The Critical Issue of Selection
In view of the forthcoming April 2011 elections, Nigeria commenced the voter's registration exercise on the 15th of January, 2011, with an estimated timeline of about 2 weeks. Owing to various issues, unprecedented and otherwise, the duration of the exercise was extended to enable a greater majority of citizens register. Rating the whole exercise as successful or not may be much of a debatable item. Nonetheless, INEC must acknowledge the collaborative efforts of the media, the entertainment industry and most especially, Nigerian youth in general. There are verifiable accounts of various young artistes who personally motivated their fans and followers to get registered. The campaigning was done via social networking platforms and offline.
Having 'successfully' concluded this first phase of the Register-Select-Vote-Protect (RSVP) process, all eyes are set on the next phase - the critical issue of selection. In every aspect of life, people are faced with a variety of options and are constrained to choose or select, in what we commonly refer to as decision-making. The bedrock of selection is the availability of viable options. Where there are credible options, it is then left to the individual to comparatively analyse, and ultimately select.
Taking a look at the Nigerian political scene today, we are faced with what seems like a plethora of options - 63 registered political parties, all fielding candidates for various positions. The question is how viable are these options? With the spotlight currently on all the presidential candidates, there are some that immediately strike the common man as being the key contenders:
Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Peoples Democratic Party)
He is the incumbent President of Nigeria, native of Bayelsa State, Christian, born in 1957. He holds a PhD in Zoology (University of Port Harcourt, Nigeria). His work experience includes civil service and lecturing in biological sciences in Rivers State. He worked as an Assistant Director in OMPADEC (Oil Minerals Producing Areas Development Commission) from 1993 - 1998.
10 years back, no one would have predicted his rise to political prominence. This was initiated by his advent into full politics in 1998, and a consequent emergence as the first deputy governor of Bayelsa state in 1999. He was sworn in as governor in 2005 after the impeachment of Diepreye Alamieyeseigha. Jonathan was then selected in 2006 as the running mate to Umaru Yar'Adua for the PDP presidential ticket. The duo won the subsequent elections in what was described as one of the most disputed elections in Nigeria's history. After 3 years of rule, Umaru Yar'Adua took ill and eventually died in May 2010. Dr Jonathan was sworn in as the current president on May 6, 2010. He has been described as a man who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
Dr Jonathan set out to uphold the 'rule of law' mantra of his predecessor, declaring a war against corruption, kidnapping and militancy in the oil rich Niger-delta. It is not quite clear what the extent of success in this campaign currently is, with pending unresolved high profile cases like Willbros, and Siemens. The anti-corruption agencies (EFCC specifically) under his government seem unable to replicate the quite impressive performance demonstrated between 2003 and 2006. There is also immense concern on accountability regarding the excess crude account which is reported to have been depleted from $20bn (Sept 2008) to as little as $500m (Sept 2010) and $2.2bn currently.
Nigeria's population today is dominated by the youth (over 40%). Dr Jonathan, aged 53 years, seems to fit well as a generational bridge between the crop of older generation politicians and the swarming upwardly mobile youthful populace. His focus on the use of electronic social networking tools to propagate his thoughts and vision, has positioned him within the immediate reach of the upwardly mobile Nigerian youth both at home and abroad.
There are immense national challenges that have faced the country for decades. These include constant power supply, proper maintenance of highways and access roads, and basic infrastructure. Nigerians are eager to see new and innovative solutions to these prolonged problems. How innovative has Dr Jonathan been in response to these issues? Does he have the required potential for generating new, fresh ideas to create solutions?
Goodluck Jonathan's current campaign is centred on providing good governance, power and energy, food, education, health, land and transport, unemployment, security and the Niger-delta. Besides these high level goals, there are no specific action plans identifiable in his published manifesto online. There is also the alleged threat or limitation of him not being his own man; of not being assertive enough - will he be a second fiddle to a godfather or cabal?
General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) (Congress for Progressive Change)
A native of Katsina State, Muslim, born in 1942, Buhari was 7th head of state of Nigeria (1983 - 1985. His initial military training was at the Nigerian military training school and military college, Kaduna. This was furthered at the Officer's Cadet School (UK), Army Mechanical Transport School (UK), Defence Services' Staff College (India), and United States Army War College. His previous work experience includes: Governor (North-Eastern Nigeria, 1975), Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources (1976-78), Chairman, NNPC (1978), Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF, '95 - '99).
Within 2 years of military rule, Buhari implemented a number of measures, some of which were considered extreme, hence his reputation as being authoritarian. Nigerians were forced by whip-brandishing soldiers to queue up at bus stops; tardy civil servants were subjected to 'frog jump' punishment, and press freedom was restricted. In a bid to grow the economy, imports were cut, resulting in a rise in commodity prices and ultimate inflation. However, in 1995, he was appointed chairman of the PTF by the Sani Abacha administration. There is a general perception that he handled this excess oil revenue fund with transparency and efficiency.
Relative to the political scene, Buhari is certainly not a newcomer. In 2003 and 2007, he contested the presidential elections on the ANPP platform and lost in both cases to the ruling party, PDP. He unsuccessfully challenged both election results in court.
He is judged to be a man who commands a sizeable level of followership and respect, especially in some northern circles. This may not be unconnected with the successful implementation of an anti corruption and indiscipline campaign during his military rule.
Many Nigerians still see this effort as having instilled the highest level of order, discipline and perhaps accountability in the nation's history.
On the global front, Buhari is reported to be well respected. It is on record that he and Nelson Mandela were the only private African individuals invited by the White House to Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony.
To the average Nigerian youth, Buhari falls into the older generation category. While he also has employed the use of a website and electronic social networking as campaign tools, it is not clear whether he will fit well to bridge the generational gap between past leaders and the current crop of upwardly mobile, technology-enabled Nigerian youth.
Regarding national issues such as accountability and governance, he proposes the concept of an online budget monitoring and performance system. He has set a target to generate and distribute at least 15,000 MW of electricity by 2015, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 10%, transform the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to a commercial business, and progress the implementation of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). A critical point of his manifesto is to make information technology, manufacturing, agriculture and entertainment Nigeria's key economic drivers. Are these goals a possible recycling of old political promises or do they portend fresh and innovative resolutions to issues?
General Buhari's current campaign is centred on providing good governance, economic recovery and infrastructure development, power and energy, agriculture, education, health, land and transport, women empowerment, security and the Niger-delta and unemployment. These goals with sub-activities are identifiable in his published manifesto online. The dichotomy of his person still poses the question - military or democrat?
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu (Action Congress of Nigeria)
Native of Adamawa State, Muslim, born in 1960. He was executive chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC, 2003 - 07). He holds a Masters degree in Law (Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria) and was called to the bar in 1984. He also had a stint in strategic management at Harvard Business School, and is a fellow at Oxford University (UK). He worked with the Nigerian Police Force for a period of 18 years (1985 - 2003), serving as key operational officer in the General Investigation and Force Criminal Investigation departments, eventually rising to become the head of the legal and prosecution department.
Ribadu's political experience seems to have been initiated by his appointment as the pioneering boss of the anti-graft agency EFCC. While executing this assignment, he served as a member of other strategic committees including the Economic Management Team, National Committee on Public Service Reforms and the National Cybercrime Working Group. He is widely perceived to have wielded such commitment, drive and passion in his various assignments. In September 2010, Ribadu made a formal declaration to contest the presidential elections on the ACN platform. This is the first time the former EFCC chief will be contesting for a prominent political post.
Between 2003 and 2007, the Obasanjo government earned a great deal of nods and accolades for its apparent success at initiating and implementing the war against corruption. This war was spearheaded by Nuhu Ribadu with many notable results. Under Ribadu's administration, supposed 'sacred cows' were not spared. The EFCC charged governors, ministers, party members, and 419 (advance fee fraud) offenders. Of notable mention is the conviction of the then Inspector-General of the Police Force, with the recovery of N20 billion.
Many have viewed the success of his corruption war as being hinged on strong support from the executive arm of government. Others allege that he was a political tool in the hands of his boss, Obasanjo, to get rid of his perceived detractors, while sparing those considered as allies. While these allegations remain unproven, his previous performance in the force, with awards received, quells questions about his capabilities.
Aged 51 years, Nuhu Ribadu appears to fit very well as bridge between the older generation politicians and youthful populace. He is perceived to command a strong youth appeal and is quite active in his personal use of electronic social networking media as campaign and feedback tools.
His campaign goals include the plan to invest in coal (utilizing existing national coal reserves), wind, solar and biomass as alternative means of power generation, create 30 million jobs, achieve a real GDP annual growth of 8% within 5 years and 10% in 10 years, and reduce fiscal deficit to 3% of the GDP. A critical point of his manifesto is to expand the economic hinge to include non oil sectors. As regards food and agricultural production, there is a commitment to create a system of providing an egg and a glass of fruit juice or one glass of fresh milk to each child in school by 2014.
Summarily, Nuhu Ribadu's political campaign is premised on developing human capital and infrastructure, growing the economy, good governance, youth employment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, security, defence and the Niger Delta. These goals are clearly outlined with detail in his published manifesto online. If voted into office, will Ribadu be a man of his own? Will he then be empowered to bring all corrupt public officials (both previous and current) to book?
Chief Dele Momodu (National Conscience Party)
He is the acclaimed publisher of Ovation International magazine, raised in Ile Ife, Osun State, Christian, born in 1960. He holds a Masters degree in English Literature (Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria). He lectured briefly at the Oyo State College of Arts and Science (1982-83), and later served as a civil servant in Ondo State. In 1986, he honed his managerial skills running Motel Royal Ltd, Ile Ife. An avid writer, Dele Momodu quickly rose to prominence in the media industry, working as news editor for the Weekend Concord (1989). Having worked as editor to the celebrity magazine, 'Classique', in the early 90's, and as founding editor of 'Leaders & Company', Dele eventually started his own production of Ovation International, in 1996.
Chief Dele Momodu's foray into politics can be traced back to the second republic when he was appointed as private secretary to the deputy governor of Ondo State (1983). Ten years later, Momodu joined the campaign organisation of Chief MKO Abiola, a presidential aspirant in 1993.
He was arrested and detained for his activism and pro democracy activities and eventually fled into exile in 1995. Ovation International was birthed during his exile years. Dele Momodu is renowned as one of those Nigerians who have built a global brand out of humble beginnings. In 2010, he declared his intention to contest the presidential election and was elected as the National Conscience Party candidate in January 2011. This will be his first electoral contest.
Declaring his assets and compelling public servants to do the same is Chief Momodu's first stab at tackling the scourge of corruption in the land. He has vowed to maintain a transparent and accountable government.
Dele Momodu is seen to have a strong connection with Nigerian youth. Generally respected for his achievements in the media industry, he is also viewed as a big brother figure to many young Nigerians. Fondly called Bob Dee, he portrays himself as an ordinary Nigerian like any other, without the cover of godfather-ism. Aged 51, he fits very well as generational bridge and maintains strong relationships with the youth through his deft use of electronic social networking tools.
He proposes to address national issues by implementing innovative solutions including the creation of a financial system that provides mortgage facilities to young graduates, building a light rail system to provide easier access to different parts of the country, replicating the Milton Keynes city project in developing new cities out of Ogun State, diversifying the economic base by providing incentives to motivate youths investing in agriculture. He is very emphatic about building infrastructure and creating an atmosphere that supports the growth of local entrepreneurs and investors, ultimately improving production and increasing GDP.
In summary, Dele Momodu's political campaign places emphasis on infrastructure, economic growth, transparent governance, youth empowerment, food and agriculture, foreign policy, national security, and the Niger Delta. His campaign website provides further detail in this regard. Will his skills in business development, together with his erudite and influential personality be sufficient to steer Nigeria's wheels through the many challenges ahead?
In conclusion, it is apparent that the lines are gradually being drawn and redrawn, and aspirants are propounding their ideologies and goals of governance. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has also successfully completed the registration of 67 million eligible voters, against a target of 70 million. This has now shifted the onus to the typically apathetic Nigerian, and more than ever, the dissatisfied and complaining youth, to view the available aspirant options, compare and contrast across board, analyse strengths and possible threats, and make that informed decision - SELECT.
By Kunle Durojaiye and Idiare Atimomo