Yesterday, General Muhammadu Buhari, former Head of state and three times presidential aspirant made another history as for the fourth consecutive time, he emerged the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after a keenly contested primaries involving four equally formidable opponents who made the challenge even more daunting when they insisted on testing their popularity among the over 8,000 delegates that gathered at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos to pick the candidate that will challenge the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
First in 2003, under the platform of the now defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Buhari, a retired general and former GOC of the 3rd Armoured Brigade in Jos, contested for the office of the president and was beaten to second position by the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who got 24,456,140 votes. Buhari scored just 12,710,022 votes.
Again, in 2007, Buhari was able to clinch the ticket of the ANPP and tested the turf against the former governor of Katsina State, his home state, following which the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua defeated him, though the late president later accepted that his election was flawed. Yar’Adua polled 26, 638, 063 votes to emerge winner while Buhari came a distant second with 6, 605, 299 votes.
Then again, in 2011, Buhari was on the march again. Having fallen out with the ANPP, with a new political party floated to accommodate him and his supporters, the then Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), he ran against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in that year’s election, barely six months after the birth of the CPC. Though he lost the election, the over 12 m Buhari garnered during the election made a definite statement on his popularity and acceptability, particularly in the north.
Buhari has now been declared winner of the presidential primaries for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) and for the fourth time, he is staking out his neck in a political terrain characterized with underhand tactics, back stabbing and sleight of hand.
This time around though, the political circumstance is quite different, with several factors emerging to characterize the 2015 general election, leading Nigerians to believe that for once, the country has no option than to conduct an election that could best be adjudged as being free and fair.
Unlike in the previous elections, Nigerians are unanimous in their clamour for change, change in the manner in which the country’s leaders run the affairs of the nation, with majority of the people left to wallow in abject depravity, despair and hopelessness.
The recent alarming rise in insecurity, particularly with the activities of the Boko Haram ravaging the northern part of the country, with countless lives being lost daily through a senseless pogrom, has gone to expose the under belly of the leadership capability of those in the helm of affairs, since it has become glaring that the chief purpose of governance, the protection of lives and property, is largely, to some extent nonexistent.
The high rate of unemployment among the youth is unprecedented, with graduates of universities roaming the streets looking for means of livelihood, leading to the death of 19 youth in March during the ill fated Nigeria Immigration employment exercise.
Commenting on the unemployment situation in the country, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, at a gathering to review the unemployment situation in the West African sub-region tagged, the West African Regional Conference on Youth Employment, held in Dakar, Senegal, painted a gory picture of the prevailing situation in the country.
The ex-President as a guest speaker predicted a revolution was looming in Nigeria if the high rate of youth unemployment which he put at 72 per cent remained unchecked and should the Jonathan government fail to create employment, the attendant catastrophe would consume the elite, himself included.
Again, Nigerians are generally agreed that corruption which has been the bane militating against the development of the country, has continued to fester, with arguably no tangible effort by the present administration to check the monster.
Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, in a speech delivered recently on the second Peoples Media Limited Conference in Abuja, captured vividly the rising profile of corruption in the country and the seeming lack of the political will to tackle the menace on the side of the federal government.
“The progress made in fighting corruption began to erode under President (Umaru) Yar’Adua. His short-lived regime cannot be assessed in this wise. Currently in the present regime of President Goodluck Jonathan corruption appears to have been institutionalized” Amaechi said.
“A whopping sum of $20 billion (N3.2 trillion) is alleged to be missing. The stories of both fuel and kerosene subsidy are nothing to behold; it reeks of corruption and rottenness. The aviation bullet-proof saga remains unresolved. The Shell-Malabu story is a macabre dance. The response of the regime to corruption is to imprison those exposing corruption.”
Then again, the emergence of the APC as a strong opposition party, as against the regional parties previously holding sway that lacked the muscle to challenge the ruling party, has altogether altered the political landscape. With the coming of the APC, when opposition political parties willingly gave up their separate identities to forge together as a united entity, the opposition has now become formidable and capable of challenging for the presidential seat.
The fallout of the recent PDP primaries across the country is another major factor that could tilt the electoral fortunes either way. However, the way in which the exercise was marred by protest and confusion, with already strong party men like the former national chairman of the party, Barnabas Gemade, already ditching the PDP for the opposition APC; it’s easier to predict where the scales would turn.
These factors, alongside many others, have been on the front burner for Nigerians and as we march towards another election year, it is obvious that maintaining the status quo, allowing the country to continue sliding backward, may turn out to be Herculean. Nigerians clamour for change, they demand for change and from unfolding events in the country, change is inevitable.
In the life of a nation, there comes a time that an individual becomes instrumental in facilitating that desired change, like Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, who was reportedly instrumental in turning the fortunes of his country for the better at a very trying moment. Nigeria indeed is in a trying moment and the yearning for a leader that could take the country out of the woods is paramount.
In his speech delivered while declaring his intent to contest for the seat of the president at the Eagle Square in Abuja, Buhari wasted no time in calling a spade a spade. According to him,
“Since 1999 PDP has presided over our country’s decline. Nigeria in my experience has never been so divided, so polarized by an unthinking government hell bent on ruling and stealing forever whatever befalls the country. Mr Chairman, we in APC are resolved to stop them in their tracks and rescue Nigeria from the stranglehold of PDP.
The last 16 years of PDP Government has witnessed decline in all critical sectors of life in Nigeria.
“There is now general insecurity in the land. Quite apart from Boko Haram, there is prevalence of Armed Robbery, kidnappings and killings, cattle rustling, market and farmland arson.
These outrages have taken a new and a frightening dimension, disrupting economic and social life across whole communities”.
With Buhari’s emergence as the APC presidential candidate in the 2015 election, the stage is now set for the opposition to assert itself and to usher in the desired change in the affairs of the country.
With his famed incorruptible disposition, particularly at a time when it is generally perceived that the ruling PDP lacks the will to tackle the menace posed by corruption that is crippling the nation, Buhari may turn out to be our own version of Churchill, the man of destiny who could actually fix the country and place Nigeria on the part of genuine growth and development.