We have many reasons to be thankful that Gen. Muhammadu Buhari survived the bomb attack in Kaduna on Wednesday. I’m not trying to suggest that the lives of those who died are worthless ─ or that we should be less thankful for several other lives that were saved. Personally, Kaduna means a lot to me. That is where I have the largest concentration of my relatives. My elder sister, my nieces and nephews, my uncles and aunties ─ plenty of them ─ live in Kaduna. Many of them were born there. Kaduna is where they see as home. To cap it all, my dear grandma, on whose palms I grew up, currently lives in Kaduna. I, therefore, have a lot of stake in Kaduna.
But Buhari stands out for a reason. If he had died in that attack ─ which he described as a “clear assassination attempt” ─ I shiver to think of the consequences. I don’t know of any Nigerian politician today who has a genuine following like Buhari, even if this emotion is not shared nationally. Buhari’s following, in my opinion, ranks next to that enjoyed by politicians such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Chief Obafemi Awolowo. These guys were demi-gods. They enjoyed natural following ─ devoid of bags of rice and gallons of kerosene.
I grew up thinking Awo was next to God. I remember the 1983 elections. According to the fable that we were being fed with, Awo had promised to relocate to the moon if he lost the presidential election. And so, as innocent children, we usually gathered in the evening to look at Awo in the moon. We convinced ourselves that we actually saw him. That is the stuff fanatical following is made of. It has nothing to do with naira and kobo. I don’t know of any Nigerian politician today who enjoys anything close to this devotion and affection ─ apart from Buhari.
Who wants Buhari dead? Five possibilities are being bandied around. One, perhaps he just accidentally ran into a situation. Two, perhaps Boko Haram has decided to take him out. Three, maybe people within his party are trying to uproot him ─ because of 2015. Four, maybe it is people outside the party ─ also because of 2015. Five, maybe it is some agent provocateur out to plunge Nigeria into Rwanda-like ethnic crisis. In a country where no single assassination case has been resolved, we would have been left to work with permutations and theories for the rest of our lives if Buhari had been killed.
The first possibility is ruled out because this is clearly not an accident. The bombers chased him, tried to block him and eventually denoted a bomb around his convoy. I saw what would pass for bullet marks on his car. If this was accidental, then we can only say maybe it’s a case of mistaken identity. Perhaps it was someone else they thought was in the car. But from all descriptions, the assailants knew what they were doing. They came for Buhari. For someone who was a soldier all his life and had been a military head of state, I would rather believe his words that it was a clear assassination attempt. He knew what he saw.
The second possibility ─ that it could be Boko Haram ─ also baffles me a bit. I have never seen Buhari as someone to be targeted by Boko Haram. And my reasoning is not complicated. The people Boko Haram has gone after are those they perceive to be exploiters and enemies of the people. I said “perceive”. Buhari, in the North today, does not represent an oppressor or a sell-out. Maybe the insurgents were offended by his criticism of them in recent times. It could be that since terrorism’s biggest fuel is embarrassing the government and enjoying publicity from it, taking out a big fish like Buhari would be a huge feather to their cap.
There is a third possibility ─ that it is politicians within his party who want to take him out before the presidential primaries. According to the theorists, Buhari has become a problem for the APC big boys ─ they cannot live with him, yet they cannot live without him. Clearly, it would be very difficult for APC to justify not giving its presidential ticket to this immensely popular politician who got 12 million votes in 2011 without inducing any voter. Killing Buhari, according to these theorists, would solve the dilemma and whip up sympathy for APC ahead of the 2015 elections. But Buhari is a massive asset ─ whether or not he gets the party’s ticket ─ so why would they kill him?
The fourth possibility: could it be the PDP that is trying to snuff life out of Buhari? A theory says this could be PDP’s way of making re-election a smooth ride for President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari has not only been a formidable opposition candidate since 2003, he has also been a vocal figure in criticising the PDP-led governments. So, maybe they want to silence him for good. However, PDP stalwarts would tell you Buhari is a very beatable opponent for Jonathan because they have perfected a way of demarketing the retired general. They think Buhari is Jonathan’s favourite opponent and that they know how to handle him.
So many theories. So many possibilities. To be honest, I don’t even know what to believe. But I know one thing: God has done innocent Nigerians a big favour by sparing Buhari’s life.