It must be made clear from the beginning that President Muhammadu Buhari, who just won the Saturday’s, February 23 Presidential election, had never lost election since he began the campaign to democratically lead Nigeria in 2003. He only had been arm-twisted and cheated by the people in power.
I was privileged to be detailed by the editorial management of Daily Trust newspaper where I worked then, to cover Buhari campaign in 2003. The Buhari and his campaign team were magnanimous enough to allow me to accompany them to 35 out of the 36 States of Nigeria. The only State I did not go with them was Akwa Ibom because I played truancy: I dodged the team in Benin as they were about to take off to Uyo, and I travelled by road to my village, Okene, about 80 kilometres to see my mother.
Buhari pulled the kind of crowd everywhere he went, even in the Southeast, that had never been seen in the political history of Nigeria, from Independent; no exaggeration. The campaign movements did not know night and day. As a matter of fact, we arrived in the palace of Alafin of Oyo around 2.30 am and immediately after that, we left for Lagos and arrived by 5.15am. Similarly, Buhari addressed party supporters in Malam Madori, Jigawa State at about 4.35 am even as he was stopped by surging supporters about 15 kilometres to Kaduna on Zaria road at about 12 midnight.
The vehicle which was conveying us, members of the press had a near fatal accident at Zaki Biam in Benue State at about 5.30pm and Buhari had to stop the convoy to see to our health and eventually arrived Wukari in Taraba State at about 9.00pm.
All these narrations, which are far in-exhaustive, have been made to illustrate the commitment which Buhari had, from the beginning, been putting in his efforts to lead this country. And that is even besides the point I want to make.
In the 2003 campaign, which he ended in his Daura, Katsina State country home, Buhari invited us, only the journalists in his campaign entourage to his personal house, to thank us for being there for him. And after some healthy exchange of ideas, Buhari threw a very pointed question: “do you think I can win the election in view of the crowd I have been able to pull in all parts of the country?”
My colleagues from News Agency of Nigeria, Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, New Nigerian Newspapers and two others were quick to respond, excitedly: “your Excellency, your victory is just a few hours away. You will win sir.”
He then turned to me, as I remained silence: “What do you think, Yusuf?”
I was blunt by telling him that though he would win but that Obasanjo (then President Olusegun Obasanjo) and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would not allow him to enjoy the fruit of his victory.
He shook his head and raised a thumb for me. It was like my observation made him to come to terms with or reminded him of the reality; the political reality of that time.
Of course, he won the 2003 election, but, like I predicted, ‘they’ did not allow him to go home with smile. Buhari victory at the subsequent elections in 2007 and 2011 can never be disputed by rational observers. In other words, Buhari had never lost elections since 2003 when he began his journey into Presidency.
That the then incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in the 2015 elections, even before the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared the final results, was a testimony of the political weight and clout of Buhari. In fact, Buhari had always been unstoppable, even in the face of incumbency factors and at the time vote buying was a norm and practice as well as when the nation’s resources were being mercilessly deployed just to win elections.
And, therefore, for the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to think that they can easily defeat Buhari, because of the well-crafted Dubai strategies and other moves, is to take his political weight and clout for granted.
In fact, when Atiku emerged as the Presidential candidate of the PDP last year, the first thing that came to my mind was that the party had made a wrong choice and therefore made Buhari’s eventual victory easier. I had a number of reasons why I thought so, one being that the two men – Buhari and Atiku – are brothers, Muslims, Fulanis, over 70 years old and diametrically opposed on the issue of integrity and world view.
As a way of confessing, I thought then that the contest would have been made tougher for Buhari if PDP had chosen someone like Senator David Mark, because he is from the North, a Christian, with relative clean record of service to Nigeria and is younger. He would have attracted the support of nearly all Northern Christians and many Muslims whose lives he touched positively in the course of serving the country, the Nigerian youths, professionals, the peasants and a host of other Nigerians.
It is of course, too late in the day for the PDP to be crying wolf over the electoral loss by Atiku, whom it knowing picked to fly its flag, knowing very well where he is said, by his former boss, Obasanjo, to be coming from. More so as he never told the nation how he would run the country differently to make positive impact on the common man other than he would privatize the only nation’s source of wealth, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Or that he would restructure the country as if he would just wave a magic stick and lo, the country is restructured.
Whoever advised him or the party or both to go to court in the case of the just concluded election, is certainly positioning himself or themselves to get more dollars and naira from the party and its presidential candidate. It is not immediately known if such person or people would want the court to take the Presidency from Buhari and hand it over to Atiku; and leaders like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Adams Oshiomhole, Godwill Akpabio, Governor Nasiru el-Rufai and millions of Buhari’s supporters jubilate.
in fact, let’s imagine a situation where at the end of the legal battle, the Supreme Court, of course, takes the victory from President Buhari and hands it over to Atiku, what will Buhari supporters and the leadership of APC do?
In deed, Atiku and the PDP have the right to challenge the result in court, and in fact, it is the only civilised and democratic way, but the question, in terms of stability of the polity is, what purpose is the legal battle being projected to achieve?
Is Atiku not a good student of recent history of the happening in the America’s matured democracy where Donald Trump was virtually rigged into White House and the supposedly winning candidate, Hillary Clinton conceded defeat and congratulated the ‘faulty’ victor? She did not go to court even though there were evidences she could have churned out to reclaim the mandate.
And in the circumstance as it presents itself now, Jonathan’s option should be a lot wiser for Atiku and his overzealous party.