My dear General Muhammadu Buhari, this is coming rather late and yet early: it is late to offer advice on the choice of your running mate in next February’s presidential election; I am celebrating your 72nd birth anniversary three days early.
You know I have always extolled your integrity. I still consider the Buhari-Idiagbon military regime of 1984-85 the closest to the ideal leadership for Nigeria. So I have little difficulty in congratulating you on your emergence as the APC flag-bearer. The only reservation I have is about your age – the usual health problems that come with age. I would have preferred that 41-year-old Buhari (who pointed us to the right direction 30 years ago) to banish corruption and indiscipline that have blighted the present and the future of Nigeria.
I know you read this column and remember my comments eight years ago when we interviewed you in your office in Kaduna. You or your aides must have also taken note of this column of October 26 in which I recounted my conversation with a Facebook friend. Of course, the presidential aspirant “whom I considered honest and incorruptible” that paid N27.5m for his nomination form was you. My friend asked me to explain how you would recoup the money since the legitimate income of a Nigerian president in four years is less than N20m. Days later, I read an advertisement of the answer I had given my friend: Buhari’s supporters were asked to donate N100 each to his campaign.
Now that you have been handed the APC flag, it is time to raise your campaign funds. You will get my donation, and so will every other presidential candidate (including President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP) that demonstrates commitment to peace and fairness. Instead of N100, I have reserved N10, 000 for each. But it will not be your birthday gift. The gift I have for you is the message that follows.
Having run for this office three times, you ought to have understood how Nigeria elections are conducted and won. You must have also discovered, as I have, that it is almost impossible for a person of integrity to scale all the hurdles placed in his way. The funds used to build parties, bankroll primaries and the campaigns are by no means clean.
2015 offers the brightest chance for you to win. To get there, however, you should assure all former and current thieves in government that they won’t be probed. And I want you to forgive them from the depth of your heart. In your twilight years on earth, you just have to forgive all. Nobody can even trace how the nation’s wealth was/is plundered because there are no accurate records to rely on. On getting to office, appeal to the looters to invest their loot in Nigeria so as to create jobs. Don’t look at the rear mirror. Nigeria can still be rescued.
Many of your admirers are afraid of queuing behind you because they have seen no sign that the election will be free and fair. Your opponents are capitalising on this fear to intimidate the majority of voters that have been incapacitated by poverty and are therefore ready to sell their voter cards for just enough money to fetch them the next meal.
Among those that lack the courage to work for free polls are INEC officials all of whom were appointed by the government in power. A primary indicator of Nigeria’s unwillingness to conduct credible polls is INEC’s dependence on the ruling party. Why, for instance, can’t INEC ensure internal democracy in the parties? Where was INEC when parties were extracting N22-27m+ from each aspirant? What happened to its rule on campaign financing limit? How many electoral offenders purportedly arrested in 2011 have been prosecuted and jailed?
The other arm used for rigging is composed of “security” agents. Again, many of them that support you inwardly are handicapped. They obey their superiors because they have no other job with which to fend for their families. Some would be used to snatch and stuff ballot boxes. Some would thumbprint on thousands of ballot papers or supervise those who would do so in remote villages, palaces, schools, forests, caves and shrines. Sambisa Forest may not be a “no-go area” on Election Day!
Ethnic and religious sentiments do not move many of us because we know they are hollow gimmicks employed by dishonest politicians who neither worship God nor protect their tribes. But Nigeria is still far behind. So pay attention to them. By the time this is published, your running mate will have emerged. I would have advised you to get your alter ego (preferably a woman) from the south-east. I expect you to do only one term – the Mandela option – during which you would set the country on the path of progress and groom your deputy to take over from you. If you picked someone from the south-west, then, he/she should not succeed you. It should be the south-east’s turn after the north’s; Obasanjo ruled for almost 12 years and the southern minorities have had their shot.
Your election in 2015 will serve as compensation to Katsina State for the loss of President Umaru Yar’Adua. You have ample chance to defeat Jonathan by a wide margin in a free and fair poll. All you and your party need do is give INEC close marking. Do you know the number of voter cards made available to states like Lagos and Kano? On Voting Day, the entire north-east may be overrun by tanks and “gallant” troops (who now flee on sighting Boko Haram). In most of the south-east and south-south, 99 per cent of voters may “cast” their votes. Ballot boxes may be delivered to fishes inside rivers and to ancestors in the great beyond.
Begin now by picking no fewer than 240, 000 trusted people who will man all the existing 120, 000 polling units in the country. Ensure that each of them owns a phone and can be traced. Then place them on salary. INEC must not be allowed to recruit ad-hoc staff alone. Since it won’t go to the moon to get them, let parties provide many of the needed staff. Before the polls, INEC should make available an authentic voter register in each unit. Your agent should make copies and keep, so that any variation on Polling Day would be easily detected and tackled.
Best wishes, General, as you mark your birthday on Wednesday. And may God guide and protect you as you perform your last duty to your country.
— Aniebo Nwamu