Opinion: Buhari, Obasanjo and the day after, By Dare Babarinsa


It is bitter irony of the winner-take-all American system we have imported hook, line and sinker that the man who secured more than 11 million votes may have no role in the new government that would take effect from May 29, 2019.

Unlike what we had in 2015, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, the loser of the last presidential race, has indicated that he would challenge in court the victory of General Muhammadu Buhari.


In 2015, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the once mighty Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, had conceded victory to his challenger, General Buhari. Atiku says he would prefer to fight it out in the court of law.

Atiku is a veteran of the presidential game and was once one heartbeat away from becoming the President.

As the Vice-President under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, he was almost like the co-President in the early years of their tenure especially before 2002. Then ambition and the raw bile of intrigues intervened.

Since then, Atiku has been chasing the prize. In 2007 when Obasanjo endorsed Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his anointed successor, Atiku had the support of most of the PDP governors but they dare not oppose the patriarchal and dominant Obasanjo in the open.

Atiku moved to another party as the presidential candidate, taken the bait offered him by his old colleagues in the defunct Peoples Front of Nigeria, PFN, who now dominated the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.

This time around, those old colleagues of the PFN days, especially Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, are now the leading centurions of Buhari’s APC amalgam. They were the ones who shut out a large swathe of Nigeria from the Atiku brigade.

Their new champion is the old general who once threw the army of political leaders into detention and ended the Second Republic. Now he is a born-again democrat and his laughter is infectious.
General Buhari showed unusual stamina and vivacity during his campaign.

Despite the weathering of years, he remains ramrod and vigourous and someone who saw him in Ekiti says our President may still be busy on the domestic front.

Covering a presidential campaign is tiresome for reporters, not to talk of the candidate himself. The rigour of the campaign proved that the old soldier has a reservoir of hidden strength.

In the months to come, the challenges of his office would tax his strength, his intellectual resources, his capacity for balancing act and his wisdom for managing the centrifugal pull of a heterogeneous country.

It does not speak well of the President that none of his security chiefs come from the South-East of Nigeria.

Indeed only two of them, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff are from the South.

The rest; the commanders of the Army, Air force, Immigration, Civil Defence, Police, Prison, Custom and the National Security Adviser, are all from the North. This is an issue the President has to address in his second coming.

This would not have been an issue in the past era, but Buhari, suspected of ethnic particularism, is held to a higher standard.
During the First Republic, the head of the army, (Major-General J.T.U Aguiyi-Ironsi), the navy, (Commodore Akinwale Wey), the air force, (Colonel George Kurobo) and the Police (Louis Orok Edet) were all from the South.

President Buhari has already served notice that this time around, he would pursue his fight against corruption with added vigour.

As of now, the suspended Chief Justice of the Federation, is facing trial for alleged corruption. Buhari is also the first President to open the book of past military chiefs.

So far, there is no open allegation of corruption committed during his regime, against any of his top lieutenants. This is a big thing for a country where corruption in high places has become almost a custom.

Now the Buhari era is rescuing us from that custom. With a new National Assembly coming in June, it remain to be seen whether the President would take a keener interest in those who would emerge in the leadership of the new National Assembly.

The presidential election was also the National Assembly election and it had seismic effect in many parts of the country.

In Kwara State, the electorate decided to topple the Saraki dynasty which had held sway for 40 years.

Senate President Bukola Saraki, heir to the dynasty built and nurtured by his illustrious father, Senator Olusola Saraki, lost his bid to return to the Senate.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, who once contested for the governorship of Kwara State and lost to the Saraki machine, led the victorious onslaught.

With the downfall of Bukola, the Saraki mystique may finally unravel. The Kwara people have brought the O to ge (Enough is enough) train to town. We don’t know where it is heading to next.

For the governor of Oyo State, Abiola Ajimobi, his loss at the senatorial contest makes the next governorship election to be of higher interest.

Ajimobi, who had made a lot of infrastructural changes to Oyo State, especially Ibadan, had recruited a lot of foes for himself by his perceived arrogance and high-handedness.

The governorship race in Oyo is now a photo-finish race between Seyi Makinde of the PDP and Ajimobi’s anointed candidate, Bayo Adelabu of the APC.

With his loss, Ajimobi would join two of his predecessors, Chief Rasheed Ladoja and Otunba Adebayo Alao Akala, in the elder statesmen league of politicians.

With his loss too, Senator Godswill Akpabio, former governor of Akwa Ibom State, may be heading for the same club.

One man who has shown tremendous clout is the beleaguered governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun who will be going back to the Senate.

He is the only governor of the ruling APC who is sponsoring a governorship candidate of another party and was bold enough to present that candidate to his principal in Abuja.

It baffles me till today, that despite the stoning incident in Abeokuta, President Buhari has remained non-committal about this double-dealing.

If this general elections has a hero, it may as well be the pussy-footing chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, and his over-worked colleagues. They had to deal with 73 presidential and thousands of senatorial and House of Representatives candidates, something that is unprecedented in Nigerian electoral history. The next National Assembly must revisit the Electoral Act.

During the First and Second Republics, you pay a deposit to the electoral commission if you are contesting.

If you don’t win a certain percentage of the votes, you lose your deposit. In 1979 Chief (Mrs) Simbiat Abiola, contested for Senate in Ogun State and lost her deposit.
If this is re-introduced, it would help to weed out the unserious candidates who are only seeking for attention and an addition to their Curriculum Vitae.

One non-candidate who dominated the election was Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerian ruler for 13 years and Africa’s pre-eminent elder-statesman.

Obasanjo was the man who appointed Buhari the Minister of Petroleum Resources in 1976 and he was the man who made Atiku the Vice-President.
Either way, he would have remained an influential member of the power club in post May 29 era of Nigeria.

In 2015, he tore his membership card of the PDP before an assemblage of prominent women who had answered his call from all over Yorubaland including Kogi and Kwara States.

When the new APC tried to recruit him, he declined, saying he was now an elder-statesman.

It is a measure of Atiku’s persuasive power that he was able to recruit Obasanjo back into something close to partisan politics.
Since leaving power in 2007, Obasanjo intermittent interventions in national affairs has placed him on a special pedestal above the din of partisan political combats. He has also become our country most famous letter writer.

However his recent involvements with the PDP presidential campaign may have affected that role and Nigeria is the poorer for it.

Whether he would be able climb onto his old pedestal again as the voice of his country, only the future can tell.


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