28th January, 2023
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
At the end of his tenure in 1985, the then Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, granted his last interview to Halilu Ahmed Getso of FRCN Kaduna. The answer to the last question in the interview was very informative. What last message do you have for Nigerians? Halilu asked. Buhari, aware of plans to topple him, simply said that if anyone thinks leading the country is easy, let him come and try it.
Barely two weeks later, Buhari was overthrown. My kind-hearted mentor thought then he would retire to a quiet life. No. It was to be four years of torturous isolation and a haunting nightmare for 30 long years.
A decade later, Buhari would tell the world that he did not order the search of the houses of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sheikh Abubakar Mahmud Gumi when he was head of state. It was done by some fifth columnists, he revealed. Unfortunately, as he noted, neither Awo nor Gumi was alive to forgive him.
To Egypt. In their bid to topple Muhammad Mursi from power, the military and some prominent businessmen orchestrated fuel shortages and power outages in order to pitch the Egyptian populace against the Muslim Brotherhood and its regime. They then hired some youth organizations to carry out demonstrations that snowballed into the 3 July 2013 coup. I was shocked to watch the public confession of the sabotage after all was done. Dr. Mursi was immediately arrested and incarcerated until he died.
The sabotage script is among the standard templates of people who want to topple governments. Opposition parties that lack credibility in fledgling democracies do the same. The recent cry of the APC presidential candidate cannot therefore be far-fetched. He echoed two issues—fuel scarcity and shortage of new naira notes—that are spawning the anger of Nigerians barely a month to the presidential election. With his name representing the ruling APC on the ballot paper, he has every reason to voice out his concerns. His reading of the situation is that it is a sabotage against him and the party at the polls by moles in government and business whose loyalty is to the opposition.
What else can explain the inability of the CBN to make the naira notes it printed available to citizens for 3 months since it announced the new policy last October? Is it that it did not print the new notes sufficiently or is it so incompetent of transporting them to its state branches and issue them to banks in sufficient quantities? That banks are unable to issue the new notes this late after threatening to reject any old one early next week reveals the incapacity of the present CBN administration or betrays its deliberate sabotage of the present government, targeting the harm that the pain would cause the APC ticket on 25th February.
The different pretexts for fuel scarcity since the flood of last September can hardly acquit the NNPC of the same intention. Government is paying the subsidy. Why would it allow distribution to become a problem at this crucial moment, just weeks to the elections that will determine whether or not it will retain power or lose it? Is the regime so inept of pressing the right buttons to force compliance by NNPC officials and fuel marketers, so basic a logistic that even undergraduates of mechanical engineering can execute successfully?
I do not share the indifference of the President in this case because it undermines his legacy and his future. If he is proud of his performance in the past 8 years, which he ought to be, he must take measures to protect it. You just do not throw away a child you nursed for eight years to fate. Nigeria is that child which he nursed that long. The projects he started and the younger ones that traveled with him along the difficult path of governance must not be abandoned. There is a future for completion in one case and of political ambition in the other even as the president personally feels fulfilled.
The other reason is that no one can predict what happens after allowing power to slip away from his fingers. Because it could be brutal, chances are not taken. Men acquiring power after a dirty fight behave like lions, except for few forgiving ones. Once victors, the majority do not take hostages. They strangulate the enemy until it cannot no longer breathe. That tradition of power was miscalculated in the risk estimation of Buhari in 1985. The corruption he fought retuned full swing and the lieutenants he brought were suddenly washed away into the sea by the new regime as he spends his dark days in prison.
Today, none can assure the President of the continuity of his good policies, finish his projects and shelter his lieutenants better than his party and its presidential candidate. Relying on the promises of the opponent is like writing on water. To think of safety in the jaws of the lion will be regrettable.
“Lion of Jada”
The opposition is naturally cashing on the pain which the deliberate failure of the government is causing Nigerians, smiling as if it has grabbed a manna falling from heaven. Officials—many of whom are companions of the opposition—who want the corrupt practices to persist should the opposition win the election are happy too, while the ruling APC and its candidate are left in pain, helplessly.
If I were the President or a member of his cabinet, I will have a rethink. I will remember 1985 and the pain it caused me. I will not miscalculate it this time as I can see the same people who orchestrated 1985 are today busy running errands for the PDP to defeat my government again. It will be a mistake to trust them or hand over the country to them.
And what will follow the victory of an injured “Lion of Jada”, can best be imagined. This time it will not only affect the President but also his family, relatives, friends, associates, ministers and the party. Anyone who does not know what election defeat portends should ask some ex-governors. Bauchi in 2007 is a classical example. Good luck was for Jonathan; it might not be for everybody. “The Lion” cannot be indifferent.
In the unlikely event of Tinubu losing the elections, the biggest loser will be the APC. It is a merger of three parties cobbled together to defeat the PDP and which will disintegrate in the ensuing atmosphere of distrust that the defeat will bring.
The President and the government must wake up to their responsibility and not allow saboteurs from within and petrol marketers to succeed. While we are in the front vanguard of welcoming the cashless policy, the CBN must be directed to issue sufficient new notes to banks and the public. The President must also press the NNPC to ensure that fuel scarcity is overcome quickly.
Otherwise, he must know that he only has, like a coin, two outcomes in 2023: a head with the anticipated victory of the front runner, which must not be in spite of the President and his officials but because of them; a tail, in which he loses and the President and his officials must prepare for a long night in which the sun will set, stars will eclipse and life after office will not be the quiet they calculate but a bitterly distressing one.
I will call on Nigerians, as did the APC candidate, to defy the antics of the saboteurs and vote for someone who has the capacity to change things; someone who in his business and position as a governor has proven to be an achiever; a modernising innovator; ready to draw from brains of experts and technocrats; deploy latest techniques and technologies to solve intractable administrative problems and to execute projects in record time; carry workers and the Nigerian public along; etc.
That person is the front runner in the presidential race, Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He leads with the determination that problems like fuel shortage and distribution of Naira notes shall be solved with the aptitude that will end the privileges of saboteurs, who conjure our present suffering and whom we must not support. Four years for our undergraduates, he said, will be four years. Period. That is the language of efficient administrators that saboteurs hate to hear but which we will continue to sound into their ears.
I must remind the President that in the game of power, peace is earned, not granted. The wise, like Obasanjo and many governors, by determining their successors, fought hard while still in power to earn the peace they would enjoy. President Buhari must fight hard to ensure the success of his flag bearer as if he were on the ballot paper. 1985 must not reincarnate. For his future peace, it must remain dead. A stitch in time!
*Tilde was former commissioner for education in Bauchi state.