#NigeriaDecides: Buhari or Jonathan or maybe neither?

In the bright light of my room, I recall that the Nigerian elections are just a mere two days away and wonder what this forthcoming elections holds for my country.

Elections are always filled with a flurry of activities.  During this period, you always hear adults and youths discussing and arguing back and forth about the political parties they support and why their respective candidates are better than the others. Politicians are seen on  the mass media campaigning heavily from state to state trying to give the people a reason to vote for them; from mostly hollow promises to sharing various items like money, foodstuffs, clothes etc. The media outlets always trying to get fresh stories on candidates and also organising some pretty interesting debates. There are also vile activities that go on during elections; the most common of which are vandalism and violence. Thugs vandalise properties of rival party candidates and even go as far as attacking rival party officials and candidates.

This election year, I only know of a few of the Presidential candidates namely: Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), Dr Comfort Oluremi Sonaiya, Chief Martin Onovo and Rafiu Salau. I am very sure there are loads of other candidates, as we are not short on political parties in Nigeria, but sadly these are the candidates I am familiar with.  From what I gather though, only two of them have been spotlighted as the top contenders: Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This essay will focus on these two individuals because, let’s face it, either of these two men will win this election. But if I’m wrong, that will be a pleasant, though unlikely, surprise.

Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

Dr Jonathan, the incumbent president of Nigeria, has achieved quite a bit during the past five year tenure, but he has also made some mistakes and had some failures. I commend him for his revival of the rail services in the country and the improvements his administration  has made in the agricultural sector, but apart from that I see no other significant achievement by his administration.

During the past five years, the Jonathan government has also made mistakes and failures. A few months after he was voted into office, he made his first error by removing the fuel subsidy program. This led to an increase in fuel prices and led youths all over the country to start the #OccupyNigeria movement. His error wasn’t the fact that he removed the subsidy, but the manner through which the removal was implemented.  If the Jonathan government had eased us into it, I am positive that Nigerians would have responded better.

As a matter of fact, the government did right by removing the fuel subsidy, however the execution process was poor and failed woefully. According to The Brookings Institution, in 2011 alone, Nigeria’s fuel subsidy cost the country an estimated $8 billion and the price tag for 2012 was expected to be greater (Moyo and Songwe). So removing the subsidy gave the Jonathan administration more money to use to develop the country, but before he did that he should have thought of how the increased fuel prices would affect the majority of Nigerians who live below the poverty line. The $8 billion could have been used to improve the standard of living of Nigerians, but his administration was not transparent enough for Nigerians to trust him with the sum. If he had taken all this into consideration he would have seen that the subsidy removal was a bad idea and gone back to the drawing board.

While it is not Jonathan’s fault that Boko Haram came into prominence during his tenure, he has not done a good job of addressing the insecurity challenges the country faces. Over 10,000 lives have been lost to activities of the terror group and over a million people have been displaced. Yet, when a bomb blast occurred in the Nyanya area of Abuja barely 48 hours had passed when Jonathan embarked on a political rally in Kano State. When 59 boys got butchered by Boko Haram at Buni Yadi, Yobe State he was busy celebrating our centenary only expressing grief about the massacre a year after. When school girls were kidnapped in Chibok, Borno State, it took 18 days for him to acknowledge the abduction and a year on the military doesn’t have any solid leads. When 2000 lives were massacred in Baga, Borno State, his media liaison reported that the death toll was lower instead of facilitating a rapid response. While I am not insinuating that the administration should have focused solely on the crisis but a display of empathy, strength, anger should have emanated from the responses gotten however late. The Jonathan government should have at least shown greater regard for the lives of Nigerians and shown their competence by responding rapidly whenever such situations occur.

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.)
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.)

General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), a former military head of state and repentant dictator turn democrat is also a top contender under the All Progressives Congress party. I have read quite a bit about how Buhari led the country when he was a military head, but seeing as I was not yet born at the time; I cannot give you a personal view of him; I can only give views from what I have read about him.

Udoka Okafor of The Huffington Post had this to write about him:

“Once General Buhari took office, he drastically reduced government expenditure. He removed state subsidies on health, agriculture, and education and he handed these social services over to private contractors. He cut public service jobs and he imposed a wage freeze. He increased taxes, but this tax increase was imposed on the proletariat poor, and was aimed at protecting the bourgeoisie rich. He heavily regulated the importation of goods as this was, apparently, the cause of a lot of the economic problems that Nigeria was facing at the time. During his tenor, he declared a ‘War Against Indiscipline’, which was supposed to instil nationalistic pride in Nigeria and correct the rampant fraud and corruption that had plagued and still plagues Nigeria…he also created laws that protected the richest persons in society, whilst simultaneously suppressing those who dared to oppose him. His military regime was draconian…He also imposed laws that created harsher penalties for armed robbery, malpractice, and other petty offences…He did all of this under the guise of promoting discipline by individuating the problem, rather than taking hard stances on the institutional problem of corruption in Nigeria, one that he, his military buddies, and the bourgeois Nigerians that he was protecting, were perpetuating.”

General Buhari claims to be reformed and a democrat now, and we all know to ‘trust’ the words of politicians. But, if there’s one thing we can be sure of, it’s his discipline; Buhari’s military experience and the respect he commands from the north will definitely prove useful in the fight against Boko Haram and when it comes down to economic matters he has proven advisors like his running mate Prof Yemi Osinbajo, Babatunde Fashola, Pat Utomi and others.

Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) are men who have the differences in tribe, religion, philosophies and ideals, but they still have some similarities: both having held the highest position in the country at one time and I am sure that before holding these positions of power they both honestly wanted to change this country. In my opinion, I wouldn’t want either one of them as president because they have both tried and failed, and we don’t have the luxury of giving any of them second chances the way our economy is going. But, seeing as they are the top contenders for this election, Nigerians have a choice to make: whether they want a tried and failed democratic leader or a repentant military ruler who claims to believe in democracy. Nigeria has the potential to be among the top countries in the world, we just need a leader who can take us there. I trust that a majority of us (registered voters) will make the right choice, and we should all give a hand to whoever wins this election because that person will need all the help he can get.

Works Cited

Moyo, Nelipher, and Songwe, Vera. “Removal of Fuel Subsidies in Nigeria: An Economic Necessity and a Political Dilemma.” Brookings. The Brookings Institution, 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Okafor, Udoka. “Muhammadu Buhari’s Shadow Will Come Back to Haunt Him.” Web log post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. The Huffington Post, 13 Dec. 2014. Web. 25 Mar. 2015.

Advertisements

Je Suis Charlie, but I am Baga too.

So a village in the Northern part of my country, Nigeria, was just recently attacked by the terrorist sect Boko Haram and local officials in the village say that about 2000 persons lost their lives in that attack. About the same period terrorists also attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France and 12 persons were killed. On Sunday about 1.6 million persons including 40 world leaders took a march of solidarity along the streets of Paris and it was recorded as the highest turnout on record by the French Government.

World leaders at the protest among whom are the Isreali Prime Minister, Malian President, French President, German Chancellor, EU President, Queen of Jordan, Italian Prime Minister and Swiss President.
World leaders at the protest among whom are the Isreali Prime Minister, Malian President, French President, German Chancellor, EU President, Queen of Jordan, Italian Prime Minister and Swiss President.
This view shows hundreds of thousands of the millions who took part in Sunday's rally.
This view shows hundreds of thousands of the millions who took part in Sunday’s rally.

All of this is well and good, but what happened to the attack in the village of Baga in Northern Nigeria. I see no one holding hands in solidarity for  the lives lost in Baga. Does the Nigerian Government see terror acts by Boko Haram as such a commonplace that they do not care that 2000 of their own citizens were lost in an attack? Today, Monday, the defence ministry released a statement claiming that the lives lost in the attack was no more than 150 and that figure included “many terrorists.” This might just be the Nigerian Government trying to downplay the threat of Boko Haram, as done many times in the past but it does not change the fact that lives were lost.

Some of the residents of Baga burying their deceased relatives.
Some of the residents of Baga burying their deceased relatives.

Our own dear President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, expressed his condolences for the victims of France but stayed silent on Boko Haram’s attack on Baga. Media Analyst Ethan Zuckerman said that Jonathan is “understandably wary of discussing Boko Haram, as it reminds voters that the conflict has erupted under his management and that his government has been unable to subdue the terror group”. Elections in Nigeria are set to take place on February 14 and he obviously doesn’t want to seem like an incompetent president. NEWS FLASH! Most of your country already sees you as incompetent because you always hide behind your fancy words and your cabinet while your country takes beating after beating by Boko Haram. Even the the Nigerian minister I most expected to speak out about the attacks didn’t. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, our finance minister, tweeted this on her official twitter page, “Terrible incident. Our deepest sympathies to the journalists and their families. We are one with France in mourning  #JeSuisCharlie”. She made no comments on Baga.

I do not care whether 2000 lives were lost, 150 lives were lost or even just one life was lost, no life should be taken for granted. I envision the day that Nigerian leaders actually care for the people of the country and don’t just see the people as stepping stones to their political aspirations so they can sweep every bad report under the rug.

Je Suis Charlie, but I am Baga too. #BagaTogether #WeAreAllBaga.