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2023: Reading Buhari’s Mind 

“Until partisanism is history there is no tomorrow.” ― Abhijit Naskar

This week, we are going on thought transference to muse about somebody extraordinary in our clime, the helmsman of this political entity called Nigeria for the last 40 months. We are going on a journey into the subconscious of the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, to try to explore his thoughts about the 2023 general election. 

Let us explore the inner recesses of his mind, his subconscious, and how that may influence his actions and inactions looking ahead. In a way, it cannot be disputed that even as the out going president, General Buhari remains the biggest individual stakeholder in the 2023 project. What he does or fails to do as the Commander-in-Chief is capable of changing the situation for good or bad.

In the information technology world, there is a device, designed to help in mind reading called Write-on. Write-on is an app on the internet for spelling out whatever is in one’s mind in clear and easy-to-read text. That exactly is what we are attempting to do this week as we try to go into the mind of President Buhari and try to bring out what he thinks and what he may most likely do relating to the 2023 general elections. What he thinks and what he would do or fail to do will be critical to the 2023 project notwithstanding that his name will not be on the ballot.

We are, therefore, going beyond the normal and attempting some preternatural powers by trying to discern his thoughts about 2023.

This mind-reading voyage was prompted by the seeming riot act read to the All Progressives Congress governors on Tuesday, August 30, when they visited the President at the Aso Rock Villa. It was the President’s major policy pronouncement on the 2023 general elections and easily the most statesmanlike remarks from him.

Details of the President’s discussions with the governors were not made public. However, the excerpts released to the public by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, say a lot about what must have transpired. 

Hear the President: “I want Nigerians to know that we respect them, and for us to show that we will allow them to vote who they want.

“We all witnessed what happened in Anambra, Ekiti, and Osun states. What happened in those states gives me a lot of hope that we are succeeding.’’

For the 2023 elections, President Buhari said the government will also ensure that Nigerians don’t get intimidated, or humiliated by those in positions, or the more privileged.

“We will not allow anyone to use personal resources or their influence to intimidate other Nigerians. We will not allow intimidation materially, morally or physically. This is the kind of leadership that can emerge and consolidate our nation. In six months, Nigerians will appreciate the government of APC, that we are sincere and that we respect them.

If with the professional touch and the fine-tuning brought into the presidency statement and it still came out this way, one can imagine the actual word choices of the usually blunt and frank general. Some people believe that the President did not give any hope to his party. The way he presented his speech almost referred to his party, already seen in the public as the bully.

We can decipher the factors that might have influenced the President’s thoughts. First and more important is his desire to bequeath a legacy which appears to be eluding him except his government conducts free, fair, and transparent elections in 2023. 

The President’s governance style in the last 40 months has left a sorry state and he cannot look in that direction for a bequest. This is especially so because he watched his predecessor in office, Goodluck Jonathan, shooed out of office for poor performance only to turn around to become the star and model of democracy globally just for conducting one credible election and a smooth transition. 

Jonathan’s record heaps some burden on President Buhari who is a direct beneficiary of that electoral benevolence. Even if President Buhari will not turn out to be a democracy ambassador like Dr Jonathan because of age and other variables, he at least would desire to have his peace after leaving office which a successful 2023 will guarantee.

The second factor that could result in such brutal and unbiased frank talk at this time is possibly to pay back to the governors who had muzzled him out of the way in the selection of his successor. After ensuring that they determined who would succeed them in their various states, the governors refused to allow the President to do the same at the national level. Instead, they formed a cartel under the command of the ‘accidental governor’ of Kaduna State, Nasiru El rufai to ensure that the President’s wish never materialised. 

As the President watched the high intrigues and horse trading by the governors pushing him out of the way in the party he is supposed to be leading, he had no choice but to wait for them at the junction they will pass with their victory. Last Tuesday, they arrived at that junction and met a no-smiling, indifferent President exacting his pound of flesh.

As it’s turning out, the governors’ eventual pick, Asiwaju Bola Ahmad Tinubu, is becoming an encumbrance rather than an asset as the happenings in the political space are showing. The bad case already was multiplied by the same-faith pick for running mate. All of these gave President Buhari the choice to tell the governors, “It serves you right!”. It’s therefore against this backdrop as explained above of the President laughing last that informed this week’s discourse.

Political watchers hold the view that a political party that does not find its leader for eight years worthy of influencing succession should not expect much cooperation from him, hence the blunt message he passed to them.
The overall grisly situation in the country occasioned by the persisting and widespread insecurity, the collapsing economy, the frightening youth unemployment, and the unprecedented inflation figure helped greatly by the weakening national currency entail that a sincere leader should be looking out for solution rather than political party sentiment as a way forward for the country at this time.

The reason an elected President is expected to turn into a statesman and should reason accordingly is that blind party loyalty blocks the truth and leads to the downfall of a nation. President Buhari’s thinking now based on what he told APC governors is in line with the assertion of the 68th Governor of Massachusetts in the United States, William Weld, that “if a party stands for nothing but re-election, it indeed stands for nothing.”

The APC governors possibly approached the President for a dubious election-winning strategy unknown to them that the Commander-in-Chief no longer reasons like a party man but like an elder statesman which he is. President Buhari indeed has abundant reasons to be statesmanly in his conduct and utterances at 76 years plus years being a huge beneficiary of God’s grace on this nation. General Buhari is just one of only two Nigerians of more than 200 million persons who have the chance of ruling this country twice, one as a military dictator and now as an elected civilian President. The other person who enjoyed such lavish grace is former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was also both a military and civilian leader at some point.

So, clearly and likely running in the mind of President Buhari at this moment is his place in history, not his place as a political party bigot or election manipulator to satisfy his party, not his nation. He no longer reasons as a politician but as a statesman, a politician thinks and preoccupies himself with nothing but the next election; a statesman thinks about the next generation. As a statesman, he foresees the inevitable and facilitates its occurrence and that was displayed in President Buhari’s blunt remarks to the governors.

Therefore, President Buhari’s mind today as he winds down from office is that of a father figure, not a biased political leader. Although his leadership showed a lot of unbecoming and inappropriate attitudes, what matters most to him now is how to end well.  Luckily for him, not a few Nigerians have a shallow memory and are forgiving provided he leaves them with something positively memorable as his last act. He seems to be ensuring the conduct of a free and fair election in 2023 provides such an opportunity. This certainly should be what goes on in the mind of the President today. May God help him end well.

TAILPIECE: PDP fathers and their ‘Children’

Nigeria’s main opposition party, the PDP, is not new to crises from its inception. Somehow, it has developed the ‘family affairs’ approach to tackling its headaches. But it appears that this time, the “family affair” mechanism is not working, as the father and children are at daggers-drawn and no longer getting along.

Today is just one of the many Thursdays in the life of the party that the PDP National Executive Committee, NEC, will be meeting to address a prickly issue ahead of 2023. Either way, it goes today from Wadata Plaza, the headquarters of the party and venue of the crucial meeting, whether a victory for fathers or the children, truth is that PDP is going into 2023 polls bruised, impaired, and not intact.

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