Perhaps, never in the political history of Nigeria has the victory by a presidential candidate generated so much verve, enthusiasm and collective sense of accomplishment than the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari, who will become, simply, mister, from 29 May, 2015. Although comparable in feat to the Buhari’s victory is the famous June 12, 1993 presidential election widely acclaimed to have been won by the debonair publisher, philanthropist and business man, late Chief Moshood Abiola.
But the Abiola’s mandate was truncated in mid trajectory by the toothy General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, (IBB) who annulled the election that was adjudged by both local and international observers as free and fair. But, God never sleeps. What a bitter way to inflict a deathly moral blow on IBB’s solar plexus than for Nigerians to have overwhelmingly voted for General Buhari, a man IBB conspired with his ilks to topple from power about 30 years ago. It is not unlikely that IBB is already having regular nightmares as the inauguration day beckons. Well, that is a story for another day.
As at today, General Buhari’s victory stands in Nigeria’s political landscape as the single most popularly accepted victory in the annals of presidential elections in Nigeria. It becomes even more historic by the statesmanship exhibited by the incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who graciously conceded defeat and put a call through, to congratulate the President-elect. That is a historical feat in the annals of our chequered political history and adventures.
Relatedly, Buhari’s victory also marks the first time an incumbent President is facing political defeat. A situation never imagined! Many have described Buhari’s victory as a bloodless revolution. Perhaps true. However, the General’s victory at the presidential poll is also peculiar for some other significant reasons. For instance, factually speaking, Buhari is the only candidate in Nigeria’s political firmament since independence on October 1, 1960, to have consciously and deliberately sought, fought and begged to occupy the nation’s plum office of civilian President and Commander-In-Chief.
For the records, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nigeria’s first Prime Minister in the First Republic was seconded to Lagos by the powerful Sarduana of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who was too busy in Kaduna and the Northern part of Nigeria to come to Lagos. Balewa never wanted to be Prime Minister. Alhaji Shehu Shagari, the President of Nigeria during the Second Republic, indicated his interest to go to the Senate. But the amiable and austere classroom teacher was nudged by what the media, rightly or wrongly term the Kaduna mafia, an amorphous but all powerful group with tap roots in the north and satellites in the South of Nigeria to ascend the throne as executive President on October 1, 1979.
Meanwhile Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s second coming as civilian President in 1999 was a political magic orchestrated by the nation’s political mind benders. Obasanjo, who was roasting away in Yola prison was suddenly uprooted by a cabal in the military (both retired and serving as at that time) and catapaulted to Aso rock with the subtle machinery of the state, utilizing the now rocky platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). These political magicians had thought that Obasanjo would be their pliant stool pigeon while in office. Again, why and how they fell apart is a story for discussion another day.
However, when Obasanjo was leaving office, after the failure of his third term bid and hidden-open agenda he planted whom he thought would be a stooge, Umaru Musa Yaradua. Obviously, having served as two term governor of Katsina State, with his health challenges, Yar’Adua wanted to retire and have a deserved rest, shuttling between his home state of Katsina and Kaduna State.
Unfortunately, Yar’Adua died in office before the completion of his first term in office. The coveted plum job and office on a platter constitutionally fell on the lap of then Vice President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. It is now part of our collective national history and political tale-telling, well known to all and sundry that Jonathan was a man propelled by Goodluck. He never struggled for anything. They always fell in place for him on account of sheer Goodluck.
Really, Jonathan became deputy governor of Bayelsa State by luck. He was made governor by combination of fate and Goodluck, as he was railroaded into office as governor of the oil rich state of Bayelsa when his boss, DSP Alameseigha fell on bad times. Again Lady Luck was at work for Jonathan when he was flown from Bayelsa to Abuja on a presidential jet without being briefed on the reason for the trip. But he was rewarded handsomely for embarking on this uncertain flight to Abuja with the office of Vice President. He was handpicked as Vice President to late Yar’Adua by outgoing President Obasanjo.
Therefore, General Buhari’s victory on March 28, 2015, was also significant, immensely so, for the sheer fact that till date, he remains the only person to have desired and struggled democratically to occupy the office of president and commander-in-chief, a record, four times. On the previous occasions when General Buhari lost, or was robbed, he always went to the law courts to seek justice. Thus sign posting his born again credentials, as a democrat.
It is for these and many other reasons Nigerians are full of high, very high expectations even, though some of such expectations are unrealistic with our present national realities. But thank goodness, General Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) are not unaware of such high expectations, in some instances, they promoted it during the electioneering campaigns. And perhaps, rightly too, Buhari and the APC have started pleading with Nigerians not to expect miracles. But failure will certainly not be an option either!
The beauty of the whole process is that General Buhari has been able to identify the core problem and obstacle to sound national development and entrenchment of democratic principles cum values in Nigeria. And, that singular challenge is the vice of corruption. It is trite to say that every segment of our national life is afflicted with the virus of corruption. Even during some past military regimes were the syndrome of settlement reigned supreme, corruption was a directive principle of state policy!
Therefore, General Buhari’s identification of the war against corruption as the major plank of his policy thrust is liberating. It is indeed a strategic master stroke, if only applied and pursued without fear or favour. Nigeria has lost over a trillion dollars to corruption in over 50 years. This is not to mention the unwarranted humiliation Nigerians are subjected to by the international community on account of ravaging corruption in the country.
As General Buhari often said during his campaign, we must kill corruption before corruption will kill us. But how do we as a nation go about fighting this monster without wasting much money and resources in the process? How do we tackle corruption from its tap roots? How can the fight against corruption be made self sustaining?
Apart from obvious justice sector reforms that is required, which Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President-elect, is a competent expert in, there are two basic and cheap ways to tame this monster. One, is through exemplary leadership. The second option is tackling the virus by attacking corruption of the mind.
As the Chinese proverb admonishes, if a fish is rotten it must have started from the head. Hence when the leader is a person of spartan discipline and incorruptibility, the disciples and followers are left with no choice. This is where the public records, and a person of General Buhari has a magic touch.
In order to tackle corruption of the mind, the Buhari government must be prepared to run a strong enlightenment campaign literarily verging on national indoctrination as state ideology, emphasizing the virtues of corruption-free society and a nation of verifiable morality.
Here the National Orientation Agency should no longer be one of those parastatals to give job to the boys. It must be removed from the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Information and placed under the presidency. Competent media and communication experts must be head hunted to draft and drive its policies – a national campaign against corruption.
Perhaps, a starting point will be to review the policies and strategies of War Against Indiscipline and Corruption of 1983 and the relevant and related policies of MAMSER, because political corruption is indeed the hydra head of corruption in Nigeria.
Osa is a Journalist and a Lawyer based in Lagos.