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Friday, 24 October 2014


The general elections of 2015 have been described as those that would mark a watershed in the political history of Nigeria. Nothing can be nearer the truth. To be sure, the unprecedented attention that the elections will attract has little to do with the state elections as they affect the governorship and state houses of assembly. Nor has it anything to do with the national elections as they affect the Senate and the House of Representatives. The attraction that the next year’s poll has to do with the presidential election that has been slated for St. Valentine’s Day-February 14. That is the particular election that is expected to be epoch, if all goes well. It is the election that will determine the direction that the country would go-whether or not it would chart a new course or continue on the same path that has it has been since the return of democratic rule in 1999.
Having walked for 16 solid years (by 2015) on one side of the street, Nigerians are desirous of crossing to the other side, if only for the purpose of experiencing life on that side. For that long, the people of this country have been fed with the same dishes, with the lie that the no other dish could taste better.
A fair assessment of governance under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from the advent of the Fourth Republic shows that it is perhaps in the last three years or so that the country could be said to have recorded any semblance of development mainly in agriculture and privatization of power sector, which benefits Nigerians have yet to experience, though there is reason to be optimistic.
In the area of economy-undeniably the most critical aspect-ythe rebasing of the economy, which has sen the Nigerian econmy overtaking South Africa’s as the biggest on the African Continent, has not had any impact on the lives of the people. While government officials celebrate the development as indicative of the country’s growth, the hopeless situation in which a vast majority of Nigerians lives; the failing standard of education; poor healthcare; high rate of unemployment, insecurity and alarming rate of corruption give lie to the claim of improved standard of living in the country.
While some credit could be given to the Jonathan administration for its effort at revamping the economy and solving some of the multifaceted challenges that face the country today, indeed its reluctance to get to the root of the country’s perpetual state of underdevelopment-corruption-makes all its effort to pale into insignificance. As a matter of fact, President Goodluck Jonathan‘s kid gloves handling of corruption-related issues has rubbished any claim that he might make about building a new Nigeria. The foundation has to be new; if the society is to be new.
But thank God for democracy. We are no longer in the military era when people suffered in silence because they had no choice. Now they have choice. Every four years presents an opportunity for Nigerians to make new choices. Despite bogus figures that government officials bandy every day, the fact remains undisputable that Nigerians are not happy. They are unhappy not because the country is poor and lacking in resources to make life more meaningful to everybody. They are unhappy because the resources of the country are being mismanaged by a handful of people who have ensured that the generality of the people remain perpetually in lack, want and are subservient to the few that hold the reins of power. Next year, Nigerians have an opportunity to make a choice between remaining in poverty in the midst of plenty and being content to utter a few muffled voices of complaint, or breaking free to begin a new life. That choice has come about with the existence of the All Progressives Congress (APC). But while the party offers Nigerians the hope of a better alternative to the suffocating and exploitative influence of PDP, its choice of presidential flag bearer in the all-important election will either reinforce that alternative or ensure that the country continues to engage in what may be referred to as stagnant movement.
Before now, it was possible to differentiate APC from PDP as not being a party that is dominated by the hawks that have bled the country and brought it to its knees. Now the story is different. In its effort to swell its ranks for the battle to dislodge the ruling party, the opposition now boasts of members who cannot seriously look PDP in the face and call it a party of corrupt people without being labelled the kettle that called the pot black. The party now harbours people who hitherto hobnobbed with those they now describe as corrupt. And these are the people who want Nigerians to believe they are different from the pack in the PDP, and can save this country from its current slide down the abyss.
But despite that they have created in the minds of Nigerians on the suitability of APC for the struggle to give Nigerians a breath of life, one man stands shoulder above the rest, unarguably the only one that has what it takes to rescue the country from the ruin. He is the former Head of State, GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI(RTD).Among those that are touted as presidential aspirants on the platform of the party today, the former military leader is the only one that does not come with any bag of political liabilities that borders on integrity. He is the only one that can pass the integrity test, discipline and commitment to the emancipation of Nigeria from economic slavery in the midst of plenty.
Buhari’s credentials as the leader, Nigeria needs at this crucial stage of its history bear no repeating. He stands today as the only Nigerian Leader-dead or alive-with no blemish trailing his tenure in all the offices he has held, which include state governor, minister of petroleum , head of state and chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), an agency that was more or less a parallel government , because of the enormous financial resources at its disposal. This agency was far richer than the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The two qualities that Buhari has, which are lacking in Nigerian leaders, namely, integrity and discipline, stand him out of the pack in the APC as the only one that the people of this country can see today as a better alternative to Jonathan. The president is not known to be corrupt, nor has he been linked with any corrupt practice. His greatest undoing lies in his lack of political will to fight the canterworm that have destroyed the Nigeria fabric. His weakness lies in his willingness to sacrifice the country’s interest for his own personal political interest.
Buhari is not known to protect officials whose hands are soiled to lucre, just to protect his political interest. Were he to be the prudent,. There is no way a minister would remain in office after sending young and hapless job seekers to their early graves as a result of greed. Buhari, a president, would not keep for an extra day in office a minister that flies about in private jets hired with tax payers’ money. His was on corruption would be by example, starting with his appointees.
Would Nigeria, under Buhari be the laughing stock that the country has been turned into in the past few weeks over questionable arms deals in South Africa?
As a civilian president, the former military leader would not condone the level of waste that goes on in government circles, especially at the federal level. His track record in all the places where he held office bears him out. With a drastic cut in wastages, the country would have more money to provide the basic needs of Nigerians.
It is worthy of mention that those who are pushing for open primary election to choose the presidential candidate of APC intends to capitalize on Buhari’s lean financial resources to ensure he does not get the party’s ticket. They know that not having amassed wealth in all the offices he held, the retired general will not be able to match the competition to buy the pockets of delegates to the convention. In other words, they want the party’s presidential ticket to go to the highest bidder.
Herein lies the choice that APC members have to make, which will in turn determine the choice that Nigerians will make next year. Do they want an aspirant who will line their pockets with monies whose sources are questionable, with the certainty that if elected into office next year, his immediate propriety would be to recoup what he spent to win the party’s ticket? Or do they want a candidate who , not having spent a dime to bribe everybody to get the party’s ticket, faces squarely the business of instituting the change that Nigerians yearn for, from the first day he assumes office next year?
Beyond the one question of integrity and discipline, the question that APC members needs to answer is-who among the aspirants is capable of taking advantage of the current yearnings in the northern part of the country for the next president to come from that party? Who, between Atiku Abubukar and Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, can pull half of the 12 million votes that Buhari got in 2011 election, with over 80 percent coming from the North?
It does not take an expert in political strategy to know that APC needs only to win in the North about the same number of votes that Buhari won in 2011, and win the South West, to clinch the presidency next, regardless of what it gets from the South-South and South-East geo-political zones.
Those who see Buhari as a serial election looser should read Abraham Lincoln’s political history to know, as the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo said, what matters is not how many times a man falls ,but his ability to get up each time he falls. Between 1832 and 1859, Lincoln failed election into Illinois State Legislature; failed two times to win election into Congress; failed two times to win election into the Senate; failed once as vice president and won election in 1860 as president.
It is not by accident that after failing in three attempts to get elected president; Buhari is alive to strive to contest election into the nation highest office again. We believe that the same factors that worked against him in previous elections will work in his favour this time around. He may not have been accepted is the South before now because of the wrong perception that people in that part of the country had of him as a sectional leader. With the current political enlightenment as to who is truly a national leader, coupled with the strength of APC in the South West, which attracts the second highest number of votes , after the North, the 2015 election will be a different ball game altogether.
That the former head of state commands a cult-like followership in the northern part of the country is not in doubt. The figures are there for anyone to see. Only a party that is not interested in winning an election that means the whole world to it and, by extension, Nigerians would not want to take advantage of this strength. With the sure victory of the party in the South West (despite the strong challenge by PDP) and its expected reasonably good showing in the South-South and South-East, it would be difficult to see how next year’s presidential election would be a tea party for PDP.
The APC constitution provides for the selection of candidates through Consensus. More than at any other time, this is the time for the party to adopt that option and choose Buhari as its flag bearer. The man was there when it mattered most. He laboured to make the party attractive to the latter day entrants who may have scoffed t his attempt to form a credible opposition party. The party should not make the mistake of putting its fate in the hands of people who cannot be trusted not to be the dog that goes back to its vomit when it and a better food is not in sight.
We must put aside primordial sentiments that have held this country back for decades and face the truth that continues to stare us in the face. If the country is to break away from the cycle of underdevelopment that has given it a stunted growth in 54 years. That truth is simply the fact that Buhari is the only leader that can save the country today. He is the only leader that can ensure the wealth of the country goes around. The 2015 presidential election may be our last hope.

Senator P.O Ani
(National Coordinator)
Culled from : The Nation, Friday October 24, 2014

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