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2015: WHO WANTS TO CHALLENGE THE CHAMPION?

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Sometimes, it is rather difficult not to sympathise with the opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), in their quest to wrest power from President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Such has always been the burden of the underdog or challenger in a match-up with the defending champion in any competition. It is always difficult to dethrone the champion and take his or her belt away when the challenger is a formidable opponent. In a boxing contest for instance, to avoid leaving anything to chance, you will have to knock out the champion otherwise the judges' calls will decide the contest. If it is difficult to dethrone the champion by a formidable or an evenly matched opponent, then it is almost impossible for a weak challenger. If we transport this scenario to capture the Nigerian political scene as we build up to the 2015 general elections, it is not fuzzy to understand who the defending champion is and who the challengers are.

During one of his media chats this year, President Jonathan, a man famed for his admirable humble mien, while responding to the question of when he would declare his intention to seek a second term in office, was so animated that he sensationally declared himself and his party, the PDP, as the defending champions. “We are holding the belt; let those who want to challenge us step forward first”, he had declared. Even then, the president seriously talked about the need to keep his eyes on the ball of governance so as to avoid any distraction from the politics of second term bid while promising to make his intention known to Nigerians at the appropriate time. And to be fair to the President, he has been quietly grinding out superlative performance since 2011 he was popularly elected for the first term.

And talking about performance, President Jonathan has substantially kept the promises he made to the Nigerian people during the 2011 electioneering. He had told the people that he is a simple person, one like them in every respect - coming from a very lowly background to climb to the top - and had promised to eliminate any aristocratic impediments to the self-actualization of the Nigerian people. True to his words, power and the allure of office have not altered Jonathan's persona. He has remained essentially that simple guy next door, shy and approachable. More importantly, he has remained with the common people who elected him by the kind of people-oriented policies he has been pursing. Jonathan rightly understands that the provision of electricity, good roads, access to education, improved transportation and security is topmost in the minds of the common people. In the three years that the President has been in office, he has performed wonders in the area of road construction and rehabilitation and he is doing this all across the country. Many of the roads that used to be highways to hell, leaving the people with no other choices than to curse their leaders, have become transformed, thus making life a little easier for the people.

With improved road network, agriculture, which has received the kind of priority attention from this government more than ever before, has further been enhanced with the easy transportation of produce from the hinterlands to the city centres. Under the government of President Jonathan, agriculture has been transformed from the mere drudgery that it has been to a lucrative business, thus contributing to the economy and creating farmer posterity. And, when you add the fact that the trains are back and the airports across the country have not only been refurbished but that air transportation safety has been improved, then the multiplier effects to the economy can only be imagined. Yet, without any doubt, in the area of improving infrastructure, the Jonathan administration has made its greatest impact in the power sector, which has proved intractable to past regimes, both military and civilian. For the very first time, Government has approached the power sector problem from a longer-term perspective by making huge investments with targeted deliverables and specified timelines, thus making it possible for the people themselves to track the success rates or failure as the case may be. More importantly, for the first time in the history of our country, a President has summoned the necessary political will to do the right thing by unbundling the former quango, National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA), a problem that only changed name to PHCN under a past administration. By taking the decision to liberalise the power sector, President Jonathan has laid the perfect foundation for the once-and-for-all resolution of the electricity problem in in the country.

If President Jonathan has performed creditably in the area of infrastructure renewal, then he has been excellent in enlarging the political space and improving personal liberties. Jonathan has so improved the frontiers of freedom, the very pillar on which democracy is erected so much so that even his opponents, most of who are famed for their authoritarian background, now abuse him daily in the name of free speech. His electoral reforms have started yielding the desired dividends in the land with the votes now counting rather than the ability to muster violence during elections and, in so doing, has handed power back to the people.

It is against this superior performance that many groups across the land, including a section of the opposition like the Labour Party (LP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) are calling on the Nigerian President to declare his interest in a second term of office as constitutionally guaranteed to him. Those who want to dare the President within the PDP are welcome to try their own luck against Goodluck by exercising their right to contest. And for the APC, it is getting clearer that whoever they present (that is if they do have a candidate) will be a mismatch for Jonathan and the PDP. At the last count, APC has lost two potential presidential candidates (Shekarau and Ribadu) from the legacy parties from which it was formed. It has also lost Tom Ikimi, the man that put it together, in a long list of defectors to the PDP. From the membership flight that is going on in the APC camp, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if Jonathan is elected unopposed in 2015. Who wants to challenge the Champion?

Written by Hamisu Abubakar.
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