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 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.
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.
“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.
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.