General Muhammadu Buhari: The Peoples Presidential Candidate?
Dan Azumi Kofarmata
Friday, 22 December 2006
First, I wish to start by extending my sincere congratulations to General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) for victoriously emerging as the consensus presidential flag bearer of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) on Monday, 18 December 2006 in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The ANPP is the second political party to conduct its national convention for the purpose of electing the presidential flag bearer for the 2007 general elections. It is also reckoned to be the second largest political party in Nigeria, after the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).There are so far, over 40 registered political associations in Nigeria today. The ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) conducted its own national convention in Abuja on Saturday 16, December 2006 where the Katsina State Governor Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar Adua emerged as its presidential flag bearer on Sunday, 17 December 2006.
Some of the political parties have also similarly conducted their respective national conventions where they elected and or selected their respective presidential flag bearers for the 2007 general elections. Even though the Action Congress (AC) party has declared Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its own Presidential Flag bearer, it can be safe to conclude that even at this early stage in the countdown to the 2007 general elections, the contest for the 2007 Presidential election (if it ever takes place) will be a contest between the duo of General Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Umaru Musa Yar Adua of the PDP. However, this scenario may change; depending on how the alliance between the ANPP and AC will be consummated through the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the two parties recently.
General Buhari – A transformed Democrat
Retired General Muhammadu Buhari (64) needs no introduction to the generalities of Nigerians and indeed, the international community at large. He was a former military Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria between December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985. During his professional callings in the Nigerian Army he fought during the Nigerian civil war (1967 – 1970) and subsequently served as commander of many military formations. He also served in various other capacities such as the military governor of the defunct North Eastern State, now Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi and Gombe States, Federal Commissioner (now minister) of Petroleum Resources under the defunct Murtala – Obasanjo regime (1976 – 1979) and Chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) under the military regime of late General Sani Abacha (1993 – 1998).
During all these times of his public life and service to Nigeria, he was not known as a democrat. He has been reported in the media on several occasions, expressing his dislike for democratic politics and Nigerian civilian politicians (compared to the Nigerian militicians). His journey to democratic transformation started probably around the year 2002 when he joined the then All Peoples Party (APP) - which has since been renamed as All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). In 2002 he got his party’s nomination to be its presidential flag bearer for the 2003 general elections where he contested alongside with General Olusegun Obasanjo of the ruling People Democratic Party (PDP) and others. He was ‘defeated’ by President Olusẹgun Ọbasanjọ in a contest that was widely believed to have been massively rigged by the ruling PDP. General Buhari diligently contested the result of the Presidential election up to the Supreme Court of Nigeria. It was the Supreme Court of Nigeria’s judgment that finally rested the case in favour of President Obasanjo. The rest is now history as far as the 2003 Presidential election is concerned.
Building from the ashes of the flawed results of 2003 general elections in general, Buhari continued his membership of the now bastardised ANPP political platform in a steadfast manner; against all internal and external scheming to frustrate him out of the party. For example, soon after the 2003 general elections were over, even before the various elections petitions that arose from the various contests at the states and national levels were dispensed with by the various election petition tribunals, the national leadership of the ANPP began to crack and subsequently seriously hemorrhaged, weakened and became a failed political party. The reasons for the many acrimonious in-fighting that took place within the ANPP national leadership are both internally and externally created. The party was undermined by moles implanted within it for obvious strategic reasons.
For example, the ruling PDP both at states and national levels did not want to have any well organised, disciplined and focused opposition. With Buhari as the main rallying point out of all the then existing registered political parties and major political players outside the dominant PDP political family, he was perceived as the main threat against the ruling behemoth PDP. Thus, he became the target to be subdued by the PDP national leadership. To achieve this, the PDP employed all types of tactics and infiltrated the ANPP national leadership. Recall the roles played by Governor Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto State, Gen Jeremiah Useni, Chief Donald Etiebet and Alhaji Yusuf Ali just to mention but a few, as moles within the ANPP that contributed in keeping the party perpetually fighting itself. All the internal squabbles that nearly ruined the party were externally induced. The rest is now history as those who were used to destroy the party not only did not succeed but found them consumed by their very intrigues and have to abandoned ship ignobly and returned to where they naturally belonged. Some of them joined the ruling party and others teamed up and formed a new platform from where they are now operating.
The Danger within
However, there is still a great danger within the party up till now. For example, some of the treacherous ‘leaders’ of the party are still around. These are the remaining State Governors of the party. With the possible exception of Zamfara State Governor Ahmed Sani (Yariman Bakura), all the remaining ANPP State Governors are antagonistic to the presidential ambition of General Buhari under the party. Ahmed Sani differ from his ANPP Governor colleagues in the sense that he joined the presidential race purely on principles of democratic context, whereas, the other ANPP Governors are in the service of the powers that be outside the ANPP in order to truncate General Buhari’s presidential ambition and agenda. It is now an open secret that these shameless Governors (again with the exception of Governor Ahmed Sani), all supported the now infamous, discredited and failed Third Term Agenda promoted by President Obasanjo sometime ago.
Having failed in that grand design, they also plotted to embarrass General Buhari during the last ANPP convention to elect the national leadership of the party. They partially succeeded, but were later disappointed to find out that, the persons so elected to lead the party are not from the same stock as the previous one – ala the treacherous gang of Attahiru Bafarawa, Etiebet, Yusuf Ali and Jerry Useni – who are now residing in the newly formed Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
What General Buhari and his independent political organisation (i.e., The Buhari organisation – TBO) need to be aware of is that, the present ANPP State Governors (minus Governor Ahmed Sani of Zamfara State) are not interested in his presidential candidature. They are already rumored to be in secrete alliance with the ruling PDP to thwart for the second time, Buhari’s chance of wining the 2007 presidential election. For example, Governor Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau of Kano State and his Borno State colleague Senator Ali Modu Sherif (SAS) are only interested in the Buhari bandwagon in order to free-ride on his mass support and acceptability by the voting populace in order to retain their respective offices, while at the same time, pave way for the PDP presidential candidate to score the minimum 25 percent of the ballots caste in their States. This was the deal that was done in 2003 between the ANPP State Governors and President Obasanjo. It may repeat itself again in 2007.
The Real Politics
Having identified one of the several problems that may undermine Buhari’s presidential ambition, the next thing is for him and his supporters to find how the problem may be tackled. Now that almost all the parties that are interested in participating in the 2007 presidential polls have either elected and or adopted their party presidential flag bearers, the stage is set for the real politics. Looking at the political arena and seeing the types of political characters that have emerged into the presidential race, one should be able to distinguish between those who are very serious and willing to go all the way through to the finish line and those who are only in it just for the fun of being tagged “Presidential Aspirants”. This last category should largely be ignored as they do not have any electoral value.
General Buhari’s presidential aspiration is not going to be fought on the traditional political platform of the ANPP per se, but on the platform of the ordinary people. Political alliances or not, Buhari’s political machinery and structures are with the ordinary Nigerian folks and not the ANPP apparatchiks. For example, even he himself, acknowledged this in his acceptance speech when he stated that: "We have the people behind us, we have the support of Nigerians, we have the programmes all we need by the grace of God is a free and fair elections."
As for the issue of formation of political alliances with other like-minded political parties and associates, General Buhari has already indicated in his acceptance speech in which he welcomed and invited all and sundry and other political parties and sincere politicians to join him to form a strong team and work together for the victory of ANPP in 2007 elections. In this regard, I would suggest that the Buhari Organisation (TBO) and ANPP should work as partners in progress with willing and serious minded political parties and politicians wishing to join in the alliance. Felling to recognise this very important aspect of the alliance at the very beginning will spell doom to the alliance and thus open it to all sorts of bickering that may lead to its failure to achieve the desired the collective objective. The Buhari organisation must learn from the mistakes of the 1999 and 2001/2002 political alliances they forged with other political parties during the build up to the 1999 and 2003 Presidential elections respectively.
In conclusion, the three presidential front liners in the persons of General Muhammadu Buhari, Governor Umaru Musa Yar Adua of the ruling PDP and Vice president Atiku Abubakar (Turakin Adamawa) of the Action Congress (AC) all have the qualities that are required to provide people-centred democratic and developmental leadership for Nigeria. The choice is left for the Nigerian electorates to decide; based on a free and fair election.