Aribisala’s naked truth for Buhari, and the North, By Maikano Ahmed

Muhammadu Buhari

Truth is bitter. And a Hausa adage has it that it is he who loves you that can give you that bitter pill. The columnist Femi Aribisala has just published a long and analytical essay which contains a fair dose of truth pills for General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and his cohorts, as well as for the North in general. With some air of finality, Aribisala’s article is entitled “Why Buhari will never be president of Nigeria”. The piece in question has, in more ways than one, re-echoed some of the things some of us having been drawing attention to, about the Buhari presidential project. Reading through Mr. Aribisala’s essay, I found myself nodding along in agreement of most of the critical points he raised. Though I have my reservations on a few points, on the whole, I found the main thrust of the thesis overwhelmingly accurate and convincing.

As the election further draws closer, and the All Progressives Congress (APC) consolidates its gains thus far, its major Achilles heel is solving the riddle of who flies its flag. This is a decision that is akin to a double-edged sword; capable of winning the fight for the party or inflicting it with a life-threatening wound. Permutations are ongoing and as far as the North is concerned, all eyes are on the APC as the PDP ticket is not up for grab for just anybody. But at the centre of the permutations for the APC ticket is General Buhari who has become to the party, in the words of a friend, like the proverbial lizard that hovers over a gourd which is capable of contaminating the water or getting the gourd destroyed in an event the owner insisted on sending it off.

In an article published in September last year,  I noted that; “It is therefore the saying that once beaten twice shy that once beaten, twice shy that made people who were otherwise emotionally attached to the cause of Buhari to have a rethink. It is a consensus among most key observers of Buhari’s foray into politics that serially losing the election could not just be attributed to rigging.

But instead of the General and his team to conduct self-searching introspection, they keep riding on the egoistic pony that he is being rigged out and that his victory is assured in the next election. But this pressure on Buhari to contest again and again has since been discovered to be a money spinner for some people who literally box him into a corner, massaging his ego for their own ends.”

No doubt, the former head of state is very popular within his own northern Muslim enclave. Mayhem was severally unleashed to protest what is perceived among our largely uneducated crowd that have no exposure beyond the markets of Kano, to be disenfranchisement of Buhari’s mandate. Several people had put their lives in the line, in the cause of this decade of Buhari politics, cheering on the “messiah” and wrecking havoc on his opponents (verbally and otherwise).  As Aribisala himself acknowledged in his write-up, Buhari has the popular mandate of the downtrodden masses especially in the Muslim dominated states of the North.

But is it enough to be a president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? Aribisala helps us out: “Without a doubt, Buhari has massive support in the North. Indeed he is the most popular Northern politician in the North today. But that precisely remains his undoing at the centre. The more he is identified as a Northern champion, the less attractive he becomes as a national choice. Even in the North, his support base is limited to Muslim population. He does not appeal to Northern Christians. Then there is the added factor of the opposition of his implacable opponents among the Northern elite.”  Truth be told, this man is not viable as a presidential material because of the oft-stated (and experienced!) factors, as also elucidated by Aribisala. Here, the columnist puts it rather bluntly:

“One thing is certain, the South-South and the South-East will not vote for Buhari in 2015. Not only that; there are no buyers for Buhari’s sectarian politics in the South-West. No matter what Tinubu might be telling him, the people of the South-West will not vote for Buhari in 2015. We already had the template in 2011, when Buhari tried to sell himself, first by balancing himself with a Yoruba man: and then by making sure the Yoruba man is a Christian; a pastor no less. But it just did not wash. It will not work in 2015.”

At a time the North is agitating for the return of the presidency to the region, we cannot afford to file in someone whose defeat would be rather predictable. Here, Aribisala sounds words of caution, which the North and the APC should only ignore at their risks. His words: “The worst thing that can happen to the Northern presidential aspirations in 2015 is for Buhari to be on the APC ballot. That is a sure guarantee that the North will not be providing the next president.

“Buhari will be a shoo-in in an election for president of Northern Nigeria. But in an election encompassing the entire country, the best he can envisage is to be a kingmaker. He cannot be a king. The nearest Buhari will go to Aso Rock in 2015 is by attending the Council of State meeting.”  One, therefore, is wont to wonder why shouldn’t Buhari annoint anybody from the army of his associates.

The APC, as a historical and unprecedented amalgam of the opposition, has the burden to make the best use of this God-endowed chance. For the first time we have an opposition party that has at least one governor in all six geopolitical zones of the country – a good omen of things to come. It therefore falls on the leadership of the party and all those who toil to see to its formation to ensure that a more acceptable, pragmatic and trusted person is given the chance to pick the party’s ticket. The party is not in short supply of credible and trustworthy individuals to pull from. The mistakes of 2003, 2007 and 2011 should not be replicated this time when there is clearer coast to victory.

Ahmed wrote from Wuse II, Abuja. Email:

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