2015: Buhari, Jonathan and the choice between change and the status-quo

By Rotimi Akinola

President Jonathan and his challenger Muhammadu Buhari

As the battle for Nigeria’s highest political office intensifies, we must all take a step away from the prevalent smoke screen of the current political maneuvers, gimmicks, tricks and rhetoric to critically assess the nature of our political landscape and the choices we have to make not only for our own sakes, but for that of posterity.

If we fail to detach from the garbage our politicians would rather have us believe and ask ourselves the questions we’ve been asking all along, albeit with a seeming reluctance to make decisive changes, history may repeat itself as expected and Nigerians will once again be shortchanged by the political elite which, regardless of its constituent political leanings, has always benefited from our collective ignorance.

There’s no time to beat about the bush here. The Peoples Democratic Party has been at the helm of our national affairs since 1999 and we can pretty well see what it has achieved under the leadership of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umar Yar’Ardua of blessed memory and President Goodluck Jonathan.

There’s no doubt the failure of the PDP to deliver the dividends of democracy is the major factor that led to the emergence of a very outspoken opposition in the All Progressives Congress (APC). Unlike Lagos State, where the opposition PDP is relatively quiet because of the apparent success of the APC; our national administration does not enjoy such luxury.

Although the assertion that the PDP has not delivered the yearnings of Nigerians is very debatable – everything’s arguable anyways; the fact that a party which has been in power for 15 years cannot provide the singular comfort of adequate electricity despite several promises and questionable “investments” is point enough to win any debate over the incompetence of the ruling party.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to win a political debate here. My intention is to draw the attention of Nigerians away from the promises of the PDP to the prospects of the opposition so we could all calculate our chances with the resultant decision to uphold the status-quo or embrace change.

One fact remains undebatable: We will judge the PDP based on performance – it’s been in power for a decade and a half; the APC on potential taking cognizance of what it has pulled off in the handful of states it currently controls.

So the APC will transform Nigeria? At what cost?

With the way the opposition party is going, it may well unseat President Jonathan from Aso Rock in 2015. Only an incurable sycophant will affirm, much against the tide of public opinion and the suggestion of recent polls – even ones conducted by GEJites – that Jonathan will inevitably retain his presidential seat.

While the president has promised to do more than the little he has managed to do, he keeps asking for more time on the basis of promise. It’s rather sad how someone who’s been president for over four years and hasn’t been able to fix the singular problem of epileptic power supply would even nurture the thought he deserved more time based his “potential to do more.”

I’m now almost always embarrassed as to why there can just be light for 24 hours. Is that too much to ask from Africa’s largest economy? Is that too much to demand from the most populous black nation on the planet?

Recently, there was power outage in Bangladesh, one of the most corrupt countries in the world; and it made the news. Last time they had such issue was in 2007 when a cyclone hit the power grid.

I bet you can’t remember the last time there was a cyclone, typhoon, hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, or volcanic eruption in Nigeria. How will GEJ explain the “disasters” that reduced our megawatt production from 4500, when he took office, to the current output of 2500MW?

The fact that our electricity woes have worsened in the absentia of power-grid-threatening natural disasters is a major catastrophe perpetrated by inexplicable variables.

When was the last time the interruption of power supply in the country made it to the international media? We all know it cannot because reporting power outage in Nigeria is as newsy as “Breaking News! John Doe is breathing.” The problem has become so perpetual it’s not worth reporting.

As far as GEJ and the PDP are concerned, Nigerians would do well to throw continuity to the wind.

If any party would be voted on the basis of potential, it’s the APC. A visit to Lagos is proof enough. Even in Ekiti State where the party lost out to the PDP, the resolve of the opposition to birth visible and verifiable change cannot be denied. Ogun State is working, Osun is moving forward. However, there are no doubts those administrations, just like most administrations – including the one run by Barack Obama – are a long way off perfection.

Although one could be tempted to clamour for the re-election Jonathan on the assumption that no administration is perfect, a simple walk through Nigerian streets where illuminated nights come at the risk of excessive noise and air pollution from imported electricity generators, amid other result of his seeming incompetence, would stifle such notions.

But what is the cost of APC’s sweeping transformation? Why must Lagos residents pay tolls to use government roads? Why cant’s they pay N20 per vehicle if they have to pay at all?

Tell me why traffic law offenders must pay a humongous N50000 compared to the ridiculous N18000 minimum wage? The APC surely have plausible explanations to these anomalies. I’ve got my own idea too. The opposition is probably running a government in which the rich keep the poor in perpetual subjugation. Not surprisingly, the PDP, with these fifteen years in which it has taken the people for a ride, cannot be exonerated from the same “crime.”

What will the APC do about education?

There was a lot of noise about the manifesto of the APC. But what most Nigerians were not told is that the party’s roadmap to a “better” Nigeria is silent on UNESCO’s recommendation that at least 26 per cent of the annual budget be allocated to education.

I recall how the APC indirectly supported ASUU’s battle with FG over the implementation of that suggestion. They pressured GEJ to raise Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to the level UNESCO advocates. Whatever happened to that fight, anyway? See, we’ve got amnesia.

The Best Governor in Nigeria, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, despite repeated protests by students of state owned Lagos State University (LASU) over the neck breaking cost of their fee refused to blink until the APC lost Ekiti to Fayose’s stomach infrastructure. You can now see the APC is not only a party of progressives and intellectuals but also that of political hypocrites.

If the APC gains control of Abuja come 2015, apprehensions would surely be rife, and justifiably so based on observable precedents, the cost of educating the Nigerian mind may increase astronomically.

Access to basic and tertiary education is key in this century. Bill Gates already said the resources of the century reside not under the feet of men, but between their ears. I believe him. United Nations human rights expert, Kishore Singh, has issued a very critical warning about the dangers privatization pose to our inalienable rights to education.

“Education is not a privilege of the rich and well to do; it is an inalienable right of every child,” the Indian born expert said in a report published by the UN on October 27, 2014.

He said “the exponential growth of private education must be regulated by governments to safeguard education as a public good.” I doubt if the APC will ever agree with Kishore.

If all the opposition is interested in is raking in billions into the coffers of its leaders through the developments it provides, the APC had better go to hell.

I believe the APC can transform Nigeria but I’m afraid it may come at so great a cost the common man, for whom the progress is conceived, may not enjoy such change. The party leadership must, therefore, in the coming weeks dispel my fears and assure Nigerians it is not only a change agent but also a proponent of humanitarian governance.

How will Buhari fight corruption?

“Corruption is not the same thing as stealing. Nigeria is not corrupt. In fact, corruption is not the problem of Nigeria.” We already know Mr. Jonathan’s mind on the anti-graft war!

But what does Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who seem poised to clinch APC’s presidential mandate, think about the hydra-headed demon that has plagued Nigeria since Adam?

You know what? The retired general and military head of state sometimes passes across as a bitter soul who has scores to settle with some power wielders in the country. If he intends to embark on a witch-hunt with EFCC’s rifle and neglects graver issues of governance, Nigeria may suffer.

But we have to be frank with ourselves. If in deed we seek a nation free of corruption which has placed us among the “badoos” of global players, Buhari is the obvious choice. Except, of course, we have pitched our tent with Dr. GEJ that siphoning money from the federation account, over-inflating government contracts, using public money for personal comfort amid other “trivial” thefts constitute no problem.

With Buhari in charge, the EFCC could graduate from the level of prosecuting only common Nigerians who may have been drawn into fraud due to the effects of the bigger fraud committed by high level government officials who loot funds as easily as they breathe.

Headlines like “EFCC prosecutes 1000 fraudsters in one minute” could then make way for “Court jails governor this, minister of that, former presidents those.”

What about press freedom and democracy?

I pity all these journalists and their less media literate bloggers clamouring for the enthronement of GMB.

We know Jonathan has seemingly ordered the arrest of “hostile” journalists, protesters and bloggers. We know the military confiscated newspapers under GEJ’s watch.  But we also know that Jonathan has backed down on “threats” after public protests.

The aborted renaming of the University of Lagos is a good example. There were even rumours the President called the VC and his people to apologise for his “misconstrued intention.” Mr. Jonathan seems to have a tender, democratic heart (that’s very debatable, though).

Even famous blogger Japheth Omojuwa who seems to be a megaphone for the APC testified the DSS were “professional” when they detained him in Abuja after he dragged Abba Moro to the streets over NIS recruitment tragedy.

We all know how one guy like that who “was disappeared,” probably because he was one of the first tweeps to tell the world about an attempted jail break by Boko Haram in Abuja, was reunited with his family after an outcry on Twitter.

The media opposition against GEJ has been virile at best but rabid at worst. The President’s reaction to attacks on the pages of our national dailies and online media, including the very pungent ones on social media, has not been that bad.

What will “President Muhammadu Buhari” do about a macho opposition? Will he make protesters disappear? Will he drag them to court and hand them prison sentences. If you think the PDP will not use the media and protests to attack “His Excellency,” you need to wake up from your slumber. How will GMB handle it?

GMB must not only categorically promise to allow press freedom, opposition freedom, social media freedom, and every other freedom necessary for the survival of a democracy. He must fulfill such pledge. His negative antecedent against the press seems to be the only thing that could raise eyebrows concerning his chances of winning Abuja.

Just imagine what’ll happen if a common Nigerian like me can no longer say his mind on Twitter or Facebook or in an article like this. Such predicament is better imagined than experienced. The freedom of speech will be too great a price for whatever transformation the APC has in mind.

What’s all this fuss about same faith candidacy?

This is a very critical question the Nigerian electorate must ask not only the politicians mongering the dangers allegedly inherent in such eventuality but also the pastors and Islamic clerics raising alarms against it.

I remember how in 2007 delegates from the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) told members of a Lagos “church” the need to vote “Christian” Femi Pedro ahead of Muslim Babatunde Fashola. Lagosians will ever be grateful that particular politico-religious propaganda failed miserably.

It is my opinion that all these “leaders” propagating the bad news of anti-same-faith candidacy are nothing but religious bigots hell-bent on fracturing the country along this delicate line.

Who cares if two Muslims transform Nigeria? Religious bigots. Who gives a hoot if two Christians become state executives in Kano? Religious bigots.

There seems to be a lot of religious bigots in this country and Nigerians must make a bold statement in 2015 to put these deluded fellows where they belong – obscurity.

Hello? You got your PVC?

Now, that’s the most important question. Ask yourself. Ask your friend. Ask your enemy. Ask your neighbour.

Posterity won’t smile at you if you fail to register to vote and later complain they rigged the election.

In fact, you have no right to complain about bad leadership if you do not participate in politics either by vying for a political post or voting for those who so do. Aside that, the outcome of the election will affect you whether you vote or not. Believe it or not, we’re in a democracy and that means we get to choose our Commander of the Armed Forces.

For those of you whose only “duty” is pray for “godly” leaders to emerge, there’s zero allocation for such religious variable in the ballot box. I’m a religious man myself but that’s the bitter truth – you won’t see a space to thumbprint “I chose to pray for the right leader to emerge” on INEC’s ballot paper.

I heard INEC will commence its continuous voters’ registration at designated polling units from November 12-17 or thereabout. You are liable for whatever happens from then on.

What are you going do about that?

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