Between Buharists and Jonathanians: The gathering storm

(By Azuka Onwuka)

For the Jonathanians, it is not possible for Buhari to win an election. Whatever needs to be done to stop him must be done. Any mention of Buhari gets them agitated and irritated. To them, Jonathan is not just the best president of Nigeria since independence in 1960, but also the best thing since sliced bread. If he is not given a fresh four-year tenure next year, there will be trouble in the land. And given that he is from the Niger Delta and the first president from there, if he does not get a second term, then, it is unjust and a clear statement that the Niger Delta’s oil is good to be used to develop the nation, but their son is not good enough to rule the country.

The same signs that led to violence and deaths in the 2011 presidential election are here with us in an even more pronounced state. The do-or-die attitude, the demonisation of the opponent, the threats of violence, the accusation of plans to rig election, the whipping up of ethnic and religious sentiments, the blatant lies, the intolerance and naked hatred. The clouds are indeed dark.

And this is caused by the fanatics of a former head of state, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), of the All Progressives Congress, who is tipped the win the APC ticket, and the die-hards of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent President, who is seeking re-election. From both camps, there is palpable desperation to ensure that the opposing candidate does not win the February 2015 election. You get a feeling that it is an abomination for the other to win the election.

To the Buharists, the only living Nigerian who can turn the nation’s fortunes around is Buhari. Once he takes over, Nigeria will become an El Dorado. Perhaps, if Buhari were to pass on, Nigeria’s situation would be hopeless. Therefore, anybody who does not support Buhari’s candidacy is corrupt, unpatriotic, tribalistic, narrow-minded, and blinded by religious myopia. It’s either Buhari or nobody else.

Furthermore, to the Buharists, the only way Buhari can lose the forthcoming election (just like that of 2011) will be through rigging. Therefore, they are prepared to “defend” their votes. The meaning of “to defend their votes” can be anything to those the message is continually sent to. In practical terms, there is no accurate way of determining if an election has been rigged. Ironically, the people who determine whether an election has been rigged or not are the same people who claim that the only way their candidate can lose is through rigging. So, the stage for violence, perhaps worst than what was witnessed in 2011, has been set.

For the Jonathanians, it is not possible for Buhari to win an election. Whatever needs to be done to stop him must be done. Any mention of Buhari gets them agitated and irritated. To them, Jonathan is not just the best president of Nigeria since independence in 1960, but also the best thing since sliced bread. If he is not given a fresh four-year tenure next year, there will be trouble in the land. And given that he is from the Niger Delta and the first president from there, if he does not get a second term, then, it is unjust and a clear statement that the Niger Delta’s oil is good to be used to develop the nation, but their son is not good enough to rule the country. And if Boko Haram can be used to make the nation ungovernable because someone from the South-South is president, then the Niger Delta militants will be used to make the nation not just ungovernable but also financially crippled, if a Niger Delta son is stampeded out of the Presidency. And this time, there won’t be any heeding of pleas to surrender their weapons and get an amnesty.

For these two groups, there is no single redeeming grace in the opposing candidate. If Jonathan likes, let him build a duplex for each person in the nation and pay each person a million naira every month, he is the “worst president Nigeria has ever had”. Even if he constructs all the roads in Nigeria, it is mere “political gimmick and inducement”. The only good thing he can do is to announce his withdrawal from the election or lose the election. If any of the two happens, he will become human again and be praised for being exemplary. But currently, he can’t be treated like a human being.

For the Jonathanians, if Buhari likes, let him convert to Christianity before the election, he is an Islamic fundamentalist and a hater of Christians. Even if he is shown on national TV in choir garb and singing the “Alleluia Chorus” or “Onward Christian Soldiers” in a rich baritone, the Jonathanians would scoff at that and call him a wolf in sheep’s clothing, trying to win votes. Even if he likes, let him change his name from “Muhammadu” to “Mmaduka” and wear the isi-agu and speak Igbo or Ijaw like a son of the soil, the Jonathanians would only sneer at his desperation.

The only good thing that can come from Buhari is for him to announce his withdrawal from the race, or he loses at the APC primaries or loses at the presidential election and immediately and unequivocally accepts the result and calls his supporters to accept the result too. It is only when Buhari has lost the election that the amnesia of the Jonathanians will suddenly be healed. Then, they can remember that Buhari is a “nationalist, a man of integrity, a man who has served Nigeria meritoriously.” But as long as he is in the race and a threat to Jonathan, he will be continually dressed in the uniform of the devil and pummelled.

It was therefore not bad advice from Sheik Ahmad Gumi to both Jonathan and Buhari not to contest next year’s election. But their passionate supporters will not hear of that, because they are convinced that in the prevailing circumstance, their candidate is the best candidate that can beat every other candidate and gain political power (and its concomitant benefits) from May 29, 2015.

This contest is, therefore, not being run on policies and ideas but on ethnicity and religion. The weapon of fear is employed to the fullest. Thick mud is raked up and flung at the opponent continuously.

It is very important that the security during the election be high and effective to forestall mayhem and carnage as witnessed in 2011. The insurgency in parts of the North has put a strain on our security capacity. It is doubtful if there will be enough security agents to man flash spots in the nation.

There is no doubt that the use of security forces for the election will be called “militarisation” and attacked by some people, but it is important to ask them to provide a better alternative. Let them tell us, in practical terms, what they will do if after the election, some people start burning and killing. Ekiti and Osun states were “militarised” during the governorship elections in the states in June and August respectively. There were complaints but in the end, the elections reflected the wishes of the voters. When those who like to snatch ballot boxes, or those who love to scare away voters with machetes and guns, or those who love to protest, see the high presence of military personnel, they usually become calm.

The Buharists and Jonathanians must stop instilling fear into people and wetting the ground for future violence. Having different political inclinations or sympathies is alright, but spreading hate through religion, ethnicity and political parties is dangerous. At all times, the interest of the nation must come first.

–Follow me on Twitter @BrandAzuka

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