Editors’ note: The writer, Buchi Obichie, notes that with his recent formal declaration on Monday, April 9, President Muhammadu Buhari is now geared for battle in 2019. However, she urges the president to remember the antecedent of his predecessor and give way to another, in the event – however unlikely – that he is defeated.
“Buchi, its official, he has declared…the flash has to go up now…in 15 (minutes)…embed Bashir’s tweet too,” my editor-in-chief’s voice rang out on Monday afternoon. The ‘hot story’ which just broke and had to go up immediately was that President Muhammadu Buhari had finally announced that he would stand for reelection in 2019. His special assistant on new media, Bashir Ahmed had broken the story on Twitter, and the newsroom was in a state of frenzy.
True to training, I had a flash of the story up in less than seven minutes – all tweets embedded - before going back in to add more flesh.
After the story went up and we all had a few minutes to catch our breaths, a discussion broke out as to the president’s chances in the next election. The foregone conclusion among most editors was that it was a no-brainer, a no-contest…that Buhari would win.
We reached this conclusion with knowledge of the fact that in this climate, the ruling party usually has an upper hand against its opponents; deploying all resources of state to ensure that it perpetuates itself in power - also because there seems to be no formidable opponent to challenge the president at the moment.
In Nigeria, elections are not so much a true exercise in democracy, but a ceremonial show put up for the rest of the world. After ‘king makers’ have decided on who would lead the land, nothing else really matters. The process of casting votes simply gives leaders some sort of pseudo legitimacy, even though they are usually well aware of the ‘underground’ moves which won them their positions. However, it is still a very important exercise.
There was a difference in 2015 though; when the will of the people seemingly held sway for the first time since the inception of democracy, and Muhammadu Buhari was voted into office, pushing out the then-incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. In an unusual show of political sportsmanship, Jonathan exited office without a fight and allowed his successor to take his rightful position.
Jonathan would later say that his ambition was not worth the blood of any Nigerian. He was correct; and by his unusual action, the country was saved from what could have been a most violent phase of its existence.
Anyway, as different voices echoed: “Baba is coming back,” I wondered to myself, “what would happen if Baba is defeated?”
I do not think it is impossible for Muhammadu Buhari to be defeated in 2019. It would be difficult, but not beyond the realm of possibility.
I believe Nigeria stands at another pivotal moment in its history, just like 2015, when people have been brought to the brink, and are desirous of ‘true change’. If the voices of the masses on the streets are anything to go by, people are seeking for something better…something that they have concluded cannot be provided by the APC or PDP. The outrage on social media when the president announced his decision is an indicator of the mood in the land.
The field of combat is still hazy at the moment, as all the contenders have not yet been clearly defined; but Nigerians are looking out for someone else. Not a saint, not a messiah; just someone who can affect their lives for the better. Someone who would be moved by what moves them, who would share their pains and not look on and offer cold words of false comfort from a safe distance. They are mindful that they may not get it right the next time around; however, they still want to try again.
We all had high hopes for Buhari in 2015; but I dare say the president has disappointed. And based on what I have seen so far, I do not think anything would be different in a second term.
I know that the APC is set for this battle, and it is not prepared to lose. It is already taking steps to critically weaken the opposition. As someone pointed out to me recently, “when would the opponents find time to face 2019 squarely when they have all been set on a wild goose chase with their names prominently featured on this so-called looters list?”
2019 would be the battle of all battles; and with Buhari’s declaration on Monday, it is clear that the president is now prepared for this war…even against the ‘kingmakers’ (OBJ, IBB and co, who think it is time for him to vacate Aso Rock)!
However, what will happen if he is defeated? Will he exit the stage gracefully like his predecessor did? Will his kinsmen accept the results? Will the APC give way for another?
As the president gears up for battle, I urge him to remember the past and put the nation’s future in focus. History will remember whatever actions he takes in 2019. Will he be noble in defeat – if he loses – or will he put the nation in limbo, to advance his own ambition?
We may not really have a choice…our voices may not really count…or maybe by some stroke of luck, it would. But will our wishes be respected? I speak as a Nigerian who hears the cries of the average man on the streets daily; and I know that if their wishes are respected, someone else would be at the helm in 2019.
I know that the ‘jackals and hyenas’ are set to maintain their hold on the jungle and feast on the carcasses of their opponents; but as these strong men put their plans into motion, they must be mindful of the ordinary man. When two elephants fight, it is the grass which suffers!
So Buhari is set to run again in 2019. Going by past antecedents – prior to 2015 – it’s all but certain that he would win. But at the end of the day, fate has a way of knocking all plans out of the way, and putting human certainty to shame. Man is not God afterall! If Buhari is defeated, please, let him step aside gracefully!
This opinion piece was written by Buchi Obichie.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial policy of NAIJ.com.
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