Those who prophesied that then General Muhammadu Buhari would win the presidential election did not see beyond their nose, and Nigerians were too preoccupied with the ‘trophy’ and ‘who will carry the day’ to worry about its aftermath. That aftermath is here with us today. Indeed, the 2015 presidential election was keenly contested between ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan and now President Muhammadu Buhari. Nigerians had grown tired of what they referred to as 16 years of PDP’s misrule and Jonathan’s lacklustre performance. With the benefit of hindsight now, the national consensus that favored Buhari’s emergence was more of ‘PDP fatigue’ than Jonathan’s abysmal performance. Arguably, Jonathan might have been a beneficiary and an undertaker. The fall of the PDP actually predated him.
At the peak of Olusegun Obasanjo’s imperial presidency and PDP’s reign, it was easy to convince wannabes to keep their ambitions at bay, while the party hierarchy as headed by OBJ determined who got what in a classic case of lack of internal democracy. For those who tried to be stubborn, the president would unleash his attack dog, the EFCC on them. Your book of record, sins and misdeeds are presented to you to shut you up. This was the scenario that ensured the emergence of an ailing President Umaru Yar’adua in 2007. In order to appease the Niger Delta and curb the region’s restiveness, the same Obasanjo single-handedly made Jonathan, Yar’adua’s vice president under the PDP. Then Yar’adua passed on, and the rest as they say is history. By 2011, when Jonathan insisted on running for the presidency against the party’s own gentlemen’s power-rotation agreement and internal zoning mechanism, the seed for the eventual capitulation of PDP was already planted. So, affirmation instead of election and other undemocratic tendencies were issues that the emerging APC took advantage of in the 2015 presidential election, and the only credible symbol of opposition that the party could rally round, to lead it to victory, was Buhari.
With this background, it was easy for crystal ball gazers to predict Buhari’s victory, without predicting the possible reenactment of his past. They said he was a changed man, a converted democrat and a man whose wisdom has come of age and a dogged fighter to boot having contested for the presidency four times. We were told his past (mis) deeds did not count for anything. A quick peep down memory lane will suffice. Buhari first came to power via a military coup. He ruled with iron fist, and instilled fear in the populace. His economic policies were mundane; all that people could remember was the absence of essential provisions from their family shelves. His laws were draconian; journalists and politicians were sent to the gallows without proper hearing and trial. Those in the know say the brain behind his most successful societal orientation programme; the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) was his late second in command, Tunde Idiagbon. They attributed the failure so far of WAI’s successor programme, Change Begins With Me, to the man’s lack of interest in the ideals in the first instance. Yet, another tale has it that Buhari was an aloof head of state, who was only a symbol of the office while his lieutenant and cronies were into governance.
Fast-forward to today’s Buhari and you will see all the ingredients of the past. Pundits say he could be apathetic and the evidence is emerging. The passion of the president is sometimes at variance with the personal preferences of his cronies or associates. They make references to the opulent lifestyles of his immediate family and many of his associates, making them conclude that, perhaps change begins (and ends) with the president only. That says a lot about the anti-corruption war.
Again, let’s take a trip to the past. As a military head of state, he was autocratic and dictatorial. That was expected. His handlers told us he has changed. Really? The event of the last weekend has cast doubt on Buhari’s new image as a converted democrat. In a Gestapo military style, reminiscent of his past, the judiciary, the third arm of the institutional tripod, was viciously attacked. Residences of some supreme, high and appeal court judges were raided and monies allegedly recovered, all in an attempt to deepen the anti-corruption war. No Nigerian in his right senses would defend corruption or the stupendous wealth associated with some of the judges, but the manner of the raid calls to question the president’s leadership style.
A clean-up of the judiciary should be total and holistic and should start from the magistrate court right up to the Supreme Court. However, the latest swoop on some judges by an unlikey agency of government smacks of vendetta, witch-hunt and a hidden agenda. Last week, the presidency and the High Court discontinued the forgery trial against the Senate President Bukola Saraki and his deputy, Ike Ekweremadu. I hope this judges’ case, when it gets to the courts, as it will surely do, will not end up like the forgery case.
In fighting corruption, you don’t pick, choose and don’t politicise, otherwise it will lose its essence. However the judges’ case goes in the end, it has already detracted from Buhari’s anti-corruption posture and his government’s credibility. Meanwhile, those who doubted his democratic credentials initially are daily being proved right.