By Sabella Abidde
From 1973 until his death in 1987, I was an 'Awolowo-man'. I still am! In some ways, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had equals; but in many other ways, the mountain and the oceans were his and his alone. To me, he was the greatest Nigerian who ever lived. You may debate my assertion, but really, what’s there to debate? Verifiable data are there to support my claim. But beyond the data are the everyday realities that attest to the superior accomplishments of Awolowo. Ask yourself this simple question: "Who was on the stage before Awolowo? And what's the political stage and space been like since his death?" In another time and place, he'd be philosophised and declared a statesman extraordinaire. He was that good. He was that great a human being.
But amongst the current crop of high-level politicians, ideologically and philosophically, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd) stands closest to Awolowo. He is a clear disciple of the sage. He himself may not say it; but the characteristics are apparent for sharp minds to see. Thousands of politicians run around the country claiming to be Awoists, but really, the vast majority are counterfeits. I tell you this: If Buhari had not been a military man, he most likely would have been an "Awolowo-man". And so too would have been Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (retd.).
Buhari has missed out on the Presidency because of several calculating forces. There are some Nigerians who hold his military background against him. They seem to forget that he came to the rescue at a time when the country needed to be rescued. How soon they forget the mind-numbing extravagances that characterised the Second Republic (1979-1983), as represented by the then National Party of Nigeria. How soon they forget that the Shehu Shagari regime was mortgaging their future. How soon they forget the excesses of Umaru Dikko and others. If Murtala Muhammed were alive, they most likely would have crucified him, too.
Second, the Nigerian media allowed itself to be manipulated by repeating lies and damaging myths that his opponents spread about him. Wings of the media publish without verifying the facts; they publish gossip as the gospel truth. They want you to believe nasty things about the man. Don't! He is not the ethnic and religious extremist they paint him to be. Third, the stealing-fleecing elite know that their wrong doings will come to an end the day we have a President Buhari! The fact that Awolowo was going to stop the rot, and perhaps, probe them, was one of the reasons they denied him the Presidency. Today, when they think of Buhari, they think of Awolowo. This scares them.
On the other spectrum are the elite who are afraid of the long arm of justice; afraid that the key to the "Central Bank" will be taken away from them; and afraid of the sanity and progress that will follow. This was a man who, in the very short period that he was in power, gave us sunny days and hopeful nights. He enthroned sanity and orderliness and progress and a sense of purpose and accountability.
Especially since 1999, instead of economic growth, we have regression. Instead of political progress, we have stagnation. Instead of Buhari, they forced Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, and Jonathan down our throat. What's more, colonising forces opposed to our country's complete liberation seem to be against his ascension. Buhari, unlike many others, is not a man that will genuflect sheepishly before the imperialists. And Buhari, like Awolowo before him, is not a saint. But this is a decent, pious, able and capable humane human being. He is a credit to our republic!
Since 1999 there have been no fewer than 200 men (and women) who made their ambition known in terms of contesting the presidential election. Some were not serious candidates, and even if they were, they had no chance of winning their own electoral ward. A few others were so bad they couldn't have won their household even though they were the master and leader of their household. And of course there were the jokers. The dreamers. The pretenders. The masqueraders. The marionettes. The zombies. The charlatans. And the thoroughly unqualified.
To be sure, Prof. Pat Utomi and a few others were/are qualified to lead and turn the country around; but Buhari has been the most qualified, and the most patriotic of all. This was true in 1999, 2003, and 2007 and in 2011. He lost the election four times. He lost because of the reasons I stated earlier; and also because of other forces that ganged against him: the vote counters, and the courts. They all conspired to cheat him, and by extension, cheated posterity. The forces that ganged up against Awolowo, are today working against Buhari.
Some pundits have advised that "Buhari should leave the electoral stage for the younger generations". Why should he? In the first place, he is a relatively young man. Second, his reasoning and decision faculties are still in order, and in fact, his mind is sharper than many men half his age. Third, his ideas and worldview are still relevant and is a man who is open to other people's contrary assessments.
He is a man with a steady voice, steady hands and legs and with an intellect to match. Obasanjo, Yar'Adua, and Jonathan do not have advantage over him. And none of his other rivals have advantage over him. What’s more, his standing, in and outside of the country, is an added benefit.
Another set of analysts opined that Buhari – though capable and qualified to lead the nation – cannot win a presidential election. This is not only false, it is a defeatist argument. He is electable! In a level playing field, he will win. He will win across all the geographic zones. If all eligible voters are allowed to vote, and if all votes are truly counted, Buhari will win. He will win because Nigerians know him. They know and understand that he will not use his office to enrich himself; they know that he will fight corruption and nepotism and political stupidity; and they know that he will help to actualise our collective dream and aspiration. With President Muhammadu Buhari, there will be order and a new national culture.