One of the tragedies of our democratic journey in Nigeria since 1999 is the undue focus on elections at the detriment of governance. Our politicians seem so focused on getting elected that they usually forget the demands of governance particularly important in a country with weak state organs and collapsed infrastructure like ours.
Today’s headline is a throwback to the fantastic campaign the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola ran in 1993, it dominated the airwaves so much that it is doubtful if anyone who witnessed it can forget. Unfortunately, we remember too well how it ended. Having accused President Muhammadu Buhari of not ‘playing politics’ earlier in his government, it seems a somersault accusing him of playing too much politics. But that is what our president seems to be doing in the last few weeks relegating governance and leadership to the background in the process. Of course, the president has never been particularly strong in providing leadership in critical areas; however, jettisoning everything or taking critical decisions tinted with politics alone portends great danger for the country.
Before last week’s political activities, re – APC’s national leader, Bola Tinubu’s visit to Papa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere; his subsequent interview after the visit that the party had not endorsed Buhari for 2019 elections, and Atiku Abubakar’s carefully choreographed exit from APC, it was obvious that Buhari’s eyes are firmly now on re-election. Granted that it is the president’s inalienable right to contest again, his camp and strategists appear to be putting the cart before the horse in their desire to sell their principal’s candidacy. Hameed Ali, retired colonel and comptroller general of the Nigerian Customs Service, first flew a kite last month when he alleged that the APC was losing its core values, vision, and mission while more than 50 percent of positions in the Buhari government are held by PDP members who fought against the actualization of Buhari’s presidency.
Ali, in a total disregard of ethics and decency, uttered those words at the commissioning of an office complex for Buhari Support Organisation, which he serves as national coordinator. So Nigeria is paying for Mr. Ali’s time and energy deployed to campaign for Buhari and yet, he does not see the need to resign and proceed to actualize his dream of a Buhari presidency in 2019? Again, he is one of those whose much-vaunted integrity was sold to Nigerians after he was appointed to lead the customs, but apparently, conflict of interest does not exist in his dictionary. Not only was the BSO office inaugurated, the president has been making the right noises and testing the waters for re-election.
Even while we can discountenance jesters like Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, who received a zonal group two weeks ago and apparently cries more than the bereaved, the president’s campaign is already running. The Christian Association of Nigeria, which has been denied audience since 2015 suddenly became a darling and her leaders, received at the villa, the president went on a tour of Ebonyi State ditching his trademark Babaringa for Isiagu complete with a traditional Igbo cap and bagged a chieftaincy title as well. He also uttered the words that “Igbo is Nigeria and Nigeria is Igbo” a truly memorable and inspiring quote for a president whose strong point is not elocution. A group of people once derided are being courted actively, telling them that they are the best under the sun, but we’ve seen such before. Throw in an emerging political leaders forum; you have a perfect recipe needed to make another president out of Buhari, garnished with the promise to appoint more people to the cabinet to satisfy party members who feel left out and sprinkled with photo ops with Tinubu, the campaign ship surely has left the harbour.
But early campaigns come at a cost, a serious one, to governance. With the 2017 budget performance still less than 50 per cent a month to the year-end and 2018’s just submitted, we can see how important the economy is to our government. Our lives too attract much seriousness that it just deemed it fit to consult the Italian government over the 26 teenagers that died on the Mediterranean three weeks ago. With the House of Representatives speaker at the meeting, it further shows the commitment of our government in addressing the tragedy as Yakubu Dogara was in Italy for another meeting entirely. With the way some supporters of Buhari are demonizing Atiku Abubakar for exiting APC, first with the falsehood that he was joining PDP even when the statement announcing the exit never said so, and further with the accusation that he joins and leaves political parties at will conveniently forgetting too that our president has contested under three different ones, they ought to keep their eyes firmly on the ball and sell Buhari’s candidacy more.
Incumbents run on their records in office and Buhari’s 2019 ambition will not be an exception. Further, only one question to be answered when he asks for our votes again, “Are we better off than we were in 2015?”