Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Like Buhari, Unlike Obasanjo

THIRTY years after he was ousted in a military coup,
Nigerians have decided that Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari,
the man who over threw the democratically elected
government of Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, would be
their President. It was an emphatic decision. There must be
something about the Nigerian year circle.
General Olusegun Obasanjo was released from prison and
elected President, again, 20 years after he left office as a
military Head of State. Unlike Buhari, Obasanjo, in 1979,
handed over to a civilian government, the one Buhari over
     The similarities may just end there in what could be tagged
the return of the Generals; it would seem at the instance of
It must be clear that the military conducted the 1999
election which Obasanjo won. Obasanjo, who ran Nigeria
for eight years, with a huge appetite for more (remember
the third term imbroglio) was the military’s choice to
stabilise a polity that was torn to shreds after the cancelled
June 12 elections of 1993. Obasanjo spent a good part of
those years demilitarising the polity. His successes are as
controversial as the man.
Controversy could have been another name for Buhari, a
political figure who started making rounds of the
presidential elections from 2003, failing in past three
attempts, and retreating to his shell after each effort. His
fourth attempt at the presidency was the subject of multiple
jokes, but he was on his way to victory, possibly under-
rated until it was too late, or his opponent did not
understand that the battle was not against the General, but
allied forces, mostly visible, and other in the shades, who
rallied round Buhari.
No Nigerian had attempted the presidency as many times as
Buhari. None has had the patience, perseverance and
resilience to bear the indignity of three losses. Many of
those who voted for Buhari might not have been born when
he began his draconian rule in 1984. Stories of those days
made no impression on a new generation of voters, who
wanted answers about their future. They opted for a man
who many remember more for the stiff stubbornness of his
military orientation than what he did for Nigeria . His 20-
month sojourn that ended in August 1985 was really short
for anyone to have known what he would have done with
The milestone is the transition from a sitting President to a
President-elect. More explicitly, a sitting Nigerian President
has lost an election, something unimaginable, though we
saw it happening across ECOWAS – Ghana, Senegal, Cote
d’Ivoire. It could deepen our democracy; it could make
governments more accountable. It could create a place for
the opposition in our politics.
Buhari also illustrates in our times the Japanese concept of
resilience – you fall seven times and get up eight times.
Many expected him to keeping falling down.
The epitaph to this story would be about a general, who
subjected civilians to his horsewhip, thrown out by his
colleagues and returning to subject himself to the dictates
of civil rule, including a motley crowd of 469 members of the
National Assembly who would subject his moves and
moods to scrutiny.

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