March 1, 2007
8 mins read

Last week, I wanted to write an analysis of the Buhari campaign. Eventually, I moved on the two other thoughts, but kept at the top of my head the fact that before long, I would have to express my worries about the politics of the Buhari campaign, the faux pas that came out in the open not too long ago and the general attitudes of the members of what came to be known as The Buhari Organization (TBO), and related issues.

A confession is in order here; I have given very critical support to the Buhari platform since 2003. The reasons are many; first, when compared with the general vulgar and often uncouth attitude of General Olusegun Obasanjo, General Buhari has a decency and measure about him, that I find very appealing and much more in tune with my idea of a leader. Then there is the incompetence that has characterized the Obasanjo presidency over the past eight years, not to talk of the criminal propensity at the heart of the Obasanjo presidency: a dubious privatization program enmeshed in corruption; the use of state power to feather the nest of the president and cronies; surrender to imperialism in the economy and defense, etc. Obasanjo has been a monumental disaster for Nigeria, in practically every sector of national development.

So when Buhari emerged in 2003, I felt that we would have an alternative to the vulgarity, incompetence and the criminal proclivities of Obasanjo, in a Buhari presidency. I did not have any illusions about Buhari: he is a quintessential system is in concert with other members of the Nigerian ruling class. Buhari’s virtue is that he wants the Nigerian ruling class. Buhari’s virtue is that he wants the system to work more efficiently, and if his previous incarnation as head of state can serve as a guide, he has a much more patriotic content to his attitude to nation building. Although after interviewing him two or three times in the past few years, I am not too sure of what to make of his economic thinking today.

What has made the Buhari phenomenon distinct is the appeal it has to the mass of the people, especially in Northern. Buhari’s puritanical streak, his image and a non-corrupt individual, despite holding various positions in government, appeals to our people, who over decades, have been at the receiving end of the excesses of the bandit bourgeoisie, in military or civilian garb, that has ruled, ruined and underdeveloped our society, thereby making Northern Nigeria the most backward part of the Nigerian Federation, at practically every level of the development index.

So a near deification of the Buhari persona has emerged in a society, where as a result of the reigning underdevelopment, has seen an upsurge of religion, a strengthening of superstition mixed with hopes for change, for the elimination of corruption and the emergence of a change, for the elimination of corruption and the emergence of a leader seen as an embodiment of virtues of leadership with roots in Islamic definitions, but able to deliver on the hopes and aspirations of the present. Buhari is seen as the closest to this ideal. This is why he is so well loved by the mass of the people, especially in the North, and also feared in near equal measure, by members of the elite.

About two years ago, I wrote a critique of an article written by Malam Yau Darazo, of the TBO. He had been gloating  over the plight of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was then beginning to openly confront the dictatorship of Olusegun Obasanjo. Darazo’s attitude was that Atiku was getting his comeuppance for all that he did to deny Buhari the presidency in 2003.   I thought, and wrote, that it was incorrect politics not to exploit the possibility of building a tactical alliance with Atiku Abubakar, against the monster and dictator, Obasanjo. My response led to a very significant meeting, during which I got a full briefing on the political platform of the Buhari group.

Happily, General Buhari joined other patriots from around the country, to build a grand alliance which led to the decisive defeat of the third term agenda of Obasanjo. The defeat provided the basis to put the fractured transition process back to some form of health. One of the many types of fallout from the defeat of third term was the momentum which the Buhari campaign also gained, in terms of the building of the new alliances across the country. The opportunity emerged to be able to present Buhari beyond the brush he had been tarred with, as a religious/ethnic chauvinist. Obasanjo’s disastrous  leadership could no longer ignored, even by the most die-hard opponent of Buhari, and the honest search for an alternative to Obasanjo has worked in Buhari’s favour. General Buhari’s emergence as the ANPP presidential candidate, brought to the fore some of the more negative elements of the politics of the Buhari camp. Soon after his emergence, General Buhari was said to have confirmed to a VOA interviewer, that it was true that the ANPP governors, it was now the duty of Buhari to become magnanimous, became a wounds- healer able to carry along every party member, including the governors. Buhari’s duty was to allay the fears of his party members, especially the governors, whose incumbency would be vital to the campaign for power. Unfortunately, he did not handle that test very well so early in campaign.

Although many reasons have been given for the decampment of governors from the ANPP, I believe that the Buhari camp has not helped much in the attitude of some their members to the governors. When I heard that Governor Adamu Aliero of Kebbi was likely to decamp to the PDP, I spoke with Yau Darazo; his answer was also instructive.  He simply told me that they had always known that the governors were going to abandon the party anyway! The attitude of the TBO elite to the governors of the ANPP has always been problematic, not leaving much margin for confidence. An example of that was displayed at the last year’s MEDIA TRUST DIALOGUE, when Doctor Bashir Kurfi and Alhaji Buba Galadima thoroughly heckled the Zamfara State governor, as he attempted to speak. How governors at the receiving end of their opprobrium are expected to feel comfortable with their campaign has always been a source of concern for me. It appears that for the minders of Buhari, support for him. Buhari’s own nature has not helped in this respect. He has very strict self-righteous notions which might be acceptable in a religious world outlook or in the personal transactions of life, but which become very inadequate in political life. The tendency is to become hostage to loyalists, who  in turn have adjudged not to be loyal to Buhari. The consequence is the narrowing of the base of critical support for Buhari’s campaign: the camp is yet tentative a few weeks to elections and there is reported to be a shortage of funds. Many of the committed supporters from 2003 have become circumspect in 2007. I don’t know the internal workings of the campaign, but I really do hope that they have sessions of self-critical appraisal, when they are brutally frank with themselves. If they do, they would agree that they have made some otherv costly mistakes in recent weeks.

General Buhari accepted line, hook and sinker, the controversial EFCC list of indicted politicians, pointing out the fact that he was not indicted by the anti-corruption agency. The fact that leading members of his party in very crucial states, critical to his own campaign have been left out in the cold, seemed to mean little to him. A leader with political sagacity would have been left out in the cold, seemed to mean little to him. A leader with political sagacity would have insisted that the EFCC list needed the imprimatur of a competent court of law before it can be accepted; so until a court affirms the***his flock came from General Buhari; what seemed important was that his squeaky clean image has been affirmed by Nuhu Ribadu’s EFCC. It did not occur to our general that Obasanjo has launched a war of attrition to take from him the ground on which he is standing. It appears bizarre that a general ca contemplate going into war without battle-tested troops, in the North West part of Nigeria, which is the greatest area of his support. It is Political Science 101 really, that you need to protect your own own turf and preserve your troops.By not speaking out for his party members, only because his own position has been affirmed, General Buhari shot himself in the foot.

This is also related to his well-quoted statement that “Atiku has been finished as a candidate.He cannot participate”. Again, I think this very inadequate politics.Although it might be argued that he was responding to Atiku’s statement that the ANPP was dead, the truth is that Buhari is the one who stands to profit from whatever becomes the final fallout from the on-going events in the country, if he plays his politics adroitly. The ANPP and AC are supposed to be in alliance at the moment.Similarly, there is no gainsaying the fact that Atiku Abubakar has caught the imagination of the people all over the country: he has shown doggedness, has stood up to the bully and despot, assisted the democratic process and helped to demystify Obasanjo, sympathy for Atiku Abukar, which a very wise politician would work to tap into, if Atiku eventually loses the opportunity to participate. By shooting at Atiku at the moment that Buhari did, he was objectively lining up along side Obasanjo. It does not advance the Buhari campaign whatsoever, but it betrays the poverty of the political platform and potentially damages the prospect which the alliance could hold for the future of Nigeria’s democratic development.

The outline of the problems of the Buhari campaign is not exhaustive. But it has become imperative for the Buhari camp to re-assess their methods, their conception of politics and their attitude to problems of politics. Politics is not a puritanical endeavour whichy can be run like a sect. It is a platform of access to power, in order to be able to effect change in society. This necessarily means that a leader should endeavour to build a mass movement which takes in people of various tendencies, but all of who can be useful in the process leading to power. It is in the nature of the Buhari campaign that it tends to alienate rather than mobilize political elements able to make a critical contribution to the achievement of the overall political goal.

The basics are constant. General Buhari possesses the decency which contracts with the vulgarity Of Obasanjo; Buhari’s partriotism is better than Obasanjo’s duplicity; his cruel and inhuman character. These have largely been reasons why I have always respected his leadership would bring a far greater level of competence, focus and discipline to nation building effort.


It is precisely because he is the anchor of the hopes of millions of Nigerians that makes it very important for the Buhari camp to fine tune their politics. Nigeria has gone through eight years of an insensitive, uncaring, incompetent and unpatriotic Obasanjo regime. They want change, and from millions of Nigerians, General Buhar’s discipline and honest style appeals to them as an approximation of what Nigeria deserves. But that latent feeling must be given a political expression; this is where political acumen comes in; the ability to reach out to people, galvanize their energy and retain their loyalty; build enduring alliances; give people hope that your leadership will make a difference; help alleviate the fears of those who feel insecure or unsure of your intentions and the content of your program, if and when you get to power.

These are not easy options for General Buhari or for any politican for that matter, but these are some of the small problems of politics that the Buhari campaign must deal with in a frank and brutally honest manner, because the campaign carries the hopes of millions of Nigerians; this is a crucial conjucture in Nigeria’s history when so much would depend****

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