projects than human capital development. And on the surface is what is fueling criticism from the Western interest of people like Bill Gates, Bloomberg media and others. But there is more to the Western criticism or cynicism. And their fear is that it does appear and we believe it is correct that most of the capital projects in the ERGP seem to have a willing financier, in this case the Chinese or Arab fund like the Sukuk Bond. Unfortunately, many people in the phobia for the Chinese are doing the dirty work for the West. Our stand is that debt as it were, is not going to lead to economic growth, unless there is adherence to the tenors of the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

But we dare to say that it is extreme lazy understanding of economic thoughts to use price index as the absolute variable to measure economic performance. The problem we find with it is that it tends to distort the possibility of the other factors that may cause economic dislocations. For instance, a look at prices of two items under Abacha showed that they were cheaper under the military compared to what we have now. As at 1999, a bag of rice in Nigeria sold for not more than N3,000 and a litre of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) was N20. By the time Jonathan left power, ending the rule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), a bag of rice sold for as high as N14,000 and PMS climbed to N141, before finally settling at N87. If we then do the math, it therefore means that the much vilified Abacha’s regime was a better government than all the current civilian regimes.

There is more to it which is the argument of the present regime. And this is to the effect that the current economic crisis owed its origin to the era of brigandage supervised by the PDP in the looting of the public treasury. This argument we do not find difficult to accept because as W.E.B Du Bois argued long time ago; “if we must conquer poverty, thieves should not be left to steal.” Anybody who argues that the stealing of Nigerian wealth by state officials and that the same will not harm the Nigerian economy is dishonest. Stealing of state resources hemorrhages the economy, and to argue against any process aimed to stop the hemorrhage is not something to be applauded.

The criticism that people will make that will make sense is that there seems to be no departure from the logic of creating an economy that is private sector and foreign investment dependent. Such an economic approach is not healthy for an economy in the Southern hemisphere. A study of the Asian Tigers clearly shows that they built their economies on the strength of their nationals and which is the right way to go. Be that as it may, anybody that takes a look at the ERGP cannot but agree that the government has made a reasonable success of the document; even international organisations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are not disputing the fact that they have been effective in implementing the growth plan, despite its lopsidedness.

So much about the economy and interestingly in other areas of the president’s promise, he has also had divided opinions with regard to the anti-corruption fights. The opposition has kept on with a simple narrative that the whole fight against corruption seems to be against them. On the surface, it appears a valid argument, but for us this is the most insane and irresponsible argument to make and cheaply buy support from a divisive society like ours. The record available shows that all persons arrested or indicted for stealing public fund, none has said I didn’t steal the money, all they have been doing is to pull some legal shenanigans, exploiting the weak justice system to muddle the waters. From even a legal stand point, crime does not run against the state. That a criminal or suspect escaped the eye of the law today does not mean that he would escape forever, it then becomes absurd to foist by means of aggressive media campaign a consciousness that a legal and legitimate prosecution of a suspected criminal is defective because there is a criminal out there that the long arm of the law has not caught up with. It is very disingenuous argument meant to hoodwink the gullible. To argue that there is also corruption in the current regime is to be flippant in thought. There may be areas that have posed challenges in the fight against corruption, but to say that the government is not genuinely fighting corruption is to be dishonest in all absolutes.

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