March, 28 2015: Are You Ready?
In another few days, March, 28 th , to be exact, you – yes, YOU – will, most likely be going to join other Nigerians, at your neighbourhood poling station, for the purpose of casting your vote, for the President of your choice. That is, if you are a bona fide Nigerian citizen; eighteen years of age and above and have, accordingly, collected your own PVC (Permanent Voter's Card). Well, if, for any reason, your are none of the above, you needn't read any further – there would be no point for you to.
2. Assuming, however, that you do qualify to vote, come March, 28 th , then my question is directed to you, but not necessarily at you! There is a difference, here, you see. It really doesn't matter whether you are male or female, adolescent, young adult or senior citizen, Hausa, Ibibio, Bini, Ebira, Yoruba, Efik, Kanuri, Birom, Jukun, Ijaw, Igbo, Fulani or Kataf; nor does it matter whether you are Christian, Moslem or an adherent of any of the traditional belief systems. As long as you are qualified, on the basis of extant laws of the land, to vote, it is necessary for me to ask: are you ready? If so, how ready are you?
3. Are you going to simply vote for either of the two major contestants by the proverbial rule of the thumb, or are you going to simply flip a coin, to decide where your vote goes? Are you going to decide on the basis of the most colourful party symbol or flag, or are you going to go by who is the most 'handsome' of all the candidates? Are you, perhaps, going to decide on the basis of which of the candidates looks best in the array of Nigerian traditional costumes that have suddenly become popular among Nigerian politicians on the campaign trails? Are you going to decide on the basis of the articulated manifestos of each party, or are you going to be guided by the religious inclination of each candidate. Are you, being very mindful of the saying, that: the wisdom of Solomon has very little in common with the age of Methusellah, going to make your choice, based on the respective ages of the contestants? Or, are you going to base your decision on the contemporary, salient issues – of democratic, economic, constitutional, nationalistic relevance?
4. Again, assuming that, like me and many other intellectually-minded Nigerians, you are going by the relevant issues, what, in your own opinion, are the most relevant, contemporary issues upon which to base your choice of candidate? In the run-up to the Presidential elections, a panoply of campaign issues have been bandied by the main contending parties, including: the need for change, any kind of change, fifteen years into democratic governance;national security and the need to suppress the Boko Haram insurgency; the need to curb widespread corruption and punish culpable government officials and politicians; massive youth unemployment; the need to preserve the secularity and corporate existence of the Nigerian State; the need to make Nigeria the hub of regional aviation and the destination of choice for foreign investors in Africa; the urgent need to 'catch-up', socio-economically, with the phenomenal 'Asian-Tiger' nations, by making education the cutting edge of our renewed efforts at re-inventing and diversifying the Nigerian economy, enhanced by a viable network of infrastructural assets and supported by a well-developed and finely-integrated transportation system; the quality and character of the person to be entrusted with the onerous task of getting Nigeria to the proverbial Promised Land , etc., etc.
5. Well, no matter how you look at it, a cursory discussion of these salient political issues would, inevitably, become an assessment of the scorecard of the Jonathan Administration, vis-à-vis the prospect of the ascension to power, of a Muhammadu Buhari Administration, who is the most important contender for the key to Aso Rock . If you consider the clamour for change, for instance, you will find that there is a general desire for change, as a constant and ineluctable aspect of human history. It is, however, also a mute point, that change could be a positive, or a negative factor. Fifteen years into our current romance with democratic governance, what kind of change do we really require? Obviously, the general answer would be: positive change! All well and good; but then, we must agree on the contextual definition of the term. Is positive change, at this threshold of the 2015 elections, to be defined in terms of: a mere change of the dramatis personae at the helm of national or state affairs? Is it to be change, any kind of change, no matter the consequences, or should it be a change in pace, timelines, strategy and discernible outcomes? I cannot help but recall that, in his first television interview, granted at his ascension to the Chairmanship of the PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur had promised to help the ruling party “to move Nigeria forward”. I also recall that, on that occasion, a friend of mine had asked, in a tangential allusion to the elder-statesman's age, the rhetorical question: “at what pace?” I could also recall the then, Reverend Father Matthew Kuka, during the advent of the national debates preceding the phenomenal “ doctrine of necessity”, wondering how anyone could be contemplating “moving Nigeria forward”, when the country was already “standing on the precipice”! On this threshold of the March, 28 th Presidential Elections, there is a very urgent need, in my humble view, to ensure that my thumb-print, at that crucial, decisive moment, does not consign Nigeria, my dear Fatherland, from the proverbial frying-pan to the fire!
6. On the need to curb the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency, are we better off shoring up the efforts of the present Administration with our patriotic support, thus boosting the morale of our troops in the battle-front, or, alternatively, withdraw our support for the Commander-in-Chief, in the middle of a war, in preference for a new Commander-in-Chief, whose relationship with the terrorist group is, at best, suspect? On the need to curb widespread corruption and punish culpable government officials and politicians, I would agree with anyone, on the fact that corruption is really, really a cog in the wheel of our national development and should, therefore, be fought to a standstill. Having said that, however, I do observe what appears to be a strenuous, but fallacious campaign by some of the contending political parties to project corruption as a crime which resides, exclusively, in the domain of the ruling party! I am of the conviction that corruption is a general Nigerian malady; most, if not all of us, are corrupt to varying degrees. Corruption is present in our lives at the individual, public, corporate, government and, even religious circles! Virtually every one of us is corrupt, including my humble self and we all need the grace of the Almighty God, to help us mend our ways. Most Nigerians who claim to be above corruption and hyper-ventilate about widespread corruption in the present administration, are only playing the ostrich and deceiving themselves. This is so, because, corruption is not to be defined only in terms of embezzling Federal Government or PDP-controlled State and Local Government funds. Corruption also strides boldly in the corridors of all governments, at all tiers, under the control of all the contending political parties, including the APC! That is to say, that inflation of contract costs and up-front payments for unexecuted contracts, for instance, are not the exclusive preserves of PDP-led Federal, State and local governments. Like I observed earlier, corruption has pervaded every aspect of our individual, public, corporate, government and even religious lives! It is not necessarily restricted to the illicit application or misapplication of funds, although most cases of corruption involve money. Corruption is present, for instance, when an individual beats the red light at a traffic junction and successfully 'persuades' the traffic policeman to let him off with a 'stern warning', to “go and sin no more”. It is present when a government official suppresses the curriculum vitae of one Nigerian, in favour of another less qualified aspirant for appointment to an official position, simply on the grounds of his or her ethnic origin, religious inclination or political affiliation. It is also present when a parent procures someone to impersonate his or her child in a written examination, for the purpose of assuring unmerited good grades in that exam. Again, it is present, for instance, when someone entrusted with counting the tithes and offerings, after a church service, unilaterally blesses him or herself with some of the money! Corruption rears its ugly head, where a tomato-seller in the market displays several baskets of ostensibly 'fresh' tomatoes for sale, but where, in reality, the fresh ones at the top of each basket have been very carefully arranged to hide all the rotten ones at the bottom of the pile! It is also present where a pharmacy or medicine-store willfully sells or dispenses fake or expired drugs to unsuspecting members of the public, knowing full well that such persons are, in fact procuring their deaths with their hard-earned cash! So endemic is corruption in our society that, in our daily commercial interactions, our market men and women, petrol station attendants, shop-keepers, sales boys and girls and vendors of all types, no longer believe that the customer is rightfully entitled to his change, at the end of any transaction! You have, as a customer or procurer of goods and services, to strenuously demand for your change, before you can get it, with all the grumbling and baleful looks that accompany it! I often feel terribly ashamed when I wonder what foreigners living among us, or tourists visiting our country, think of us, when they observe our reluctance to give them their due change, at the end of any transaction! I wonder what they think of us when our government officials or local security men, at every turn, paste that sickly, beggarly grin on their faces, as they shamelessly mutter those nauseating greetings: “good morning, sir… happy week-end, sir…anything for the boys?… Oga, we dey here-o!” etc. It is a measure of our collective greed and corruption, that Nigeria is the only country I know – and I have travelled very wide in the world – where coins are not a feature of everyday commercial transactions. This fallacy regarding corruption is even carried to the ridiculous extent that some politicians are viewed as corrupt, when they are in the ruling PDP and, of course, as saints, immediately they decamp and cross over to the main opposition party! One interesting example readily comes to mind, concerning the governor of one of the South-south states, who, up to the middle of his second tenure as a PDP governor, was considered to be a corrupt governor and a villainous scoundrel, by the APC. He was recorded, within this period, to have made the ground-shaking observation, that “ only nightsiolmen are in the trademark habit of carrying brooms everywhere they go!” However, as soon as his relations with the ruling party soured and he decamped to the main opposition party – and took to dancing azonto in the streets of the state capital, of course, with a large broom in his hand – he not only became an instant “progressive governor” but a front-line anti-corruption crusader!All this without prejudice to the fact that he now runs a democratically progressive state,where the judiciary has been completely emasculated and crippled, while the legislature now sits regularly in his dining-room, and passes all his bills and budgets within minutes of their presentation, under his saintly, anti-corruption watch!
7. On the other critical areas of making education the cutting edge of our renewed efforts at re-inventing and diversifying the Nigerian economy, the PDP has latched upon the recently-concluded series of Presidential debates, to present and elaborate on the implementation, over the past four years, of its well thought-out economic development blue-print. The highlights of this blue-print feature, among other things, the establishment of twelve additional Federal universities, particularly in states that had none, previously; the provision of some 3 Trillion Naira, pursuant to its recent agreement with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), as a means of bringing to an end, the series of protracted university strikes that have, hitherto, virtually crippled education at the tertiary level, throughout the country. It also includes the provision of another USD 10Billion, annually, for the rehabilitation and expansion of infrastructural development throughout the federal-owned tertiary institutions. It also features the revolutionary achievements recorded under the Goodluck Jonathan administration's agricultural reform programme, including, for instance, the elimination of middle-men in the distribution of fertilizer to Nigerian farmers. This unprecedented and remarkable anti-corruption milestone recorded by the Administration has combined with other revolutionary policies to change Nigeria, within four years, from a net-importer, to a net-exporter of rice! This expanding agricultural revolution is covering many areas and providing jobs for a growing number of youths, the critical segment of our population, thus restoring the glorious days of our national agriculture. In fact, it is largely on account of this visionary agricultural reform programme that Nigeria has been spared much of the very harsh effects of the sudden fall in oil prices! One of the most immediate effects of the sudden fall in government's oil revenue, late last year, was, ironically, a drastic fall – yes, fall – in the price of rice in the local markets; at Christmas, too!Other laudable features of the development blue-print are the great rehabilitation and expansion projects recorded and on-going in the aviation sector, the resuscitation and expansion of the trans-national railway system, which had hitherto been comatose for over four decades, as well as the great highway rehabilitation and expansion projects being executed across the country, under the Jonathan administration's Strategic Infrastructure Development Programme. These include the dredging of the River Niger, between Onitsha and Lokoja, to facilitate internal trade, in terms of the movement of agricultural produce and other large cargo, by water, between the coastal ports of Port Harcourt, Koko and Warri and the hinterland, up to Lokoja. It also includes the completion of the Ikom Bridge, in Cross River State, in order to facilitate the importation and movement of large imports from the Calabar Ports, on land, through the Ikom Bridge, into the Middle-Belt and North-eastern parts of the country. This effectively put an end to the erstwhile need to ship all goods destined for these parts of the country, through the ever-congested Lagos ports. It also resuscitated full commercial activity in the Calabar ports, thus providing ready employment for thousands of youths in the adjoining states. Further landmark developments in the highway development sector are: the award and funding of the contracts for the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, in Anambra State and the Bodo-Bonny Road, in Rivers State, which has been on the drawing board, for half-a-century! This is not to mention the bold and revolutionary privatization of the power sector by the GEJ administration, under the Public-Private-Partnership initiative, which has not only attracted several billions of US Dollars into the Nigerian power sector, from local and foreign investors, but has increased the power generation capacity of the sector from 2,500MW to some 4,500MW, in four years! This is in addition to the completion of thousands of kilometers of complementary Transmission Lines, as well as scores of sub-stations across the country, to enhance the nation's power distribution capacity. Also, the GEJ administration has embarked on the construction of several strategic hydro-electric power dams, including the Mambila and Zungeru dams, as well as eleven others in
Akwa Ibom, Katsina, Enugu and Ondo States, as a means of further boosting power generation across the country. It has also completed over seven major water-supply projects, providing about 4.3 additional Nigerians with access to clean, potable water. By the end of 2014, some 69% of the Nigerian population, now have access to improved water sources, compared to 60% in 2011. The success story of the GEJ administration is manifest in many concurrent, but silent revolutions, in so many fronts, including the health, manufacturing, security and information technology. It is impossible to discuss them, exhaustively, within the scope of this piece.
8. Now, it is instructive to note that, while the ruling PDP clasped the opportunity provided by the Presidential Debates organized by the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG), to apprise the Nigerian electorate and interested global stakeholders, with its achievements in the last four years and its developmental projections for the next four, if given the mandate, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has declined to seize the opportunity, to enlighten the electorate and the global public on the programmes and policies it intends to execute, if voted into power on March, 28 th 2015. As a matter of fact, the party, in its usual, disdainful disregard of the Nigerian electorate, bluntly refused to participate in the event, principally designed to place issues, rather than belligerency and threats of violence, on the front-burner, in the run-up to the forth-coming elections. By refusing to participate in the series of debates, citing some flimsy, untenable excuses, it is clear that the APC has nothing – proffers nothing – with which to persuade the Nigerian voters to cast their votes for the party, beyond its oft-repeated threats of bloody violence, parallel government, civil-disobedience, etc., all summarized in a blood-curdling scream of the phrase: APC, Change! The APC has consistently maintained that the PDP has ruled Nigeria for 16 “disastrous” years in which corruption, impunity, insurgency, armed robbery and several other ills of the society have been the order of the day. However, a very close analysis of the APC, in the light of those 16 “disastrous years”, reveals the following:
Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi: 8 years as Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, 7 years as Governor, under PDP;
Atiku Abubakar: 8 years as Vice President, under PDP;
George Akume: 8 years as Governor, Benue State, 4 years as Senator, under PDP;
Bukola Saraki: 8 years as Governor, Kwara State, 2 years as Senator, under PDP;
Timipre Sylva: 4 years as Governor, Bayelsa State, under PDP;
Audu Ogbe: 2 years as Chairman of PDP;
Aminu Bello Masari: 4 years as Speaker, House of Representatives;
Chris Ngige: 3 years as Governor, Anambra State, under PDP;
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso: 7 years as Governor, Kano State, 3 years as Defence Minister, under PDP;
Nasir El Rufa'i: 4 years as FCT Minister, 2 years, as Chairman, BPE;
General Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR: President and Maximum Ruler in those 8 “disastrous” years, subsequently and, until recently, Chairman of the PDP (now with one foot in the PDP and the other, in the APC)!
9. It is clear from the above analysis, that the APC is nothing but the political refuse-bin of the PDP, into which its fecal, political wastes are dumped. Have these men now suddenly become haloed saints and “progressive, anti-corruption” crusaders, who played no part in the 16 years of disaster, simply because they formed or joined the APC? So, what manner of positive change can the APC really bring to Nigeria? This is why you need to consider, carefully, before you impress your thumb on that ballot paper! Reach for the glorious future that so eagerly beckons to us as a blessed nation and never even contemplate stepping back into the dark, dismal abyss!
10. If you think, dear reader, that this write-up is a naked campaign for the PDP, you are probably right; but beyond that, it is a passionate, informed appeal to you, as an enlightened, intelligent and patriotic Nigerian, to think of the future of our children and our dear Fatherland and consider, very carefully, before it is too late, where, indeed, you press your thumb on that ballot paper, come March, 28 th , 2015! In the circumstances in which Nigeria currently finds herself, which party is more likely to protect her secular nature and Constitution, particularly within the context of Islamic fundamentalist violence sweeping across the world? Is it the very nationalistic Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), composed of peace-loving and hard-working Nigerians from all ethnic and religious persuasions, or the religiously-biased All Progressives Congress (APC), whose leadership hierarchy is almost entirely tilted towards a particular religion? Oh, you think I am being melo-dramatic? Just check out the hierarchy of the Party, just before its last convention:
Party Leader (North): Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (Muslim);
Party Leader (South): Ashiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu (Muslim);
National Chairman: Abdulkareem Bisi Akande(Muslim);
Deputy National Chairman: Aminu Bello Masari (Muslim);
National Secretary: Tijanjani Musa Tumsah (Muslim);
Deputy National Secretary: Nasir El Rufai (Muslim);
National Publicity Secretary: Lai Mohammed (Muslim);
National Treasurer: Sadiya Umar Faruq (Muslim);
National Financial Secretary: Alhaji Shuaibu Musa (Muslim);
National Youth Leader: Abubakar Lado (Muslim);
National Legal Adviser: Muiz Banire (Muslim);
National Deputy Auditor: Bala Jibrin (Muslim);
National Women Leader: Sharia Ikeazor (Muslim convert);
Ex-Officio Member: Muniru Muse (Muslim);
Ex-Officio Member: Alhaji Yemi Sanusi (Muslim).
Is it a mere coincidence, that a political party with nationalistic pretensions would have a hierarchical structure such as presented above, or is it as a result of cold, deliberate calculation, symptomatic of a veiled, sinister agenda with ominous consequences for Nigeria, her diverse peoples and her secular Constitution? Well, whatever may be the case, Nigerians are scheduled, not only to take their fate in their own hands, but keep a date with their collective destiny, on March, 28 th , 2015. I would only sound a note of caution, that what we have here is a look before you leap (or look before you thumb-print) situation!
11. So, my brother/sister and compatriot, before I end this piece, I invite you to join me in pondering why General Ibrahim Babangida advised that those who wish Nigeria well, should rather vote for Dr. Goodluck Ebele Janathan, and why the irrepressible Professor Wole Soyinka, in spite of his much-avowed and well-documented disenchantment with the personality of GEJ, averred that, only four sets of people are like to support and vote for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in the March, 28 th Presidential Election:
1) Those who are intellectually blind and weak;
2) Those who are blinded by ethnicity, tribalism and religious bigotry;
3) Those who can be deceived by Buhari's pretentious anti-corruption posturing;
4) Those who are suffering from a combination of all the above terminal sicknesses!
11. In summary, my dear compatriot, I hereby invite you to think seriously, before it is too late and consider the crucial effect of the vote you are soon to cast. Please do the right thing and vote wisely, for Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the PDP, in the interest of our dear country and unborn generations of our people.
GOD BLESS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA!
Barr. S. A. Nyingifa-Williams
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