By Ace Omozuwa
The acrimonious relationship between President Muhammadu Buhari and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has festered beyond imagination. In a seeming reaction to Obasanjo’s broadside on him, our rather taciturn President unleashed blistering salvo against Obasanjo without mentioning his name. With a touch of innuendo he questioned: “where was the power after a former president claimed to have spent $16 billion on the project? You know the rail was killed and one of the former heads of state was bragging that he spent more than 15 billion American dollars on power. Where is the power?”
Both leaders are openly adverse to power without responsibility, authority without accountability, democracy without development, citizens without voice, leadership without decorum, growth without inclusivity, and politics without principles. This may, in part explain, why their respective administrations place high premium on fighting corruption.
Obasanjo does not see his administration as part of the locust regimes. Such characterization blights his well-flaunted moral credentials, injures his messianic complex, and spurs him to assume a war-like posture.His avuncular pontifications stem from his sense of moral probity. Therefore, to question his ethical rectitude is to attack his core essence. It is to reduce him to a clanging cymbal. Such attack warranted or unwarranted is to him what a red rag is to a bull. Hence, as anticipated, he promptly replied President Buhari. His reply reinforced the popular notions that he is a compulsive public tutor and he is immune to battle fatigue.
Obasanjo contributed to elevating political pugilism to an art form in Nigeria. Several traits or factors account for his contribution; some of which are his dramatic persona, native argumentative acumen, bravery of a warlord, intellectual might of a refined dabbler, and his magical ability to stay in the limelight. In fact, there are few tabloid polemists that have the combative energies of Obasanjo. Future historians may be interested in deconstructing Obasanjo, the fecund social commentator. The implication of this is that Buhari wants to fight Obasanjo in his turf.
The clashes of titans occupy preeminent place in history. They are vital ingredient for social revolution, even though they are hardly ever fuelled by popular discontent. Social reengineering instigated by proletarian uprisingsis not as common as those triggered by elite dissension. Royallethal combat is an interesting historical subject. When nobles fight, things change; new seasons start, new ideas mushroom and wealth transfers transpire. The balance of power tilts. The voice of the oppressed is restored. When fissures in elite class cause reason to trump overthe arrogance of power, theliving condition of the proletariat improves.
Ex-President Obasanjo is President Buhari’s chief antagonist. Under the auspice of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), he is mobilizing a network of supporters across divides against the second term aspiration of President Buhari. The emergence and evolution of CNM suggest that it is poised to use false flag tactics.Can Buhari outsmart this strategy, particularly, in view of alooming implosion in APC?
Buhari is not a pushover or a political novice without high electoral value. Without political structure in the past, he was able to mobilize voters and secure millions of votes. He enjoys cult-like loyalty in most parts of the north. Obasanjo’s network of political supporters crisscrosses regional and religious divides, but it is essentially elitist. On the other hand, Buhari’s core support groups are grassroots people, and they are not “swing voters”.
Since 2003, Buharihas serially joined the contest for the highest public office in the nation. He contested against Obasanjo in 2003, and his performance at the poll was impressive. In 2007, he contested against Obasanjo’s anointed candidate Umaru Musa Yar‘adua and was defeated. Similarly, in 2011, he ran against Obasanjo’s preferred candidate Goodluck Jonathan and he was trounced. In 2015, Obasanjo openly endorsed his candidacy and mobilized support for him and Buhari won. The point is since the inception of the Fourth Republic, nobody has become president of Nigeria without the open support of Obasanjo.
Obasanjo exacts deterministic influences on the outcomes of presidential elections. Can Buhari break the jinx? Former President Jonathan could not. Perhaps, because, he did not muster the courage to declare political war on Obasanjo, like President Buhari has just done.
As 2019 draws closer, political warfare will intensify, allegiances will shift, and fraternal squabbles will become widespread. Typically, political warfare is not guided by ethics, morality, or respect for truth. Deception, propaganda, horseplay, false flags are deployed to prosecute political warfare. Winning political battles without fighting is often accomplished by the deft use of hoax. Fifth columnists with a political party secure victories by deceiving through trustiness. Sadly,APC is a posh den of fifth columnists.
Political warfare predates Nigeria. In antiquity, the Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu, in The Art of Warposit: “So to win a hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest excellence; the highest excellence is to subdue the enemy’s army without fighting at all. The expert in using the military subdues the enemy’s forces without going to battle, takes the enemy’s walled cities without launching an attack, and crushes the enemy’s state without protracted war.”Fifth columnistswould not fail to use Trojan horse in this raging political warfare.
Nigeria’s democratic space has undergone significant moments of democratization. Gone are the days when a closed and well-knitted league of retired military Generals foisted their choice candidate on Nigeria and employed subversive means to accomplish their class interests. Similarly, the concept of a monolithic north exists mainly in history textbooks. The north is pluralized, though, not as much as the south. And the youths are more aware and politically active. Thankfully, they constitute a greater part of the voting public.
Elite consensus and collaboration are attenuating in Nigeria’s democratic space. The tradition of producing “consensus candidate” is dying. Schisms in the elite class mean that democracy is becoming competitive. It is capable of putting an end to the reign of godfathers.
The dissent in the elite class implies that the association between electoral victory and elite manipulation is becoming tenuous. Also, the principle of one man one vote is becoming a deterministic force in our democratic voyage. However, it will be an expression of naïve optimism for anyone to think that we are in the era of post-godfather-ism. The politics of ethno-religious sentiments is still well and alive.Name recognition determines electoral victory more than circulating innovative ideas for good governance.
Ideally, the fragmentation of the elite class aids the emergence of ideological pluralism. The bipolar politics of the American society thrives on the existence of counter ideologies. National and political development cannot attaint enviable notches without different umbrella ideologies. Politics in Nigeria is bereft of ideological fecundity.It lacks ideational power. Hence, campaigns are not issue oriented. Political affinities are not founded on shared values. Well considered visions of socioeconomic development do not drive the membership growth of political parties.Unethical carpetbaggery does.
Politics in Nigeria well defines plebianism. It is not a battle of ideas. It is not about fiery policy debates. Sadly, there are no evidences to substantiate any claim that Buhari-Obasanjo face-off stems from policy issues or from conflicting roadmap for national development. It appears to be like the typical political contest in resource-rich African nations. Our contest for supremacy is often informed by it’s-our-turn-to-eat mentality. It is a contest to legitimately dispense patronage in person or by proxy.
Many Nigerians are aware of this hence they distrust officeholders and political office seekers. Many pessimistic views of political leaders abound. Many see political leaders as fifth wheels, irrelevant to their wellbeing. Others see them as parasites living large on our commonwealth. There are those who see political leaders as instigators of collective misfortunes. We live in paranoiac times.
This popular paranoia undermines the redemptive potential of this clash of titans. Also, the fact that elite squabbles in this clime are animated by parochial interests makes it a zero-sum game. Most of those taking sides have not objectively examined the issues. They are largely motivated by what is in it for them. Hence, nonpartisan citizens must ignore the fighters and aim for peace. Focus on the issues. Pay attention to visionary-ethical actors animated by the imperatives of transforming Nigeria.
When political titans fight in non-ideological boxing rings, it is their cheerleaders that gain. Ithardly culminates in national transformation. When a democratic combat is fuelled by the desire to exercise emperor-like control over resource allocation, itcannot secure better life for all. Only the good fight of democracy, which is the struggle to entrench the culture of servanthoodin our political landscape, should be encouraged. Theutilitarian value of other political fights equates to the value of transitory comical relief.
This clash of titans does not essentially spell the triumph of democratic ethos. It may end as a sheer waste of political capital. Ideally, these leaders should be fighting to dispel the miasma of paranoia from the body polity, not to make it more toxic. This is another battle of no victor, no vanquished. Whoever wins will discover it is Pyrrhic victory.