by Abba Mahmood
In the Blueprint newspaper of Monday, April 29, 2013 (page 11), I read an interesting news item headlined “Buhari is APC consensus candidate – Ex-lawmaker”. In it, one Hon. Lawal Garba, who was a member of the House of Representatives, incidentally representing General Buhari’s federal constituency, was quoted as saying that “there is a general understanding amongst the parties of the merger to allow the north produce the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC)” and that “the north has also agreed to present General Muhammadu Buhari as the sole presidential candidate of APC”.
General Buhari is one leader many of us admire and respect. He is a man of perpendicular integrity who has served the nation at different times and in different capacities with sincerity of purpose. In his 30s, he was military governor of the defunct North-Eastern State and minister of petroleum under generals Murtala and Obasanjo respectively.
In his early 40s, he became military head of state of Nigeria and, in his 50s, he was chairman, Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund (PTF) under the late Gen. Abacha. He has therefore been tested and trusted. No doubt, he has paid his dues. In this dispensation, he joined politics in April 2002 and contested for the presidency in 2003 with President Obasanjo; in 2007 with late Yar’Adua; and in 2011 with President Jonathan. In spite of his cult followership across most of the northern states he did not succeed in getting elected president in all these attempts.
With regard to what the ex-lawmaker said, as quoted in the first paragraph above, it should be made clear that those who are doing this advocacy are starting on a very wrong premise. If eventually there is going to be a Buhari presidential candidate again, it is not the “north” that will present him but Nigeria as a whole.
Reducing Buhari, a former head of state, to a local, sectional cocoon is unfair to him and to the Nigerian nation that he once led. In any case, Lawal Garba is insinuating as if there was a “northern” meeting where Buhari was adopted, just like the self-appointed “consensus” committee led by Mallam Adamu Ciroma adopted Atiku as a “consensus” candidate of the “north” for the PDP to “nominate” on behalf of the “north” for Nigeria! All this shout of north, north is simply getting very irritating. It is a Nigerian candidate that will win election in Nigeria and every state will play its part as usual.
By the subsisting Electoral Act, the next elections will take place in November 2014. The APC platform is not yet ready and may not be in the next few months. And, by 2015, Buhari will be 73 years old and 30 years since he was overthrown as head of state.
In 2011, General Buhari told the entire nation, in tears, that he would not contest again. Where is Buhari’s integrity if he now speaks and goes back on his word? It is therefore my honest opinion that Buhari should support someone else to continue the struggle from where he will leave and remain an elder statesman.
The joy of a father is to have a worthy successor. Today, there are many worthy successors of Buhari all over the nation. After all, a people that says only one person is qualified at all times is doomed. It is those who cannot win elections on their own that keep insisting on Buhari contesting so that they can ride on his back to win and, in most cases, end up turning their back on him.
We love Buhari more than these people and that is why we are giving him this honest advice. I still have the letter he wrote to this columnist to testify that this column is special for him as it is for many of you dear readers.
In choosing candidates to succeed Buhari on the APC platform, care should be taken to ensure that he or she is someone with cognate experience in government and public service, since the nation cannot, at this critical period of its history, afford an inexperienced and incompetent leader who has never worked in government service. It would be first class-disaster to bring someone straight to the presidency without being tested elsewhere.
In this regard, regardless of current party affiliation, from Benue State one can mention Prof. Daniel Saror, an agriculturist, former ABU Zaria vice-chancellor and two-time senator; Chief Audu Ogbe, a former legislator, a former minister and an experienced politician and one of the incorruptible ones since the Second Republic.
There is Senator Bukola Saraki from Kwara. There are people like Gen. Alwali Kazir and Mallam Abba Kyari from Borno / Yobe axis.
Among serving governors, there are people like Fashola of Lagos and Oshiomhole of Edo as well as Kwankwaso of Kano who was once deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, defense minister, NDDC commissioner and special envoy to the Sudan, who is performing very well in Kano and silently defining fundamental issues affecting the nation. There is also chief servant of Niger Dr Aliyu who had experience as federal public servant and permanent secretary as well as a member of the House of Representatives.
There are also people like Chief Phillip Asiodu, Dr Pat Utomi and former Senate president Ken Nnamani who helped to destroy the third term bid of Obasanjo in 2006. There are also young, courageous ones like Malam Nasiru el-Rufai, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as well as Speaker Aminu Tambuwal who have been serving the nation creditably. Indeed, there are many potential presidential materials in virtually every local government area across Nigeria.
I have deliberately avoided mentioning former vice-president Atiku Abubakar because, as the longest serving vice president in the history of Nigeria to date, I think he has paid his dues too. He should continue to mentor younger ones and provide guidance as he has been doing.
Another issue with him is that, after leaving the PDP to contest for the presidency under the then Action Congress in 2007, everyone thought he had left the PDP for good. Coming back to the PDP was a strategic blunder that has created credibility problems for him. In any case, he contested for the presidency in 1992, attempted it in 2003, contested again in 2007, and in 2011 against President Jonathan in the PDP primaries. He is a perennial candidate who needs to rest now.
From all indications, it is safe to conclude that Jonathan is going to contest for the presidency in an increasingly fragmented PDP in 2015. If Buhari is to contest against him, it would be a repeat of the 2011 scenario, only that it would be more divisive this time. The nation needs peace and stability for progress.
All those who have served as president or vice-president should give a chance to others. If they really love this country, they should forsake their ambitions for all the objective and subjective reasons. Buhari, as an important factor, should help to bring about positive change but not necessarily as a candidate in 2015.
Let us build consensus around issues. The government should tell us what they have done with the trillions they have been getting while the opposition should give us alternative policy thrusts to enable us choose wisely.
The whole world is moving forward; we cannot afford to remain backward. Nigeria is well endowed with great human and natural resources. It is the leadership that will bring these two together for greatness that has been lacking. We shall be there soon. God save Nigeria.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Abba Mahmood