Bukar Ibrahim is no ordinary politician. Arguably, he has seen it all. He had been governor of his state three times.
It’s not hard to see the foreboding signs that often precede the downfall of a political party in power. Not many have the nous, the foresight to acknowledge that these troubling signs could make the difference between success and failure. But reality bites. These signs often begin with intra-party feud that defies every effort to fix it. It ultimately results in party disarray. But, despite the obvious danger ahead, the party leadership continues to live in denial that all is well within its fold. And before the party is brought to its knees, the leadership luxuriates in a false sense of overconfidence that blinds it to see the reality on ground.
The former ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) went through this cycle of denials that led to its losing the most coveted political prize – the presidency. It all began in 2013, two clear years before the general elections of 2015. Anyone with a good sense of history would remember that the cracks in the wall of PDP actually began at the National Convention of the party in September, 2013, when about seven serving governors and scores of legislator selected on the platform of the party staged a walkout. The national Chairman of the party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur called the aggrieved members “dissidents and impostors”. But, this column did warn the PDP that the aggrieved party members should be seen as strong voices that should be listened to, not ignored. The rest, as they say, is now history.
This time is no exception. Nothing learnt, nothing forgotten. The mess in the present ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is well known to almost everybody. Nothing is working according to plan. It is therefore not unkind to say that APC is now in a worse situation than PDP was in 2014 heading to the 2019 general elections. Neither is incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari in a better position now than his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan was in 2014.
Jonathan might have been naive (as some critics claimed), or that he lived in denial to see the amalgam of forces that ultimately resulted in his defeat in 2015. It was not against the “Run of play” as one author suggested. It was a combination of factors, among them, unheeded advice. Buhari may become a victim of his own hubris, his own errors of judgment. Many of his troops are deserting him because he failed to live by his own promises. A president may have the generals behind him,but in politics, a President is in trouble when his troops begin to leave the battlefield for personal reasons.
The clouds are already full. They rains are emptying themselves on the Villa. And the broom can’t sweep off the mess. Problems are multiplying. As Harry S.Truman said, “Being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed”. That, to me, is perhaps the best way to interpret the home truth delivered at the weekend, by Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, of Yobe state. Bukar Ibrahim is no ordinary politician. Arguably, he has seen it all. He had been governor of his state three times. He’s currently serving a third term in the Senate where he represents Yobe East. He thinks in conceptual terms. You better listen to him,or flip to the next page and blame yourself later.
The fact that his wife is a serving Minister of State in the Foreign Affairs Ministry would have made many a politician to keep quiet in the face of challenges in the geopolitical zone where he comes from. But, not this man. Last Saturday in Abuja,he delivered a hard-hitting home truth during a book launch “Poorlitics”. It was part of events to mark his 70th birthday celebration. His message packed a wallop. It was directed at the President and APC, which the senator is also a notable member.
Let’s briefly dissect Bukar Ibrahim’s message: He told the President that the North-East states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe, would massively vote against him in the Presidential election in February, 2019. He said even “massive rigging” may not give APC victory. His reason: the President has performed woefully and the present administration has brought agony upon majority of Nigerians.
The senator lamented that APC rode to power, with Nigerians believing that things would change for the better. He said little or nothing has changed three and a half years that the president came in the saddle, noting that Nigerians have been enmeshed in excruciating socioeconomic difficulties, worse than the 16 years that PDP was in power. Besides, he said the promises the president made to the Northeast, none has been fulfilled. “As we move towards the elections, I have to give dire warning to the APC that things are no longer the way they were in 2015 when we rode to power…”
Anybody who has followed the senator’s contributions in the Upper legislative chamber would agree that he rarely speaks unless the issue at stake is of immediate and challenging sort. And politics is hardball sometimes, and this is one of those times that requires men of character to speakup. Therefore, the matter that needled him to speak in such no holds barred fashion is, indeed serious. It raises one vital question: Are you better off today with Buhari-led APC in power than you were 4 years ago The truth simply told is that APC is losing grip of present realities in the country. Many observers are also of the view that APC and the President are playing fast and loose with the facts Nigerians are worried about. Anger and hunger are eating deep in our people like acid, and the ruling party has come short of solutions, the leadership less competent and ineffective in responding to challenges that confront us. The grim truth of where we are today is that APC has become some kind of virus that has infected many facets of our lives, except a tiny few that control our collective wealth.
Let’s not forget that APC came to power on the crest of ‘Change’. And majority of the voters gave the party that trust to bring about that desired Change. In the same vein, Buhari came with a lot of public trust, even though I didn’t fall for that gimmick that shaped a public image of Buhari, because I knew from the outset that he (Buhari) would not sustain that image over time. It was a fake image.
But his handlers presented him to the Nigerian electorate as a consensual leader with enormous moral strength who could produce something for everyone without cost to anyone. His inaugural speech that he ‘belongs to no one, and belongs to everyone’, has turned out to be the most façade and deceptive promise of our modern political history.
The sad chapter of how we came to this ‘Change’ is that APC created expectations that only a competent leader and consummate administrator could have satisfied. Unfortunately, Buhari is a cloned image of that visionary leader. To say this is not to suggest, as some people have said, that Buhari is simply ill-suited to be President. That’s not my point really. My point is that the challenges of our times are beyond his abilities and capacity. You don’t give what you don’t have. Moral strength is not enough. Neither is raw power enough qualification to be a successful President and Commander-In-Chief.
When the campaigns start, we will talk more on this leadership problem. But, suffice it to say that a combination of commitment, energy, obedience to the rule of law, are some of the glaring deficits of this administration. That’s the point Sen. Ibrahim was making. He thinks the country needs a new direction, a change of course.