It will go down as one of the puzzling peculiarities of Nigerian politics that performance in terms of delivery of the dividends of democracy is not the determining factor in election success. It has been dubbed politics of “stomach infrastructure” by pundits, borrowing from Ayo Fayose’s imaginative reference to the effectiveness of dishing out food and clothing items instead of roads and hospitals in his marvellous defeat of Governor Fayemi. An even more bizarre version of this freak democracy is now playing out at the presidential level as General Buhari leads the APC in a vigorous campaign against President Goodluck Jonathan, flaunting nothing more than his thirty year old notoriety as a tyrannical enforcer of draconian decrees! In this democratic con-game, even school certificates have no value but for the constitutional provision requiring them as proof of literacy.
To put it bluntly : General Buhari’s claim to a right of return to rule Nigeria is entirely premised on pontificating and promises since he has spent all his post-ouster decades battling polls and court verdicts that consistently confirm his “perpetual in-electability”, as Nasir ElRufai once diagnosed. Yet he has emerged again for the 2015 polls, defying his own teary-eyed vows never to contest again and a fatigued frame depicting all the wear and tear of a 73 year old legionnaire. Any right thinking person would expect such a cashiered character to be vying for a blessed berth at the gates of heaven, not elbowing and rough-tackling his way towards a fourth lame-duck foray into presidential electioneering. Wiser counsel would have him engaged instead in grooming a much younger, generationally-correct, successor for his timed-out and obsoleted presidential ambition. But old habits, like the old soldier, never die!
The fact that someone so bereft of electability on age and performance grounds can still clinch the hotly-contested ticket of a party parading itself as “progressive”, edging out more youthful and mentally alert personalities like Atiku and Kwankwaso, presents an even more preposterous poser to those who rightly believe progress means moving forward not retrogressing. The only sane explanation for such antics is that the APC strategists actually find Buhari’s eclipsing life-span very suitable for the back-door succession to the Presidency of Osinbajo, as a surreptitious short-cut to power for the Yoruba, thereby outwitting the Hausa-Fulani hegemonists with their own son, sorry grandfather. But that is all about the elitist political treachery that brought together such a mind-boggling mixture of strange bed-fellows united temporarily by their irreconcilable ambitions. It is amazing how General Buhari managed to get swallowed into the company of those he once swore he would keep at arm’s length and still insist on his own incorrigibility. This is another credential he would prefer to keep in military vaults.
The real tragedy however is that all the liabilities of perpetual in-electability, advance age, dubious company and, above all, zero-performance record in everything but rigid dictatorial tendencies, have fermented into a potent brew that seizes the sensibilities of the gullible fringe of northern masses with a bewildering binge of hero-worshipping anchored solely on their sadistic hatred for the rich and the privileged whom Buhari regularly projects as thieves and rogues responsible for mass poverty, unemployment and insecurity. It never occurs to the misled mobs that wealth and opportunity are precisely the panacea for their own liberation from misery and hopelessness. Neither do they ever think about the harm that has befallen the nation more from the armed termination of democratic rule, notably by General Buhari and his successor-serial coupists than could ever be attributed to the rich and the privileged.
Then President Goodluck Jonathan who has to contend with the awkward challenge of proving his indelible development transformation record currently changing the landscape and the economic fortunes of Nigeria pos itively amid the baseless, mischievous and misleading campaign of calumny orchestrated by a leading villain in the destruction of the nation’s potentials under rapacious military dictatorship. Those who spread the deliberate disinformation about President Jonathan “doing nothing” about the Boko Haram insurgency, for example, were responsible for derailing the Nigerian armed forces from their professional calling in defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria by railroading them into political piracy and plundering of the public treasuries in the guise of “corrective crusade against corruption.” Imagine a prominent military mogul like Buhari not acknowledging President Jonathan’s heroic resuscitation of the railways which was neglected, ground to a halt and abandoned for decades by his fellow militicians.
The list of monumental achievements of the Goodluck Jonathan Administration in all spheres of human endeavour and economic significance in only four years should have been sufficient support to guarantee him a well-deserved second term, without the distraction and challenge of Nigeria’s most notorious enemies of democracy and economic progress, now maliciously masquerading as champions of democracy and promoters of progress and development. That is the tragedy of the infrastructure of gullibility propping up the presidential ambition of General Buhari and his APC collaborators. A tragedy terminating on February 14, God willing.