The open secret declaration of interest for a second term in office by President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t come as a surprise but a shock to many. Buhari’s secret declaration before the National Executive Council of his party was made open by members and spokesperson of the party. The public does not know in what exact words Buhari made his intentions known. For many spectators of the political circus that is the Nigerian political space, it will take extra-ordinary courage, strength of character and statesmanship, all of which are clearly lacking in President Buhari, to resist the temptation of the lure of power. His body language, associations and political moves had long betrayed a desire to continue in power beyond 2019.
However, many Nigerians who are not surprised by his reported interest for a second term are equally shocked that 76-year-old Buhari, who had been in and out of medical vacations overseas for a considerable length of time in his three-year presidency, has shattered the last vestiges of whatever is left of his celebrated integrity. Asked in 2011 why he was not desirous of holding office beyond one term of four years, Buhari, who was 69 years at the time, answered, “I am not getting younger. If I succeed and do one term, I will be 73 years old.” As if to emphasise the age factor further, Buhari in the early days of his administration, on December 17, 2015, in Johannesburg, declared before an audience of Nigerians resident in South Afric, “I wish I became Head of State when I was governor, just a few years as a young man. Now, at 72, there is a limit to what I can do.”
For a man that has increasingly gained notoriety for going back on his word several times, unable to keep campaign promises by mostly resorting to outrightly denying them, this latest declaration for a second term was dishonest integrity taken too far.
It is obvious that Buhari is thoroughly savouring the sweetness of the nectar of the highest office in the land as seen in his childlike relish of presidential powers and privileges that are often to the detriment, if not in contempt, of the enormous responsibilities of efficient management of state affairs that come with it. He resides in the grand luxurious splendour of his executive mansion, attended to by a plethora of aides and entertained by a coterie of the wittiest court jesters. He moves on land in a sophisticated motorcades of luxurious convoys of customised Mercedes Benz cars and flies the skies in the most exquisite of aeronautic luxury and comfort. In Buhari’s presidency, youthful virile energy and vibrancy to work the talk is not essential because there is actually no work to be done other than for him to adorn, like a precious ornament, symbols of presidential authority. And for doing near nothing to put Nigeria on the path of sustainable socio-economic development, he gets praise and adoration from his supporters. His aristocratic poise, tough mien and mere anti-corruption pontificating are cited as enormous achievements by his devotees. Even a smile and a wave of his hand are praised to high heavens as unprecedented achievements. Therefore, age is no longer a limiting factor for performance in Buhari’s kind of presidency of limited performance.
For failing in his three-pronged campaign promises of fixing the economy, fighting corruption and securing the Nigerian state, Buhari does not deserve a second term because Nigeria deserves a better leader. Buhari’s presidency has not only been limited in performance by his relatively advanced age but even more by his limited knowledge of socio-economic management of the land and people he leads. By elevating sectionalism to a near state policy, Buhari has deepened the roots of corruption through nepotism, favouritism and cronyism. His sectionalism has also elevated mediocrity above competence, leading to poor economic management as a result of absence of pragmatic policies but presence of shallow and hollow initiatives that are premeditated by narrow, bigoted and partisan interests. National security and stability have been greatly undermined in the last three years of Buhari’s administration, no thanks to his sectional tendencies. Law and order have been substantially supplanted by disruptive religious and cultural practices because of cases of compromise by Buhari’s northern-dominated security apparatus.
Fortunately, Nigeria’s democracy has transcended nascence by the defeat of an incumbent President at the centre in 2015. A democracy that was regarded as a fragile experiment became a proven theory of the superiority of people power. Nigerians have become more politically-conscious and will reward or punish good governance at the polls accordingly. In the light of a performance that is widely acknowledged to be far below expectation, Buhari’s date with electoral defeat is imminent. The short and broad road to defeat has been travelled by many before him. Napoleon Bornapate, who was reputed to be the greatest military genius of the 19th century, was so carried away by his mythical invincibility that he failed to realize the turning tides against his military success. Napoleon eventually travelled the short road to his defeat, near Waterloo, Belgium, in 1815, at the hands of an obscure British general, Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.
While there are no credible opinion polls to gauge his public favourability ratings, Buhari’s style of leadership has significantly diminished his popularity as discernable from the increasing army of his former allies now turned critics. While his sectionalism, with all the negative consequences, has alienated the South and predominantly Christian ethnic minorities of the North, it has ironically left his core support base of the Muslim North increasingly frustrated because it (sectionalism) has only favoured a few members of the ruling elite in clear exclusion of the masses. By the end of his first four-year presidential mandate, Buhari would not have been able to solve any of the North’s fundamental problems of economic underdevelopment, with attendant high of poverty, educational backwardness, with attendant high number of out-of-school children (Almajirinci) and insecurity (Boko Haram and herdsmen’s terrorism). The organised private sector and informal business community, whose individual economy has slipped into depression as a result of a lack of robust and pragmatic economic policy by the Buhari administration to expand economic opportunities through wealth creation, are earnestly waiting to cast their votes for anybody but Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.
It will be wise for the APC to be pragmatic in its choice of candidate by avoiding the mistake of PDP in 2015, when they fielded an unpopular Goodluck Jonathan, by not fielding an even more unpopular Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. Nigerians deserve much more from the APC than a failed Buhari. For largely disregarding the party by distancing himself from its manifesto and campaign promises that swayed Nigerians to vote for its promise of change, Buhari has become a liability and is no longer an asset. Therefore, APC must reassess the suitability of candidate Buhari for 2019 or risk going down the short road to defeat with him.