Nurudeen Abdul Ganiyy
The emergence of the Nigeria’s former military Head of State, General Muhammad Buhari in the vigorously contested presidential primaries of the All Progressive Congress APC signals an epic political battle in the run up to the general election slated for February.
Buhari, a native of Daura in Katsina State is vying for the office of the President to administer the nation once more, having been in the saddle in a short-lived period as a military leader but got sacked in a coup by the military administration of General Ibrahim Babangida.
The coup plotters got General Buhari arrested but found him not culpable of any financial recklessness or misdemeanour; he was consequently left off the hooks.
Buhari will be slugging it out with the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, the flag bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)’s in the 2015 general elections. Even the most chronic of the doubting Thomases will agree that the nation is set for a very a very robust and vociferous political campaign for the general elections.
The security issue will definitely come to the fore as the Boko Haram imbroglio has practically dragged Nigeria to the dungeon. The bombings, both detonated and suicidal, continue to rock the North East unabatedly, compelling the troops to either surrender or scamper to safety in the neighbouring countries. The frustration is epitomised in the recent cases of desertion and ‘mutiny’ in the army.
It is evident that the threat of Boko Haram transcends the shore of Nigeria having snowballed into international reckoning. Their horrifying acts have virtually forced the Nigerian army to embark on mass recruitments into the service, with the army authorities making emphatic declaration that only those prepared to fight insurgency in the north east should apply for the job.
A school of thought in the north actually has the notion that the insecurity in the region was deliberate foisted on them to alienate and make them pay dearly for the counter coup of 1966 as well as to de-enfranchise them in the next general elections.
The kidnap of the Chibok girls among many others and indiscriminate killings of people of different ages and faiths also give a lie to the theory that Boko Haram is sponsored by the opposition in the North to make the country ‘ungovernable’ for the present government.
Discerning observers wonder why the Northerners will because of hatred for a Southern President, ‘sponsor’ insurgency that will not only be restricted to their region but use minors as suicide bombers, kidnap their own daughters, destroy properties worth billions of Naira, desecrate the houses of worship, maim and kill the infirm, the children and the aged.
President Jonathan therefore has a bigger challenge to improve the security situation in the North East if he must win the confidence of the people of the region, since some other part of the North: West and Central have equally had their share of the insurgency.
There is no gain saying the fact that the region has the largest number of states, constituencies and local government councils in the federation when compared to the South. The region is also noted for its block vote tradition, which gave General Muhammadu Buhari a significant leverage of over twelve million votes in 2011 under the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, registered barely six months before the election.
Muhammad Buhari on his part has some factors working in his favour.
It would be recalled that in 1983, the displeased and revolutionary young military officers selected Buhari because of his exemplary character in the military to lead the military regime, having successfully overthrown the civilian government that was leading the nation into the abyss of self-annihilation with unbridled corruption and recklessness.
Buhari initially came into limelight as the head of the newly created National Petroleum Corporation in 1977 in the administration of the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. The Buhari’s principled personality and unblemished character further earned the trust of the Obasanjo administration as he became the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
His towering character made him irresistible to even the ‘no-nonsense’ military leader, General Sanni Abacha, who appointed Buhari as the custodian of Petroleum Trust Fund PTF/PTDF.
Although some have tried to link General Buhari to terrorism due to his alleged ‘statement of threat’ in the build up to the 2007 general election, he has since refuted this severally, making it known that the ideals of Boko Haram are not sanctified by any religion as they ascribe to no known values in particular.
In as much as President Jonathan’s administration has made some notable strides in the areas aviation, agriculture and to some extent in roads and rail construction, the problem of stable power supply inherited six years ago may be his major undoing. He actually said in Ankara during his trip to Turkey, while addressing Nigerians in the Diaspora that he would have no business seeking re-election if he could not fix the problem of power in four years!
If Jonathan therefore must attract the same sympathy of Nigerian voters as in he did in 2011, he must, as a matter of priority, address the issue of power. At present, going by the official figure, the level of power generation is virtually lower than what was inherited six years ago when he was sworn in as Nigeria’s (Acting) president, following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Nigerians have been inundated with broken promises on a stable power supply and generation and may not be ready for another one this time around.
On the contrary, Nigerians receive and pay bills with exorbitant fixed charges for epileptic power supply and for what is never even consumed. The monthly N750.00 meter maintenance charge paid by costumers, even when they travel, or when there is no power supply at all remain unresolved.
The Distribution Companies (DISCOS) refuse to supply pre-paid meters so that the customers continue to pay even when no power is supplied. Their monopoly makes them a demagogue that is worse than the police. A police officer can be reported if you are cheated, the same cannot be said of the DISCOS.
In spite the so-called transfer to eleven private operator companies and dismantling the entity called Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN), more than one year now, stable power still eludes Nigerians. It is still the same old stories of unjustifiable extortions, irreconcilable crazy bills and lots of unimaginable sufferings.
Without doubt, constant power supply is a major fulcrum of business transactions and social development and both Buhari and Jonathan have to really come up with convincing blueprints and arguments that portray real appreciation of the problem; and that can eventually get Nigerians out of the woods.
Another issue that may make or mar the chances of any contender to the number one position is corruption, which has destroyed the fabrics of the society. President Jonathan-led government is consistently accused of unbridled acts of corruption. Some have noted that his administration struggled frantically to separate corruption from stealing, that he rescinds gleefully to prosecute those alleged to have siphoned our commonwealth, with billions of public funds alleged to have gone down the drain, either through white elephant projects or plunderous initiatives.
Perhaps the greatest threat to Jonathan’s re-election is Buhari’s anti-corruption personality which is diametrically opposed to the body language of the presidency and tolerance for corruption that characterises the last six years of the present administration.
The list is virtually unending from the Police pension racket to the banking sector fraud, petroleum subsidy scam, aviation sector fraud, the NNPC’s unremitted 40 billion dollars that was eventually reduced to 10 billion dollars, the botched South African illegal arms deals and to money laundering involving millions of dollars.
The fall in the prices of crude oil in the international market has forced the present administration to resort to austerity measures which has been vehemently criticized as after thought approach of a government that is bereft of focus and strategic planning. Many wonder why the bumper harvest ‘acquired’ during the oil boom could not be deployed to cushion the effect of the fall in oil price and to massive infrastructure development across the nation.
Hence, in combating corruption, General Muhammadu Buhari needs to convince Nigerians on how he would manage the nation’s resources differently. He must present to Nigerians, how best he believes the menace of oil bunkering could be tackled and address the leakage emanating from the billions of naira that usually swells the account of needless special advisers, appointed deputies, chauffeurs and others who purposelessly often grace international events in their hundreds, sometimes outnumbering the host countries.
The nation’s economy is presently in shambles with many multinationals relocating to other West African countries. They alleged excruciating condition of the Nigerian business climate which made them budget millions of Naira to power plants and their maintenance. They also complain of multiple taxes: the conventional ones from government agencies and the unconventional ones from designated touts.
The failure of government to develop, construct and maintain a comprehensive rail transportation system for Nigerians remains its albatross. In addition to contributing to destroying our roads through heavy duty trucks, it also deprives the nation handsome resources that could further be injected into the ailing economy.
Of course, these are not without the phenomenon of unqualified professionals and incompetent technocrats that only churn out superficially superlative but intrinsically moribund economic policies that could not meet with the yearnings and aspirations of the people.
Subsequently, it is essential for anyone who will rule this nation successfully to painstakingly choose his advisers and his team. He must not choose them to either settle political scores or to ‘compensate’ for political patronage. He should retain or dispense of such aides based on performances and not because the political god-fathers are still loyal or has fallen out of favour.
Agriculture sector, the major employer of labour before and after independence has also been largely neglected. One wonders how billions of naira allocated to the sector has not translated into reduction in prices of farm produce, improved seedlings and enormous employment opportunities just as large scale exportation of the produce remains a major concern.
Ability to tap into the goldmine provided by this sector, particularly in making it attractive to our young graduates, should naturally be the basis of appointing the next leader. And if Jonathan must rule this nation for the next four years, he must be able, without prevaricating to show Nigerians, not the amount of investments the nation has put in agriculture but the considerable positive impact this sector of the economy has had on the masses in the last six years of his leadership.
The almost unending industrial crisis that characterised the education and health sectors during this administration speaks volume about the premium Jonathan places on the wellbeing of Nigerians.
These among others are very crucial issues that must be featured in the presidential debates that would be held before the February polls. It is obvious that Nigerians will never again, accept to be taken for granted by allowing any one who aspires to rule this potentially great country to chicken out of public debate as did by our president four years ago. The naïve and raw sentiment of that time is definitely non existent any longer.
How President Jonathan and General Buhari are able to discuss and analyse these and other germane issues, that may crop up later during the electioneering campaigns will indicate whether the two flag-bearers have the wherewithal to tackle myriads of challenges bedevilling this country.
Both candidates should therefore jettison back-sliding, character assassination and unguarded utterances but face the electorates with analytical diagnosis of Nigeria’s problems and demonstrate how the most populous black nation would regain her enviable and glamorous status in the comity of nations.
Abdul Ganiyy writes from Lagos