By Femi Adesina
If you are of my generation, and you have some literary inclination, you would have read the novel by James Hadley Chase, with the above title. Knock, Knock! Who’s There?
It was the dream of Johnny Bianda to own a boat off the coast of Florida. And he filched money for the boat from his firm, knowing full well that his employers would come after him one day, and kill him. It was inexorable, because his employers were Mafia.
The story of the novel has nothing to do with what I’m writing here today. It’s just the title that never ceases to intrigue me since when I read the book about 45 years ago. Knock, Knock! Who’s There?
The two major political parties have held their primary election, and presidential candidates have emerged. Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and former Lagos State Governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
There are some other smaller parties who have come with their own candidates too. One is not discountenancing them, and miracles do happen. But APC and PDP can be called the major parties, having both produced Presidents for the country since return to democratic rule in 1999.
Knock, Knock! Who’s There? This would happen to all the political parties in the contest on February 25, next year. Millions of voters would knock on their doors, they’ll ask; who’s there, and answers would come.
Let me first talk of the last one week that led to the primary election of the APC. In an interview he granted in January, this year, President Muhammadu Buhari had indicated that he had a favorite candidate. Would he name the person? He balked, saying he would be exposing the individual to too much risks, including possible elimination.
It was human to have a favorite in such situation, and the President did no wrong. But would you unduly favor the person? Would you throw your weight around, ride roughshod over the others, and impose your favored one on your political party and the nation? We have seen it before. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, did it with Umaru Yar’Adua. He did same, though to a lesser extent with Dr Goodluck Jonathan. Can Buhari do it and remain a democrat, fair, impartial? Knock, Knock! Who’s There?
That was the matter of interest in the week before the primary election. There were at least 23 aspirants. Who would the President give the nod? Could he remain neutral, non-aligned? At least, he had confessed he had someone in mind. Would he remain even-handed, detached, non-discriminatory?
There were at least four consultative meetings, towards getting an acceptable candidate for the party. One was with the APC Governors, called Progressive Governors Forum. The other was with the presidential aspirants themselves, then with the National Advisory Council (formerly called Board of Trustees), and finally with the Northern Progressive Governors Forum.
The main things on the agenda was usually who would be the preferred aspirant. What part of the country would he come from? Would the President name his favorite, or leave it to democratic principle of voting? How did the President do it? How did he remain neutral, when he had earlier confessed that he had a favorite? It’s a test of fairness,being a democrat or not, and the President passed it, despite all the odds.
Each time a consultative meeting ended, there were twists and contortions to whatever the President said. They imported and imputed all sorts of interpretations, mostly unfounded and incorrect. Oh, this is what he meant. He said this and that. This is what he was actually saying. He just didn’t come straight. The man held his peace.
Primary Election Day came. And the President still remained neutral, despite having confessed that he had a favorite aspirant. How did he do it? Strange. Supernatural. Curious. Knock, Knock! Who’s There? But President Buhari remained unobtrusive, demure, self-effacing, till a candidate finally emerged.
While the process lasted, I had observed people who were core Buharists, but now on different sides of the divide, go for one another’s jugular. Some were virulent, odious, descending to the level of indecency. But now that the race is over, can they sheathe their swords? Is there anything in life that should make us become indecent, uncouth in both language and action? Fie! Fie, I say.
The day of decision will come in February. May God spare us till then, and beyond. President Buhari has done his level best for his party, and the country. He has been beleaguered by some forces and interests since 2015, and it had largely been about the quest for power. He is exiting decently, orderly, doing his best till the last day. The onus is now on Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, and the other candidates to answer the ring at the door. Knock, Knock! Who’s There?
*views exclusive rights: Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, June 9, 2022.