Buhari’s victory and the lessons for Nigerians

WITH God all things are possible. If men were God, something bad would have happened, but men are not God and can never be. The above assertion underscores the victory of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) in the just concluded presidential poll.

The outcome of the poll is a big lesson, an eye opener to every Nigerian irrespective of your religion, status and tribe.
Buhari’s  tenacity and resilience paid off at last. Despite initial odds and frustration, he never lost hope because he believed that the country can be salvaged. His election victory is unique and unprecedented in the sense that for the first time in the country’s political history, an incumbent president was defeated in an election by an opposition candidate.

It happened at a time some pseudo-analysts and prophets of doom had prophesied that it was impossible because of the power of incumbency. Some of these people have bestrode the corridors of power for more than three decades with nothing good to offer the country. They represent the vicious cycles stagnating the country’s progress and development. They are Any-Government-In-Power, AGIP and business as usual men.

Ahead of the presidential poll, they vowed that Buhari would never become president of the country. They threatened that instead of handing over to Buhari, the country would be better divided.

Everything, including religion, ethnicity and primordial sentiments, was thrown at him to demonise his person and other members of his party. It was a campaign of calumny like never before.

Nigerians were being brainwashed with all sorts of lies and gimmicks. But they forgot that Nigerians know better and would take a wise decision when the chips are down. Not even the sudden shift in the date of the presidential poll discouraged Nigerians because they had bought into the “change” campaign mantra of the APC and saw Buhari as an incorruptible brand.

I have always asked this question: how many of us were like Buhari? We are in a clime where what matter most are wealth and power, not how they were acquired. No wonder politics has become a do-or-die affair because most politicians have no second address and lack clear vision and integrity. But for Buhari, what worked for him in the election is his integrity which he had built over the years.
In trying to demonise Buhari during the campaign, his political opponents could not point at any wealth he amassed while in office as Head of State or Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund. He lives a modest and humble life and never believed in ill-gotten wealth. Even as a former Head of State, Buhari has no house of his own in Abuja or oversea. All these good virtues were to his advantage during his party primaries and the presidential election. Having seen the direction the country was going, sacrifices were made by the political class and Nigerians who realised that if the country collapses, they and their kith and kin are not safe, and posterity will not forgive them. Besides, they have no other country of their own except Nigeria. So in Buhari, they saw a better option.

Today Nigerians have decided and Buhari is the president-elect. So the questions are: where are the influence peddlers who are always bestriding the corridors of power, holding the country to ransom, dictating who gets what for their selfish reasons? Where are the praise-singers and the shameless godfathers who vowed that Buhari would never be president of the country? Where are the prophets of doom who prophesied otherwise about Buhari’s victory? Where are those who wished Buhari dead? Where are the Aso Rock cabals who hijacked and misled President Jonathan for too long? Have they seen how transient political power can be?

I know just like every other Nigerian that the cabal would be disappointed for not being consulted by the President before conceding victory to Buhari after the poll. But the cabal should bury their heads in shame because President Jonathan acted wisely, having realised that they are saboteurs masquerading as political leaders. President Jonathan has proved that he understood the idiom “once bitten, twice shy.”

By President Jonathan’s action, he has written his name in the political history of the country to the shame and disappointment of the political hawks in the country who believed that the corridors of power are their ancestral homes. It is obvious that if President Jonathan had acted as expected by these political hawks by rejecting the polls result and something goes wrong, they will be the first to blame and abandon him when the chips are down.

Buhari’s victory is definitely a tonic for those of us who have aspired to lead our people, being convinced that we have what it takes to do so, but were severally frustrated by certain political hawks. The victory has renewed my faith in Nigerians, that at any crucial moment in the country’s history, they would do the needful to keep the country together.

Buhari’s victory is definitely a tonic for those of us who have aspired to lead our people, being convinced that we have what it takes to do so, but were stampeded and frustrated out by the political hawks at several times. The victory has renewed my faith in Nigerians, that at any crucial moment in the country’s history, they would do the needful to keep the country together. It has also shown that Nigerians are not docile and dullards as some opportunistic and accidental leaders believe. It has revealed that henceforth no elected leader should take the people’s power for granted on any account. It has underscored the point that history could be made or marred one day and nothing is permanent except change. It has proved that Nigeria is growing and maturing politically and democratically, and that with a square peg in a square hole, the country’s electoral process will be better off.

For the president-elect, Buhari, to whom much is given, much is expected. The massive support given to him in the election by Nigerians is a clear testimony of the people’s confidence in him. So for this reason, Buhari’s government cannot afford to disappoint Nigerians. Obviously, there are great challenges ahead for Buhari and his party, but one good thing is that Buhari and his party men are not strangers in Nigeria. They understand the enormity of the challenges confronting the country and are in a vantage position to provide a workable solution.

The in-coming government must first of all tackle the monster called corruption. It is the greatest enemy of the country since independence and successive governments have treated it with kid’s glove. It is the root of the country’s numerous problems. Expected to be sanitised by the new government is the country’s electoral process that has been characterised by fraud and irregularities. The process should be made to be transparent, free and fair.

Public office holders, whether elected or appointed, should be accountable to the people and not to themselves. Meritocracy and integrity must be the basis for choice of our public leaders and not ethnicity, religion or other primordial sentiments. No sacrifice is too much at this point by both the political leaders and followers. So all hands must be on deck to salvage the country as there was no loser and winner in the poll. It is all for the good of the country and for posterity.

Mr Kenneth Imansuangbon , a lawyer and politician, wrote from Virginia, USA.


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ISIS Fighters Seize Control of Syrian City of Palmyra, and Ancient Ruins

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Islamic State militants swept into the historic desert city of Palmyra in central Syria on Wednesday, and by evening were in control of it, residents and the Syrian state news media said, a victory that gives them another strategically important prize five days after the group seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi.

Palmyra has extra resonance as home to some of the world’s most magnificent remnants of antiquity, as well as the grimmer modern landmark of Tadmur Prison, where Syrian dissidents have languished over the decades.
But for the fighters on the ground, the city of 50,000 people is significant because it sits among gas fields and astride a network of roads across the country’s central desert.

As they have swept across Syria and Iraq, Islamic State fighters have destroyed or damaged numerous ancient sites and sculptures, condemning them as idolatry in slickly produced recruitment films, even as they pillage and sell off more portable items to finance their activities. That has raised fears both locally and internationally that Palmyra, a United Nations world heritage site, could also be irrevocably damaged.

Aside from the threat of destruction, Palmyra’s vast unexcavated antiquities could also provide significant revenue through illegal trafficking.

The fighting is putting at risk one of the most significant sites in the Middle East,” Irina Bokova, director general of Unesco, said in a statement Wednesday.

As the city’s defenses crumbled, residents described panicked scenes of soldiers and the police fleeing, wounded civilians unable to reach hospitals and museum workers hurrying to pack up antiquities.

The loss of Palmyra, just as the United States is scrambling to come up with a response to the loss of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s Anbar Province, is sure to renew doubt about the Obama administration’s plans to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The two successes, at opposite ends of a battlefield sprawling across two countries, showed the extremist group’s ability to shake off setbacks and advance on multiple fronts, less than two months after it was driven from the Iraqi city of Tikrit — erasing any notion that the group had suffered a game-changing blow there.

In Iraq, the fall of Ramadi has left the United States military in the uncomfortable position of supporting an attempt to reclaim the city, in Iraq’s Sunni heartland, with the help of Iranian-backed Shiite militias whose participation there Washington had previously opposed.

In Syria, a new awkwardness arises. Any airstrikes against Islamic State militants in and around Palmyra would probably benefit the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. So far, United States-led airstrikes in Syria have largely focused on areas far outside government control, to avoid the perception of aiding a leader whose ouster President Obama has called for.

There have also been calls from international cultural organizations to protect the ruins — although how that could be done was unclear — to prevent a repeat of Islamic State attacks on other renowned ancient sites in recent months.

The fall of Palmyra has also brought to a head, in a new way, the dilemma of Syrians who oppose both the Islamic State and Mr. Assad. The city was partly held for a time by local rebel fighters, before the Islamic State took shape as a major player in the conflict. But they no longer have a presence there, putting some of Mr. Assad’s opponents in the odd position of hoping that his forces can protect the city, and the ruins.

It’s the elephant in the room,” said Amr al-Azm , a former Syrian antiquities official who teaches at Shawnee State University in Ohio. He has joined calls in recent days for international protection for the ruins. That, he said, would effectively mean a military intervention aiding the government he fervently opposes.

I’m really frustrated that I’ve been reduced to this situation,” he said, complaining about Mr. Assad’s success in “pushing this binary on us Syrians and the international community: There is no alternative; it’s either us or a far worse threat.

But no intervention appears likely. People in Palmyra, a relatively remote city, its population swollen with tens of thousands of displaced Syrians, were left on their own, squeezed between government forces and the Islamic State.

Residents said that by nightfall, the Islamic State had seized most of the city and was even distributing bread to some residents. Soldiers and the police could be seen fleeing, they said, prompting one cafe owner to exclaim over the phone: “Treason! It’s treason.”

Soon after government forces left the city, airstrikes began, residents said.

Workers could be seen earlier Wednesday packing up four truckloads of small boxes from the museum on the edge of the ruins, apparently carting away more antiquities in addition to items already removed for safekeeping, said Khaled al-Homsi, a Palmyra resident and anti-government activist who documents damage to the site by combatants.

The Islamic State was coming closer, he said, as a squad of 12 soldiers who had manned a nearby checkpoint appeared to withdraw. As he spoke over Internet chat, a boom could be heard; he said government airstrikes were coming dangerously close to the archaeological site’s medieval citadel.

It’s bad today,” Khalil al-Hariri, the museum’s director, said in a brief telephone conversation, while Syria’s top antiquities director told Reuters that hundreds of objects were being moved to safety. Another museum employee, who had earlier vowed not to leave, said by phone, “Pray for us.”

The ancient site is cherished by Syrians on both sides of the original conflict between Mr. Assad and his opponents, which began with political protests in 2011 and metastasized into a multifront war.

Local rebels — early in the conflict, before the Islamic State appeared on the scene — once called themselves Grandchildren of Zenobia, referring to an ancient queen of Palmyra who briefly ruled an empire stretching from Egypt to modern-day Ankara, the Turkish capital. In the recent fighting, some government troops had vowed in social media posts that “Zenobia will never fall.”

In battles overnight, the militants captured several important locations in the northern part of Palmyra, including two security facilities and the public central bakery, according to anti-government activists, who said they had not yet entered the ruins.

I’m here and still breathing,” Mr. Homsi, who uses a nom de guerre for his safety, said in a text message earlier Wednesday.

At the same time, he lamented that more attention had been focused on the threat to the city’s ruins than to its residents. Islamic State fighters massacred captured soldiers and civilians in outlying villages last week, according to Mr. Homsi and a government soldier whose comrades were killed. And Mr. Homsi said several civilians had been killed by government shelling in Palmyra, unable to get treatment at the hospital, which was being used solely for military casualties.

Several Palmyra residents said on Wednesday that they were staying indoors and hoping to stay out of the fighting or politics. Asked what he would do if forced to choose between the government and the Islamic State, Mr. Homsi was silent for several seconds. Finally he said, “I will try to remain neutral.” On Wednesday night, he was keeping his head down.

Source: http://mobile.nytimes.com/

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