Lagos - The days of electioneering shenanigans are here again. And there is so much tinkle and thrill in the air as the major dramatis personae engage in their histrionics to woe and sway voters, with the sole aim of ascending the most important and exalted office in the country.
If it were in the good old days, it would have been time for magic and drama, excitement and buzz, not the least by the candour and colour, the creativity and charm of the aspirants – notably Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Awolowo, Dr. Mike Okpara, Alhaji Maitaima Sule, Tunji Braitwaite and a host of other political juggernauts.
It would have been time to adore men of timber and calibre, enjoy their theatrics and razzmatazz and savour their cerebral genius as they embellish you with new words while reeling out their manifestoes.
There would have been so much aura wafting through the landscape, so much breath of fresh air, life, and hope. And it would have been infectious.
But not anymore.
Today, the situation is different. There is a blatant advertisement of hate that stares you in the face like a sore thumb. And then, bitterness, resentfulness and collateral cynicism. There is a robust showcase of what divides us than what unites us, what fragments us than what cements us, such that every election leaves in its trail death and destruction of grandiose proportion.
People say it is part of the learning process after many years of military rule. In other words most people still possess that aggressive behaviour acquired during the military era. To get them to function well in a civil setting means they need to be de-militarised!
But it is much more than that. This is because we are now more suspicious of each other than ever before, more divided on ethnic and religious lines than we have ever been, no thanks to our politicians who fan these embers by capitalising on the naivety and gullibility of the people.
These same divides are the pellets stocked in the furnace now and ready to be used to unleash havoc in the 2015 elections.
Barring any unforeseen circumstance, Nigerians will soon know who will navigate the ship of affairs of our great country for the next four years as President Goodluck Jonathan and General Mohamadu Buhari face the electorates in February 2015.
There is nothing as important right now in this country as to who takes the mantle of leadership especially given the plethora of problems we have had to contend with in the last few years or so; or the perceived problems we are made to believe that are responsible for own incapacity and failures.
The economy is in a state of topsy-turvy, no thanks to dipping oil prices and depleting foreign reserves. Infrastructure is stressed and stretched and needs urgent revamping. Our security situation is now comparable to Afghanistan, Pakistan Iraq and Syria because of Islamic insurgency in the north of Nigeria.
Unemployment, youth restiveness and social decay are on the ascendancy. Corruption continues to eat deep into the nation’s fabric like some cankerworm. Clearly the picture does not look too good. But it could have been worse!
People are won’t to blame the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan for the nation’s woes but, given the extent of the decay of the system he inherited, it will surely take a genius to fix all the problems of the country within so short a period. Even past leaders like Olusegun Obasanjo that had the luxury of time could not move the country beyond the level of a snake biting its own tail.
But then many Nigerians are displeased with the covert nature of the president. Perhaps, Nigerians need a leader that will talk to them, hit their hearts with the moral authority of truth and fill their hearts with hope for a better tomorrow.
Unfortunately, many people believe Goodluck Jonathan does not have or seem to have that resplendence and electricity that will ignite this kind of passion and patriotism in the people and drive them to trust their country, help their country and galvanise it towards growth and prosperity. In order words, there is a perceived disconnect between the leadership and followership, between the commander and the troop.
However, whatever intentions the president has, or whatever achievement he has made – which of course are legion – one area the president seems to have failed woefully is public relations and perception. His media men are not highlighting his achievement at all.
In terms of deployment of resources to fix the country’s moribund infrastructure, no leader in the history of the country has committed so much fund within so such a short period of time as President Jonathan. Yet, people don’t talk about this. All what they say and echo are the words the Lagos press have hung on his neck like an albatross: clueless!
For the career ‘Jonatithes’ – a euphemism coined by the opposition to capture or describe those who benefit financially from promoting President Jonathan – the president may very well be the Jesus Christ that has come to save Nigerians from eternal poverty and damnation. That may be taking it too far, but that is how some fellows in government saw Goodluck Jonathan who has ostensibly been the butt of every silly joke everywhere because of his perceived weakness, meekness – or if you like – cluelessness!
And the security situation in the country coupled with the dare devil activities of Boko Haram have not helped the president profile at all. Because there is so much political undertone in the Boko Haram war, the president has had to thread carefully like he’s in a minefield as he battles the Islamic sect.
At the one end, the president is faced with allegations of genocide as his soldiers take out the militants. Gen Buhari, his opponent in the 2015 race once accused him of genocide when he said “never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now”. On the flip side, he is perceived a weak leader as he seeks to find a truce with the insurgents to stop the killings and kidnapping.
Then, there is the problem of the economy. It is on record that between January and October this year, crude oil sold for more than $100 per barrel while our budget benchmark was $78. One would have expected that the excess crude money be kept in a stabilisation account.
But the state governments arm-twisted Jonathan and forced him to share the money. Today, price of oil has gone down to around $50 per barrel and still on the downward spin. This has prompted the government to devalue the naira.
Now, the economy is in tatters and life looks bleak especially as the government did not save for the rainy day, or diversified the economy enough or put in place structures that will keep our heads above water on rainy days like these.
Of course, we cannot talk of a dwindling economy without talking about corruption. There is no denying the fact that corruption is a hydra-headed problem in Nigeria, and the greatest bane of our growth as a nation.
People often say the president is not corrupt. But his opponents say he created the atmosphere for corruption to thrive, that he has crippled both the EFCC and ICPC and that he has mis-managed the vast resources of the country, making few people super rich while the vast majority remain poor and pauperised.
The president has also come under serious scrutiny and upbraid in the appraisal of his performance in the power sector. Critics say we are still battling to generate less than 4000 MW after spending more than $35 billion in this sector alone. Hence we have obviously become an object of ridicule in the eyes of other nations because of our well documented and amplified electricity problems.
And few days ago, former president Obasanjo also sent a trajectory to the Jonathan camp, insisting that some powerful women run this country. It was a most pathetic way to paint Jonathan as a weak and spineless leader.
These and many more are what the major opposition party, APC have garnered to pull off the carpet from under the president’s feet. But of course the opposition is also not without blemish – if not worse.
General Buhari, the party’s flag-bearer is as volatile as he is divisive – especially on religious matters. We are all living witness to his taciturn as his “Sai Buhari” supporters targeted Christians, southerners and youth corps members in the North in the aftermath of the 2011 elections in which his party, the CPC lost to Goodluck Jonathan’s PDP.
He is also credited with toeing the hard-line on fundamental issues that affect the nations, especially religious – and he remains unrepentant about that. This has been his Achilles’ heels.
His stance and antecedents on sharia law for Nigeria are also well documented. Buhari is credited with statements like: “Christians should not worry when Muslims chop off their own arms and hands in the name of sharia because it is none of their business”; or “Muslims should only vote for Muslims’’ or ‘’for those that will protect their interest”.
He is also not the hero or superman he is presented to be, or look like by the career jihadists, sorry, ‘Buharists. For all his opponents care, Buhari is a lily-livered man who cannot ride roughshod or take control, not to talk of confronting Boko Haram. That is why his deputy Brigadier Tunde Idiagbon was the bigger fish in the pond and ran the show. That is why Gen Babangida, his Army chief chased him out of Dodan barracks by mere telephone call!
Again, Buhari is also said to have some financial blemish especially with regard to the smuggled 53 suitcases in 1984 when Atiku was in charge of the Customs or the missing $2.8 billion in 1978 during his time as Obasanjo’s petroleum minister. It may therefore not be a surprise or coincidence that Obasanjo wrote glowingly about Buhari in his recent book, “My Watch” where he also rubbished President Jonathan and his government.
“My Watch” depicted Buhari as a saint who does not even own a property in Abuja. But opponents are saying any man who has some billions to his name in a Midland bank account may not need a house in Abuja after all!
Opponents are also saying the inhuman and monstrous nature of Buhari reared its ugly head during his jack-boot days as a coupist and military dictator. Apart from truncating our democracy, he was also involved in human rights abuses, denigrated the humanity of citizens and menacingly promulgated many decrees to torture and hurt Nigerians.
Tunde Thompson and Nduka Erhabor were jailed under a draconian decree 4 of 1984. Fela Kuti was on the verge of flying out for a world music tour when he was nabbed, phantomly tried and jailed because he allegedly violated Buhari’s foreign currency laws. The trial Judge Okoro Idogu later admitted that he was ordered by the duo of Buhari and Idiagbon to find Fela guilty and give him a harsh sentence.
Three Nigerian youths Lawal Ojuolape (30), Bernard Ogedengbe (29) and Bartholomew Owoh (26) were made to face firing squad on drug related offences despite pleas from the international community to free them.
Buhari’s opponents also say the retired army general showed his ethnic bias in 1983 when he overthrew Shehu Shagari, a fellow northerner and placed him under house arrest in a luxury house in Ikoyi arrest while he bundled his vice, Alex Ekwueme, an Ibo man into a crowded cell in Kirikiri.
That is not all. His opponent say Buhari also jailed many southern governors like Melford Okilo, Lateef Jakande, Ambrose Alli, Adekunle Ajasin, Jim Nwobodo and a host of others, while their northern counterparts were treated with kid gloves.
While these factors represent past deeds or misdeeds that could hunt or hurt Buhari’s ambitions, the present reality check also suggests the establishment is wary and very uncomfortable with a Buhari presidency. The northern elite who have benefited so much from the Jonathan government or past governments do not know, and find it difficult to reconcile, the shape or form of a Buhari government. Even retired military leaders and beneficiaries of past military government are in a dilemma as to whether to risk him or not.
So, here we are, faced with two odds – or two devils! But there must be a better devil of the two. That is why it is only Nigerians that can decide who amongst these fellows will call the shots from Aso Rock as from next year. It is a life changing opportunity no doubt for these guys to preside over a rich and prosperous nation like Nigeria. But it is also heart- aching!
They will be confronted with the unending list of problems bedevilling the nation. The problems are legion, they are daunting nonetheless, but they are not intractable or insurmountable. Power generation is a burning issue. Corruption is a front burner too. The Economy is a major concern. Infrastructural development, agriculture and food security are all priorities. Both men must need all the luck, prayers and wisdom available to move this country forward and lead it to El Dorado.
We have also seen all the latest permutations about 2015. Buhari is favoured to record victory in most of the North West states and South West states. He is expected to do well in Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano and Katsina states. Goodluck Jonathan will clear South-South and South East states.
He will also infiltrate into the South West and win Ekiti and Ondo States. He will score above 25% in Lagos and Ogun States. In the North East, he will score above 25% in Kaduna and Sokoto.
The North East and North central states could swing anywhere. It’s going to be a close call. Goodluck Jonathan needs a good dose of good luck here to triumph. The permutations are that he may have the edge especially as his party is deeply entrenched in states like Kogi, Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa and Niger. He will also get up to 25% in the North Eastern states of Borno and Yobe.
In all of these, it is going to be a keenly contested race. While there will be only one winner, Nigerians ultimately will be the winners, having a big say or input in the decision to choose between Jonathan and Buhari on who governs the nation as from 2015. And the incumbent President Jonathan looks set to retain his seat.
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