• Friday, July 19, 2024
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BusinessDay

Buhari: A tortuous road to the presidency

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Several efforts by General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to become the civilian president of Nigeria have suffered unusual setback, even as the former military dictator has become highly harassed and haunted by his past and, most recently, the certificate scandal which many pundits see as a cog in his wheel of progress towards Aso Rock in 2015. The certificate scandal on its own has cast unusual dent on Buhari’s integrity as the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate has struggled ceaselessly to defend himself.

First, he referred those who said he does not possess a school certificate to the military secretary of the Nigerian Army whom he claimed was in possession of the certificate. This defence was, however, demolished when the Nigerian Army spokesman, Brigadier-General Olajide Olaleye, reportedly said at a news briefing that Buhari’s service record file did not contain “the original certificates or the certified true copies of his educational qualifications”.

The explanation by the Army led Buhari to arrange for a media briefing in Kano, where he told the media, “I only consented to address you this morning because of the genuine concern expressed by many supporters and other well-meaning Nigerians that the issue be addressed. Otherwise I would have dismissed it for what it is – sheer mischief – and would not have considered it an issue worth the nation’s while.” He also said he had instructed his secondary school to release the result. The Katsina State Ministry of Education eventually released a certified statement of result of the APC presidential candidate’s 1961 school certificate examination.

But rather than douse the tension around the former head of state, the release of the statement of result has heightened it. The PDP presidential campaign organisation said it had subjected Buhari’s purported secondary school certificate “to a forensic test and discovered that the document was forged, manipulated and fraudulently procured”. Femi Fani-Kayode, director of media and publicity of the campaign organisation, told journalists that the “purported certificate released by Buhari’s former school showed after a close scrutiny” that there were several reasons to doubt its authenticity. He therefore called on the security agencies to go after those behind the alleged forged certificate, which he described as “Oluwole document”, to arrest and prosecute them accordingly.

Some political analysts believe that with the turn of events, Buhari has a lot of explaining to do on the certificate saga and that this issue may become his Achilles heel. They argue that the manner in which the PDP has remained undaunted in its quest to get Buhari to withdraw from the presidential race on the basis of alleged perjury has worsened his case. The party had earlier said that Buhari’s first claim on oath that his credentials were with the Army board had been contradicted by available evidence. Most critics also think that calling to question of Buhari’s integrity, which is the only thing going for him, with the certificate story, may mar his chances of climbing the exalted seat as a civilian president of Nigeria.

But besides the certificate brouhaha, some observers think that Buhari belongs to the group of those whose past is turning round to haunt them. One of such persons is Ebenezer Babatope, a former minister of transport, who was quoted as saying that the APC already shot itself in the leg ahead of the February 14 elections by fielding Muhammadu Buhari as its presidential candidate. He said the APC has already lost the election by fielding a “candidate whose past will haunt him until he leaves this world”.

According to him, unlike the APC, Nigerians are good students of history and will never allow a man like Buhari to rule over them again based on his anti-democratic and dictatorial style of leadership during his reign as head of state. “You will see the verdict of the Nigerian people after February 14. The Nigerian people that I know will never permit someone of Buhari’s calibre to rule. I am surprised that till today, Buhari never apologised to Nigerians for the terrible manner he ruled this country,” he had said.

Recall also that in 2011, Nasir El-Rufai, now the APC governorship candidate in Kaduna State and Buhari’s Man Friday, wrote an article where he said that “Buhari has nothing to offer”, arguing that the former head of state had remained perpetually unelectable because his record as military head of state, and afterwards, was a warning that many Nigerians had wisely heeded.

“His insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus are already well-known. In 1984, Buhari allowed 53 suitcases belonging to his ADC’s father to enter Nigeria unchecked at a time the country was exchanging old currency for new. Against all canons of legal decency, he used retroactive laws to execute three young men for drug peddling after a military tribunal and not regular courts of law convicted them. Buhari was so high-handed that he gave himself and his officials immunity even from truthful reporting. That obnoxious Decree 4, against which truth was no defence, was used to jail journalists and attempt to cow the media as a whole. That tyrannical legislation shows the essence of his intolerance. These are facts of recent history,” El-Rufai wrote.

Yet some other critics point to certain provocative statements attributed to the ex-General who was the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the 2011 poll. Prominently, they refer to the widely reported statement he was said to have made while addressing his party members who paid him a courtesy visit in Kaduna, thus: “God willing, by 2015, something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 [alleged rigging] should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”

It remains to be seen how these apparently negative points will play against the APC’s presidential candidate at the February 14 polls. But analysts feel strongly that these are enough to sway votes to the PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan.

Dipo Adeyemi