Soccer has had a firm grip on its legendary magic to unite the citizens. Its coalescing force is often captured by the notion that if there were an external aggression at that moment when the national team is coasting to victory, the enemy is bound to be trounced by the united fury of the citizens.
But now, hanging over soccer is a spectre of ill fortune. Between now and next year, soccer stands the risk of losing its prime place among the citizens. It is now being rivalled by the frenetic quest to unhorse President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 as a unifying factor in the country today. The East and West are ready to blur their mutual suspicions. And the North and South are willing to overlook past hurt – all to unseat Buhari.
But here, we are not unmindful of the protests from the pro-Buhari supporters. Buhari is still the candidate to beat; there is no alternative to him – so goes the remonstration. Of course, this only comes from a tiny segment of the population constituted by those hell-bent on leveraging President Muhammadu Buhari’s continued stay in office to cater to their gaudy tastes. These ones are beyond redemption. They do not see Buhari as widening the fissures which past leaders successfully managed. They are not bothered by the brutal murder of hundreds of innocent Nigerians as the government led by Buhari fails to take any deterrent action. No, they want Buhari to remain in office beyond 2019 at whatever cost – the blood of Nigerians or the obliteration of the country from the map of the world.
Yet, these supporters of Buhari are confronted daily with a certain Buhari animus that has metamorphosed into a true test of patriotism. Those who are against Buhari are impatient to see the end of his presidency in 2019. They consider him as an obstacle to the unity and progress of the nation that must be eliminated in the next presidential election. Thus, there is now a noticeable tendency by the citizens who cherish the stability of the nation to gravitate towards those who want Buhari removed in 2019.
The citizens are willing to sink their differences in the quest for the removal of Buhari. Relegating their previously irreconcilable differences, they privilege the need of sending Buhari to Daura where he can have a peaceful retirement. After all, it was such synergy of those whose moral, intellectual and political perspectives were considered perpetually opposed in the past that sent away former President Goodluck Jonathan from Aso Rock. Or what did Bola Tinubu who suffered for the return of democracy and went on self-exile have in common with Buhari who belongs to the military constituency that sired his ordeal? What did Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo have in common before the election? Even Prof. Wole Soyinka who had warned in the previous attempts of Buhari to become the president that the general had no democratic credentials to recommend him to the citizens had to reconcile with him.
What we are witnessing today on the political landscape in the quest to remove Buhari is a replication of the 2015 magnanimity. This simply accounts for why former President Olusegun Obasanjo has become a rallying point for the removal of Buhari. Clearly, in view of Nigerians’ repulsion at the foibles of Obasanjo and his much-excoriated serial malfeasance while in office, they should not dignify his pretensions to the role of the maker of the new savior of the country. Nigerians have not lived down the trauma of his aborted third term agenda and the accompanying shenanigans and profligacy at a time that the citizens were doomed to economic ruination.
But faced with the grim prospect of the return of Buhari to Aso Rock in 2019, the citizens are ready to overlook his failings. If it is opportunism that makes Obasanjo to project himself as a messiah at that moment when the citizens are disillusioned with their leaders, Nigerians are ready to overlook him. For, it is a kind of opportunism that our so-called elder statesmen should demonstrate when those who hold the reins of leadership go astray. We need the kind of opportunism that would make a Theophilus Danjuma to alert us to the fact that there is government and military complicity in the wanton killings of innocent citizens. Or the kind of opportunism that would make an Ibrahim Babangida to support the call for structuring because the existing structures and processes can no longer meet the needs of the contemporary times. It is this large-heartedness of the citizens that has paved the way for Obasanjo forming the Coalition for New Nigeria Movement (CNM) which has now melded into the hitherto moribund African Democratic Congress (APC).
But Obasanjo’s efforts would be futile if he does not cultivate the accommodating spirit that Nigerians have shown him. In other words, he must look beyond his messianic complex and smugness and accept the fact that without the support of other Nigerians, he is bound to fail in his bid to stop Buhari. He must admit as far as contemporary Nigerian politics is concerned that the new breed of leaders he seeks to put in office would only be replications of Buhari’s saint-ministers. Again, is Obasanjo himself a saint? Before he canonises himself, he needs to clear the charges of moral turpitude in which the acquisition of his presidential library is submerged. How about the allegation that Obasanjo left prison in 1998 an impoverished person but suddenly acquired so much wealth after becoming president to set up a university and other businesses?
In other words, Obasanjo must stop the disparagement of people like his former Vice President Abubakar Atiku on the grounds that he has been begrimed with filthy lucre . He should admit that the same courts in the land that have not declared the grim verdict of guilt on him are the ones that have also not found Atiku culpable of the allegations against him.
How about Obasanjo working with Pastor Bakare Tunde who was Buhari’s running mate in the 2011 presidential election? Bakare who strove hard to make Buhari acceptable to the Christian community has also declared his opposition to his re-election. And even though he is from Ogun State like Obasanjo, he was one of the most virulent critics of the latter when he was the president. Would Obasanjo and Bakare bring their forces together to remove Buhari?
This coming together of strange bedfellows is inevitable for the removal of Buhari. Obasanjo and others should avoid dissipating their energies in different directions. If they continue on their different paths, they would discover after the 2019 election that the president that they have tried to remove from Aso Rock is still there. It is better that they overlook their differences instead of waiting to contend with the catastrophe of Buhari being in Aso Rock for another four years of pain, death and economic depredation.
We are not oblivious of the looming peril of implosive disagreement amid this realignment of divergent forces to sack Buhari. Here, we are warned of the fate that has befallen the All Progressives Congress (APC) that emerged from the rubble of divergent political parties. But the citizens should still go ahead. What is more important is the removal of Buhari. After all, before an election that might end up maintaining the existing iniquitous status quo, restructuring should have come first. But since we cannot get restructuring because the Buahri government is its sworn enemy, we have to go for the next option available which is removing the incumbent president from office. However, the electorate still have the opportunity of voting for the presidential candidates who hold the promise of restructuring the polity. They should do this with the hope that after the election, they would resume the agitations for a federation that guarantees their wellbeing.