“Tell your children about it, and let your children tell their children, and their children another generation,” Prophet Joel.
A week to the polls, a friend phoned from the United States and thought Atiku Abubakar had won the polls. I had predicted a resounding Buhari victory all along.
“From what I am reading, it seems the story is going to be different,” he piped out. He was under the spell of the internet of the social media variety. Soyinka’s millipedes had cooked a viral diet and he had been at table.
“They are minority of Nigerians,” I assured him. “Most of the voters don’t even know Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.”
After the polls, a certain ennui wrapped the nation. Those who won are as though they mourn, and those who lost are in sack cloth. But the funeral air of the Atikus was eerie while the Buharis were like amused morticians.
The APC was quietly jubilant, while a chest-thumping Atiku was a quarrel in the closet. You saw his screaming face but could not hear a word.
President Buhari warned against gloating, but it happened in the shadows. The streets did not carp, the drum rolled in backyards, the clinks of wine glasses like muffled clicks. Even the rhetoric of the winners was more about silencing the hoopla of the losers.
During the Second World War, Churchill fired up Allied zeal with the following words: “In war, resolution. In victory, magnanimity. In defeat, defiance.” We saw resolution as both barnstormed the country. Buhari is showing magnanimity but Atiku defiance. Churchillian defiance was against an anti-democratic demon named Hitler. Churchill had warned that if the Brits were defeated, they would fight with everything, and in the end, even in defeat, history would say, this was their “finest hour.”
It does not look like a fine hour for Atiku in defeat. He is sore and sour. He probably thinks he won the polls. He is like the social media folks who rollicked in their own echo chambers. They talked to themselves, embraced their own delusions, laughed at their own jokes, and mistook their peculiar narrow universe for that of the whole world. It is the character of fanaticism, only your world counts because only your world exists. Some persons have joked that Facebook CEO would swear in Atiku as president on May 29.
They forgot that Buhari is like no leader in Nigerian history. The few that enjoyed such cult following are not close. They include Ojukwu, Awolowo, Kano and the Sardauna. None of them adored their icon like Buhari. Ojukwu led the Biafran war, and was a head of state. Awo was the greatest Nigerian who ever lived. Yet, for all his following, he confronted a rampage from a right-wing elite in Yorubaland that had its roots in pre-colonial Nigeria as enunciated in the writing of Richard L. Sklar. For all his fabled charisma, the Sarduana held an office and deployed it for effect. Aminu Kano corralled the Kano talakawas.
Buhari’s rise in the hearts and minds of the talakawas across the north deserves a treatise in political psychology, something in the nature of Crowds and Power by Nobel laureate Elias Canetti. Buhari did not win their soul as head of state, but his mystique grew gradually over a few decades. He calls to mind a mystique Joseph Conrad describes in his immortal novel of the sea, Lord Jim.
It was the echo chamber that killed the candidature of Atiku. He thought the polls were about him. I disagree. It was all about Buhari. For most parts, the polls were a contest between Buhari and Buhari. In the final analysis, even if Atiku won, it would have been Buhari, who won it for him. But Buhari won it for himself.
Many who voted for PDP did not vote for Atiku. They voted against Buhari. They tended to be those who voted for faith, who voted for the era of free money, against the war on corruption, who voted in league with their pastors who were pulpit bullies, voted against the hunger in the land, against the divisive rhetoric that showed he lacked some of the ingredients of a statesman. They voted for Onnoghen, for tribesmen and tribe, against herdsmen crisis and the deaths, against the contempt for the rule of law, the spectre of coffins and blood, against the swarm of northern appointments.
Not many leaders could survive such ululations of protest. The irony is that the rich voted against him, the poor for him. It was a sort of class war, a rebellion of a pampered elite. They snuggled in Ikoyi, Banana Island, Asokoro, and they voted for revenge, a cynical democratic quality of vision.
We should remember another irony. Bukola “Eleyinmi” Saraki, came in line with his father as surrogate nobles. They seized the high throne of Ilorin from the legitimates through the ballot. The people voted for an authentic noble in Oloriegbe. They saw the Sarakis as subversive nobles and have voted for a historical one. Are they bringing nobility to the service of the republican idea, or the nobility has browbeaten the people with a feudal whip? Or is the prince acting like pauper, as in Mark Twain’s novel of that name? Time shall tell.
The election is also a cautionary tale for the so-called men of God now turned into gods of men, who became warriors of the world instead of the word. They should have read Jesus’s words to Pontius Pilate to the effect: “my kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom is of this world then would my servants fight…” A pastor prophesied Buhari’s death, some victory for Atiku, others turned the pulpit into a remorseless flogging of Buhari while asking their followers to obtain PVCs. Jeremiah warned: “a wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, the priests bear rule by their authority and my people love to have it so. What will you do in the end thereof?”
Now that it is over, what will they concoct for their credulous sheep?
If Atiku wants to head to court, he may. But he should know that the videos he claims to have may not be enough to cancel four million votes and he should know, too, that his APC folks also have videos in areas they lost. The election was not perfect, but for most parts observers and witnesses have adjudged it passed the test.
Those who say Buhari did not do well, even among the thinking elite, are frauds of the intellect. He may not have done well enough for them. They also lack historical understanding. Buhari inherited a mess, and the world would have witnessed a Venezuela in Africa had Jonathan won in 2015. He stopped a haemorrhage. I know corruption still festers under him. What we have had under him is controlled, if reprehensible bleeding. Before him, it was a financial carnage. Under him, you thought before you leapt with that loot. His critics downplay 9.5 million kids who fed daily in school, or the market women who had Trader Moni, the Lagos-Ibadan rail, or the second Niger Bridge, or the highest power uptick in history in spite of challenges, or the seeds of Mambilla Plateau prosperity, the diminution of the herdsmen crisis, or pensions for Biafra soldiers and railway workers, or bailouts to ailing states for salaries, etc.
The messaging was awful but the facts are legacy. Buhari should understand that a second term belongs to history, and he must not be tardy as he did in 2015. It’s time to be a genuine statesman. As Kennedy said, politicians look at the next election but statesmen the next generation. His last electoral hurrah should foreshadow a monument in the hearts not only of the talakawas but all persons of goodwill who will read his biography.
So long, Dalung
He spent quite some time fighting. He fought as sports minister. He even fought the leadership of his state APC, undermining the governor of his home state of Plateau. But when it mattered most, he flunked just as our sportsmen in important duels. At the last presidential polls, Solomon Dalung was not a winner. He did not deliver his ward, neither did he deliver his polling unit.
At the Langtang South LGA, his party APC polled 873 while the PDP had 1955, a shellacking. In his polling unit, his APC picked up 118 votes to PDP 241. With this performance, I don’t see this fellow returning as minister. Nigeria did not excel under him. He is a lawyer, and he will do well in litigations. So he should return to the court.