This is not a very short piece so you may need to get comfortable as you reason along. Free speech is that one can query anything within reasonable limits of decorum and push questions into the public space for others to answer or birth more questions until the change we seek is clearly in focus.
“This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or exercise their revolutionary right to overthrow it.” – Abraham Lincoln
We have exactly 30 days to the much anticipated general elections that will determine the path Nigeria and Nigerians will tow in the coming years. It looks to be a watershed in the democratic process of Nigeria because this is really the first time two candidates will really be having a true face-off as to who clinches the most coveted prize of the highest position in the land. We probably have not had it this good since the beginning of the fourth republic. Until the election, one may not be able to comment on how it compares with the election in 1979 or in 1983… but it looks like it is really going to be good fight.
We have had the longest stretch of democracy since independence having made three election transitions and we are about to make the next bend, how well we negotiate that bend is what is at stake right now. It is not really who occupies the position eventually that matters but what the populace have demonstrated as their collective resolve in protecting their democracy and entrenching the most people-oriented governance they can muster because after all, it is supposed to be the government of the people by the people and for the people.
WHO TO CHOOSE
Interestingly, I have only heard the name of three contestants for the seat of president namely: the incumbent – Dr Goodluck Jonathan; the main challenger – Mr Muhammadu Buhari and a certain Mrs Remi Sonaiya of the Kowa Party. Apart from the candidate of Kowa party, what needs to be known and can be known about the other two are in the public space, their backgrounds, their public offices, the report of their stints as C-in-C of the Nigerian Armed Forces, their affiliates etc. The way this election campaigns are being played looks to an observer is about who can shout the most and paint the other guy blacker; it is politics, after all.
What Nigerians must resist is misrepresentation of facts especially when those ‘facts’ have been allowed to fly recklessly in the public space for so long the public is beginning to believe them. We must demand better of our media houses who seem to allow anything on their channels as long as the money is paid for the advertisements.
Let me start with the incumbent. Dr Goodluck Jonathan is – next to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who had power handed to him on the platter of gold, not once but twice and on one occasion as a prisoner – the luckiest man to have occupied the central seat of government. He happens to be only man in government who has been in the executive arm of government since the birth of the fourth republic as deputy governor, governor, vice president and now president. For this man, this is where the romance ends.
Despite his ‘wealth’ of experience in the executive arm, he is still seen internationally as politically naive; a defeatist posture and the image of a man trapped by the power he is supposed to wield is what we see. His speeches are most uninspiring and he seems to even know it. This is a man who has daily reports on the economy, security, international events, education, sports, entertainment etc submitted to him for his awareness and possible action but when he speaks he gives the image of a person so wound up in the cocoon of his desk that he can’t see beyond the shenanigans of his numerous special advisers and ministers. Anybody who listens to the governor of Lagos State speak will understand his grasp of not only the spirit of Lagos but also the international ecosystem and how Lagos in particular (and Nigeria at large) fit into the equation. This cannot be said for our dear President probably because he is not engineering innately to function as such.
Yeah, he is said to be a good man and I do believe it, sincerely; but the business of governance of such intellectually-astute, politically-conscious population of Nigerians is not just for a good man, it is for a good man who has a strong vision and can carry the nation along in his vision. Mr President has had five good years to prove the mettle he’s got, he has seen it all and should have shown that he understands the rubrics of governance and the twists-and-turns associated with it. In most fronts, this government has been a colossal let-down, a mirage of some sort and a most expensive wild goose chase.
In Nigeria, the only thing the citizens don’t do for themselves is security; they arrange for water supply, power supply, transport, feeding by themselves but they cannot provide security for themselves because that seems to be only thing the constitution does not allow the citizens to provide for themselves. That job has been left entirely for the government and that has been the weakest point for the Nigerian. Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the PRIMARY purpose of government” but the rate at which lives of Nigerian has been lost in this country in the last four years can only be rivalled in number by the deaths due to the civil war. The most ridiculous issue about it is that Mr President, by his overall mien, looks and acts unperturbed. One cannot begin to enumerate the instances for which this has replayed time and time again. One day after boys in a secondary school in Yobe were burnt to death and shot at by armed militants, Mr President chose to go dance palongo at a rally in Kaduna; he simply ignored the Chibok girls for weeks before issuing a statement about it and the latest incident of a massacre in Baga, Borno State is yet to make an impression on Mr President even though he has issued a statement about the recent loss of twelve lives in a Paris attack of the Charlie Hebdo office. That is unacceptable. Nigerian lives do matter, those killed in Baga are Nigerians and he owes them that respect and he ought to have made a statement about it, at least (we all know he would not fly out to meet them).
Under his presidency, agriculture, under the auspices of Minister Adeshina has made remarkable progress and that can never be taken away from him. That is where the ‘transformation agenda’ starts and stops, all the rest are window-dressings and mere political grandstanding. Let’s not even talk of The second Niger bridge; the Ore-Benin road and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway have had sorry stories to tell since the government had promised to repair them. The administration shows pictures suggesting that the roads have been completed but that is what the Yorubas call ‘Arun Oju’ (disease of the eye); a trip on that road will reveal there’s still much work to be done, and this after several months!
The issue of corruption has made Nigeria a laughing stock of the whole world. Corruption is our new colonial master, we wake up every morning to do its bidding because everywhere you turn to Nigerians obey this wicked colonial master and oppress their fellow Nigerians. The summary of the story is that in Nigeria, corruption is in the official modus operandi. Under this government, whatever can be stolen has and is being stolen daily…in obscenely gigantic amounts. When the Oga At The Top pays lip-service to the fight against corruption and opines that ‘what people call corruption are ordinary cases of stealing’ then you know the country is being run upside-down backside-front.
Take a look at Education, Health, Labour Market etc and point at one success story. Nada. Democracy has not had it this bad since we gained independence. There have been so many cases of clear disregard for the constitution and the other arms of government through the use of the police and the military and these paint the picture of civilian-styled dictatorship.
Take a look at his spokesman in the persons of Femi Fani-Kayode, to put it nicely this man can be labelled as the scum of the Earth; he is a rambunctiously puerile, political prostitute who lives in an emotional reality created from his feelings and impressions rather than from facts or logic. He is an egocentric, self-indulgent, attention-seeker whose outbursts reveal personalities incapable of deep mental analysis or abstract thinking, in short a diagnosis of histrionic personality disorder is in order.
Time will fail me to tell you the story of Lucky and his Five Wives. Of course you know the storyline, it involves petrol, aeroplanes, mathematics, grammar and a donated hostel.
Do Nigerians want to still give this man another chance?
The name Muhammadu Buhari strikes a chord that runs very deep in Nigeria from the north to the south, it evokes a variety of feelings which roughly split the country two in more than one way: either into The North vs The South or The Youth vs The Aged. He is strongest opposition candidate since the fourth republic began in 1999. He has run for election three times and he is yet contesting again. Is it the undying love for Nigeria that propels this man or a hidden agenda that will rock the foundations of Nigerian’s existence? Can one really stand out in the Sun and beat one’s chest that Buhari has nothing but love for Nigeria? Many have continued to ask question about where Buhari’s true allegiances lie, with his Fulani background, his Islamic devotion to Sharia, or to a truly democratic Nigeria? One cannot tell by looking at him or listening to him right now because he will say just anything to swing voters his way.
Since one cannot see through a man like Buhari who his supporters (not a few) have claimed to have been ‘reborn’ and different from the one that ruled from 1983 to 1985, one would then have to delve into history and excavate as much as can help one construct a narrative and then consider present realities that may modulate the former.
Firstly, let’s start with what I consider his most dastardly and almost unforgivable acts. As a military dictator, he enacted twenty-two decrees including two retroactive ones. One of the retroactive decrees was Decree 20 that brought death by firing squad to persons convicted of illegal oil bunkering, drug trafficking and currency counterfeiting. Three young men whose ages ranged from twenty-six to thirty-four, who had been released on bail for drug trafficking and under the law at the time of the offence could get no more than a few years in jail, were suddenly dragged to the Bar Beach and executed by firing squad…without appeal!!! International and local pleas for mercy fell on the deaf ears of Buhari and went he ahead with the killings. Now that broke it for me, that human life can be deemed so inconsequential that it was not given a grace period to align with the administration’s touted tough stand on indiscipline and crime. They committed a crime but why would anyone backdate a decree that would take the life of another just to prove your determination? It is quite a bitter pill to swallow. If this ‘new’ Buhari will not do that again, that does not excuse him as the kind of person who would allow such a thing to happen, it reveals an ice-cold disconnection from humanity and the fact that he is yet to comment on the evil perpetrated by him and possibly ask for forgiveness all these years he has been contesting for elections says a lot about his state of mind vis-a-vis his previous acts. If we say Buhari has changed and all should be forgiven then we should expect one politician some years from now who will come and give us the same story that he has changed and we should vote for him.
Then we should come to the issue of Buhari’s certificate; look, I personally think he has a certificate but that is not how this thing works. The regulations says that you should show your certificate if you’re contesting for the post of president, kindly follow the rules. If Buhari wants to prove to Nigerians that he respects democracy, he should abide by the rules that govern our democracy. We, the young people should demand that every one who wants to aspire to a position in the country and wants us to believe and support him/her should show that he/she is above board. Present your school certificate and quieten the attack dogs. But then how did INEC allow him run all these years if he doesn’t have one?
There are so many statements credited to him about implementing sharia all over Nigeria, till date Buhari is yet to refute those claims or declare he was misquoted or simply misunderstood. Mr Buhari’s teeming supporters (I was until recently) have told shouted down everyone who claims he’s an Islamic fundamentalist but nobody has heard from him. This is politics and the future of our country at stake, why should anybody vote for an ‘Islamic Fundamentalist’ who has refused to publicly refute those claims? Why? In politics, you come and respond to allegations and not just wish them away.
Someone once wrote that the Buhari won’t win the presidential elections but the incumbent will lose it. He should demonstrate to Nigerians a thorough understanding of the problems of Nigeria and state clearly, no matter how brief, how he intends to actualise his campaign promises. His supporters are doing more for him than he is engaging citizens. I am yet to get a clear picture of a smart-talking, well-read and astute leader in Buhari.
The fact that a month to a general election, one still doesn’t know these other players leaves less to be said.
As it stands today, an election that pits the incumbent against Buhari is a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea because at the end of the day, we are not faced with two good options or one good, one bad option; we are actually faced with two bad options. The change that Nigerians want is not about to come through either of these two; we either vote who we think is the lesser evil and sit on the edge of our seats till the next elections when neither of these two would present themselves or we look towards any of the unknowns. In the absence of any credible unknowns, we can then vote for the lesser evil who can really act as a stop-gap in polity and prepare the way for the real contenders come 2019.
Whoever wants to contest for President in 2019 should learn from this election and start showing up and learning the ropes well so that when the elections comes close one can truly tell that the change we seek is just at that doorstep.
Nigerians, which side are you on? The side of Jonathan or the side of Buhari? Let me introduce to you another side: The side of Nigeria. At the end of the day, we should vote the politician we find on the side of Nigeria.
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