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My piece in the Mail & Guardian today:
“The real tragedy is that, despite his many failures, a confluence of his strong personal brand curated and calcified in the 2015 elections,… instagram.com/p/Bt3yLl5l352/
There was a time when Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari represented something deeply special – the democratic ideal that a failed government can be punished; and that an opposition party could possibly win in a country where this had never before happened.
He represented a generation’s aspirations that our voices matter, our decisions count, and together we could direct the destiny of our country.
Today, those times are today a distant memory.
Instead, what we have is a sick man, one so ill he misremembers the year he was sworn in, does not recall his locations, gives incomprehensible to elementary questions, is verifiably unaware of what happens in his own government.
What we also have is a leader who has lost significant moral authority, refusing to hold corrupt members of his own party to account, defending the murders of citizens by those he considers his kinsmen, choosing loyalty over competence.
But perhaps all of those would be forgivable. Perhaps we could console ourselves with the facts that bombings in the nation’s capital have ceased.
Perhaps we could console ourselves with the lack of fuel queues across the country and petroleum product scarcity that became frequent under administrations before him.
Or the fact that he manages to retain the respect, in spite of all that has happened, of peer heads of state around the world. Perhaps.
Except that he has now done the one unforgivable thing — tamper with our hard-won democracy.
Nigeria’s last elections — those that brought this president into power — were famously free and fair. This wasn’t an easy achievement:
it was the cumulation of steady actions from civil society, international partners, an emboldened media and expansive technology; but most importantly the conscious legacy of Goodluck Jonathan.
The same cannot be said of his successor.
The man once hailed as a messiah, enabled by a process that was judged as highly credible, has now set about supervising the dismantling of that 16-years-coming legacy.
What began as troubling signs with executive intimidation of the legislature progressed into deeply flawed elections in many states around the country, including the one where his party chairman famously asked opponents, in a Freudian slip, to accept “rigging” in good faith.
The tension has now metastasised into brazen interference in the presidential electoral process.
In a borderline unconstitutional move, he suspended the Chief Justice of the nation’s apex court — the one with the power to convene presidential election processes in the event of irregularities—and installed a new one, barely three weeks before elections are due to take place.
This is a grave assault.
This president ... should recollect the many players in our recent and distant past who have tried to tamper with the collective will of the people, and how they have ended up both in consequence and the public imagination.
Where Goodluck Jonathan snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by gracefully conceding his election loss, Buhari wants to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by cobbling together a tainted, corrupt victory.
It will also be a terrible national tragedy.
It took a long while and excruciating hard work to get to this place of stability.
Nigerians going to vote this weekend must stand ready to make a clear statement to the president that his ambition is not strong enough to rob us of what we have rightly earned.
We will not take it.
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