Intifada is Arab word for uprising. It perhaps best describes the emerging battle formation in Nigeria’s expanding coliseum ahead of the 2019 polls.
Indeed, today, only the utterly naive will still need an interpreter to decode the dire signal from the nation’s fraternity of restive generals.
Other than in the heyday of coup in the 70s and 80s, never have we seen a gang-up of old soldiers this massive, with the sole objective to wrestle down a comrade (President Muhammadu Buhari) from whom they now appear irreconcilably estranged.
While they would readily cite “national interest” as their only motivation, not a few Nigerians will contend that the generals’ uprising is actually fueled either by bruised egos or loss of class privileges and business concessions.
So, increasingly, the nation is left to witness the adaptation of martial tactics by vengeful old warriors for a purely civil outcome in what may signal the terminal battle within the oldest cadre of the once powerful military oligarchy.
The insurgency intensified at the weekend with former President Olusegun Obasanjo opening heavy artillery fire from faraway Indonesia on Buhari. In what would have been considered high treason under military rule, he motioned the international audience to await a new leader that would sign a pending treaty to ease global trade, not PMB whose “hands are too weak.”
It was a daring follow-up to a declaration a few days earlier in Abeokuta in which OBJ dramatically recanted his old political fatwa on Atiku Abubakar, proclaiming him “President-to-be”.
The fireworks would appear to have been ignited the previous weekend with the electoral abracadabra in the Garden City bearing the military hallmark: numbing stealth. Like the ominous owl, Aliyu Gusau suddenly materialized at the crunch hour during the PDP convention. He it was, according to reports, that whispered a coded message to the influencers of the night to tilt the scale so overwhelmingly in Atiku’s favor, so much that the votes garnered by the second runner-up was only half of his.
Dollar was no problem.
Dazed by the forceful hijack of what he probably had considered his show all along, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers States, the generous host who barely concealed an affinity for Aminu Tambuwal, was soon sighted retreating hastily to his lair before the votes were counted. The young turk from Obi Akpor must have realized by now that battle-hardened generals tackle differently.
Expectedly, coy Maradona of Minna is ever too timid to openly show his hands. But wherever Gusau goes, we can see his distinct shadow. Ditto the white-bearded Abdulasalami Abubakar.
Only the uninitiated would remain unmoved when, suddenly, no word is heard anymore from spectral Theophilus Danjuma, the one with a dark scowl.
While the old generals gear up for the final supremacy battle ahead, there can be no dispute that Atiku, otherwise considered a “lesser” retired officer on account of being of a paramilitary progeny, is the ultimate beneficiary. How pleasurable it must be for the man from Jada to sit back and watch his ancient foes now joining the battle to advance his interest.
Apart from the sigh of relief from OBJ suddenly agreeing to make “peace” with him, Atiku must also feel a sense of closure on IBB who could perhaps be classified as the first to teach him the true meaning of political adversity some twenty-five years ago.
Who would imagine that the man who in 1992 had mindlessly axed his political hero and mentor, Shehu Yar’Adua, when the latter appeared set to clinch the presidency on SDP platform at the height of the phony transition programme conducted by the shifty general, would today voluntarily be in his corner?
Taken together, the generals’ onslaught against PMB could only mean one thing: a boost to the Atiku momentum.
In squaring off to the new challenge, therefore, it will be fool-hardy for Buhari not to re-appraise his strategy and frame a new message that truly connects with the populace with a view to restoking flagging hope. If muck-raking or scare-mongering becomes the only agenda – as it increasingly appears, the cacophony so generated is likely to completely drown whatever positive message there might be.
Indeed, there is a growing drudgery – if not danger – of a one-plot narrative. There are few things commonsense teaches. When a vinyl is overplayed, for instance, no one needs any reminding of the inevitability of a crack, mangling the melody intended into a grating offence to the eardrums. The strategy of recycling old tales of corruption against Atiku may soon become counter-productive, especially as a seemingly resurgent PDP begins to catalogue APC’s own contradictions in the otherwise noble war against graft.
True, few ghosts are unlikely to go away in the times ahead, notably the herdsmen violence and lopsidedness in PMB’s appointments.
But it will be most unfair to say Buhari failed completely. What then has been a big puzzle is why Buhari and his people seem incapable of crowing more now about their own miracles. People readily connect with the issue of bread and butter.
While it is true hunger remains, it bears restating that the situation could have been worse today without a more scrupulous management of the nation’s earnings since 2015. And if the economy indicators now suggest the nation has navigated its way out of perhaps the worst recession in more than three decades inflicted undoubtedly by the profligacy of the preceding PDP administration, how come the people are not being reminded the more that that redemption is largely due, not to a sudden oil windfall, but Buhari’s frugality and insistence on value for money?
Again, while Boko Haram may not have fizzled out completely, let no one however distort the memory. Unlike 2015 when the murderous sect controlled no fewer than 23 councils across states in the North-East and would hoist their sepulchral flag audaciously, a more tenacious commander-in-chief has since inspired the military to recover most of the lost grounds, thereby restoring national pride.
These are verifiable facts.
But for Buhari, beyond the immediate challenge of mobilizing resources to tell his own success story more forcefully in the times ahead, what would also seem prudent now is to summon the humility to undertake a self-evaluation of sorts, resisting the temptation of complacency and being carried away by the glory of past electoral exploits.
True, over the years, the myth of a captive 12million following in the north has been woven around Buhari on account of his showing in the 2003 and 2011 polls. (As for 2007, so mindless was the rigging inflicted by PDP under OBJ’s watch that Buhari’s ANPP was “allocated” 6,607,419 against his fellow Katsina townsman Umar Yar’Adua’ unbelievable 24,784,227.)
But let it not be forgotten that a partnership with the dominant progressive forces in the South-West was still needed to finally muster the knockout punch that PMB had so craved direly over a decade to tilt the pendulum decisively in his favor in 2015.
Against this backcloth, a counter-factual argument could then be made that the 12m-man myth of 2003 and 2011 is in the context of a Muslim Buhari of the north vying against Christian contender from the south. Today, with Atiku hailing from the North-East, the North-Central largely hurting from the herdsmen crisis, there is no denying that the fabled 12-million-man hypothesis is about to face the stiffest test yet. The PDP optimists are, therefore, wont to speculate on an entirely different outcome in 2019 in the context of Buhari running against a fellow Fulani and Muslim of Atiku’s clout. Of course, PMB’s base remains largely the Talakawa and other courtesans of the underclass in the fanatic worship of the ascetic spirit he easily evokes, with the feudal class and other elites likely to cast their lot for luxuriant Atiku out of enlightened self-interest.
With the Arewaland likely to be divided between Buhari and the anointed of the old order, it is now certain that victory in 2019 will be decided on the Southern soil.
As for South-South, besides a few token gestures here and there, it is doubtful if any other strong argument could be made that PMB has made any appreciable offering in Niger Delta in the past three and a half years to cause a tectonic shift in public sentiments and significantly alter voter behavior, which saw the zone voting PDP overwhelmingly in 2015.
As for South-East, with frugal, holy-communion-taking Peter Obi as running-mate, Atiku is already guaranteed not only bloc Igbo vote but also potentially a buy-in of the significant Catholic community across the country.
By the way, less weight should be attached to the reported grumblings at the weekend of the Igbo governors and a few leaders who rose from the Enugu meeting to say they were not consulted before Atiku made the Obi choice public. Taking a second look at the line-up at that meeting, you would find that at least three of those present were earlier speculated among those being considered. What else is expected of political rivals in his native Anambra like Governor Willy Obiano and “godfather” Chris Uba? A case of sour grapes, no doubt.
In any case, with Atiku promising to do one term, usually hard-nosed Igbo are likely to view the PDP option as the shortest cut to Igbo presidency and, therefore, less likely to listen to any governor to vote otherwise.
So, the South-West invariably becomes the fierce battleground. Now, the hard questions: what will Buhari flaunt as dividends to the Yoruba who voted him in 2015 to justify renewing his mandate? Could the national policy options pursued in the last 42 months be said to be enough to win more support in Yorubaland this time?
For APC, the ready good news is that considerable energy and resources will be conserved in Osun, Ekiti and Ondo States where no governorship poll will hold except in the state assemblies. Their combined arsenal can then be mobilized to reinforce the defence of the party interest in Oyo, Ogun and Lagos.
But in specific terms, APC will have to really dig deep into its creative reserve for a coherent message to counter the Atiku’s gospel of restructuring which undeniably resonates well with the largely progressive values of the zone, beyond the ready excuse that having a Yorubaman as Buhari’s runningmate is an assurance of the return of Yoruba presidency by 2023.
By and large, the time ahead will be interesting indeed.
Peter and the Last Supper in Ekiti
With the return of Kayode Fayemi to the gubernatorial perch yesterday, Ekiti State undoubtedly validates both the promise and beauty of democracy. It is the only state in the south-west won, lost and regained in turn by both PDP and APC (dating back to ACN and AD).
Adding to the myth is the evocation of apostolic imageries: the two dominant characters in its fable in the last fifteen years bear names that remind one of two of Jesus’ closest disciples. One is John (Kayode Fayemi) and the other Peter (Ayo Fayose).
As His final biblical hours approached over 2,000 years ago, the Bible tells us, Jesus hosted what would become the definitive fellowship – the Last Supper, during which he, through parable, hinted of the coming betrayal.
As his own final hours as two-term governor neared last weekend in tranquil Ado Ekiti, retiring Peter (Fayose) chose to host a symbolic rite – a dinner. Ever feisty, the outgoing governor must have counted it one last chance for communion with those he considered his political disciples and associates.
But in vain his wait ended. According to reports, less than 20 of the long list of guests had shown up even by 12 midnight for an event scheduled to commence 7P.M.
Conspicuous with their absence were the retinue of commissioners, members of the House of Assembly, political appointees and the hangers-on.
Also, none of the top civil servants was sighted. Ironically, these were the same folks who, until Fayose lost his bid to install his anointed as successor in the July polls, would be falling on one another chanting, “My Governor! My Governor!!”
Now, everyone is locked in a frenzy of eye-service around Ado-Ekiti, to ingratiate themselves with the new lord of the manor.
With banquet hall deserted and the air soon filled with rancid smell of rotting feast and sour wine, it later became the lot of the government spin doctors to explain the embarrassment away.
One of the fairy tales concocted was that the information pertaining to the dinner could not be disseminated well across the state because of the subsisting ban on the state broadcasting service.
That lie had to be told only because the truth is bitter. Power is transient. Lesson for those still too cocky to wear their crown lightly.