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2015: Muhammadu Buhari and Abraham Lincoln

In the immortal words of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, “Success is not in never failing. But, in rising each time you fail.” To him also, “It isn’t life that matters, but the courage you bring to it.”
In the lyrics of the evergreen philosophical composition by the legend Reggae superstar, Jimmy Cliff, “You can get it if you really want, (3ce) But you must try, try and try, try and try. You will succeed at last.”
It is in the context of the above lines that I situate the aspiration of General Muhammadu Buhari for the leadership of Nigeria as a democratically-elected President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. This is his historic fourth attempt. He contested for the Presidency in the General Elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
He lost in the 2011 election, to the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. General Buhari has already made history as the first former Military Head of State to take four shots at the Presidency of Nigeria in four consecutive elections. He is now on the verge of a greater record and history that would be determined by the outcome of the Presidential Election scheduled for Saturday, February 14, 2015.
General Buhari was a military Head of State from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, when he was ousted in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida, who was then the Chief of Army Staff.
Expectedly, since he threw his cap into the ring and subsequently got the mandate of his party as its Presidential Candidate following his victory in the primaries conducted at the National Convention of the All Progressives Party (APC) in Lagos in December 2014, he has been the target of darts of all forms from different directions, mainly from sympathizers of other political parties. Some have dubbed him a Perpetual Presidential Aspirant, Serial Presidential Candidate, and many more.
Interestingly, it is the persistence, resilience, doggedness and determination with which General Buhari had pursued the desired goal that had won him the heart of many, including yours truly. I remember my father, may God bless his soul, used to tell me – “In the pursuit of a goal, never lose hope, never give up until you’ve made the last attempt, and never make the last attempt until you are successful.” I see the practical expression of this spirit in General Buhari and reminds one of the travails of Abraham Lincoln, who in spite of all odds and the vicissitudes of life, with dogged determination, rose to become the 16th President of America.
Honest Abe, was Abraham Lincolns’ nickname – depicting one of his attributes. According to Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, “he stood out wherever he was. At 6 feet 4inches (193cm), he was tall and ‘strong enough to intimidate any rival”. He had a stint in the Military Service as Captain in the Illinois Militia. In 1860, he secured the Republican Presidential nomination as a moderate from a swing state. With very little support in the slave states, he swept the North and was elected President on November 6, 1860.
As stated in the White House Biography of Abram Lincoln, “He was the First President from the Republican Party. His victory was entirely due to the strength of his support in the North and West. No ballots were cast for him in 10 of the 15 Southern Slave States and he won only 2 of 996 counties in all the Southern States. Although Lincoln won only a plurality of the popular vote, his victory in the Electoral College was decisive. Lincoln had 180 and his opponents, added together, had only 123” It is intriguing to relate the above scenario to the build-up to the nation’s February 14 Presidential Election in which President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari are in the forefront of the contest. The pendulum is in motion, swinging between A and B. No one can tell yet, the terminus of the spindle.
Naturally, the pressure is more on Buhari, the challenger of the incumbent president – a herculean venture. Buhari is indeed under the heat, sweating profusely as he mounts and descends the rostrum to sway the electorate to his side.
Would the streaming sweat give him a cooling effect at the end of the day? Will Muhammadu Buhari become the Abraham Lincoln of our time?
At the moment, many questions are being raised concerning the person of General Buhari.
The opposition is calling to question, some of the actions he took while he was Head of State, some 30 years ago – dubbing him a dictator, a non-conformist, a nonrespecter of the rule of law, antidemocratic, etc. His age is also being made an issue. That at 72, he was too old to be President of Nigeria, wondering why the general, who in the countdown to the 2011 elections, had said publicly, that that would be his last outing as a presidential candidate, has swallowed his words. There is no doubt that APC has all the trappings of a viable opposition. The party has raised the bar and the stake is now higher.
The word on the lips of many is CHANGE. Has the age of the party and that of its flag-bearer anything to do with the actualization and the realization of CHANGE?
I believe, no. Dr. Nelson Mandela was 71 when he became the first president of independent South- Africa. Winston Churchill was 80 when he became Prime Minister in England so also was Morarji Desai of India and Siaka Stevens of Sierra Leone. Back home, Chief Adekunle Ajasin was 71 in 1979 when he became Governor of old Ondo State. He had a record of exceptional performance and won re-election for a second term in August 1983, before the termination of the second republic by the military in December 1983.
The military coup of December 1983 – a development of circumstance – is one of the ‘sins’ being highlighted by the opposition against Born-Again Buhari, forgetting that time and nature have allowance for repentance and redemption. The Biblical Saul of Tarsus, the foremost persecutor of early Christians repented and re-christened Paul. He turned out to be the greatest apostle ever, as recorded in the Holy Bible. It is said; “There is no saint on the runway. We all, at one time or the other, has one stuff or the other, up our sleeves.” In every Saul, it is also said, there is a Paul.
Another opportunity is here for Nigerians to halt the cycle of accidental, reluctant, imposed and drafted leaders who are unprepared for the exalted office. The ambition of President Shehu Shagari was to be a Senator. All that General Obasanjo wanted in 1998 was his freedom from prison.
He was even made Head of State in 1976, as he said, “against my wish”, following the assassination of General Murtala Muhammed. Umaru Yar’Adua was set for a return to the classroom in 2007, after eight years as governor, when he was foisted on us as president. The luckiest of all is President Goodluck Jonathan – a product of happenstance and fortuitous occurrences plated with the “doctrine of necessity”. We are again at the thresh-hold of history, at a turning point. May God help us.

(Ayo Akinyemi, veteran journalist, writes via akinyemiayo@ yahoo.com)



*this was published in the Daily Times dated Monday, January 19, 2015

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