By Ikeddy ISIGUZO, Chairman Editorial Board
THIRTY years after he was ousted in a military coup, Nigerians have decided that Maj-Gen Muhammadu Buhari, the man who over threw the democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Aliyu Usman Shagari, would be their President. It was an emphatic decision. There must be something about the Nigerian year circle.
General Olusegun Obasanjo was released from prison and elected President, again, 20 years after he left office as a military Head of State. Unlike Buhari, Obasanjo, in 1979, handed over to a civilian government, the one Buhari over threw.
The similarities may just end there in what could be tagged the return of the Generals; it would seem at the instance of civilians.
It must be clear that the military conducted the 1999 election which Obasanjo won. Obasanjo, who ran Nigeria for eight years, with a huge appetite for more (remember the third term imbroglio) was the military’s choice to stabilise a polity that was torn to shreds after the cancelled June 12 elections of 1993. Obasanjo spent a good part of those years demilitarising the polity. His successes are as controversial as the man.
Controversy could have been another name for Buhari, a political figure who started making rounds of the presidential elections from 2003, failing in past three attempts, and retreating to his shell after each effort. His fourth attempt at the presidency was the subject of multiple jokes, but he was on his way to victory, possibly under-rated until it was too late, or his opponent did not understand that the battle was not against the General, but allied forces, mostly visible, and other in the shades, who rallied round Buhari.
No Nigerian had attempted the presidency as many times as Buhari. None has had the patience, perseverance and resilience to bear the indignity of three losses. Many of those who voted for Buhari might not have been born when he began his draconian rule in 1984. Stories of those days made no impression on a new generation of voters, who wanted answers about their future. They opted for a man who many remember more for the stiff stubbornness of his military orientation than what he did for Nigeria . His 20-month sojourn that ended in August 1985 was really short for anyone to have known what he would have done with Nigeria.
The milestone is the transition from a sitting President to a President-elect. More explicitly, a sitting Nigerian President has lost an election, something unimaginable, though we saw it happening across ECOWAS – Ghana, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire. It could deepen our democracy; it could make governments more accountable. It could create a place for the opposition in our politics.
Buhari also illustrates in our times the Japanese concept of resilience – you fall seven times and get up eight times. Many expected him to keeping falling down.
The epitaph to this story would be about a general, who subjected civilians to his horsewhip, thrown out by his colleagues and returning to subject himself to the dictates of civil rule, including a motley crowd of 469 members of the National Assembly who would subject his moves and moods to scrutiny.