It is very difficult to understand what drives the political decisions of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is impossible to believe that a human being who desires to be re-elected as President would be so unambiguously working against his own re-election.
In October 2016, when the wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari, complained about Mr President’s sidelining of those who worked assiduously for his election, it was obvious that Mrs Buhari must have reached the end of her tether of patience before going public with her comment. But the President, in a dismissal and know-it-all manner, told the world that his wife belonged to “the other room,” and should therefore keep quiet.
Buhari had contested elections three times without success: 2003, 2007, and 2011. On those three occasions, he won mainly in the North-East and North-West. Ironically, he did not see the results as a referendum on his popularity among the different parts of Nigeria. Instead, he believed that he was so popular that he would have won if the elections were not rigged.
Before the 2015 elections, his party, the Congress for Progressive Change, merged with the Action Congress of Nigeria, the All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance to form the All Progressives Congress. That merger ensured that Buhari was better packaged and presented to Nigerians as an honest, ascetic, detribalised, patriotic, no-nonsense, assertive leader who would lead Nigeria differently towards its transformation and renaissance. For the first time, he won election in the southern part of Nigeria.
One would have thought that with this realisation, Buhari would have been humbled by the fact that his “popularity” could not have given him the Presidency, and that like the symbol of the APC, the broom, proves, a broomstick is always easy to break but the entire broom is hard to break. That would have helped him to effectively play his role as the leader by recognising the efforts of the stakeholders that ensured his victory rather than seeing them as inconsequential and dispensable. That way, he would have created a more united party and government.
But what did Buhari do? Shortly after his inauguration, he began to ignore those who ensured his victory and even portrayed them as enemies. The question he did not answer was, who would help him win the 2019 election if those who helped him in 2015 become his political foes? Or, does he have a magic wand?
The people who deceive Buhari most are those who tell him repeatedly that nobody in Nigeria can defeat him in any election. One then wonders why Buhari could not win the three elections he contested before 2015. On a daily basis, Buhari’s political allies and associates are moving away from him. Yet, he and his supporters continue to believe that nothing can stop Buhari from winning the 2019 election. Pray, where are these votes going to come from?
The first key person Buhari distanced himself from after his electoral victory was the party’s National Leader, Bola Tinubu. At first, it came as a rumour. But in October 2016, it became obvious when Buhari’s biography stated that Tinubu wanted to be Buhari’s running mate and had no hand in the nomination of Prof Yemi Osinbajo as Buhari’s eventual running mate. Tinubu’s associates came out strongly and countered that assertion. Watchers of events wondered what value such a revelation added to Buhari’s Presidency.
For three years, Buhari carried on as if Tinubu did not matter to his 2019 presidential plans, until early this year when he changed and began to accord Tinubu some recognition, by making him the head of the APC reconciliation committee and attending his 10th colloquium.
But the person Buhari did not hide his views about was Bukola Saraki, the Senate President. Saraki was the leader of the PDP senators that moved to the APC before the 2015 election. It was to his credit that Kwara State voted for the APC in 2015. In fact, since 1979, Kwara State has always voted in line with the political leaning of Senator Olusola Saraki, his late father, or the younger Saraki, who is the current Senate President. In 2015, Bukola Saraki got his allies to vote him in as the President of the Senate, contrary to the desire of the party. But even though that happened, he breached no law. As a human being, he has his dreams and is free to aspire to lead the Senate in spite of the wishes of his party. A President with a long and broad view on issues would have let that go and embraced Saraki as the de facto President of the Senate and struck a working alliance with him, so as to have a smooth administration and achieve more success, which will make it easier for him to get a second term. But he embarked on a political war with the Senate and the entire legislature, demonising them as the enemies of the executive and democracy.
The Code of Conduct Tribunal immediately started trying Saraki. While that was on, a suspected gang of armed robbers arrested for the bank robbery in Offa, Kwara State was announced by the police to have said that the Senate President allegedly sponsored them. The Governor of Kwara State, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, was also announced to have links with the suspected robbers. That sounded spurious to anybody who heard that.
Last week, after three years of trial, the Supreme Court dismissed the Code of Conduct case against Saraki on the grounds that the prosecution was based on hearsay. Election is next year. What did Buhari or the APC benefit from the demonisation and harassment of a Saraki that worked for the victory of Buhari and the APC in 2015? With all that has transpired between Buhari and Saraki as well as Ahmed, does Buhari expect Kwara Sate to vote for him again in 2018?
Similarly, when some members of the “new PDP” that joined the APC before the 2015 election complained recently about their marginalisation and wanted to see Buhari as the leader of their party, he refused to see them with the excuse that he did not want to interfere in party affairs. Ironically, the same Buhari that claims not to meddle in party affairs countered the extension of the National Working Committee of the APC’s tenure in March this year. The same Buhari openly wanted the party chairman, John Odigie-Oyegun, out and Mr Adams Oshiomhole to replace him. His support for Oshiomhole was so open that Oshiomhole had no opponent at the APC convention.
It was not surprising that last week, some members of the APC announced the emergence of the Reformed All Progressives Congress. Interestingly, the leader of the group is Alhaji Buba Galadima, who was the secretary of the CPC, a party Buhari formed with his loyalists. That Galadima was not a former PDP member but a long-time ally of Buhari showed that there is something intrinsically wrong with Buhari’s ability to keep friends and associates.
Usually, a politician that wants to be reelected takes actions that make people happy. But Buhari is one politician that wants a re-election and yet does what he wants, no matter the complaints. If he can ignore those whose votes he needs now, what will happen after his reelection when he no longer needs anybody’s vote?
Buhari’s attitude towards the herdsmen attacks has been his biggest albatross. His lack of fairness on issues concerning Nigerians from different backgrounds is another drawback. His lack of understanding of the economy is yet another minus. But his poor ability to manage people and work with allies is a big drawback.
If Buhari loses the 2019 election, it will not be because of a formidable opponent. It will be because of Buhari’s wrong assumption that his popularity is so high that he does not need people to win the election.