Daily Trust’s Mahmud Jega questions the rationale behind the Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose’s, vituperation against the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
– The people of Ekiti state and Western Nigeria generally cannot possibly say that a septuagenarian is too old to be president.
– Fayose is Nigeria’s most reckless civilian governor
– Fayose has assumed the role of PDP’s Premier Attack Dog
When was the last time that any Nigerian state had a civilian governor as reckless as Peter Ayodele Fayose?
Between January and now Fayose has broken several decorum rules of Nigerian politics and it is time to give him a short lesson in History. Many ardent Buhari supporters have long written me off as a PDP mole so I am in a position to play the referee here.
In his self-appointed role as Premier Attack Dog Fayose has made many allegations against APC and its presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari. I will condense the six most sensational to be
1] At 73, Buhari is too old to be the President of Nigeria
2] Buhari is in poor health
3] Buhari is likely to die in office if he is elected president
4] Presidents of Nigeria from the North West zone tend to die in office such as Murtala Mohamed, Sani Abacha and Umaru Yarádua
5] Buhari’s recent trip to London was a secret medical trip and
6] North should wait until 2019 to produce a president.
There were many other smaller allegations but let us concentrate on the main ones that have political and historical import. Each of these six condensed charges that Fayose made is problematic when viewed in the context of Nigeria’s political history.
Let’s consider the first charge that at 72 Buhari is too old to be president of Nigeria. This is not the first time that this kind of allegation is being made in Nigerian politics. At the time elections were held to usher in the Second Republic in mid-1979 three of the five presidential candidates were advanced in age. PRP’s Malam Aminu Kano was 59, UPN’s Chief Obafemi Awolowo was 70 and NPP’s Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was 74. The man who eventually won the election, NPN’s Alhaji Shehu Shagari was 54 but it is doubtful if he won because of his age. Only one-third of Nigerian voters voted for him in that election. I do not know where Ayo Fayose was in 1979 but if he voted at all, he was likely to have voted for Chief Awolowo because the UPN candidate secured more than 90% of the votes in the old Ondo State, which includes present day Ekiti State. When Awo stood again in 1983 he was already 74 years old, yet he secured a reduced but overwhelming majority in the old Ondo State. Hence, the people of Ekiti State and Western Nigeria generally cannot possibly say that a septuagenarian is too old to be president. Not surprisingly Fayose seems to be the only Yoruba man who is saying so.
I suspect the Igbos will remain silent on this issue as well because when Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe contested for president in 1979 he was 74 years old. I remember that during a presidential media interview on NTA the interviewer asked Zik whether he was not too old for the presidency. Zik reminded the interviewer that the live television interview had already been on for an hour, “I have no idea what questions you are going to ask” and yet, he was extremely alert and coherent in his answers. Despite his age Zik swept most votes in the East and did so again in 1983 when he was 78 years old.
In fact, there was this famous letter that Zik wrote in late 1978 addressed to all the people who said that he was too old to be president. He had a special line for leader of the unregistered Nigeria Advance Party [NAP] Mr Tunji Braithwaite. Zik recalled that in 1937 when they formed the Nigeria Youth Movement, he was a very young man but NYM’s leader was the elderly Reverend Braithwaite, Tunji’s uncle. If they had asked him to step aside on account of his age, Zik said the old Braithwaite would have quoted the biblical verse that said, “O ye generation of vipers…!”
Secondly, Fayose charged that Buhari is in poor health on account of his age. Now, now. I think it is true that younger people are generally speaking healthier and more vigorous than older people but that is only at the level of generalities. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, who is older than Buhari, maintains a schedule of local and international travel that I cannot do a fraction of. These days after every trip from Kaduna to Abuja I must lie down and rest but I attended a State House dinner in 2005 where Obasanjo appeared at the dinner only 30 minutes after he arrived from Japan. So, we cannot assume that an older man in sick unless he shows signs of it, which so far Buhari has not shown. He went through the punishing schedule of holding campaign rallies in two different states a day for three weeks. Right now, I don’t think I can shop in Utako and Wuse markets on the same day.
Fayose’s charge number three was that Buhari is likely to die in office if he is elected. We generally assume that anyone who is older in age is more likely to die than a younger person. Again that is true only at the general level. Many children have died and left their parents. I recently saw an advert placed by a woman mourning the death of her grandson.
Now, if it is because several Nigerian rulers of North West origin died in office which is Fayose’s charge number four, former President Alhaji Shehu Shagari marked his 90th birthday only last week. So, only God can say if Buhari will be like Yarádua or like Shagari. Besides, leaders from other parts of Nigeria have also died in office including Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, Chief Akintola and Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi. So in any matter that God has the say, we should better leave it to Him.
Fayose’s charge number five was that Buhari went to London last week essentially for medical reasons but pretended that it was a working visit. On this count I fault APC leaders and the spokesmen. Look, I have read tracts where doctors said a man who is over 50 should go for a medical check at least once a year. Whatever it was that Buhari went to do in London, I would regard it as carelessness if he did not seize the chance to seek a medical check as most Nigerian elite do. How can anybody tour 36 states in one month and not ask a doctor to check him up? The problem here was that APC never said Buhari visited a hospital, thus allowing Fayose to score a cheap point.
Fayose also said [charge number six] that the North should wait until 2019 to produce a president. There are problems with this charge too. Buhari belongs to APC and as far as I know, the party has not publicly adopted a rotational policy for the presidency. The party that did so publicly was Fayose’s PDP and it went ahead and observed it in the breach. In this election cycle no one is talking about Northern or Southern presidential candidate, at least not publicly which I think is an indication that Nigerian politics is maturing.
The question many people are asking is why has Governor Ayo Fayose cast himself in this controversial role, making one incredible charge after another when 23 other PDP governors are not saying anything of the sort? Some people have said it is because an APC-controlled Federal Government could reverse his election victory of last May. Well, it can’t because his election was upheld by both the election tribunal and the election appeal tribunal. Even the Capt Sagir Koli tape can at best attract punishment for the Army Brigadier who collaborated with PDP chieftains.
The problem as I see it is that from Day 1 as governor, Fayose reinforced his legal mandate with a patent illegality by using the Federal police to drive away the Speaker and most members of the Ekiti State Assembly. He is forcefully maintaining a rump Assembly of seven PDP members only. The day APC takes control of Federal power this impunity will end and the majority legislators can with justification accuse Fayose of gross misconduct and impeach him.