By Suleiman I. Nchi
In an op-ed piece published in several papers last year entitled, It Is Not About Buhari, General Muhammadu Buhari rejected attempts to make his then speculated presidential ambition the main issue in the debates about the current state of the nation. Today, he is the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the presidential election on 14th February 2015. Just like in 2011, he will be up against President Goodluck Jonathan. So it will still be about Buhari, after all. In places where Buhari is not a “cult figure”, as some persons now describe him, he is viewed as a sectarian bigot, ethnic chauvinist and sectional irredentist and disliked and feared. In other parts of the country millions see him as the only choice in any presidential contest that has him as a candidate.
Why does he generate such a passionate electoral commitment from large areas of the country? The answer is obvious. Buhari represents a clear alternative to the current national leadership, which is steeped in venality, incompetence and divisiveness. Buhari personifies hope and security in this much purloined and insecure nation. He is not the product of any deliberate political machination by a sectarian or ethnic group but the spontaneous attempt by long-suffering Nigerians to use him to effect change in the leadership of the country. If he were the sectarian bigot, ethnic chauvinist or sectional irredentist that his political opponents claim he is, all the Muslim Ulema around the country and the political, economic and intellectual elites in the north would have lined up behind him. But he has emerged as a political phenomenon in spite of them. Many of the sectarian and sectional elites of the north actually fear what he represents: probity and accountability in government.
Nigerians have allowed persons bereft of character and integrity to emerge as their leaders and these people have appropriated the national wealth with which they are using to reinforce our fault lines of ethnic, sectarian, sectional and class differences to hoodwink us and remain in power. Men and women of integrity, character and humility have been hounded out of every space of leadership in the country. We are now under closet sectarian bigots, ethnic and sectional chauvinists and political mercenaries whose sole objective in accessing power is to pillage the commonwealth. They mask their provincialism, inadequacies and pettiness by an overbearing and pathetic display of impunity and cynical harping on our national fault lines.
Today, it has to be about Buhari because it is about ending the bad ways that are destroying our country. Buhari, with his integrity, dignity and character, represents a possibility that has been lacking in our national leadership for long. Buhari is not an angel, of course. Angels do not contest elections to lead human beings in a democracy. Femi Fani-Kayode, President Jonathan’s campaign spokesman, used allusions to 2 Corinthians 6:14 in the Bible to demonstrate that Buhari represents “darkness” and Dr, Jonathan “light”. And what is their “light”? An all permeating corruption that has destroyed national institutions and infrastructure; a raging insurgency that has left thousands of Nigerians dead and hundreds of towns destroyed; kidnappings, rape, robbery, communal conflicts and general insecurity everywhere; a nation in perpetual darkness; an economy that is collapsing and generating unemployment daily; poverty, disease, ignorance and general fear and despair that have enveloped the country. If, indeed, their “darkness” is the alternative to all these perhaps it is worth trying!
Will a Buhari presidency solve all the problems confronting the country? Perhaps not. Can he sweep out the poverty, disease and ignorance that have been the lot of his most ardent supporters? May be not. Can he build prosperity and ensure security under the rule of law? He has promised to do so. Will he keep his word if he becomes president? Many Nigerians believe so. A Buhari presidency will be the starting point of a new generation of leaders who are not driven by the compulsive desire to loot the national wealth but to use such wealth to provide the infrastructure and security needed for enterprising Nigerians to make a living, educate their children, have proper health care, enjoy leisure and undertake spiritual and cultural programmes to uplift their souls. This is what the phrase “peace, order and good government” as declared by our constitution is all about.
And so as Nigerians vote on 14th February it has to be about Buhari. He is a better choice compared to the current crop of national leaders who have failed woefully to take Nigeria to its proper trajectory of development with all the country’s huge endowments in human and material resources. That is the root of the change Nigerians are clamouring for today. Buhari has merely emerged at a historically opportune moment as the catalyst and expression of the national currents and ferment that are pushing for that change. He is only a transitory expression of the national mass movement for change that is steeped in anger and despair. This change is inevitable and will sustain its tempo from that inevitability. The present ways are very bad ways. They must end.
On 14th February we must decide either to continue the way we are going now towards an inevitable abyss or brave it and strike out on a new path with its possibilities, even if tinged with some anxiety. In life, there are times when the fear of the unknown offers greater comfort than the despair of the moment. Yes, it is about Buhari. But it is bigger than Buhari. Much bigger.
Suleiman I. Nchi via email@example.com