PROFILING THE ASPIRANTS

Olanrewaju AjiboyeFriday, May 26, 2006
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lanreajiboye@yahoo.com
London, UK

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BRIG. GENERAL MOHAMMED BUBA MARWA (RTD.) STEEPED IN HYPOCRISY


hen the then Colonel Mohammed Buba Marwa succeeded "Governor No Bitumen" in Lagos State, it did not take the traditional 100 days before Lagosians started to notice positive changes in the conduct of state affairs. Prior to that, Marwa was said to have performed the same feat in Old Borno State as a military governor especially in the areas of armed banditry. He launched "Operation Zaki" to fight Banditry in Old Borno State.


Shortly after he assumed office in Lagos, Col. Marwa was able to prioritize the grey areas of Governance in State, which seemed to overwhelm his predecessor, the then Col. Olagunsoye Oyinlola. The Marwa administration launched "Operation 100 Roads" "Operation 250 Roads", revamped and energized Oyinlola's "Operation Sweep". Within a very short period of his being at the helm of affairs; roads in Lagos metropolis became motorable again; residents of Lagos began to sleep with their two eyes closed because of the effective security outfit comprising the personnel of the three Armed Forces and the Police. It will not be out of place for the present Commissioner of Police in Lagos State to consult with Marwa on how the security arrangement put up in the state then recorded tremendous success.

Buba Marwa also made a positive impact in the areas of health for all in Lagos by revamping public health institutions especially the free malaria treatment that was available to the all and sundry. The administration also touched the lives of the poor by way of modest infrastructure improvements in areas occupied by the poor in the state. Not only that, Marwa's government also proclaimed an edict to regulate rents that was aimed to discourage the abuse and suffocation of tenants by the landlords. The popular "Jankara" method of eviction of tenants by landlords gave way to due process and the legacy is still in force in Lagos till date.

The paradox of this all is that Marwa served under a unitary government(the most brutal dictatorship in Nigeria's history) that was not only weary of, but suspicious of the activities of the leaders of the people from the South West, especially Lagos. Marwa, a Northerner like the late Head of State of the time, General Sani Abacha, never showed any sign of tribal sentiments in his conduct of affairs in the state. It is to his eternal credit that he did not give an inkling of representing the interest of Gen. Sani Abacha. Pro-Democracy activists could stage protests with mild harassment from Lagos State. Whilst the likes of Col. Usman and late Squadron Anthony Onyereagbulem, governors of Oyo and Ondo States respectively got carried away by their military postings and were always trying to impress and deify Abacha, Marwa did not.

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At the return to civil rule in 1999, Brigadier-General Marwa was one of the victims of the necessary sacrifice needed to bring professionalism back to the highly politicized Military as he was retired along with others who had tainted their military assignments with political appointments. The civilian government of president Obasanjo must have realized his worth when after being retired from the Army, Buba Marwa was appointed the Chairman of Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria, DICON.

Capitalizing on this goodwill, the ex- Army officer started his bid for the presidency first by receiving chieftaincy titles from all parts of the country. However, bagging numerous chieftaincy titles was the climax of hitherto hopeful and positive aspiration. The anti-climax began when he chickened out of his widely consulted proposed declaration sometimes in 2005.As if that was not enough a damage, he continued his descent into a "bread and butter" politician, further by attacking the personality of his fellow Adamawa born, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, instead of discussing issues.

Marwa, not being without his own adversaries, a powerful clique in an attempt to clip his wings, passed his dossier to the dreaded EFCC. Sooner, the charismatic ex-Milad was a guest of the anti-corruption commission. After spending some days in detention, information available to the public was that he consented to forfeiting some of his properties abroad in lieu of the sleaze with which he was linked. Furthermore, he hurriedly repackaged the presidential declaration he once put in abeyance to coincide with the declaration of Vice President Atiku Abubakar and this further portrayed him as a lackey of some interests. The declaration itself, like that of all other aspirants who have shown interests in the presidency so far, Atiku Abubakar included, lacked substance. The most can be deduced of all the declarations are mere rhetoric that lack fundamental understanding of how to make the best out of a great country like Nigeria.

One may want to ask; what has come over a man of such sound pedigree of yesteryears to lose so much goodwill within a short period? The answer(s) is not far fetched. In his book titled, 'THE CASE FOR DEMOCRACY', Nathan Sharansky submits that in a Fear Society, three groups will emerge; (a) True Believers (b) Dissidents and (c) Double Thinkers. Compressed to a microcosm of Nigeria's Ruling Elite, the Obasanjo administration has created a Fear Society in that group. And the apparatus for sustaining the Fear is the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC and to a reasonable extent, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC.

While the likes of Professor Charles Soludo and Dr. Okonjo Iweala could be regarded as belonging to the True Believers group, the likes of Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Govs. Orji Uzor Kalu, Bola Tinubu and Boni Haruna of Abia, Lagos and Adamawa States and a handful of federal legislators constitute the dissident group. Buba Marwa and many others on the other hand constitute the group of Double Thinkers. It is important to add that Natan Sharansky posits that the Double Thinkers group will join the dissident groups once the source of Fear is no longer present.

Another reason why Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa may have deviated from his past noble pedigree is the belief that the Presidency is not available for those who do not know the "Pin Code". In other words, who ever must win must be favored by those in government. This entrenched system of power transfer has been the bane of our progress and development as a country. And it accounts for why these ex-military turned politicians fall over themselves to be relevant in the PDP.

Personality, association, programs, manifestoes, organizational prowess are vital ingredients in political party's strength. The mood of the electorate at a particular period also counts. If Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa had decided to join another party and put his goodwill and total vigor into bear in such a party, perhaps the PDP would be fidgeting by now. But instead, he too had decided to go and queue in the PDP because he knows that Nigerians for now would not have a leader that reflects their true wishes.

In the build up to the United States' 2004 Presidential elections, Dr. Howard Dean of the Democratic Party was an Aspirant to beat. Two key issues truncated his aspirations. First, America was at war and the Democrat did not want to be outwitted by the Republican by not fielding a candidate without Military background. Secondly, after the Iowa primaries that upset all expectations, Dr. Howard Dean in reaction to the outcome of the results made the "Scream" that the American public considered unpresidential. And that was the end of his brilliant campaign for the White House Office.

The argument here is that, Dr. Howard Dean revamped the Democratic Party that seemed to be in disarray after the keenly contested Presidential elections that saw Al Gore winning the popular votes but losing the presidency to the present incumbent, Bush 43. Had Senator John Kerry who eventually vied against George Bush not flip-flopped in his campaign, he would have won the 2004 contest against President Bush whose approval ratings plummeted shortly before the elections. Why can Nigeria not have politicians of conviction? In an ideal society, the PDP as it is today, should be a leper that many politicians would want to distance themselves from, but the opposite is the case. The cabal of opportunistic politicians still feels and believes the PDP is the linchpin to attain the office of the president of Nigeria.

That the other side of Marwa is exposed in his recent missteps, is a plus for the Nigerian electorate. Though they may not have their way, but they would not have erroneously fall into another folly by voting for a wrong candidate.