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How Did ‘We’ Get it ‘Wrong’ With Buhari?

Editor’s note: With the continued increase in prices of goods and services across Nigeria and other challenges facing the country the main focus of many Nigerians is survival. As other months of this economic environment will be a harsh road the people continue blaming the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for this hardship. Gege who shares his views through Medium in this piece advises Nigerians to delve into the personalities of candidates in the next presidential election in 2019.

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Buhari was elected president in 2015 by a broad coalition of interests. Capitalists, socialists, unitarists and regionalists all united to ensure that he won the elections. By all accounts, it appears that the regionalists and capitalists are unhappy with his performance to date. They seem to imply that he deceived them either actively or passively by playing along with their plans. They claim they were led to believe that he would place the private sector at the heart of his governance strategy but his actions to date have been a betrayal of that promise.
As 2019 approaches, how can the ‘free marketers’ ensure that they won’t be deceived by another ‘socialist’ masquerading as a capitalist? I think the answer to the question requires us to apply ourselves more rigorously to the manner in which we select candidates. In the US and UK, the candidates present manifestos but there is also an implicit understanding that elections go beyond the manifesto. A critical analysis of the candidates’ personality must also take place. Their reasoning is simple. Circumstances change so it possible that a manifesto becomes redundant but what won’t change is the person who is in charge of government. For example, a manifesto might have promised that Sunday Oliseh would be sacked as Nigeria’s coach but the promise would be redundant because he resigned.
That is why analysts in advanced democracies go beyond manifesto promises. They seek to understand a candidate’s ideology, his decision making processes and his character. They are the things that will determine how a he reacts to unforeseen events when he gets into office. For example, David Cameron is a capitalist by ideology and Jeremy Corbyn is a socialist by ideology. So it’s logical to assume that if confronted with the fuel subsidy problem, Cameron would have opted to remove the subsidy whilst Corbyn would have insisted on retaining them.
In the Nigerian case, these issues are more critical because the President is so powerful that no godfather can control him. Therefore once he moves into Aso Rock, his decisions will be a reflection of his core principles. This is why it was no surprise that Buhari balked at the decision to float the naira. It went against his core principle, socialism. So in 2019, it will not be enough to say, Elrufai promised X or Atiku promised Y. We must ask ourselves, what would Elrufai or Atiku instinctively do when confronted with a crisis? Are they democrats by instinct? Are they diplomats by instinct? Are they capitalists by instinct? Are they compassionate by instinct? In summary, I think the 2015 error was the failure of capitalists to consider the personality and ideology of Buhari before they chose to support him. It will never be enough to read and analyse manifestos. We must always delve into the personalities of candidates and understand the core of their ideologies and characters.

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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