When the 2003 elections results were announced, the incumbent president Olusegun Obasanjo rejoiced at what he knew he had in the bag. He was relieved that the campaigning, the manipulation, the overt rigging, and the disenfranchisement were finally over. Despite that respite, a chilling question not only bewildered him but the political elite as well, including Maurice Iwu. How could a candidate who did not even campaign extensively, with only scant assets, and no political power, so easily garner 12 million votes?
This trend repeated itself in the next 3 consecutive elections that subsequently followed. Despite political maneuvers, voter suppression, and votes inflation, General Muhammadu Buhari continued secure millions of votes without being ascribed to any of the negative features that characterize elections in an emerging democracy; soliciting god-fathers for quid pro quo arrangements, hiring thugs, election lobbying merchants, and utilizing the services of propaganda machines.
One will wonder what could make a man without deep pockets, offshore accounts or any of the normative requirements to keep attaining what political spectators referred to as a “political miracle”? How was he able to cause a stir, leaving shuddering reactions when “Muhammadu Buhari” was mentioned in political circles?
When the 2015 elections drew close, a political merger was formed and the only flag bearer in mind was one with untainted moral rectitude, accountability, service record, transparency, and leadership acumen; In other words, the man with 12 million votes.
With a synergy and coalition of forces, those 12 million votes surged to 15 and history was made when the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan lost a reelection bid. Thanks in part to the Buhari effect, we witnessed a new history in the fidgety democracy of Nigeria, a history that transcends the barriers of political maneuvers, despite the wanton and indiscriminate misappropriation of public funds. Muhammadu Buhari defied all odds characteristics of winning an election and overthrew the unfettered powers of an incumbent president.
With a wave of hands and flash of a smile, he inspired millions of Nigerians to finally wrest back their power from the clutches of a self-serving elite to institute the change they wish to see, marking the dawn of a transformation in the landscape of Nigerian politics and animating a widespread and genuine desire for change in the heart of every well-meaning Nigerian. Arguably, many elements contributed to this milestone and their effects still reverberate in a manifestation of changes across many spheres of Nigerian socio-political atmosphere that characterize a path towards an ideal democracy.
Why he is so beloved is a question subject to many debates. Perhaps it his integrity, perhaps it’s his unquestionable integrity, or perhaps is stopping at a red light in a country where a mere councilor would command unwarranted uppity and pomposity. Some might say it is his past records of despite holding Governor of North-east, Minister of petroleum for over three years, Head of state for 20 months, Chairman of PTDF for many years, the tall man from Daura prefers living within modest means. Others characterize his moral soundness as the driving force behind this effect, One thing remains clear, the Buhari effect is sweeping through Nigeria and is only getting stronger in the face of adversities.
In one his early campaign rallies he said: “Every kobo that comes into the treasury will be used for the good of Nigerians”. Aside from the fact that no challenger can accuse him of misappropriation of funds, when he ascended to power in 2015, he stayed true to his words and embarked on a crusade of eliminating a disease that has metastasized into every sector in Nigeria. Public officials charged with corruption are being held accountable for their actions. Stealing is now corruption and public funds were no longer at the mercy of a venal few. It was made very clear that trials against bureaucratic malfeasance and misappropriation of funds are trends that are here to stay. Is the driving force behind the Buhari Effect his unshakable stance against corruption?
Countless adversities faced him including a recession, threats of secession, kidnappings, and a new face of terrorism. Despite all the lies, attacks, and cheap propaganda, questioning his health and, in the absence of credible criticism, opposition forces proliferated laughable statements about Jibril of Sudan, the admirable general always stands tall (quite literally) and never unnecessarily participate in below the belt political shenanigans. Is his dismissal of cheap politics what makes him so beloved?
“ I know that things are hard in this country, but me I like the man, because he is trying to do good for the masses, and those around him only want to steal” These words were not spoken by a politician, nor an analyst, nor any individual affiliated with the government. This was the words of an unnamed making ends meet. Echoes of his words reverberate in many tones across the country and were recently corroborated by the abhorrent behavior that recently made headlines.
When the incorruptible general presented the budget, the opposition forces heckled like wild beasts in the national assembly. Staying true to his character, the disciplined general maintained his poise and composure flashed eight fingers symbolic of confidence in the Nigerian people’s groundswell support for his re-election, leaving traducers and venal legislators looking like the thirsty political cabals they are. Does his buoyancy in the face of adversity set him apart from other politicians?
Many reasons constitute The Buhari effect, which sweeps through all facets of the political arena and causes positive changes that characterize a functional democracy. In a political climate rife with corruption, this man emerged and spoke a unifying language of peace and unity, breaking all barriers of tribe and religion and unifying a country to rise up and use their voices to ensure change. The Buhari effect is Nigerians becoming responsible in their civil and social conduct, with voter statistics rising to 84 million within three and half years and the ratification of a trailblazer bill ensuring the political inclusion of youth in governance.
Reinforcing the credibility of the Buhari effect is not only the mass defection within the opposing PDP to APC, but also the sense of widespread endorsement for PMB in the south-east and south-south that were hitherto PDP strongholds. Less the 45 days to the election, the PDPs Deputy Chairman defecting to President Muhammadu Buhari’s party sends a message that does not bode well for the opposition which is reinforced by news reports about endorsements by south-eastern communities.
The Buhari Effect gives premise to the party switch of Senator Shehu Sani in pursuit of his Senatorial ambition, yet retaining President Buhari as his choice for presidential candidate.
The list of odds-defying feats of PMB is inexhaustible and with that, there’s justifiably a fair litany of woes that typify his administration. Despite that, a consistent theme of unwavering public support beyond all scales of rationality remains.
In his own words, he said “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”
Yet with the mention of his name or the passage of his envoy, everybody to which he belongs to, race in droves, teary-eyed, just to catch a glimpse of a man they unquestionable adore, without expecting a single campaign dime nor a stack of political perishables. Similar to the love the world shows the likes of Madiba and Gandhi, the Buhari effect manifests in the unconditional love that people show Buhari through thick and thin.
Is it the resolve to deviate from the trend of indiscriminate decamping and sticking to a unifying message of progress and development while other politicians switch political parties like sands in the direction of the wind? After all, the wind never moves a mountain, but it plays with sand, shaping it as it wishes.
Is it the serenity of campaign? devoid of bloodshed and election money, Is it the general rise of political consciousness? Is the liberation from the clutches of self-serving politicians? Is it inclusive youth empowerment? Is the continuity of abandoned projects? Or is it the word Buharism, carved forever in history books?
If you asked me what the Buhari effect is, I’d probably stutter before giving a coherent answer. For I know that it’s mathematically illogical and scientifically unnamed. What I do know is that Buhari Effect is abstract, it cannot be seen or touched, but it can certainly be felt and he is the only Nigerian politician that can command this inexplicable force, capturing the hearts and minds of well-meaning Nigerians and growing with every public mention of his name. The true question is, on the 16th of February the Buhari effect is coming to a town near you.
Are you ready for it?
Chima Ezeani writes from Enugu
THIS ARTICLE WAS SPONSORED BY THE WEBELIEVE MOVEMENT.