“If you asked me years ago about Buhari being President, I would have said ‘NO’ but it is 2014 and I think he’s our best option…” - @oluwadtest on Instagram
Fellow Nigerians, time changes everything indeed. In 2011, I would have said worse things about General Muhammadu Buhari. In truth, I actually wrote Buhari off completely, not without cogent reasons that I considered valid and relevant at that time. The first was that Buhari was too old to lead us. I was biased by the Obama Presidency and the emergence of David Cameron in Britain. I felt Buhari as a former dictator should be totally expunged from the race. I was also brainwashed by the relentless propaganda that he was a religious fundamentalist of the worst kind. If I was good in Fine Arts, I would have painted him in the lurid and monstrous image of Lucifer. That was how bad it was. Trust me, I’m supposed to be one of the most liberal and tolerant human beings but it was just difficult for me to accept Buhari as a Presidential candidate at this time and age. I nearly clashed with my dear friend and brother, Simon Kolawole, after reading an article he had penned on Buhari and practically endorsing him at that time. I was so livid that I did not wait for Simon to get out of church before I started bombarding his lines with frenetic calls. When he eventually got back to me, and in his usual humble manner said “Egbon, I missed your calls, hope all is well?” I responded that all was not well as he had spoilt my appetite and breakfast that morning with his effusive praise of someone I considered a red-faced tyrant. Simon was as cool as cucumber. He was incredibly blunt as he instantly confessed his unrepentant love, admiration and support for Buhari. He gave plenty reasons and regurgitated some of the offensive sentiments already expressed in his emotional article but I wasn’t impressed. I eventually dropped the matter as neither of us was prepared to yield any ground. Rather than abate, my anger got exacerbated. But that encounter challenged me to look more critically at Buhari and probe deeper into how he acquired such stupendous cult-following.
Without doubt, Buhari is a modern-day wonder. The story of his life is a stuff of thriller novels. In a country where money fixes most things and people, how did he manage to control the bodies and souls of his fanatical supporters? What is it that makes him such a dual personality that draws so many people to him while others withdraw as if to run away from a victim of Ebola? What can Buhari do or achieve at his age in this modern world where life itself has become computerised? I suffered from this interior monologue for a long time.
Some of my fears started evaporating one night in Abuja when I was invited over to meet him at the instance of Prince Lanrewaju Tejuoso, one of his godsons. I was dazed at the ease Prince Lanrewaju was able to get him to meet with me at such short notice. I was impressed that there were no intruders during our heart-to-heart talk. Perhaps, because he had no money to share, the usual parasites crawling all over the corridors of power were not in sight. He spoke calmly but firmly. He had this childlike innocence around him. It was difficult to imagine this man sitting across me could hurt a fly even as a soldier. There were no airs around him or chips on his shoulders. What you saw was what you got; take it or leave it. Many had confessed to similar reaction upon meeting him. We took pictures together without much ado. And I actually found him more charismatic than my jaundiced eyes could have permitted. What I saw was that raw Fulani beauty and handsomeness. I and my aides left the place liking him a bit. Of course the election came as usual and Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan trounced Buhari mercilessly. But most of us got so carried away that we failed to appreciate how well the man had performed against all odds. Here was a man without loads of cash. He didn’t have a preponderance of powerful Governors behind him. He could not mobilise so many billionaires to fund him. He lacked the power of incumbency. He could not secure the much needed coalition with ACN at the time.
Many Christians saw him as Satan on earth. Many youths considered him too old. The super-rich saw him as the sword of Damocles dangling over them. All the odds were stacked up against him. Yet this poor man, as I like to describe him, recorded a whopping 12,214,853 votes while President Jonathan scored 22,495,187 votes.
Let’s break it down into simple Maths. Jonathan had a good spread scoring 25% or more in 31 States. Buhari managed to score 25% or more in 16 States and yet got a cumulative result of over 12 million votes. A good Mathematician should be able to help us here because I wish to show our President’s handlers that they will pay heavily for complacency if they assume and take it for granted that they can beat Buhari easily like PDP had always done in the past. Let me explain it further. A man who won the mandatory 25% in about half of the States secured by the President still went ahead to poll over half of what the President got. Now this is the trickery part. Let me begin with the most obvious. Buhari had only 37.96% in Adamawa while Jonathan had 56%. The registered voters were 1,816,094 but the voter-turnout was a miserable 49.98%. With the way the country is right now, PDP would require a miracle to win Adamawa with a landslide. If Buhari secures the APC ticket, it is almost certain that he would clean up that State. And in case the voters turn out much bigger, it means that State can wipe off some of the deficits Buhari suffered in 2011. The two leading parties can still jerk up about one million extras which won’t be a bad idea even if PDP still gets 25% or more. Let’s walk across to another interesting State, Bauchi where Buhari recorded 1,315,209 against Jonathan’s 258,404 despite the avuncular presence of PDP Governor, Yisa Yuguda. The registered voters here were 2,523,614 but only 1,610,094 voters chose to vote with nearly 1,000,000 voters hibernating somewhere. I hope you’re patient enough to follow this Maths lesson. Benue would certainly be a major battle ground this time for the candidates because the State has over 1.3 million voters (out of a total registration of 2,390,884) buried somewhere for the strongest candidate to resurrect. Here ethnicity and religion would play critical roles more than ever before. It is presently a virtual PDP State with Jonathan polling 694,776 against Buhari’s 109,680 and ACN (Nuhu Ribadu) 223,007. Benue had always been a State of enlightened voters and it may swing in favour of a serious candidate. Let’s keep moving and find somewhere to land in the troubled spot of Borno State. This is a treasure ground with 2,380,957 out of which more than half of the voters have absconded and vanished into thin air. In 2011, Buhari 909,763 against the President’s humble 207,075 votes. Now this State is under fire but is NOW largely controlled by the new alliance known as APC.
Let’s saunter across to Gombe where Buhari scored 459,898 against Jonathan’s 290,347 votes out of a total registration of 1,318,377. All the parties combined recorded 770,019 voters. The implication of this is that if this State decides to be generous, it may dash out about 548,358 votes. We are still moving and scavenging for the votes wherever they are hiding. Let’s say some quick Hello to our Brother, Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, who couldn’t hold Buhari down despite his equally tall physique. Here Buhari polled 663,994 against Jonathan’s 419,252. Total votes cast came to 1,140,766 out of 2,013,974 total registrations. Do not say I told you, this State has some 873,208 unseen registered voters probably perambulating as we write. This journey is still long and arduous. Kaduna is a major war zone for the candidates because of its peculiar characteristics. Buhari’s supremacy was hotly challenged as Jonathan polled 1,190,179 against Buhari’s 1,334,244 votes . Total votes cast were 2,569,963 out of 3,905,387 total registered voters. Now wait for the good news of the kingdom; this beautiful State has 1,335,424 voters that it can conjure whenever needed or ready. If you think Kaduna was super, please, wait for the almighty Kano where no serious candidate can play silly pranks with the energetic and fearless Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso. In 2011, Buhari massacred Jonathan with 1,624,543 against 440,666. The then Governor and Presidential candidate, Ibrahim Shekarau even scored more than the President with his 526,310 votes. The total votes cast came to 2,673,228 out of 5,027,297. In case your Maths is poor like mine, let’s find a calculator before the brains explode. Kano alone can conveniently and benevolently donate 2,354,069 potential voters out of the skies. We finally arrive in Buhari’s homestead of Katsina where he expectedly polled 1,163,919 against Jonathan’s 428,392. It is either many Katsina people didn’t dig their own son, since prophets hardly get honoured at home, or Buhari just didn’t employ artful dodgers to manipulate the votes in his favour. In all, 1,639,532 voters performed their civic duty out of 3,126,898 registered voters. By fire, by force, Katsina on a good day can still conjure some 1,487,366 votes.
Please, permit me to fast forward to the State of the Sokoto Caliphate where a floodgate can still be opened. Strangely, Buhari pulled merely 540,769 shots against Jonathan’s 309,057. A total of 909,808 voters came out of 2,267,509 registered voters. No one is able to explain this anomalous situation to us properly but some 1,357,701 unseen voters may decide to show up in 2015. Please, bear with me, you must be getting tired but we need to do this together because of my over-confident friends in Abuja who must have had F9 in Mathematics like me. Let me now give you the shock treatment and take you straight to the biggest theatres of war. I must warn that this not for the faint-hearted. Welcome to the heartbeat of Nigeria known as Lagos State where Jonathan polled 1,281,688 against Buhari’s 189,983 and Nuhu Ribadu’s 427,203. Wait for this, only 1,945,044 voters turned up out of 6,108,069 voters. In effect, Lagos can, in its true majesty, produce additional 4,163,025 out of its bag of magic. I wish there was space to display all the figures but it won’t be possible. But let me continue with the random sampling. Many of the States won by Jonathan or PDP or both, depending on why you voted in 2011, are not so easily available at this time. Take Oyo for example under the control of APC beyond the next Presidential election may prove too tough to handle. Only 863,544 out of 2,572,140 voters appeared in public but we don’t know the whereabouts of 1,708,596 potential voters.
Ogun State is another interesting territory where 543,715 people voted out of 1,941,170 who registered to vote. Meanwhile, the largest turnout of voters was recorded in areas controlled by Jonathan but let’s examine the figures. Abia has used up 1,188,333 out of 1,524,484; Akwa Ibom 1,232,395 out of 1,616,873; Anambra 1,157,239 out of 2,011,746; BAYELSA 506,693 out of 591,870; Cross River 726,341 out of 1,148,486; Delta 1,398,579 out of 2,032,191; Edo 621 out of 1,655,776; Ebonyi 502,890 out of 1,050,534; Ekiti 261,858 out of 764,726; Enugu 814,009 out of 1,303155; Imo 1,409,850 out of 1,687,293; Kwara 414,754 out of 1,152,361; Ondo 486,837 out of 1,616,091; Osun (lost by Jonathan) 512,714 out of 1,293,967; Rivers (the largest State in South South) 1,854,116 out of 2,429,231 and so and so on. This should give you a fair representation of what is at stake in the 2015 election. Politics is not exactly Maths but it is still a game of numbers. Those who think an incumbent President cannot be defeated should wake up from their self-induced coma. The mood of the Nigerian nation is very similar to that which swept Obama into power.
Lagos and Kano combined account for 11,135,366 registered voters out of a grand total of 73,528,040. Only 38,199,219 people voted in all the States. There are 35,328,821 floating somewhere. Most of them are comfortably resident in APC States.
My free advice to the Jonathan campaigner is simple; stop projecting our President as a sectional leader whose only qualification is where he comes from. Stop raining insults on Northerners and avoid maligning innocent Muslims. The religious card you wish and hope to play will never play out in favour of President Jonathan. You should concentrate on projecting the positive work and his Transformation Agenda. A President is the father of the nation. A lot of damage has been done by portraying him as a victim who’s derided by everyone except his own. The President’s handlers should worry more about how the goodwill of 2011 got frittered away in such a jiffy. Above all, they should urgently search for competent Maths teachers.
Believe me, the figures are no longer adding up.
Dele Momodu contributed this piece on his Thisday Backpage column, Pendulum. He can be followed on Twitter at @DeleMomodu