Monday Discourse (178)
The Victory of Buhari
Exactly a week ago, on Monday 20 December, 2004, the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Abuja gave a nullification verdict to the petition of the ANPP candidate in the last election. On the surface, the president and the presidency, the PDP and their supporters may consider it a success. They must be pleased with the judgement for, in spite of Buhari’s resolve to appeal to the Supreme Court, the success of Obasanjo at the tribunal is most likely to be upheld by the highest court of the land. Moreover, by the time the Supreme Court gives its verdict, it may be few months left for the second tenure of Obasanjo to expire.
When examined closely, however, his performance in politics so far will reveal a contrary fact, that he is a loser only by the short yardstick of cheating and conspiracy. Using the standard yardstick of principles of freedom, social justice and democracy, Buhari comes out as the winner in the struggle for the establishment of democracy and social justice in our society.
To begin with, I am compelled to salute the courage of Buhari for coming forward and challenging Obasanjo and the PDP who were then insulting our collective conscience by claiming that Nigeria is inept of producing a presidential material that could compete with Obasanjo. Indeed there were many presidential materials but most of them declined to contest for the fear that the President and the ruling party were more inclined to fraud than transparency. By their permutation, incumbency alone accounts for 60% of victory in a developing country like ours. To them contesting election is all about winning; and there was no point in one wasting his resources and energy as well as risk his reputation and life through fighting an already predetermined battle.
Buhari made the sacrifice of calling Obasanjo’s bluff; he joined politics and proved that a population of 120 million people in a Third World country that is ranked then as the second most corrupt in the world could still bear people that are ready to fight for the universal values of social justice.
There were apprehensions on the part of Buhari’s supporters regarding his ability to effectively navigate the turbulent waters of Nigerian politics given his history as a former military Head of State, his almost puritanical stand regarding governance, and his misquoted statements on Shariah. The waters did indeed prove turbulent: there were criticisms from the press, as expected and mostly sponsored by the government or informed by ethnic chauvinism or religious bigotry, that his regime had poor human rights records and did not all it could to impede the freedom of the press. The elite who are living on the pervasive culture of corruption joined the wagon of calculated condemnation and mischievous scepticism. Religious bodies and clerics, as their habitual duty in history, did their best to indoctrinate their followers that they are better of with one of their own, ‘the devil they know’ rather than a person they considered an advocate of Shariah. Moreover, he was not in good terms with the personalities who are regarded as the ‘gods’ of Nigerian politics. Finally, to make things worse, he is not known to be blessed the billions of treasury loot which many other ex-generals have amassed and which he would have used to buy the electorate. How could he then contest elections in Nigeria without incumbency, godfathers and money?
Majority of analysts, on the basis of these facts, despite after witnessing the crowds of thousands who flooded his tour throughout the country did not believe that he could even win the primaries of his party. So, winning the primaries was the first battle and he won decisively, purely on the merit of his grassroots popularity, though the Presidency did its best to scuttle the convention and use the ANPP governors and some aspirants to manipulate its outcome. From the day he won the primaries of his party, the challenge became real to the ruling party and the presidency in particular. The comfort that none could challenge Obasanjo was immediately abandoned for the unsettling nocturnal hours of conspiracy and evil design.
Thus the widespread support that Buhari enjoyed from the masses is one of his greatest victories in life, for it represents a vote of confidence on the regime he led between 1983 and 1985. It has reduced to nothing the effort of the press to paint a black picture of his personality in the minds of Nigerians. More importantly, it has shown that whenever Nigerians are left to choose their leaders, unimpeded by the vagaries of evils incumbency, they will go for an honest and prudent personality regardless of his religion, ethnicity or economic status.
For Buhari two factors were clearly working on his side: one, he did not need to bother telling Nigerians that they needed a change in leadership or the type of leadership they require come 2003. Obasanjo has already refuted his ‘Messiah-hood’ through his display of gross ineptitude, to the feeling of almost every Nigerian. Two, Buhari is known to be the second Nigerian leader who made a genuine attempt to fight corruption and who has lived and led honestly. So, little effort was required to sell him to the electorate. So much was his acceptability that impartial security reports showed that if the 2003 elections were to be free and fair, it is Buhari, not Obasanjo, who would emerge the winner. This report, genuine as it was, strengthened the resolve of Obasanjo and the ruling party to device whatever method was possible to ensure that free and fair elections did not hold. Some weeks ago, I have listed on this page over twenty steps that the Obasanjo and the PDP used to manipulate the outcome of 4-19 elections.
Then the elections came and, from the conduct of the National Assembly elections that took place a week earlier, it was clear what the outcome would be. Finally, by the sunset of April 19, 2003, the shameful conduct of the ruling party and electoral commission, INEC, was resonating throughout the world not only from the cries of the cheated opposition but also from accounts of independent monitors, including international observers.
Nigerians, length and breadth, were visited by mayhem on the election day. The Police were drafted and given specific orders to intimidate, mal-handle, and arrest supporters of opposition parties. All states in the former Eastern Region were particularly put under effective occupation of police and heavily armed political thugs who prevented any election to take place. Results were announced in accordance with the whim of the ruling party. The fact that the ruling party and the President would be driven to this level of desperation is clear evidence that victory was on the side of the opposition.
Developments since the election have proved the veracity of the catalogue of claims made by the opposition and international observers regarding the horrifying events that took place on the day of the presidential election. Now, it is not only the country, but the President himself had what he called “the shock of my life” when he learnt the details of what actually happened in one out of thirty-six states of the federation on the day of his election. It appears that Time has completely eroded the mountains of lies that were piled to cover the unpatriotic actions that took place. Scientists say that among substances water is a universal solvent. Beyond physics, I think there cannot be a better solvent than Time.
Gradually, the perpetrators of the racket are opening up though it has taken some, like the President, a long time to do so. I knew it was coming. It was barely four months after our election when someone in Bauchi stopped me and said: “Dr. Don Allah ka yafe mana abin da muka maka lokacin zabe, literally meaning, “Please forgive us for what we did to you at the polls)”, referring to the rigging of the National Assembly election in which I contested the Bauchi South senatorial seat. Though shocked by his confession, I tried to muster the courage of concealing my mind by saying, “ba komai, ai ya wuce (forget it, it is past).” Thereafter, many have done the same, some even publicly, to my discomfort. I knew that it was just a matter of time before other bigger culprits come forward and confess.
Anambra has given us a glaring picture of the modus of Obasanjo’s ‘victory’: one of the means was terror which the ruling party employed through unmitigated reign of violence. Thugs like Chris Uba were armed and in connivance with the Police allowed to kill and harm innocent citizens on the voting day. In the Northeast, the case of direct interference with electoral results by government officials was widespread, as found by the Election Petition Tribunal in Adamawa. In the Southwest, the regional picture is given by the case of Ogun State which the Tribunal unanimously cancelled because the figures are clearly fraudulent. Nationwide, the attitude of the independent electoral commission gave the most compelling evidence: it refused to furnish the court with the certified true copy of the election results. While three of the judges chose to patronise technicalities in order to uphold the result of INEC’s criminal behaviour, one of them sided with conscience, saying, “Had INEC obeyed, the statement of results would have conclusively shown the alleged malpractices that scores were assigned to candidates by the INEC.”
It is clear then that Buhari did win the election; what he lost was the declaration by INEC. Election is what people have actually voted for. Declaration, on the other hand, is the question of who the electoral body feels expedient to assign victory. While voting cannot be manipulated, assigning victory by INEC in cases of massive rigging is known to be under the influence of many factors, most of them obnoxious.
INEC may declare what it wants, and the courts may uphold that declaration for whatever reason, the truth lies in the conscience of all. Here even the President is not spared. Last week, in replying the letter written him by the Chairman of the ruling party, he said, “This incident was reported to you because although constitutionally, Ngige had been declared winner, for me and, I believe, for you there remains a moral burden and dilemma both as leaders in Nigeria and leaders of our party.” Even the President has come to disregard declaration as a yardstick for victory. Certainly, the “moral burden and dilemma” which he and his ruling party are living with is not restricted to the Anambra elections. His election victory was secured by the same process and the same people who “horrified” him with the account of the illegitimate methods they employed. Undoubtedly, this is another victory for Buhari.
We have not heard the last word on the election and we expect to hear more confessions from the culprits. As for Buhari who joined politics barely a year to the election his performance by all measures is a resounding success; he has scored more than what the majority of analysts have anticipated.
By mustering the courage to join politics and contest against Obasanjo, Buhari has offered us the freedom of choice between the incompetent and corrupt leadership of Obasanjo and transparency. Nigerians went to the polls, where they were permitted to do so and voted against the incompetent regime of the incumbent. By the warm reception he registered on his campaign tours, the masses who thronged the streets to receive him have expressed their desire for the return to his vision of transparent leadership. Finally, his performance at the polls was beyond approximation of most of us. Had the trio of Obasanjo, the PDP and the INEC had the guts to follow the dictates of the law, he would have certainly been declared the winner.
But suffice it to say that the three are today inundated, in their own confession, with the “moral burden” of the fraudulent means through which they procured their false mandate. And suffice it to say that a conscientious voice among our jurists has found enough ground to nullify the election, even though the majority has chosen to remain captives of the status quo. They can as well remain so until the Day of Judgement.