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A country is like an industry. It must be managed properly by people who have brain and great ideas upstairs. – Goodluck Jonathan, January 8, 2015.
After weeks of intense political campaigns, Nigerians are set to exercise their right to vote this weekend in the 5th presidential election since the return to democratic system of government in 1999. This is perhaps one of the most important elections in Nigeria’s history. Nigeria’s political landscape has witnessed immense changes since the last general elections four years ago. The rise of a strong opposition party has put the ruling party’s 16 years dominance at the centre under serious threat.
The presidential election, as The Economist described it, is a choice between a failed president and a repentant dictator. Nigerians must decide between giving the unconvincing incumbent, Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, a chance to redeem himself and correct his mistakes, and giving former military dictator, General Muhammadu Buhari, an opportunity to make good of his promises to return Nigeria to glory days. It is a choice between continuity and change, as both candidates have defined their campaigns.
But the continuity Mr. Jonathan is offering is one of wastage, corruption, insecurity, poverty, unemployment, religious and ethnic division, poor infrastructure and a collapsing economy. He has spent almost 5 years as Nigeria’s 14th Head of State, and despite presiding over a period of record high oil prices and lower subsidies, has only increased debt and a depleted excess crude account to show. When his army of social media bandits manage to take a break from slandering his opponents, they remember to remind voters of the meagre achievements of his administration, chiefly the revival of rail services and the agricultural sector. But by all means he’s what The Economist called him – a failed president.
As Mr Jonathan himself admitted in his campaign speech in Lagos, his government has faced criticism from the opposition for failing to tackle insecurity and abetting corruption. Actually, the opposition party speaks for all well-meaning Nigerians on these two issues. Nigeria’s security structures have collapsed under Jonathan and insurgency has assumed war proportions. Over 15,000 lives have been lost to activities of the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Well over 2 million people are displaced, mostly in the North East, where the nation’s sovereignty has been tampered with by the floating of a caliphate by the Islamic sect. He failed to act in reasonable time on the kidnap of over 200 school girls from Chibok, went ahead with centenary celebrations the day after 59 school boys were slain in Buni Yadi, and was seen dancing at a political rally in Kano the day after more than 100 citizens were killed in a bomb blast in Abuja. As shocking as all these now sound, Goodluck Jonathan displayed this insensitivity to everyone’s consternation.
On corruption, Jonathan’s body language speaks volume about his tolerance for any vice as long as he has the political support of the culprit. He did more than vocalise his tolerance for, and acceptance of corruption, in exchange for political support, by granting his convicted political mentor, Diepriye Alamieyeseigha, a presidential pardon. Skeletons in the president’s political closet include Femi Fani-Kayode, currently on trial for money laundering, while Abba Moro’s reward for overseeing the death of job seekers in the NIS Job Scam is continued stay in office as minister for internal affairs. Jonathan has also openly endorsed for public office Ayo Fayose, under trial for corrupt acts that led to his impeachment as Ekiti State Governor, and Iyiola Omisore, suspected to have been involved in the death of former Attorney-General, Bola Ige. His co-suspect, Jelili Adesiyan, has been rewarded with the Ministry of Police Affairs, while Musiliu Obanikoro who admitted to conspiring to rig an election in Ekiti State is now a foreign affairs minister; albeit a Junior to another Junior Minister.
His management of the economy has been dismal to say the least. Claims of making Nigeria the largest economy in Africa have had zero impact on poverty and unemployment rates, and with declining oil prices the burdens on Nigerians have only increased. The nation’s total debt portfolio rose 30%, from $47.6 billion in September 2013 to $62 billion in 2014. Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of net electricity generation per capita in the world, and the megawatts inherited by Jonathan have only reduced in spite of more money spent.
Mr. Jonathan exudes neither the competence nor character that befits the highest political office in Nigeria. There’s someone to blame for everything that has gone wrong with Nigeria under his watch – the opposition party, his political opponents, the United States, Nigerians on social media, Northern leaders, past Heads of State. His aviation minister, Stella Oduah, who used public funds to buy bulletproof BMW cars, even blamed God for air mishaps. This is the leadership Nigeria does not deserve.
Enter Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari has 99 flaws, but the lack of political will to tackle insecurity and/or corruption is not one. Buhari’s experience as a retired General and the respect he commands in Northern Nigeria will count in the fight against Boko Haram. And as he stated in his Chatham House speech, there is no confusion as to his stand on corruption. A revered disciplinarian, he is everything Mr Jonathan is not. Admitting he went overboard as a military dictator, the 73 year old has apologised and assured his followers, and the international community, he will operate within the confines of democratic dictates if elected.
Buhari’s running mate, Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, has proved to be an icing on the cake of a ticket that offers exciting possibilities for Nigerians desirous of change. The 58 year old incubates the policy framework of the APC. He brings a fresh perspective to politics in Nigeria with his issues-based campaign and town hall meetings. This formidable team is spiced further by the possibilities of a cabinet filled with personalities with proven track records of leadership like Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, and his Kano counterpart Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Kayode Fayemi, Abike Dabiri, Pat Utomi and others. This is the leadership Nigeria deserves.
Jonathan, in what is perhaps the most profound statement ever credited to him, said a country is like an industry, and must be managed by people who have brains and great ideas upstairs. Seeing as he has none, Nigeria has effectively been running on auto-pilot since the demise of his predecessor, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. An opportunity to return Nigeria to the path of development and progress is what the Buhari-Osinbajo offers, and it’s an opportunity not to be missed especially at this critical stage where the nation’s unity, economy and survival is seriously under threat.
Nigerians deserve a leader who gives a damn about transparency and accountability. We deserve a leader who cares about each and every Nigerian, irrespective of their tribe or religion. About time we have a leader who can unite the nation and set her on the path of prosperity and peace. Muhammadu Buhari is that leader. It is a choice between darkness and light. Nigerians must now turn to the past to safeguard the future, and Jonathan can yet redeem himself by allowing a free and fair election, and peacefully handing over to Buhari when he is declared winner.
Ogunyemi Bukola (@zebbook), a digital marketing expert, writes from Lagos.