The “Airport Junction”, on the Utako-Kubwa highway in Abuja, has an expanse of parking slots for commercial vehicles on its four broad lanes. This Sunday afternoon, ‘Yusuf’, a heavy set yan kamasho (agbero, in another lingo), was trading banter with other members of the Road Transport Workers Union who run the sprawling tricycle and taxi park.
“Sai Baba,” I heard him shout, and was jolted awake from a languid contemplation of the intractable fuel supply crisis bedevilling the transport sector since the Yuletide.
A woman sitting next to me on our three-wheeled transport was no less surprised. “Har yanzu, a na Sai Baba?” she mused almost to herself. Is this slogan still in vogue?
Our driver, a lanky, light skinned youth with small tribal etchings on each side of his mouth turned to her and laughing gaily, took up the chant. And before you could say Buhari, the tricycle end of the expansive vehicle interchange rang with chorusing shouts of Sai Baba, Sai Baba…
For me, it was only an amusing incident as giddy memories of Election 2015 flashed through my mind. But the woman took the matter a notch higher when she asked the driver: Would you vote for him again? The young man’s happy smile was emphatic and eloquent. His “Ba shaka,” meaning, Sure, seemed thereafter like an overstatement.
The event faded from my thoughts as we turned into the fast lane toward my destination, Citec Estate. Two days later, I read on social media that grocery sellers in some part of President Buhari’s hometown had declared that they would contribute the funds for his application forms to contest for the APC nominations. I could not help but smile to myself at the grotesque shades of political drama. Business must be roaring good this year in the onions and tomato markets, I surmised. Or did the man say he was cash strapped paying for his nomination forms again?
The news was simply entertaining to me and not unexpected. This is the stuff of election season, though I would agree with those who think the drama is coming on too soon than normal. Even the plethora of voices on the other side of the fence telling the world how much they cannot wait to see Buhari’s back away from Aso Villa, I accept as conducive to the development of democracy. It’s all about choices and nothing more.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, the release of the election time table is having a catalytic effect on the intensity of preparations by politicians and expressions of interest in political offices. The endorsement granted to President Buhari by a group of APC stalwarts and governors may have kick started a frenzy for all we know, but that is not terribly negative or even undesirable.
What I find utterly despicable and totally unacceptable, is the rising crescendo of elites asking President Buhari to forgo his right to a second term, even if his party wants him to have it. It makes it even worse for me that I do not understand the reason, or unreason for it. The illogic is that President Buhari has not performed. And my question is, so what?
Who is to be the judge of that, I also ask: the mass of Nigerian voters or a rogue band of privileged citizens, sitting in their comfort zones and ruling against the fundamental rights of their fellow citizens to choose who becomes their leader? Clearly, any person or group of persons who have the effrontery to attempt to narrow the choice of potential leaders available to the nation in an election, without regard to the constitutional requirements are moving towards a breach of the law and should be called to order, quickly.
I am not a Buhari fan and may indeed belong to the new found Nigerian tribe known jocularly as “Wailers,” by the other new found sub nation of citizens, called “Hailers.” But one thing I know, this democracy and the Fourth Republic must survive, or our nation is doomed forever. For this reason, I am not sure that Atiku Abubakar or any other top politician angling for the Presidency, will be flattered by the spirited suggestion that President Buhari should step down for no other reason than someone, however privileged and powerful, believes he has performed poorly.
That test is for the APC to conduct. If Buhari gets the nod of the party delegates for a second go at the office, so be it. Next comes the elections proper at which the likes of Yusuf the yan kamasho, the tricycle driver and millions of other humble citizens like myself, will file out to accept or reject him and his opponents. That is the process that enthroned him, first time, and that is the path we must tread this time again.
Any contestant who thinks his or her chances would better be served by disbarring a front runner, should better understand that the knife that was used to carve the guinea fowl is waiting to attend to the domestic chicken. And that is not democracy.
So, run, Buhari run! Our democracy wins by you running. More so, since you have assured the nation of free and fair elections. “Sai Baba!” (Just echoing Yusuf and his mates.)