Like him or loathe him, any poll conducted now, in the South west in particular and Nigeria as a whole, to determine the popularity of President Muhamadu Buhari in would reveal an uptick from the level it was before the announcement of the adoption of June 12 as Democracy Day.
That’s the immediate positive fall out of the presidential pronouncement that late chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola is the winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election annulled 25 years ago by then military head of state, Ibrahim Babangida aka IBB .
For the first time since the emergence of President Buhari and the ruling party, APC in the centre stage, practically all Nigerians of all political persuasions, creed and religion are in total agreement with President Buhari’s action of recognizing MKO Abiola as a president that was robbed of the opportunity via the annulment of his election and adopting June 12, the day the election was held as Democracy day.
Owing to the overwhelming approval and endorsement of the decision by a vast majority of Nigerians, Aso Rock must still be agog with chest thumping and back slapping advisers for that incredible accomplishment.
Barely one month ago, l had written and published an article titled “ Who Is Advising President Buhari And Who Is He Listening To?”
In that piece, l wondered aloud how Mr. President’s policies were being formulated and cited a couple of policies by the establishment, of which one was pragmatic and the other uninspiring and as such a sort of albatross.
To put things in proper context, allow me reproduce a copious portion of that article which goes thus:
“In the light of the aforementioned change in mindset which clearly attests to some concessions that Mr. President made after a superior argument or reasoning was presented to him, what informed his decision not to reward the party faithfuls that helped him finally clinch power after three futile attempts in 2003, 2007, 2011?
The bile stemming from that indiscretion is now in the public realm via a public letter written by nPDP , the renegade members of the former ruling party, PDP which helped Buhari snatch power in 2015. Their gripe is that they have been left in the lurch after President Buhari took residence in Aso Rock villa through their collective effort.
In other words Mr. President is being accused of being unfair in his decision to not share the ‘spoils of war’ with the political generals who fought shoulder-to-shoulder with him in the battle to evict Goodluck Jonathan and pdp from Aso Rock villa.
Whoever is or are advising Mr president in that aspect is/are certainly derelict in that duty and are guilty of causing mr president the avoidable stress and the APC the turmoil that’s on the verge of consuming the ruling party.
How about the decision to go against the unwritten principle of appointing heads of the armed forces and other security agencies from across the broad spectrum of all the political zones in Nigeria as practiced even by the military which is autocratic by nature?
As it is now constituted, except for the Chief of Defense staff and Chief of Naval staff, all the heads of the military and security agencies from Chief of army staff, Chief of air staff, Director General of the State Security Service, Inspector General of police and Director General of Nigerian Intelligence Agency, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC are from the northern part of Nigeria and all of them are practicing Muslims.
In a country that regards itself as secular, it’s against natural justice”
To be candid, when l made the foregoing assertions, l had no inkling that the nation was on the cusp of a policy tsunami that has the capacity to mend the political chasm that was created by the annulment of MKO Abiola’s presidential victory 25 years ago.
I’m convinced that in more ways than one, the political reconciliation that president Buhari’s proclamation of June 12 as the new democracy day and honoring MKO Abiola with the award of the Grand Commander of The Order of The Niger, GCFR, (the highest honor of the land) ushered into the polity is comparable to the positive effect that the Truth & Reconciliation policy of late Nelson Mandela had on South Africans after the apartheid regime was ousted.
The above conclusion is derived from the fact that the injustice done to black South Africans via apartheid perpetrated in the form of white minority oppression of black majority population, is in many ways akin to the annulment of MKO Abiola’s election as the president of Nigeria on June 12, 1993 by the military class. The assertion above is justified by the fact that the annulment of MKO Abiola’s election was a manifestation of military tyranny over Nigerians who were denied their choice of a president which they freely expressed through the ballot box.
This is more so as that election has been adjudged to be the freest and fairest in the annals of Nigerian politics.
Apart from waking up MKO Abiola’s ghost via the honor accorded him by president Buhari’s official recognition of June 12, there is also a striking addition to it.
Although soldiers hardly apologize, on June 12th 2018, the very stern and seemingly unbending president Buhari apologized on behalf of Nigerians to the Abiola family for the injustice done to their patriarch.
At that point, the soft side of Buhari which he had masked as a military head of state in the mid 1980s and in the past three years of calling the shots in Aso Rock villa, was revealed and to say the least, it was quite stunning as it represents a sea change.
In the run up to the 2015 general elections, l wrote a widely published opinion article titled “When A Public Mistake Requires An Old Fashioned Apology” in which l had argued that the two main candidates for the presidency, then retired army general Buhari and incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan, were under obligation to apologize to Nigerians for their leadership mistakes or indiscretions as public officers.
But none of them heeded my advice.
Nonetheless, it came to pass that the challenger, Buhari went on to defeat the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Again, at this juncture, it is apropos to put my analysis in proper perspective by reproducing an excerpt from that article:
“…It is based on the foregoing that the HBR article “When A Public Mistake Requires An Old Fashioned Apology” is very poignant and relevant to our current situation in Nigeria as it discusses public mistakes by leaders and how they can control the damage to regain respect.
Incidentally, both Jonathan and Buhari have had the rare opportunity of ruling Nigeria at different times – Buhari as military head of state some thirty years ago and Jonathan as the sitting democratic president. In the course of leading Nigeria, both men must have made mistakes, which are obviously haunting them especially in this period of campaign for election as president. Without equivocation, the issues being thrown up by both campaign teams are a sort of referendum on both the incumbent and challenger’s time in the exalted office of the president and commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Do Nigerians require apologies from the two contenders for their past mistakes in governance before they can seek for and probably receive our mandate to lead us?”
Amazingly, the path that candidate Buhari declined to take in 2015, he has gladly decided to walk without external prompting as l tried to do three years earlier .
The wisecrack, necessity is the mother of invention is instructive in this instance as President Buhari did not need my prompting this time .
Having lost power as a military dictator in 1985 and now basking in power as a democratically elected president since 2015, perhaps president Buhari realizes that it’s better to be a legitimate leader than a despotic ruler, hence he seems to have become conscious of the fact that (as footballers do) he has to fight for his shirt to be in the world cup squad by taking politically correct actions.
As to be expected , some critics have dismissed the political brinkmanship of resurrecting the ghost of MKO Abiola 8 months to election 2019 as a futile effort because it would not sway the Yorubas to vote for Buhari and APC. But in my view, they are wrong because if the gesture did not have the potential of winning votes for Buhari , why are so many prominent Yoruba opposition leaders talking it down?
Bringing June 12 and by implication MKO Abiola’s ghost to the front burner of Nigerian politics is both pragmatic and savvy.
Despite the duplicity of honoring both the victim and still being besotted to the villain, reflected by President Buhari’s failure to publicly denounce Sani Abacha, the military dictator that incarcerated MKO Abiola for four years before his unfortunate demise, making June 12 the talking point in the run up to election 2019 is still beneficial to Buhari. It may not be a zero sum game but it is politically correct to do so.
That’s simply because, somehow MKO Abiola has become what Martin Luther King (MLK) represents for blacks and democracy in the USA – a symbol of struggle for civil rights and liberation from racial inequality.
So, just like the Democratic Party in the USA use MLK as a rallying point and the Republicans use Teddy Roosevelt as their anchor, any quick thinking politician that chooses to ride on the ghost of MKO Abiola would reap positive dividends in Nigeria .
So, the deft move is bound to yield some political capital for President Buhari and the APC party, not only in the South-west, but nationwide as the initiative has struck a chord amongst all lovers of democracy.
The question to ask is whether the current momentum of support can be sustained.
Well, that depends on if those advising president Buhari or those he is listening to have more rabbits to pull out from their hats, literally.
According to Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Federal Government, plans are afoot to honor more June 12th heroes.
I won’t be surprised if Humphrey Nwosu, who was the umpire in the election and who introduced the famous and efficacious Option A4 is equally honored for conducting what has been universally acknowledged as the freest and fairest public office election in Nigeria.
Such a gesture would stir up some warmth for Buhari in the hearts of Nwosu’s kits and kin in lgbo land who are already clamoring for it.
From the look of things,there appears to be even more from where the proclamation of MKO Abiola as the winner of June 12 1993 election came from.
Already other gambits have been used by president Buhari who is waltzing his way back on his negative characterization of Nigerian youths as lazy in the course of his interview with Voice of America, VOA and assenting to the Not Too Young To Run law, which is a pro-youths engagement in politics policy initiative .
Obviously he is struggling to rebuild the broken bridge between him and the youths who used to be his main support base until he failed to deliver on myriads of campaign promises and even portrayed them as lazy.
Owing to the aforementioned remorseful steps taken to mend fences, to some extent, the ice is thawing between Mr. President and the youths and that’s evidenced by the reduced amount of vitriol against Mr. President online.
Although it’s not yet Uhuru for Buhari and the ruling party, what seems to be going on currently unnoticed and unattended to by the opposition is that President Buhari and his team are quietly engaging in real politicking, while the opposition are busy gnashing their teeth and labeling them as desperate .
That’s why some cynics may also dismiss the following policy initiatives which could generate political fortunes for President Buhari and the ruling party if implemented .
Since the three key issues identified below are actually what Nigerians have been yearning for, irrespective of the timing, decisions by the establishment to address those concerns could swing the pendulum of election in the direction that would facilitate the extension of President Buhari’s residency in Aso Rock villa for another four years .
And that’s assuming the ruling party successfully quells the present internal insurrections led by nPDP and if the party’s convention scheduled for later this month is successful.
The following are the policies decisions that can be rolled out to sustain the positive momentum .
(1) President Buhari publicly calls out the marauding herdsmen and gives the Inspector General of Police, IGP a marching order to arrest any herdsman bearing arms and ammunition and he makes sure that this time around, his directive is not flouted? It won’t cost him anything to make that commitment, would it?
(2) As far fetched as this option may appear , it won’t surprise me if President Buhari in the next few weeks or months modifies his hard stance against restructuring of the country which is as dear to Nigerians as correcting the injustice done on June 12 when MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe were voted as President and Vice President respectively.
Can anyone truly argue against the fact that if a panel is set up to review the recommendations from the last national conference with a view to implementing the less contentious items on the agenda that Buhari won’t win more converts country wide?
After all TSA, Fuel subsidy and many other policy initiatives that are currently being implemented were carried over from the previous regime, so why not take a second look at the CONFAB report?
(3 )If the proclamation of June 12 as democracy day and the conferment of the highest National honor on MKO Abiola was a tsunami, the replacement of the present Military service chiefs and heads of security agencies with new ones reflecting a balance in religion, would be the mother of all tsunamis.
Apart from the skewed composition of the security council in favor of Muslims over Christians which has generated avoidable opprobrium for president Buhari, Nigerians are particularly offended by the inability of the security forces to protect lives and properties as evidenced by the fact that death toll from violent crimes has skyrocketed since they assumed office.
Reorganizing the security architecture would certainly appease the angry masses who owing to security breaches have lost loved ones to Boko Haram terrorists, killer herdsmen and deadly cultists from Sambisa forest up in the north, to the Savannah’s of Benue, Plateau and Nassarawa states in the Middle belt, down to Nembe creek,in Bayelsa and Escravos in the Niger delta region.
All President Buhari and the ruling party, APC need to do is introduce and implement each of the highlighted initiatives and schedule their release every two months until the election next February which is merely 8 months away.
With a systematic feedback mechanism put in place with a view to reinforcing the positives and countering the negative fall outs of the policies , the momentum started with the June 12 democracy day date change and conferment of National honors on MKO Abiola would be sustained.
Furthermore, it should strike some fear in the opposition that compared to 2015, the new Buhari has become more invigorated physically and more astute as well as politically sagacious .
And that’s obviously because his UK physicians have done a terrific job and apparently Mr. President has been learning real politicks on the job.
When opposition parties fail to take cognizance of these new attributes of President Buhari, they do so at their own peril because with the new reality, their chances of upstaging the ruling party in 2019 is in more jeopardy.
Need we be reminded that when candidate Buhari was determined to clinch the presidency in 2015, he was adorned with fanciful Western suits and tuxedos as well as apparels indigenous to all the major tribes and zones in Nigeria which made him look dandy and also endeared him to most Nigerians across ethnic and religious divides ?
Nothing suggests to me that president Buhari won’t do more this time around to secure the votes that would guarantee his retention of the keys to Aso Rock villa for another four years, come February, 2019.
In the light of the foregoing, l’m convinced that riding on the ghost of MKO Abiola would not be the only political trick that president Buhari and the ruling party APC might have up their sleeves to gain victory in February 2019.
(Magnus Onyibe, a development strategist, alumnus of Fletcher school of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA and former commissioner in delta state govt sent this piece from Lagos.)