DON’T CRY FOR BUHARI

Four years ago, the popular slogan of millions of Buhari’s supporters was Febuari. It was a special coinage from the word Febuary and Buhari. And it signified to the Buhari devotees the expected victory of General Mohammadu Buhari (retd.) in the presidential election originally scheduled for Febuary 14, 2015. With the approval of the Council of State at an extraordinary meeting, the election was rescheduled for March 28th to enable the military clear Boko Haram terrorists from the areas they had seized and occupied especially in Borno and Yobe States.

The All Progressives Congress, APC, and its supporters raised hell over the rescheduling. They accused President Goodluck Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, of scheming to steal the election and deny Buhari victory. They refused to accept the reason for the rescheduling but celebrated later when Buhari won the election. Among the areas he won in the north-east were all of the local government areas that the special military operations recovered from Boko Haram.

Just to score some cheap political point, the APC is still pushing the false narrative that 17 local government areas were still occupied by Boko Haram by the time Buhari was sworn in as president. If that were true, it would mean that elections didn’t take place in those areas. Yet the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared results in all the elections for the areas, which APC handily won. The party didn’t reject the results on the ground that elections could not have been held in the areas because of Boko Haram’s occupation. If the PDP had won the elections there, APC would definitely have challenged the results and discredited the entire elections.

Mohammadu Buhari Photo
Mohammadu Buhari

History seems to be repeating itself, as the accuser then has now become the accused. The PDP is putting the APC on the defensive, claiming that the ruling party is scheming with the INEC to postpone the elections in some of the states where it (PDP) is dominant, especially Rivers and Akwa Ibom. Although the INEC has repeatedly dismissed the allegation as false, the PDP, which is the leading opposition party, is not letting the APC and INEC off the hook. And the INEC’s leadership has not helped itself by its patently insensitive and ill-advised appointment of Amina Zakari, a national commissioner, to superintend over the management of the national collation centre for the presidential election. Amina Zakari is a relation of President Buhari’s either by blood or marriage. Her appointment to that critical position has generated a lot of controversy and continues to rile the opposition parties and neutral observers to no end.

Making the matter worse for the INEC and APC, President Olusegun Obasanjo has further stoked the controversy by accusing both of scheming to manipulate the elections. In his lengthy statement he released to the press recently, laying out his case for the rejection of Buhari by the electorate, he at once lent credibility to the PDP’s allegation while casting doubt on the INEC’s neutrality and increasing APC’s discomfort. And one of his grounds for doubting INEC’s neutrality is Zakari’s assignment as the boss of the presidential election results collation centre. Which demands an unambiguous answer by the INEC to the question: Is Zakari the only competent national commissioner who can supervise the collation centre?

Not surprisingly, Obasanjo’s robust and take-no-prisoners intervention has let loose the APC’s attack dogs that have gone into overdrive, calling him many unprintable names. He had ceased being the APC’s beloved mentor when he released his special letter a year ago, urging Buhari not to seek re-election. He said then that Buhari wasn’t up to the job of president, and he reiterated that damning assessment in his latest statement.

Buhari’s defenders – and their job is becoming increasingly impossible – have with purple fury demoted Obasanjo to the class of corrupt former public officials. How times have changed as the palpable Febuary fever of 2015 is largely absent now. And Obasanjo is APC’s and Buhari’s number-one enemy.

Four years ago this month, Obasanjo was the APC’s navigator-in-chief, a honorific title the party’s leadership bestowed on him for endorsing Buhari’s candidacy. He had lent his considerable clout to garner support for the APC particularly from the international community and helped propel it to victory. In gratitude, Buhari described Obasanjo in glowing terms. He said the former president was Nigeria’s foremost statesman and leader who pulled no punches in telling the truth to power.

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