What IBB and Jonathan didn’t say in their declarations

By Muhammad Ajah

“Finally, to the betterment of our country, the advancement of humanity and greater glory of the Almighty, I, Ibrahim B. Babangida, a citizen of Nigeria, a servant of our people and a loyal member of the PDP, hereby formally declare my candidacy for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 election for only one term of four years. So help me God.” Former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, declaring to run for the position of the President in the 2011 Presidential election.

“In the circumstances and after a thorough self examination and prayers with my family, I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan have decided to humbly offer myself as a candidate in the presidential primaries of our great party, the Peoples Democratic Party, in order to stand for the 2011 Presidential elections. I pledge once again to all the people of this nation that they will have a free and fair election, even as I stand to be a candidate.” President Goodluck Jonathan, declaring to run for the position of the President in the 2011 Presidential election.

Both IBB and incumbent President Jonathan are two prominent Nigerians whose desires to lead Nigeria at least in the next four years have been the central point of debate in the Nigerian politics of today. On Wednesday 15th September, 2010 at the Eagle Square Abuja, IBB formally declared his candidacy for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in the 2011 elections. At the same venue on Saturday 18th September, 2010, barely three days after IBB's declaration, President Jonathan announced his interest in the race.

As far as many Nigerians would believe, these are the greatest declarations for the number one citizenship come May 29, 2011. But the greatest struggle is at the party level. Who grabs the PDP presidential ticket, is the big question? If the turnout at the declaration of these two top politicians is anything to go by, the result indicated that the incumbent president is likely ahead. Yet, it is quite too early to decide who is really behind whom until the primaries are over, especially when considering the implication of having the governorship primaries before that of the president.

At IBB's declaration, only three state governors attended: Mahmoud Aliyu Shinkafi of Zamfara, Muazu Aliyu Babangida of Niger and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa. At Jonathan's, at least 26 PDP-controlled state governors were present, including Nyako and Muazu Babangida both of who have displayed in the highest spirit that politics is a game where there is no perpetual friend or enemy. They have shown that the interest of the entire citizenry should be foremost and that the search for who can guarantee that general interest should be paramount on the elite first before the populace. A good number of the PDP governors are good friends of IBB, Ken Nnamani or even Dokpesi. But they played the coward by keeping away from IBB's declaration.

As a matter of seriousness and national interest, the governors should, irrespective of party affiliations keep meeting and discussing the way forward for Nigeria. It is foolhardy to believe that development have only been on the news and not visible. Nigerians need visible projects: projects that we can see and feel in our homes, on the streets, in the public places and even recreational and rehabilitation centres. The essence of state governance is to decentralize power and it is within the confines of the governors to make the position of the president less attractive.

From the swing of the pendulum, it is clear that the governors are definitely going to be the umpire in the PDP primaries. Howbeit, this calls for extraordinary caution. The governors, by forcing the PDP leadership and the presidency to yield to holding governors' primaries first, have shown that the powers at the central can be controlled if they agree work hand in hand. They are closer to the people, and the local governments and wards are directly under them. They can confidently secure their tickets and do the best for Nigeria by choosing the right person for the job. In so doing too, they must be careful to take the right decision if they desire PDP to retain power. At least, they must know that Nigerians are fortunately becoming politically inclined than before.

An eagle-eyed analysis of the declarations showed that there are feelings of suspicion, misgiving and personal esteem in the outlook of the aspirants. There are certain ways of identifying the inner workings and disturbances of human beings and the most apparent is by what they say and what they do. We have heard and known a lot about the PDP presidential aspirants. We have heard and known a lot about what they have done. But as politicians, no one can exactly predict what they will do. Politicians are the most unpredictable humans on the surface of the earth. And in Nigeria, politics is a multi-faceted adventure where it is played with little or no recourse to basic and laid-down tenets.

There is a local Igbo adage that the heart is a sealed bag. And every human being carries his or her own sealed bag. History, in turn, records and tells what has been exposed to human comprehension and only what human can record becomes of history. Experience matters so much and events in Nigeria over the years have shown that apart from the hydra-headed monster called corruption, the gross imposition of half-baked and inexperienced people at the helm of our affairs has yielded us the damned underdevelopment and poverty we have continued to contend with.

In the assertion of the almighty “I”, President Jonathan, using it in about 70 places as compared to 24 places by IBB, has enumerated his achievements. The use of “I”, inasmuch as it depicts personalization, reveals certain affliction in power exertion. In seeking for power, even highly placed personalities come low to beg for votes. They choose good words to convince the electorate and claim to be the best for the job. On the other hand, the electorates are often at the receiving end and are more than often easily confused, hypnotized and mesmerized to yield to the compromising aspirant.

We are recording the beginning of the game for another electoral jamboree, if we take it as normal business and not our future. Time is up for a frustrated future. Time is up for deceit. Time is up for pretence. And time is up for ethno-religious politics. Who the cap fits, let him wear it should be our slogan. IBB is very fit to rule Nigeria and assuredly, he will do well. President Jonathan has shown that he can lead us to a better future, however. Others like Atiku Abubakar, Aliyu Gusau are also quite capable of offering good leadership for Nigeria.

Let us examine some of the words used by the two aspirants. Jonathan has based all his achievements on a joint leadership with late former President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. “Together we (Yar'Adua and he) swore to execute a joint mandate and today I come before you to make a pronouncement based on that undertaking”, he declared. But he seems not to be satisfied with the achievements probably because the leadership was contaminated; thus his desire to break out and effect a change. “Our country is at the threshold of a new era; an era that beckons for a new kind of leadership; a leadership that is uncontaminated by the prejudices of the past; a leadership committed to change; a leadership that reinvents government, to solve the everyday problems that confront the average Nigerian”, he observed categorically.

One of the fascinating parts of Jonathan's speech is his far-reaching observations on causes of brain-drain, underdevelopment and youth restiveness. “I see millions of Nigerians whose potentials for greatness are constrained by the lack of basic infrastructure. I see Nigerians who can make a difference in the service of their country but are disadvantaged by the lack of opportunities”. If not for political activities and the distractions hitherto, at least he has about seven months to expose more of the developmental strides the joint slot afforded him and his predecessor.

And lastly, the smuggling in of Azikiwe into the President's name still calls for further explanations. He has been in the political circle for a very long time but nothing was heard of this name until just recently. I remember that as a field journalist before now, I covered several assignments in Bayelsa State. I visited Otuoke when his house was assailed by militants and had the opportunity to interview tens of his kinsmen. None ever referred to him as Azikiwe even when some gave insights on how he rose to limelight in the state politics.

As IBB featured, after almost two decades of deep and serious reflection, increased exposure and a review of the past and present, he was more convinced and determined to take fully the challenges ahead of the country, because as he postulates, his involvement in politics is about taking difficult decisions to solve problems and resolve critical challenges through apt application of courage, fortitude, foresight, resourcefulness and inventiveness.

Babangida is of the belief that many young men and women may not be able to appreciate the contributions of his past administration beyond what they have been told by somewhat biased critics even as he infers the time when their parents queued for basic commodities and utilities of life. “They may also not have been told how difficult it was to conduct simple financial and banking transactions, domestic or foreign, the excruciating experiences of air transportation, and even the narrow choices in the print and electronic media because of undue institutional regulation of their existence and operation,” he said.

The former President believes that Nigeria faces a pressing urgency for accelerated development to actualize the tremendous expectation that the nation's enormous endowments evoke particularly at the age of fifty.

However, IBB wants one tenure of four years, hopefully to hand over to an Igbo President in 2015. He did not say who will be his running mate. Jonathan did not even mention how many tenures he wishes to rule. Just in the next few weeks, the suspended breath of many of our politicians will come down when the governors have perfected their plans and made the right choice for all of us.

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]