By Barrister Kenneth Ikonne
No significant political conclusions are to be drawn from the obvious cold shoulder given to President Buhari by the ordinary people of Benue State during his purported “condolence” visit last monday! All that the President needs to do to forget the “Benue snub” is to visit Kano, Sokoto or Maiduguri once more. In any of these places, he is sure of being received by baying hordes of such size and passionate intensity as to suggest his electoral invincibility! But therein lies the searing contradiction of the Buhari persona!
Buhari is reverred with so much sectional intensity because sectionalism is his very essence. The reverence is not about any overarching Buharian policy enunciation or grand vision. Buhari’s carefully contrived asceticism, his previous support of Zamfara’s open disavowal of our nation’s secularity in imposing Sharia, his unabashedly unflagging support for Islamic, nay Fulani causes, and his readiness to resort to even inflammatory and corrosive sentiments in defence of these causes, are powerful factors counting in his favour.
Unfortunately however, the Buhari persona also inspires fierce notions of Fulani exceptionalism, while at the same time inviting disdain for anyone or group that as much as resists it. Buhari captivates the core Northern supremacist because no other Fulani politician can muster the ruthless parochialism needed to construct a prebendal state, and to subjugate the rest of Nigeria! This is the real meaning of the coded insistence of his supporters that only Buhari can govern Nigeria!
Ironically, this flaw had been the bane of his previous attempts at the presidency before his 2015 epochal triumph. The genius of his 2015 overcoming was his ability to make vast sections of the voting populace, including those of Benue, Plateau and southern Kaduna who are now implacably at odds with him, overlook such a hugely disabling personality flaw.
In 2019, the Middlebelt cannot be Buhari’s electoral Archilles heel! Buhari will win again, even inspite of himself, and inspite of the killing fields of Benue, Plateau or Southern Kaduna. He will win again not just because he enjoys incumbency but also because vast segments of the other middlebelt States of Niger, Kwara, Kogi and Nasarawa subscribe to the same hegemonistic ethos that inspire Buhari, and which he has come to enthrone.
The real battle ground will be the southwest, but even there, Buhari will carry the day in 2019! His tactic in the Southwest will continue to be simple; the majorith of it’s intellectual, economic and political elite have already been sufficiently seduced and brainwashed into believing that they would be the natural successors in a post Buhari era, and that the present Buhari travesty is an excellent opportunity for regional consolidation, in the economic sense.
It is after Buhari has secured his second term that he will serve the southwest ashes in the mouth, for the hegemony aggressively being implemented now by Buhari will brook no such fanciful egalitarian notions like power shift, or power rotation. For to do so will be to risk a dismantling of perverse privileges that have been accumulated by blood, guile, toil and gore. Any meaningful talk of salvaging Nigeria can only commence after the southwest would have learnt its lesson as we approach 2023.
For States like Benue and Plateau, the real tragedy is not even the savage slaughter of vast populations being enacted under Buhari’s watch; the real tragedy is that in helping foist the Frankenstein in 2015, many leaders there were too blinded by petty jealousy and political careerism to have foreseen what was all too evident!