‘Nigeria can change today if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision. Such people are rare in any time or place.’ ~Chinua Achebe
Next week Nigerians will go to the polls to make the great decision that will alter the nation’s history forever. We will choose who takes charge over the destiny of this great country and lead us into light and on to the path of brotherhood and justice, or not. Will it be APC’s Muhammadu Buhari or PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan? The world will know in a matter of days.
The big question those going to the polls must consider is this: is the government of Jonathan a failed one? The answer, in my opinion, is a resounding YES.
When we say the government has failed some argue with pictures of crude trains, exaggerated numbers insisting that youths have benefited from SureP and YouWin and then, of course, they remind you that Nigeria is now Africa’s largest economy (even though this, economists have explained, is in spite of the government not because of it). We are not suggesting he has done nothing when we say Jonathan has failed. It is like this; when a student fails an exam, it does not mean he got all the questions wrong, but that he did not reach the pass mark. And for Jonathan, it is like that.
When in late 2010 Boko Haram began to grow into something unfathomable and the people cried out for help, the President behaved as if the North was not a part of Nigeria. He allowed his aides to infer that the people of the North were killing themselves only because they are angry they lost power to South —as if that even makes any sense!
On August 16, 2014 militants invaded Gwoza and took over the Emir’s palace. The Emir, Muhammad Timta, escaped to Abuja. Shortly after Timta’s arrival, President Jonathan sent for the Emir, who was accompanied to the meeting by Senator, Ali Ndume. To the utter shock of the Emir, the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria did not know where Gwoza was located: Adamawa or Borno. And he asked in pidgin, “Where is Gwoza sef?” The mind boggles!
Mr. Jonathan looked away till late in 2014 when he started to see that his I-don’t-give-a-damn attitude could cost him his reelection bid. He pretended to care but never cautioned his aides, like Reno Omockri aka Wendell Simlin, who played politics with Nigeria’s insecurity. Jonathan’s pretense did not help when the elections were due so he arm-twisted the electoral body into postponing the elections, and began this hasty six-week campaign to recover Nigeria’s lost territory —like say na now morning do.
But, we know, it will not be so with Buhari. When those in the north remember Buhari’s military successes—how he defeated Maitatsine and chased out the Chadian army around the so-called fringes in the 80s—and his vast knowledge of the Nigerian borders, especially border towns in the North East, the choice to make at the polls next week becomes even easier. There can be no worthier man to turn to for protection.
The tired cliche says opportunity comes but once. In the case of Jonathan, it came to him every day in last five years. Like Buhari, Jonathan was a man loved by many but, unlike Buhari who is loved largely for his integrity, Jonathan was loved for no clear reason. And Nigerians voted massively for him in 2011. We (or at least most of us) thought that here at last is a man who has seen raw poverty firsthand and so understands what it means to go to bed hungry, to study without electricity and to walk about without shoes. Expectation and hopes were high.
Alas, the first major agenda he pursued when he became President was tenure elongation. Even though he insisted that he would not benefit from it, the zeal with which he pursued it raised doubts in the minds of many Nigerians. After the tenure elongation brouhaha died down, while corruption continue to rest heavily on the nation’s back, other anti-people events followed.
There was ‘the subsidy removal’ of January 2012 that sparked protests across the country and, for the first time in recent history, united Nigerians—Christians and Muslims. Northerners and Southerners—against misrule, injustice and corruption.
Yet in all these, the President argued and is still insisting that most of these cases are only people stealing, not corruption. And he would not prosecute anybody for corruption only he would develop technological system to fight corruption. This sounds wonderful though one wonders why China, in spite of all its advancement in technology, still executes people for ‘economic crimes’.
After insecurity, corruption is what most ails Nigeria. It is a clog in Nigeria’s wheel of progress. Jonathan’s behavior towards this problem is what led the Speaker of House of Reps, Aminu Tambuwal, to say that the President’s body language encourages corruption. When one remembers the unbridled wrath with which Jonathan descended on the former Governor of Central Bank when the Governor exposed the $20 billion theft, one will not disagree with what the Speaker said.
It is not the case with Buhari whose hatred of corruption is so fierce so that once it led him to go through unconstitutional means (some will say inhuman) to have a corrupt Minister of the Shagari government punished. Men like Buhari are hard to come by; men who value honesty, who, though they live by so much decay, bluntly refuse to be tainted by it.
Some idealists have argued that it is beyond one man, this change the nation craves. But one man can at least set the wheel in motion. Come March 28 Nigerians, we hope, will make the right choice.
The writer is on twitter @MrAbuSidiq