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If Buhari loses the coming election…

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BuhariIn his very private moments, what does President Muhammadu Buhari think of us? Are we his lovers because we agree with Geoffrey Chaucer who said love is blind? Or are we Buhari’s fools because fools don’t see what their eyes see? Or are we both because, with enthusiasm, lovers do foolish things? Buhari sleeps and snores, we hail him; he sits up, we applaud him. We salute his robust health even as he wheezes. He chose his government’s key men from his ancestral homestead, we made excuses for him. Those are the ones he could trust, we bellowed at wailers. We said the appointees were the very best at that point in the geography of our politics. Every democracy has its aristocrats; it is their time, we said. Not once, not twice, our president described his native Daura as his constituency. He repeated that assertion again this last Friday: He said he trekked home because he wanted his ‘constituency’ to see him. We heard him and pretended he didn’t say so, or that, perhaps he could not remember that the entire country was his constituency in 2015 – and will be in 2019.

And I ask: What are we? Our president trekked 800km, we hailed him. His mouthpiece said he trekked to show us he was fit to run again in 2019. We clapped for him. Four days later, Buhari changed the song; he cancelled his spokesman’s narrative: “I didn’t trek to prove my fitness.” He said that – and again we danced and helped him spread the message. Before his presidency, he cried that there was no fuel subsidy. He said what we had was fraud and he scandalized everyone of that era. We believed him. He became president and started paying subsidy. We looked away – or – no, we said what he pays is ‘under-recovery.’

His government in February 2018 told us: “Now, when there is talk of payment of subsidy, technically today, there is no subsidy but there is under-recovery. Why that is so is because the NNPC is currently doing all the importation. They are importing at a higher price than they are selling, which means they are losing money; which means effectively that that loss is being borne by everybody and effectively it reflects in the Federation Account.” We heard this and didn’t bother to ask follow-up questions; questions like the difference between what was paid by Jonathan and what he pays today. We don’t ask him questions; we don’t demand explanations from him. We take anything he brings and he looks at us and shakes his inner head. He was not like us outside power. He asked hard questions and made claims to knowledge and integrity. But today, we don’t ask him anything.

Now, he is saying emphatically that the coming election is for him to win. And he is not conceding an inch for any doubt about that. His message here has been very clear: He cannot and will not lose; he will contest and win. How it will be done, you just wait and see. He told his guests in Daura on Friday: “For those who are discerning; those who have ears and eyes, they will see, hear and understand. Those who don’t understand are entitled to their mistaken assumptions.”

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That was rather deep – reassuring for his fans, foreboding for the land. He said he would win! But what if this president loses? You ask and shudder at the history of soldiers who refused to surrender even when their wars had ended.

Joseph Goebells was Adolf Hitler’s chief propagandist. He was brilliant, mercurial and prophetic. He said so many things that turned out ultimately oracular. One of them was that he and his boss would either “go down in history as the greatest statesmen of all time, or as the greatest criminals.” They got the latter because they lost the war. Goebbells also gave a notice of the storm that would blow his team away:  “If the day should ever come when we must go, if some day we are compelled to leave the scene of history, we will slam the door so hard that the universe will shake and mankind will stand back in stupefaction.”

President Muhammadu Buhari said he was shocked that his predecessor accepted defeat in 2015. Every man of power should be shocked at the man from Otuoke who dropped power the way a frightened, scarred child spits sweet, hot meat.  Now, I ask: If our strong president loses this looming 2019 election, will he accept defeat and go quietly into the night as Goodluck Jonathan did? Or will he do as Hitler’s man above, slamming the door so hard as to burst our eardrums?

Generals throughout history always fight the last war. War-gaming the future takes out panic from their followers! “All men,” says George Patton “are afraid in battle,” but “coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty.” The president has been talking about the elections of next year. It is his duty to contest and win. He has been talking the way generals talk. They don’t plan a war to go and lose. They know the price of defeat is ignominy. So, ‘we are going to win’ is what our president is saying – repeatedly. And his men are getting the ‘facts’ seeped in. His campaigner, Festus Keyamo, even knocked it into our addled heads last week with a strident warning: “If Buhari loses in the next election, we will not survive as a nation,”

Keyamo is not the only one with this prophetic warning. Several others give similar warning – with facts and fiction; truth and untruth. The combo works and will continue to work. “Make the lie big,” counseled Hitler; “make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” True. The small rivers of lies of just a few years ago have become oceans. Everything is believed. The ‘they’ who believe (and will continue to believe) the mendacious bits are embedded everywhere. It does not matter if you call them T.S. Eliot’s ‘Hollow Men’ – the ones who worship “shape without form;” the beings who gape at “shade without colour.”

September is four days away. It will be the month of the generals. Elections called primary will start holding soon. That one is an elite construct which takes the meat of democracy away from the voter’s mouth. It is the gate and the elite gatemen won’t give access to every monkey who desires the banana of political office. The primary will streamline the range of choice for the fools. You can’t choose outside the options in the elite plate.  Democracy is about the best ruling the rest. There is no say in it for anyone who is ordinary. If the people are told they are useless in a democracy they will fight. Leave them; they will discover on election day that all the options are no options. They don’t choose their president or governors; the party elite and their conspiracies do. And for Nigeria of 2019, they are cooking the soup right now. APC’s presidential primary is slated for September 15. No man born of a woman will contest that ticket with General Buhari. The other party will pick its own war leader too. And you can bet that other man will be a stand-in of the generals who made the “perpetually unelectable Buhari” electable in 2015.  The die was cast long, long ago.

“If we don’t plant the right things,” American poet, singer and rights activist, Maya Angelou, warned, “we will reap the wrong things.” The primaries will soon come and go and the parties will choose for us. But that is the easy part of the war. It is the breakfast before the day’s work. From now till the D-Day in February 2019, generals, on all sides, will seek to overrun the other side. There will be a heightening of the assault called misinformation. False, graven images and impressions will be created with greater intensity. The fog of war will descend on the land. Armies will outflank, outmanoeuver, and take out each other. There will be desertions and rumours of desertions; there will be prisoners of war. From the rubble of this war, someone will win; someone won’t win.

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