Date Published: 06/04/10
The Significance of the Buhari-Tinubu Ticket for the 2011 Presidential Elections By Mohammed Bello Mustapha Esq.
The passing away of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua and the emergence of Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have thrown up several scenarios and permutations as the country prepares for the decisive elections in 2011. It is a known fact that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to which Yar’adua and Jonathan are members, and which constitutes the majority block of the nation’s power elite has a consensus that power should rotate between the North and South. The South having had its own eight years turn between 1999 and 2007 when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was in power, the north then took its own turn and it was expected that this will continue uninterrupted until at least the year 2015 when President Yar’adua would have exhausted the turn of the north only for death to claim him in office and for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw man of the Niger Delta extraction to take over the reins of power to complete the unexpired first term terminating in 2011.
So much has been said about President Jonathan good run of luck. Everything other people die fighting for, he gets on a platter of gold. His power trajectory is a stuff of fairy tales, as he has in less than a decade emerged from a relatively unknown background to Nigeria’s highest political office. Before President Jonathan has even settled down in office, pressures are now been mounted on him to contest the 2011 elections as the candidate of the ruling PDP. It however remains to be seen whether he is the one orchestrating such moves or whether they are popular sentiment expressed by Nigerians pursuant to his momentous ascendance.
The most topical debate raging in Nigeria now is whether President Jonathan should run as a candidate in the 2011 presidential elections. If he does, he would in effect rubbish the existing pact on power rotation in the PDP and additionally get distracted from the urgent and daunting issues of governance which he inherited from his predecessor among which include the challenge of delivering a credible election and fixing a country which is broken at all fronts. It is the concern of many discerning Nigerians that the president should shelve his ambition to contest in order make a good job of the urgent issues on ground.
The focus of this essay however is not about the propriety of President Jonathan contesting the presidential elections in 2011 or not, after all he is eligible to do so like every other qualified Nigerian and it is the opinion of this writer that zoning or power rotation is unconstitutional and undemocratic, particularly going by our more recent political experience where it has thrown up more problems than it has tend to solve. The real concern of this writer as most discerning Nigerians is for President Jonathan to deliver on his promise of conducting free and fair elections in 2011 to the extent that even if he to be presented as the incumbent candidate of his party, there can provide a level playing ground to enable the electorates freely vote for the candidate of their choice.
There is a groundswell of opinion that the salvation of Nigeria depends largely on the ability to conduct genuine elections that will usher in leaders who truly represent the people’s aspirations and will work for their upliftment. It is under this regime of free and fair poll, that we can envisage the General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu ticket for presidency in 2011 as Nigeria’s best hope of national restoration and rebirth. The Buhari-Tinubu ticket in my opinion and I believe that of many Nigerians holds the brightest prospect for a pan Nigeria redemption, and it will be within the context of this essay to critically analyze the prospects and challenges of these titans of modern Nigeria in their quest for the leadership of our country.
The man General Muhammadu Buhari needs no introduction in our leadership and public discourse. In fact, he is a man whose passion for the betterment of Nigeria is unparalleled and at the same time most misunderstood. Right from when he headed the military government that sack the second republic in 1983, Buhari’s intention to re-engineer Nigeria on the path of rectitude and nationhood has not been in doubt. Together with his erstwhile military colleague, General Tunde Idiagbon they set out to uproot the cankerworm of corruption from the nation’s body polity and engaged in other drastic measures which were at that time considered as the right elixir to cure the country of the myriad of woes besetting it. Unfortunately, their regime was short lived and their good intentions truncated but the resultant effect is that two decades after, the country has sunk into a quagmire and yearning for that critical leadership that will have the courage and conviction to take the problems of the country head on.
General Buhari may have remained on the sidelines of power but never been indifferent to the declining fortunes of Nigeria foisted on it by endemic corruption and bad leadership. Instead of despairing like most of his compatriots, he remained resolute in his belief that Nigeria is the only country we have and we must all work hard to salvage it. When a succession of bad leadership including military and civilian continue to run Nigeria aground, Buhari felt that the price of doing nothing and allowing evil governance to perpetuate was too much to pay. Twice in 2003 and 2007 he threw his hat in the ring and ran for the civilian presidency of Nigeria. On both occasions, the incumbent PDP deployed its rigging machine to conduct elections that are universally discredited and Buhari stoutly and patiently challenged the outcomes up to the Supreme Court. Though he may not have gotten justice from the exercise, his recourse to due process and rule of law, and subordination to electoral tribunal even in the face of glaring injustice and provocation cemented his credential as a pillar of Nigerian democracy and one of the leading lights of the nation’s quest for an true democratic governance. It is little wonder that Buhari has become the rallying point of pro democracy groups, as well as the focal point of efforts to ensure that the disparate opposition parties coalesce into a mega party to frontally confront the menace that the ruling party has become.
In all of this, the question that any discerning person would ask the General is why the seeming obsession to get back to power? To such people, I would just proffer a simple response. Buhari has some unfinished business with Nigeria. Successive leaders have failed to live up to his vision of making Nigeria work to its potentials where citizens can live in prosperity and harmonious co-existence. Buhari has what it takes to give this leadership and would never be tired nor discouraged from asking for the mandate of Nigerians to lead them to this promise.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is also one of the most prominent politicians of modern Nigeria. A veteran of the popular struggle to revalidate the June 12 elections annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, Tinubu had grown from strength to strength becoming a two time governor of Lagos State where his meritorious performance was capped with his uncanny ability of anointing a successor who is even surpassing his own achievements in the state. Asiwaju Tinubu has taken it upon himself to spread his political philosophy of progressive politics first to the entire south west Nigeria and the entire country using the platform of Action Congress party. In the Southwest region, Tinubu is a colossus and an acknowledged political grandmaster and in an atmosphere of free and fair elections, his party, the A.C is the one to beat especially given the stellar performance of the Fashola Administration in Lagos State.
Asiwaju’s burning ambition is to see to the restoration of true federalism in Nigeria. He is a relentless advocate of a true federal system where the constituent groups can develop at a competitive pace and issues like state police, fiscal federalism and devolution of powers are settled in favour of the federating units of the country. These issues constitutes the gravamen that the civil society and ethnic nationalities groups, the mega summit movement and PRONACO, groups that have sympathy to the Buhari-Tinubu ticket have been clamouring for as the basis for a workable Nigeria federation. Buhari and Tinubu are two men who deeply understand Nigeria and are passionate to make the big and difficult decisions that will unshackle Nigeria from underdevelopment and mediocrity.
So having briefly outlined the personalities and candidature of the duo, I shall now proceed to analyses the challenges they are likely to face in the 2011 elections under the following heads;
The Jonathan Goodluck candidacy and incumbency factor: As I have stated above, the most topical issue in Nigeria today is whether Jonathan should run for the presidency of Nigeria in 2011. If he is to run, the zoning formula adopted by the PDP will be jettisoned and there may be attendant backlash by disgruntled elements especially in the north who might have felt shortchanged. Also factoring in the fact that incumbent candidates in Nigeria manipulate the electoral process to rig themselves into power, can Jonathan create a level playing ground to ensure a free and fair polls? So far, he has made promises to that effect although the crucial elements of implementing the much desired electoral reforms along the model proposed by Justice Uwais panel and overhauling the electoral body remains undone. The pertinent question that keeps popping up is whether Jonathan can guarantee a credible election such that he is prepared to accept defeat even as an incumbent candidate. Were such an enabling environment for a credible election to exist, then I will certainly put my bet on the Buhari-Tinubu ticket even against that of Jonathan to clinch the presidency in 2011 polls. However, it is my earnest desire that President Jonathan heed the wise counsel and stay out of the 2011 race in the overall interest of the country.
The moral sentiments of a Niger Delta presidency: Closely allied to the issue of the Jonathan candidacy is the sentiment that the Niger Delta region should be allowed to occupy the position of the president to compensate for all the years of neglect and deprivation and to quell its restive elements. The popular view is that a Niger Delta indigene at the helm of affairs will give impetus to the developmental challenges in the oil rich but impoverished region. However, the presidency is not just won on such sentiments as it the whole country that will decide who mans the office. Also the idea that a president will pay more attention to his place of origin does not hold waters if history is to be our guide
It will take men with vision, proven track record and the audacity to dare to tackle the mountains of problems confronting Nigeria. In this regard, Buhari and Tinubu towers above their contemporaries and have the leadership wherewithal to steer Nigeria to its promise including giving the Niger Delta region the special attention it deserves.
The Muslim-Muslim Ticket: In Nigeria, religion plays a very part in decision making even in the selection of candidates and their running mates. Buhari and Tinubu are both practising Muslims. In the case of Buhari, in particular, his opponents have mischievously tried to attach the toga of a religious extremist to him. This is not the first time however that a same faith ticket will be fielded for the highest office in Nigeria. The success of the Abiola-Kingibe ticket in the June 12, 1993 elections annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida lends credence to the belief that this challenge is surmountable. The issue of faith may be important to Nigerian voters but not to the extent of sacrificing other ennobling qualities that this duo symbolize. On Buhari’s alleged extremism, the issue is most misunderstood as Buhari is one of the most accommodative of all men and some misinformed and ill intentioned people rather confuse his unblemished morality and principle for extremism.
Buhari and the Northern political Gladiators: The number of politicians of northern extraction who have indicated interest in contesting the presidency of Nigeria are people of intimidating profiles. They include former President Babangida, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, current National Security Adviser Aliyu Gusau, Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekaru amongst others. The prevailing situation in the north however is that Buhari has the most positive attributes expected of the president of Nigeria, and it is little surprising therefore that the party he recent founded the Congress for Progessive Change(CPC) has become the party to beat in the forth coming elections. Also the north having been blamed for its role in foisting a lackluster leadership on the Nigeria nation in the last 10 years of democratic rule, is eager to make amend by throwing its best into the race for the presidency, and that person is none other than General Buhari.
The Role of the media: Another likely challenge of the Buhari presidency will be the role of the media. The general has not been unfairly represented by the media, a relationship which soured from the repressive media regime during his military stewardship. In the run up to the 2007 presidential elections, Buhari was most unfairly maligned in a scathing article by the Nobel Laurete, Professor Wole Soyinka who accused him of extremism and sundry human rights abuses. However, Professor Soyinka may have in his usual element gone overboard in his over-dramatization of Buhari’s alleged ‘sins’, prompting the press made to make a feast of i
An appropriate response to Soyinka’s criticisms was however offered much later by the erudite scholar, Professor Tam David West who on a clause by clause basis answered Soyinka’s criticisms and explained the real Buhari as a patriot per excellence who is only an unfortunate victim of elite conspiracy and subjective press. However, Nigerians are now more knowledgeable about the person and politics of Buhari and will not tend to rely on the scare mongering tactics of Buhari’s traducers but are more willing to know by themselves who the real Buhari is. With Buhari and Tinubu now in the same ticket, it is expected that Tinubu will greatly utilize his immense media influence over the Lagos media to get a favourable media scrutiny. Asiwaju is a sort of a media patron of the critical Lagos press and his influence over the media is almost paternalistic. It is not as if Buhari has anything to hide or that he cannot successfully defend himself, what is simply expected is that he gets an unbiased assessment and scrutiny by the press, and it is in this regard that Tinubu will serve as a great complement.
In conclusion, I would make bold to say that the Buhari-Tinubu ticket provides a rare opportunity for Nigerians to get it right this time and reclaim their country from leaders who do not mean well for us. Never before has two men who represent the best in all of us and who mean well for the generality of their country men and women come so close to getting the opportunity to serve. The choice is clear and it is for us Nigerians to make.