Like this column did in 2015 when it welcomed President Muhammadu Buhari with a congratulatory note, here is a similar message of commendation for an uncommon leader by Nigerian standard. If for nothing else, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has cited the official results of the presidential polls to declare him President-elect of Nigeria. And going by the results he is seemingly enjoying the confidence of a wide cross section of Nigerians, having officially won the polls with a margin of over three million votes ahead of his closest runner-up – Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. In the aftermath of the polls Buhari has since been given his Certificate of Return by the INEC while Atiku is heading to the courts to as he claims “recover his mandate”. In any case given that the word ‘impossibility’ has no place in Nigerian politics, the story is yet to have a happy ending.
Meanwhile, pending when and if the courts succeed in granting Atiku his desire and overturn the second term tenure of President Buhari, Nigeria will from May 29th 2019 run under a four- year second term of the latter, and that is the reality which stares Nigerians in the face. And in that respect the earlier Nigerians and the President brace up to face the unique challenges offered by this dispensation, the better it is for the country. Admissibly, in this context it may be tempting to consider deferring this consideration until after next Saturday when the remaining leg of the general elections billed for the governors and state assemblies seats would be conducted. However, given the preponderant dominance of the federal government in the politics and economy of the entire country, Buhari’s victory is expected to even sway the course of the forth coming state level polls. Not surprisingly therefore, permutations at even the state level are ongoing and draw impetus from the pulsations of the Buhari camp.
Coming back to the issue of Nigeria in Buhari’s second term connects with his first missionary journey at the helm of affairs in the country in 1983 as a military ruler, his second stint in 2015 as a first term democratically elected President, and now as a re-elected President to run for a second term in office, thus making him a three-time Head of State. Among the circumstances surrounding Nigeria’s encounter with Buhari as a leader, remains the yet-to-be, elaborate interrogation of his staying power as ‘Oga’ at the top. This is in spite of his unapologetic, iron-fisted style of leadership.
Interestingly, his emergence at the leadership of the country at any of these three periods has never been under salutary circumstances. For instance, in 1983 he came when the civilian administration under President Shehu Shagari was steeped in deep political crisis. With the return of democracy to the country in 1999 Buhari joined the race for the Presidency and lost on three occasions. Even in the course of his serial failures in winning the Presidency, he seemed to be enjoying the endorsement of several political actors on his bids. For instance, among his supporters was late Rivers State born Dr Marshal Harry, then National Vice Chairman of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), who in 2003, was so dexterous in the enterprise of installing Buhari as President, and was credited with efforts to organize a mother of all rallies in Port Harcourt when he was assassinated; just days to the event. The circumstances surrounding Marshal Harry’s death just days to the planned mega rally led many to link it with the abortion of Buhari’s aspirations for the Presidency. Beyond Harry was the cerebral, late President of the Senate Dr Chuba Okadigbo who actually predicted that Buhari would one day be President of the country even if he (Chuba) was not alive to see the day.
As events turned out, in 2015 Buhari was unanimously chosen by a newly formed coalition of legacy opposition parties to contest for the Presidency and won. And Okadigbo’s prediction came to pass. In 2019, he has also been pronounced winner of the presidential polls, for a second term in office, even in the face of undeniably wide spread instances of electoral anomalies, patent criminality and mindless violence, which thanks to the benefit of social media, remain elaborately documented.
Against the backdrop of the cliché that a society gets the type of leader it deserves, is Buhari now the model of a leader Nigeria deserves? There is a popular saying in Nigeria that ‘Monkey no fine but him Mama like am”. With all the pre-salvoes aimed at discrediting and demonising Buhari by a consolidated opposition, many had thought that his failure at the polls was a fore gone conclusion even before the exercise. But the story turned out otherwise. Hence is the country viscerally wired for just the Buhari leadership style, time after time?
Not surprisingly the opposition has been protesting vigorously over allegations of massive rigging during the polls, which with the aid of advances in information technology enjoy a welter of undeniable evidence. But just as the 16th century English author, poet and playwright John Lyly wrote that “all is fair in war…”, any sympathy for the losses incurred by any party over rigging during the polls, is as good as offering same grace to the devil. After all, given the similarity between the leading parties of APC and the PDP, who are virtual clones of each other and set the bar in Nigerian politics, it is difficult to see the allegations of rigging as beyond the kettle calling the pot black.
The foregoing notwithstanding, the country needs to move ahead, and address itself to the dispensation of life in Buhari’s second term, especially in the context of what challenges and promises it holds. In this respect is the fact that even by his own admission, Buhari’s quest for a second term betrays his consideration of the first term as an unfinished project, and requires a second term to deliver on his agenda. This then accentuates the need to facilitate a change that offers Nigerians a better deal in his second term. From any angle it is viewed, and perhaps for no fault of his own, to refer to the next four years as challenging for Nigeria, may actually be an understatement. This is just as it offers sundry expectations for the leadership in the country.
For instance, Buhari needs to exploit the benefit of hindsight, to appreciate that in spite of his re-election, a wide swathe of the country is not happy with him due to the non-fulfillment of his campaign promises. Added to such is the undeniable waves of extreme tendencies in break-down of law and order occasioning wide spread killings and other atrocities across the country. In this respect there are many faces in his kitchen cabinet who Nigerians may not want to see around him again. It is refreshing that his aide Femi Adeshina has muted that a cabinet change is in the offing. Nigerians will like to see faces that will help him bring the changes he promised during his campaigns for both the first and second terms in office.
In the other vein, for Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, until the courts change the status quo, Buhari’s second term also offers significant opportunities to facilitate a buy-in into the country’s aspirations to hit a new level in good governance. While the pains of electoral loss may be deep for the PDP, the situation provides a fresh opportunity for it to seize the role of an active and viable opposition, and earn critical relevance in governance. Such a dispensation also provides for the party time and space for better preparations for future polls, than they did for 2019.
Without conjecture, among the factors that worked against the PDP in the recent polls must rank that of poor and hurried preparations. The deleterious effects import of its recent history – especially the long period of internal crisis after the 2015 polls, could not have left it with full capacity to run for elections in the murky and effervescent Nigerian and with the humongous task of unseating an entrenched President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP actually owes itself a duty of not disintegrating this time around, into factions as it did after the loss of critical political power points after the 2015 polls.
Hence the role of a viable opposition for the PDP, acting in concert with other equally disposed political structures, offers the party and the country at least two benefits. Beyond the prospects of restructuring itself, is that of saving the country from contending with an unhelpful, bare-faced APC dictatorship.