Date Published: 11/11/09
Saving Buhari from infallibility complex By Shehu Mohammed Funtua
One is yet to come across any occasion when Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former military Head of state and ANPP former Presidential candidate, ever acknowledged making a mistake or admitting that others can be as good and patriotic as he. This arrogant and narcissistic tendency is enough to irritate even Buhari’s admirers, especially the discerning ones among them.
Almost daily, Gen. Buhari is quoted by one newspaper or another as saying that Nigeria is on the verge of collapse because he was not elected President. Unfortunately, he blames almost everyone, except himself, for the obstacles that undermine his repeated presidential ambition. His messiah complex and the fact that he is not a team player contributed largely to his repeated political discomfiture.
He believes he is a gift from God to Nigerians and that every other opinion on politics is inferior to his own. When a man believes he is morally superior to everyone else, how do you relate with him to understand the nuances and pragmatism of politics? As is common with most fanatics, it is impossible to reason with Buhari. In fact, Bernard Shaw was right when he said, “fanatics don’t hold opinions; their opinions holds them.” The
silent but sometimes open contempt that Buhari has for fellow politicians, makes one wonder why he is in politics in the first place. Karl Marx brilliantly argued that “in politics you must form alliance with the devil to achieve the cause.”
Is politics an alliance of saints? May be Gen. Buhari thinks so! And if he does, then even the ANPP is not morally fit to accommodate him. He believes ANPP governors are thieves, yet he expects them to bankroll his presidential campaign efforts. Gen. Buhari doesn’t have the colossal resources needed to campaign and he therefore badly needs the support of Governors and other rich men of his party to campaign effectively across the country.
It is on record that he alienated ANPP Governors and other financial backers because of his disdain for them. His personal popularity alone didn’t help him to have his candidate emerge as the National Chairman of the ANPP. The candidate nominated by the Governors eventually emerged the party National Chairman. Consensus and compromise are not in Gen. Buhari’s dictionary; hence it is not surprising why his presidential ambition suffers frequent set - backs.
Politics is beyond good intentions and Gen. Buhari needs to take a hard look at his chimerical approach to politics. He once boasted that he would never have anything to do with politics but once he ultimately found himself in it, he must attune himself to the reality of it.
Ploughing a lonely furrow is not in the nature of politics because you need allies and friends and of course the men of substance or means. When U.S Republicans were out for former President Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal, despite his public apology, a pro- democratic lady wrote to Time Magazine condemning the hypocrisy of politicians. She argued that if American insists on rigid moral standards in politics, they should vote for a Pope in the next election!
Defining politics within rigid moral standards can run into practical difficulties. For example, the Bible says we should love our enemies! But in the reality of politics, that is almost always difficult to practice. Gen. Buhari himself is known to be vindictive and that explains why he has a deep-seated grudge against Gen. Babangida for removing him from power. Despite all the semblance of reconciliation with Babangida, his animosity against the Minna General still runs deep, at least privately. But the same Buhari forgot that he toppled former President Shehu Shagari and threw him into detention despite his proven honesty. Yet Shagari was ready to put that behind him and relate with Gen. Buhari cordially.
Gen. Buhari is a bundle of contradictions. He once described politics as dirty and that he would not touch it with the bargepole. But today he is neck-deep in politics. Prior to his involvement in politics, Gen. Buhari engaged in many tactless acts. For example, he triggered a controversy when he was quoted to have urged Muslims to vote for fellow Muslim politicians during a book launch in Sokoto. Despite the grave implications of such tactless comment from a former Head of state, Gen Buhari felt no need to publicly deny the report. Instead, concerned friends and other opinion leaders had to reach out to Gen. Buhari personally to verify the report. Rev. Mathew Hassan Kukah was one of those concerned leaders that met Buhari to confirm the allegation.
His indifference to the controversy was damaging his reputation insidiously, but he didn’t realize the extent of that damage until he joined the 2003 presidential race. Gen. Buhari found himself stopping over at churches in the course of his electioneering campaign to reassure Christians that he was quoted out of context. One of his arguments was that he spoke in Hausa and the reporter who quoted him doesn’t understand the language to accurately represent his opinion.
Unfortunately, such damage control church visits didn’t significantly change Gen. Buhari’s perception as a religious bigot who shouldn’t be trusted to rule a multi- ethnic and multi- religious country like Nigeria. His desperate church visits were like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted! His reassurances to Christians didn’t cut any ice with those having serious doubts about his broad-mindedness and liberal attitude in a complex society like Nigeria. Consequently, majority of the predominantly Christian south was not ready to stake their votes with Gen. Buhari. In fact, his political rivals even exploited his tactless comment by printing posters, portraying him as a man determined to Islamize Nigeria. Such contagion of fear about Gen. Buhari spread out of control across the south and among Christian minorities of the north. Despite the unpopularity of Gen. Obasanjo in 2003, Christians would rather elect him for second term than trust Gen. Buhari to replace him.
Obsessed with a messiah moral superiority complex, Gen. Buhari is not even ready to come to terms with his own problems. Many fear that he would have been worse than Obasanjo and would have had difficulties working with the National Assembly and other politicians. His obdurate posture and a stubborn conviction of being the best for Nigeria wouldn’t allow him appreciate the virtues in other politicians. How do you then save Gen. Buhari from himself and make him accept the limitation of his style in politics?
In his broadcast during the military coup that brought him to power on December 31 1983, Gen.. Buhari declared as follows: “the last general election could be anything but free and fair; all the political parties rigged the election according to the resources available to them.” That was Gen. Buhari in his own words 25 years ago and one wonders whether his entry into politics has changed that reality. Both ANPP (his own party) and the PDP rig according to their strengths or resources.
It is most unlikely that Gen. Buhari would have accepted any allegations of rigging if the ANPP had won the 2003 presidential election. But the truth is that no party in Nigeria can claim superior morality over others where rigging is concerned. In Africa, people do not always go into politics for the sake of offering honest service but for private gain: hence the desperation to seek public office by hook or crook. If Gen. Buhari finds the existing parties as too dirty to meet his tough moral standards, he has the option to establish his own party. But does he have the resources to do so without the support of well-to-do Nigerians? And if he is ready to receive such donations from rich men, is he ready to question the sources of their wealth so as not to taint his reputation? Again, he if doesn’t need funding from crooks, does he have the capacity to raise funds from the voluntary donations of low income citizens just as Barack Obama did in the U.S.? Is Gen. Buhari ready to re evaluate his attitude to politics within the prism of common sense and pragmatism?
The way and manner Gen. Buhari behaves, creating the impression that he is the personification of democracy, leaves many discerning Nigerians asking whether the Daura General realizes the many contradictions in his politics. When he came to power in December 1983, Gen. Buhari didn’t unfold any plan to return Nigeria to democratic rule until he was toppled in a palace coup, led by his then Chief of army staff, Gen. Babangida. Ironically, this same man who didn’t believe in democracy or the will of the people is today arrogating to himself the champion of democracy..
Gen. Buhari believes only in his own virtues; he doesn’t recognize the merit in others. When he sought the ANPP presidential ticket in 2003, many other contestants were forced to step down for him, including Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi, Mr. John Nwodo and Rochas Okorocha. Many Nigerians believed that blackmailing contestants to step down is not democratic and Gen. Buhari benefited from that unfair arrangement all the same. Igbo politicians that sought the ANPP platform to realize their presidential ambitions felt frustrated by the idea of being forced to step down for Buhari and that the party is not for all Nigerians.
Despite the selection of the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo as Gen. Buhari’s running mate, the ANPP didn’t make any significant in-road in the southeast to neutralize the PDP. In politics, you must contend with other interests. The manner Gen. Buhari was foisted on the party in 2003 left the Igbos with grudges against the party and it paid dearly for that miscalculation. There are even fears going by the utterances of Gen. Buhari’s supporters, that the new National Democratic Movement initiated by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Bafarawa, may run into rough waters. Even as the new opposition movement is just evolving, General Buhari’s supporters are already touting him as the inevitable choice for presidential candidate of the alliance.
Emerging press interviews and opinion articles rooting for Buhari’s candidature is like jumping the gun. Buhari’s supporters should allow the initiative consolidate before deciding the choice of presidential candidate which will be decided by more complex factors than General Buhari’s stubborn conviction of being the only one suitable to become the movement’s presidential candidate. Such posturing of Buhari’s supporters at this stage could only play into the hands of the PDP.
Considering Gen. Buhari’s stubborn conviction about his perceived unassailable moral credentials, it is unlikely if he will ever compromise his ambition for anyone else. He is not even interested in confidence building process with the rest of other Nigerians who perceive him as too narrow –minded to fit into the complex challenge of leading a diverse country like Nigeria. His careless attempt to play to the gallery during the controversy over the introduction of sharia in 2000 created crisis of confidence for the former military ruler among other Nigerians.
He publicly dissociated himself with the efforts of the National Council of State to douse the sharia tension by trying to work out a rational option for its implementation without creating problems socially and politically. With these antecedents, Gen. Buhari has a heavy political baggage to ever win the trust of Nigerians to be a President. While he is busy attacking either the competence or integrity of other political leaders, Gen. Buhari is blithely ignorant of his own serious personal political obstacles. The north alone cannot make Gen. Buhari a President. National electability is a factor Buhari and his fanatical supporters pretend does not exist. Gen. Buhari believes he is the best politician to salvage Nigeria but let him be reminded of the words of Dennis Howley who said “expecting the world to treat you fairly because you think you are good is like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian.”