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To northerners, Buhari is doing well, By Evaristus Bassey

By News Express on 15/05/2018

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•Rev. Evaristus Bassey
•Rev. Evaristus Bassey

I subscribe to a civil society coalition whose membership is drawn mostly from the North-east. When the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance in Nigeria invited me and one Ambassador Ahmed to a meeting, in preparation for the Oslo Humanitarian Conference for Nigeria and Lake Chad region, to organise the CSOs, I suggested the creation of a WhatsApp group, which Ahmed did so efficiently, tagging along most of the CSOs in Borno, including some from Adamawa and Yobe. It is supposed to be a neutral platform for the expression of ideas concerning the humanitarian situation in the North-East, including peer learning, future opportunities, and so on. As it is with every platform, the administrators have to keep issuing warnings concerning the terms of engagement. Unfortunately, no matter the number of warnings on politics, it keeps surfacing.

As a member of this forum, I began to understand the perspective of those who actually live in these regions. One point of departure was the recent statement credited to President Muhammadu Buhari concerning Nigerian youths. While social media were busy making a caricature of the President, the consensus I got from this forum was that the President did no wrong at all. And, because, the president did not exactly use the word “lazy”, those who accused him of saying Nigerian youths are lazy were misrepresenting reality.

The point I want to make is that those who think that it is a general consensus that Buhari is not doing well, are wasting their time. Curtailing Boko Haram may not mean much to those in the South, much as the civil war did not mean much to those living in the North, but it struck a deep chord in me when Ahmed sounded so grateful that now they in Borno and many parts of the North-East could go to sleep in their homes and be at rest. These were things we took for granted in other parts of the country, but which many had to struggle with in the North-East. And now with the returnee stage, where many IDPs are being facilitated to go back home – although it is wrong to force those who do not want to go – it is a great relief, even though terrorists still carry out devastating attacks.

Similarly, with the establishment of the North-East Development Commission, and the Presidential Initiative for the North-East, where funds are budgeted for the reconstruction of the zone, the federal and state governments are doing a lot in the region; so also the UN agencies and civil society organisations working to ameliorate the situation in the North-East.

There is, therefore, a reverential perception of President Buhari in the North-East. Can we then imagine how he is perceived in the North-West where he comes from? Down south, people can make the separation of state and Church and live quite comfortably with it. Up north, cultural factors influenced by religion make that separation quite difficult. Down south, affinities are transient. South would be excited about a Goodluck Jonathan that had no shoes but when he is perceived as weak, especially with the ascendancy of Boko Haram, southerners spare no thought to dump him and go for a Buhari whom they saw as strong-willed. Even now, with the herdsmen crisis all over the place, culminating in the killing of two priests and 14 worshippers in cold blood, and many Muslim worshippers in Mubi, let no one think that the north would interpret the security situation under Buhari the way southerners interpreted it under Jonathan. The deep belief in destiny entrenched in the culture would only enable people see things as ‘God’s will’. Let no one, therefore, think that the competence of President Buhari is being called to question among the majority of northerners. As Bishop Matthew Kukah said, majority of northerners see Buhari as someone who is strong enough to defend them against the interests of their own vampire elites.

Now that Buhari has reconciled with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, even attending his birthday symposium in Lagos under the auspices of a state visit, that hurdle has been overcome. Politics is a matter of interests. For a long while, Tinubu was kept at arms’ length, so he wouldn’t hijack the government; now that he has been brought so close, my personal suspicion is that in 2023, the presidency will go back to the South-West. That is, if Buhari wins the 2019 elections. South-westerners are quite independent-minded. Unless there was a special magic Tinubu would perform, his reconciliation alone may not suffice to move the South-West en bloc to Buhari’s side, as was in 2015. So, the prospect of the presidency returning to South-West in 2023 may be a strong enough persuasive factor.

When I prayed and wrote about Buhari and 2019 sometime ago, the two main hurdles why he wouldn’t win were Tinubu and the herdsmen-militia. While the Tinubu factor has been resolved, the recent killing of worshippers has, indeed, stretched the herdsmen’s matter to its limit. Judging by social media reactions, Buhari might as well forget the votes of the North-central, South-south and South-east. But then, southerners are not as politically stable as the north. Money will move minds, and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) will have lots of it to spend. Come election-day, many may not even go out to vote, and even if they do, the statistics of PVC collection, along with under-age voters clearly puts the north in the lead. If government is serious about enforcing the recent declaration by the National Economic Council (NEC), banning open grazing all over the country, the perception of Buhari as President of all Nigerians may gain ascendancy. What increasingly gets me concerned, though, is whether there is a third force that uses terrorism to influence public perception, thereby ousting a government that is against its interests: because, it makes no sense how a government seeking votes from the people would be so helpless in defending them.

The north already is for Buhari. The assurance that beginning now, the herdsmen militia would be tackled with the seriousness Boko Haram has been tackled, is the last hurdle, because even if the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Social Democratic Party (SDP) field popular northerners, northern votes would hardly be divided because, anyone else risks being seen as a stooge of the south.

•Rev. Evaristus Bassey, Abuja-based Catholic Priest, is Director of Caritas Nigeria and Executive Secretary, Justice Development and Peace Commission: both of the Catholic Church.

Source News Express

Posted 15/05/2018 3:27:44 PM

 

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