At each stop in his presidential campaign, Muhammadu Buhari has a song in his throat: “I will halt Boko Haram. I will fight corruption. I will revitalize the economy.” But, “Good promises are made to be broken.” So sang Dona Summer, the late American pop superstar. Thus, in the will-o’-the-wisp world of partisan politics, any serious contender for elective office will go the extra kilometre to assure the electorate that his promises are more than flowery, that his sound bites are not full of emptiness. The surefire way of doing this is by taking the time to engage the people, to explain, point-by-point, the nitty-gritty of the manifesto floating about.
Unfortunately, it does seem as though Buhari, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), does not harbour the flimsiest intention of explaining anything to the people whose votes he has been assiduously wooing. He appears content, just incessantly throwing promises during his political barnstorming, believing that those he has been ceaselessly haranguing would buy his verbiage hook, line and sinker. But that is not the way political campaigns should be conducted. Not in this day and age.
To say that insecurity will become history upon your assumption of office may sound like a song to the ears of those sick and tired of the atrocities of Boko Haram. But that is only one part of the story. The other and, in fact, more meaningful part is how you propose to end insecurity. Is it by waving the broom in all directions and magically stupefying all insurgents? Or is it? Buhari is not saying much here, except claiming that he conquered Maitatsine religious fanatics nearly 40 years ago. Somehow, it didn’t occur to this man that comparing Maitatsine to Boko Haram suggests his non-comprehension of the seriousness of the blight of terrorism currently plaguing the country. Maitatsine fanatics never owned or exploded a bomb, let alone deploy suicide bombers. Matatsine did not kill women; Boko Haram routinely kidnaps, rapes, and commits girls to suicide bombing. Maitatsine did not threaten the political superstructure. Boko Haram has been hoisting flags about, even asking President Jonathan to convert to Islam. No Maitatsine uprising lasted for more than ten days. Boko Haram has gone past five years and, given its seriousness, has elicited the amalgamation of international forces to contain and destroy it.
Buhari is the honest one, according to his supporters. Therefore, he stands in good stead to effectively fight corruption. He has promised to imprison the corrupt, except that no one pointed out to him that, going by Nigeria’s constitution, jailing people is not numbered in a President’s functions. That is not all. Buhari hasn’t explained the incongruity surrounding the private and chattered planes he has been using to hop from one place to another to canvass for votes. As a poor man who, via a mere phone call, borrowed N27 million from his bankers, in order to purchase his party’s nomination forms to vie for public office, it hasn’t occurred to him that he needs to tell the nation whether or not the tens of millions being thrown into his campaign were also borrowed by his financiers. How come that Buhari does not appreciate the urgent necessity to explain to the electorate the method he would use to fight corruption?
Buhari says he will repair the damaged economy. Well, given that President Goodluck Jonathan and his cabinet members are insisting that the economy is not in the doldrums, is it not Buhari’s place to tell Nigerians what precisely is wrong with the national economy that he proposes to fix? Charles Soludo, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, an APC sympathizer, recently went public, lambasting the emptiness of the party’s promises. He said, for instance, that “The APC promises to create 20,000 jobs per state in the first year, totalling a mere 720,000 jobs. This sounds like a quota system and for a country where the new entrants into the labour market per annum exceed two million. If it was intended as a joke, APC must please get serious.” Is it not Buhari’s responsibility to convince Nigerians that both his candidacy in the presidential election and the platform on which he is running are far from cruel jokes designed to consign citizens of this country to perpetual privation?
More than anything else, the APC strenuously opposed the National Conference recently convened by President Jonathan for the purposes of creating a better country. Not once has any APC official or member in any part of the country said a thing about the report of the National Conference, leading to stories in knowledgeable circles that the party already concluded arrangements to bin the report if it appropriated political power. Should Buhari not discuss this most crucial of topics with the electorate?
The best forum for General Muhammadu Buhari, and any candidate for that matter, to explain himself and his party’s position on any topic of interest to Nigerians is the Presidential Debate organized by the Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria (BON), and schemed to be broadcast live across the nation and around the world. Unfortunately, the APC has put out word that its presidential candidate will not participate in the debate, “because of the unhidden bias and campaign of calumny by some key organizers of the programme, against the corporate political interest of the party”. This reason is, of course, spurious. This abdication of political responsibility underscores the blatant disdain in which certain politicians hold the Nigerian electorate.
BON’s membership, made up of all electronic media houses in the country, stands at 100. To accuse the entire broadcast media practitioners in Nigeria of bias and calumny, especially without any scintilla of proof, is a capital insult on the integrity of the Fourth Estate of the Realm. It is not just strange but also mystifying. It all lends credence to surmises in informed circles that there is another reason Buhari’s handlers won’t allow him to partake in a public debate, the real reason, which is that, subjected to proper scrutiny and interrogation, it would be revealed that all that glitters is not gold. It is the height of political wisdom that the APC defined and confined Buhari’s role in its presidential campaign to that of simply keeping at waving his magical broom and chanting “change” without interregnum!