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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Who shall be our next President?

By Douglass Anele

Before we begin our inquiry proper, it must be observed that most Nigerians, including myself, do not know the presidential candidates personally on a one-on-one basis.
Rather what we know about them is based on information obtained through the print and electronic media.
Obviously that is a limitation, but we are not totally helpless as a result. Media practitioners over the years have improved their information-gathering and investigative capabilities using available technology, to the extent that one can have enough reliable information about prominent individuals (without necessarily meeting them face-to-face) which otherwise would not have been possible.
Again, the presidential candidates we are evaluating have served previously either as military dictators or as a civilian governor, in the case of Jonathan.
Therefore, we have firsthand knowledge of their performance on the basis of which we can objectively appraise their suitability regarding the office of President.
Having noted, and disposed of, the mild constraint to our analysis, we begin our appraisal of the three most prominent presidential hopefuls, and it is fitting that we consider Goodluck Jonathan first, because he is the incumbent President.
A lot has been said and written about Jonathan’s meteoric rise to the governorship of his home state, Bayelsa, and to the presidency of the country. While some prominent Nigerians, especially the “executive beggars” who rely on government’s patronage to survive, see this as part of a divine plan intended “to save our tottering country from collapse,” critics of Jonathan’s presidential ambition for 2011 argue that Mr. President is an unintended beneficiary of the warped and shambolic socio-economic and political environment in which Nigeria finds itself today.
Judging from his visage, body language and carriage, Mr. President appears to be a humble man really interested in providing purposeful leadership for the country. Some people have applauded what they consider the mature manner in which he handled pressures from different quarters for succession due to the incapacitation of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. But on the basis of the four criteria we enumerated earlier, is Jonathan’s desire to continue in office beyond May 29, 2011 justified? Does he deserve our support despite the hot air generated by the controversy surrounding zoning the presidency?
To answer those questions adequately, we must first deodorise some of the intellectual miasma generated by that very ambition. Goodluck Jonathan has the constitutional right to contest for any political position, if he so desires. That, definitely, should be clear to everyone. In this particular instance, however, the problem is the zoning formula of his party, the PDP.
I have always believed that the zoning principle is a means to an end, not an end in itself, as some people tend to argue. If the formula is applied intelligently and fairly in the wider context of national interest, it can lead to the emergence of an effective President and, over time, correct the inequalities in the balance of presidential power between the North and the South.
There are potential world-class leaders in all parts of the country. The major impediment is that the political environment is so polluted and the electoral process so distorted that it is easier for an elephant to pass through the eye of a needle than for any of such individuals to emerge as President.
As we said earlier, one of the hurdles before Jonathan stems from the controversy about zoning, particularly because in the ensuing debates parochial selfish and ethnic interests have outweighed more important issues such as merit and what we might call “the general good” or “national interest.”
Clearly, if we are serious about making the elusive “dividends of democracy” a reality merit, excellence, and continuity should not be compromised because of rigid dogmatic adherence to the principle of zoning. Therefore, if Jonathan is doing well now, it would be stupid to stop him because of zoning. After all zoning is made for Nigerians, not Nigerians for zoning.
Now, on the basis of the first criterion, Jonathan has not made his manifesto public so that Nigerians can dissect and evaluate it. When he does that, we will beam our searchlight on it. On the fourth criterion, that is, on the issue of physical and mental state of a presidential aspirant, Jonathan is on solid ground.
Apparently he is in good mental and physical health, notwithstanding the fact that appearances can be deceptive. It is with regard to questions concerning track record of performance and morality that one can legitimately entertain doubts about Jonathan’s suitability to continue as President beyond May 29 next year.
As governor of Bayelsa State, although for a short period, his performance was lukewarm. Now that he is President, his responsibilities and expectations from Nigerians are at least 36 times greater than what he dealt with when he was governor.
Consequently, Mr. President needs a big quantum leap in his performance level to convince Nigerians, particularly objective and serious–minded critics, that he is the primus inter pares, the person to beat, in next year’s presidential contest. Perhaps President Jonathan is trying his best, given his persona and the economic and political environment within which he is doing his job.
However, personally as a citizen of Nigeria who wishes his country well and as one of the millions of Nigerians that have been carrying the increasingly heavy hunchback placed on us by silly, corrupt and wicked rulers, both military and civilian, I am not satisfied with the performance of President Jonathan thus far.
He can easily be faulted on at least three counts: his failure to give bite and fresh impetus to the war against corruption which he inherited from his late predecessor, Umar Yar’ Adua; his inability to curb profligacy and wasteful spending by the federal government; and, finally, his inability to initiate concrete moves and policies that would enhance the quality of federalism practiced in the country.
Most Nigerians will concur that since Jonathan became President no fundamental improvement has been recorded in the fight against what Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called “authority stealing.”
Of course, those in charge of EFCC and the ICPC have been telling Nigerians the number of pending and successful prosecutions they have recorded since the two anti-corruption agencies were established, and the judicial obstacles they have been facing from wealthy and well-connected accused persons.
Yet, there is a general feeling nationwide that the President does not have the political will to go after former leaders and other “sacred cows” because of his own vulnerabilities and dependence on these same people to enhance his own political ambitions. If that is the case, and there are indications that it is, then the fight against corruption cannot succeed under his watch.

Babangida accepts that he is an evil genius, a clever dribbler like Maradona – except that, whereas the Argentine footballer dribbled opponents in the field of soccer Babangida dribbles people in the field of politics.
Now, is this the kind of President Nigeria needs at the moment? Certainly not, because we desperately need an honest, transparent, disciplined, intelligent and focused servant-leader who has compassion for the masses, a leader who will boldly confront the grotesque status quo and radically change it for the better. Our people are tired of morally over-contaminated leaders.
Therefore, on the basis of our second and third criteria, Babangida is thoroughly unfit to rule Nigeria again. Millions of Nigerians have good reasons to believe, as I do, that any party that is foolish enough to present him as its presidential flag bearer in next year’s elections will bite the dust.
Babangida just cannot rule Nigeria for the second time, due to the fact that his past record stinks, and there is nothing concrete to support the insinuation by   his sycophants that he has changed for good after “stepping aside” 17 years ago.
The “evil genius” appears to be in good health physically and mentally, thereby satisfying our fourth criterion. But being in good health is one thing, having the requisite leadership skills and will to serve the suffering masses of this country is a different thing altogether.
Unless Babangida forgot something in Aso Rock when he stepped aside in August 1993 which he has not told us yet, we believe that he has no moral right to aspire to go back there. He is taking Nigerians for a ride by his inordinate ambition to match Obasanjo’s record, but he must be ready to experience the rudest shock of his life if his name appears on the presidential ballot paper next year.
It is now the turn of Mohammadu Buhari, who lost two consecutive presidential elections in 2003 and 2007. While he was Minister of Petroleum Resources in the military government of Obasanjo, Buhari became prominent for the first time in connection with the alleged N2.8 billion missing from the Ministry.
Placed within the periscope of our four criteria, Buhari is a sellable presidential material. The manifestos he presented when he contested for President under the umbrella of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) contain the usual promises of politicians to the electorate.
What resonates with most Nigerians is Buhari’s pledge to jail anyone found guilty of corruption no matter how highly placed. This takes us to our second and third criteria, that is, track record of performance and morality.
Buhari’s brief tenure from December 31, 1983 to August 26, 1985 is probably the most disciplined period in Nigeria’s history. Ably assisted by the unsmiling disciplinarian, late Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari resolutely prosecuted the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) which sought to compel Nigerians to behave responsibly in both their personal and private lives.
The queuing culture, environmental sanitation, and punctuality were strictly enforced, whereas politicians found guilty of corruption and abuse of office were given long prison sentences. Although his regime went too far in curbing press freedom with Decree 4 and enforcement of death penalty against convicted drug traffickers, there is no doubt that Buhari was committed to national development through hard work and disciplined leadership.
His performance as chairman of the Petroleum Task Force, especially with regard to the South East geopolitical zone was not satisfactory – the zone, particularly the Igbo-speaking areas, had the lowest number of top appointments and projects from PTF.
All the same, despite his failures, and disregarding Tam David-West’s hyperbolic adulation of the former military head of state, Buhari is disciplined and morally upright enough to lead Nigeria at this point in time. We are particularly impressed by his modest lifestyle and tough stance against corruption. Health wise, he apparently has no serious problem; his body and mind can withstand the rigours of the presidency.
Among the presidential aspirants, we believe he has the best reputation.
Finally, we come to Atiku Abubakar. A retired Customs officer, Abubakar was Obasanjo’s deputy from 1999 to 2007, although the relationship between them deteriorated towards the end of their tenure.
Naturally, the former Vice President has promised to fix Nigeria’s problems if he becomes President, something he and Obasanjo failed to achieve for eight years, Recently, he claimed that he is the best among the presidential aspirants thus far. On the basis of promises and manifesto, there is little to choose between the aspirants discussed here, because all of them are telling the voters what they (the voters) want to hear.
At the height of his disagreement with Obasanjo, Atiku made disparaging remarks about his former boss and his party, the PDP.

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