By Ochereome Nnanna
I MENTIONED it in passing in my article last Thursday entitled: Buhari’s tipping point, but due to its nexus with today’s article, I will pop the question once again: just what magic did President Muhammadu Buhari’s doctors do on him? Only three months ago, most Nigerians no longer saw him as part of the 2019 elections. But today, with what is obvious in our plain sight; few Nigerians are still in doubt. Unless anyone wishes to delude himself, Buhari is likely to get automatic ticket from his party to run in 2019, and he will definitely run.
Not too long ago, the best that Buhari’s well-wishers could hope for was for him to complete his tenure, “anoint” a successor and return to Daura to spend the rest of his days “resting” as his officials were fond of saying. Photos and videos of the President in the social media suggested that his days were numbered by an unconfirmed illness that went by all sorts of names. Buhari had returned briefly after an initial two months and had to hurry back to London early in May, where he stayed another three months.
Most of us did not believe it when we were informed that he was fully mended. The inclusion of some governors from the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, in the various delegations that went to see him could not convince many doubters. Surprisingly, when the London chapter of #OUR MUMUDONDO staged a rally in front of the Nigeria House where he had been holed up, Buhari hurriedly came back to Abuja. But alas! It was a brand new Buhari, looking much healthier and ten years younger, that came back to resume work.
The story changed among his hyper-critics. People like Mazi Nnamdi Kanu (where is this chap now?), Alhaji Asari Dokubo and Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, expressed their belief that the man now in charge at Aso Villa was not the “authentic” Buhari but a “clone.” Some said the “new man” was a Sudanese known as “Jibril.” They claimed that the nose, ears and height of this “copy” of Buhari were slightly different from those of the “authentic one.” Most Nigerians, however, have now addressed their minds to the reality that President Muhammadu Buhari is back, stronger, looking younger and set to exhaust his constitutional opportunities in the presidential saddle.
I am wondering why we have not been told exactly what happened to our President; how mere mortals were able to rescue him from the jaws of death and apparently reverse his ageing process. I do not expect the President or his usually dishonest spokespeople and aides to tell us the truth or inside story, though it is our right to hear it. After all, it was our money, our commonwealth that was used to save his life.
Buhari is extremely fortunate to be the President of Nigeria at this juncture of his life, when due to his position, the nation could spare no cost for the services of foreign doctors to bring him back to life. I wonder what would have been Buhari’s fate if he had not won the 2015 presidential election and had to depend on his family resources to tackle his health challenge. Indeed, if money could have saved the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, he probably would have lived to serve out his tenure.
I still hope that the story of Buhari’s miraculous medical turnaround would come from somewhere, someday. Surely, Buhari and Olusegun Obasanjo are the luckiest Nigerians ever born! But it is quite another thing whether they have responded to God and Nigerians with gratitude in the ways they have handled our commonwealth. That is a topic for another day.
While the uncertainty over his health lasted, several political permutations were already floating around, especially within the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
While Buhari was away, former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar had ramped up his intellectual engagements with Nigerians via his boisterous propagation of his newfound restructuring and true federalism messages. There were speculations that Buhari’s cabal could sponsor a candidate to “complete” the North’s turn in 2019, and Atiku was set to unleash his enormous financial and political connections to grab the 2019 APC presidential ticket.
Also at a point, a major stakeholder in the APC leadership, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, openly mulled the idea of running for president. The only thing that seemed to hold him in check was that he might have to resort to the risk of a Muslim-Muslim ticket with a Northern running mate, which would clearly not sell. Southern Muslims (especially those from the South-West where a large section of the population are adherents of the Islamic faith) and Northern Christians are severely handicapped politically by the imperative of balancing any presidential ticket that is serious about winning. The aborted experiment in 1993 where Chief Moshood Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe paired in a Muslim-Muslim ticket and won the presidential election is unlikely to repeat itself, unless there is a serious paradigm shift.
So, now that Buhari is back on the saddle and already promising to dish out new jobs and other goodies to party members to gain their support for his second term, any talk about Atiku or Tinubu contesting for the presidency on the APC platform must be perished. My thoughts are as follows.
Tinubu will stay with Buhari, whether he likes it or not. He knows what will start happening if he attempts to pull out. By staying, he is assured of Vice-President Osinbajo, his political lackey, being retained as Vice President. Why should Tinubu dump certainty for uncertainty?
However, this will not guarantee that Buhari and the APC that will control the political turf in 2023 (if they win in 2019) will concede the presidency to the South- West. By 2030, Buhari’s political machine would have become so entrenched that it will bid to produce another Northerner as president of Nigeria. If the South-West kicks, the highly Arewanised Buharist APC would simply turn to the South-East and South-South, where they hope to have built up enough support to more than counter the South-West. The Buharist Arewa irredentists in APC will never willingly cede power to the South just for the asking, even in 2023, go and mark it. Southerners waiting to benefit from such largesse are wasting their time. Those who will be alive by then will remember I said so, seven years ahead of time.
By 2023, Atiku will be 77, if he is still alive. He would have outlived his usefulness as a presidential material. He knows this all too well. If Atiku remains in the APC when Buhari’s second term ticket is confirmed, I will take it that he has finally given up the chase for president. That is why I think he will likely jump again, before long, back to the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, of which he was one of the original founders. Atiku will give the 2019 presidential attempt all he has to offer. He has the resources, organisational acumen and connections down South that other contenders such as Alhaji Sule Lamido and Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi may not have. He has far more to gain politically by leaving the APC now than staying put.
What an exciting political playground we are about to enter!