Buhari’s night is falling nigh/

He’d flattered to deceive and iterated vain boast of “change” but no sooner than 120 days he cooked his own goose by wobbling and fumbling as Nigeria’s newly-elected president.  Askance with furrowed brows, the rest of the world looks on as Muhamadu Buhari flails at the controls before metaphorically diving into the waters to clutch at straws and fish for excuses in self-exoneration as the stern and bow of the ship of state seem to creak and give way – even his own ermine and epaulettes washing away ahead of him with the tides; like a shipwrecked sailor floundering to the shoals on a slender hope of reaching some fastnesses ashore to maroon like an ostracized captain from whence he’ll beckon deserting crewmen and passengers alike to fall back into line and give him a second chance to continue Nigeria’s perilous voyage under his command; but still without a radar, an intellectual map, or even any clarity of thought; warts and all.

Back ashore, the deserting crewmen and passengers demur, saying they have neither hope nor trust in Muhamadu Buhari’s navigation skills. “The next election in 2019 presents us a

unique opportunity to reinvent the will and provoke fresh leadership that would immediately begin the process of healing the wounds in the land and ensuring that the wishes and aspirations of the people are realized in building and sustaining national cohesion and consensus,” said General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria’s past military president who is putatively a most influential army officer in Nigeria today, on 4th February. On that stance General Babangida was not alone. Twelve days earlier a more senior military officer and past head of state had himself written off Muhamadu Buhari as tribalistic, incompetent and corrupt for running “a presidential caucus of round-tripping financial criminals” - a charge the Buhari government is yet to refute.

"Let us accept that the present (BUHARI) administration has done what it can do to the limit of its ability, aptitude and understanding. Let the (BUHARI) administration and its political party platform (APC) agree with the rest of us that what they have done and what they are capable of doing is not good enough for us” said General Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s past head of state on 23rd January. “They (Buhari and his APC party) have given as best as they have and as best as they can give. Nigeria deserves and urgently needs better than what they have given or what we know they are capable of giving. To ask them to give more will be unrealistic and will only sentence Nigeria to a prison term of four years if not destroy it beyond the possibility of an early recovery and substantial growth," General Obasanjo declared deadpan. Not once before has the duo of Babangida and Obasanjo stood shoulder to shoulder in public against a fellow military officer who is an incumbent president of Nigeria. The omens for Muhamadu Buhari were thus silhouetted.

Yet, it never rains for Buhari but pours. For whilst still trying to make complete sense of any state security implication in the Babangida/Obasanjo pincer interdict against his 2nd term likely re-election bid, Muhamadu Buhari’s APC party fellow-travellers themselves threw a monkey wrench into that likely bid. They followed two deadly tracks of their own. Firstly, Rabiu Kwankwaso, an APC Senator and former governor of Kano state, announced in Anambra state on 9thth February that he would be contesting for the presidential ticket of APC party, meaning the road to automatic ticket for Muhamadu Buhari’s 2nd term as the only aspirant, is immediately foreclosed.  A primary election must now take place in September in line with Article 2 of the APC constitution where 36 states’ delegates and party leaders will individually vote to choose the APC party presidential candidate. As likely as not today Muhamadu Buhari’s confusion will be worse confounded. For Kano state which Rabiu Kwankwaso governed for eight (8) years has the highest number of delegates for primary election votes and Kano is the putative commercial capital of the Hausa/Fulani kinsmen of incumbent President Muhamadu Buhari who now face the spectres of split votes in his hitherto secure constituency at September’s APC presidential primary election.

Like an opera of cascading omens, other APC members in the national parliament huddled in secrecy and plotted a simultaneous move to put more hurdles on Buhari’s way. The legislators passed a bill for an Act and slotted the presidential election as a stand-alone election next year. If Muhamadu Buhari therefore chooses to run he must do so on his own records in office with no props or in-built support from other APC party members whose own elections shall have taken place earlier into all governorship and parliamentary offices.  Alas, Muhamadu Buhari has no gift of the garb, and with faltering health, he can hardly campaign in open space for more than few minutes at a stretch. His 2015 presidential campaign, for instance, was entirely done for him by proxies whom Bola Tinubu recruited and deployed from Yoruba southwest states to tell incredible lies to the naïve, incurious and often  complaisant Nigerian public on how Muhamadu Buhari would, if elected, provide rice and chicken and such-like to all primary school pupils across Nigeria’s 36 states every day, besides equalizing the Naira exchange rate with U.S dollar at parity.

As it is, with the 2019 presidential election now standing alone as the last on the schedule of elctions, according to the harmonised version of the Electoral Act passed by both houses of parliament last week, Muhamadu Buhari will have to face angry Nigerian voters all by himself to defend these hideous lies they were told to coax votes at the 2015 election. That’s why Buhari is reported to shudder and said to be planning to veto the bill, but that still won’t cut it, since both houses will simply re-pass the bill as law, and this time without need for his assent, once his veto is overridden. A national newspaper, THISDAY, further reported three days ago that Muhamadu Buhari may not so much veto the bill as cause the electoral commission, INEC, to oppose the new Electoral Act in a court of law where Acting Chief Judge Kafarati of the federal high court will reportedly be head-hunted to declare the Electoral Act void.  Putting to one side the criminality of forum-shopping involved, this plan itself is fraught. For starters, there is hardly convincing ground in law if the Judge concedes that the National Assembly is constitutionally authorized to enact Nigeria’s Electoral Act, and concedes that a legislatively decided sequenced order of elections is a totally separate issue from the powers of INEC under the Constitution to pick a date for each election as sequenced under the Electoral Act.

A political Cassandra looking at all these, including the military generals’ pincer assault on Muhamadu Buhari occurring at the same time as the legislative isolation of Muhamadu Buhari from APC members’ support if he crosses the Rabiu Kwankwaso’s challenge at the primary election in September and goes into the presidential election next year, mused and said: “Muhamadu Buhari’s night is drawing nigh”. Well, but perhaps, not inevitably. For though true that the waters are now muddied and the road to his re-election in 2019 strewn with mines, President Buhari still has apparent total control over security and military divisions as staffed by his northern kinsmen and loyalists and may, if need be, fight through these legislative and generals’ ambushes by force, if need be, as would a full-fledged dictator. But first thing first, he must cross the Rabiu Kwankwaso challenge at the APC primary election in Sptember if he cannot get rid of that challenge by inventing a lawful ground for Kwankwaso’s disqualification. Paradoxically, that sort of strong arm tactic which an ambush often warrants in African politics could backfire all the same since Muhamadu Buhari himself could then face a cross-claim of his own disqualification for stating on oath in the year 2015 that he obtained Gce/Wasc certificate in 1962 but still cannot produce a copy of the said Wasc/Gce certificate till date if indeed he ever got one.

……………………..Seyi Olu Awofeso is a Legal Practitioner in Nigeria


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