By Ali Abare Abubakar
Unlike previous elections, when the opposition merely joins in the fray more as a form of defiance rather than actually challenging for the coveted seat of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, unfolding events in the country as the February, 15 scheduled presidential election draws nearer, indicate that, for once, the opposition, represented by the All Progressives Congress (APC) may actually pose a threat to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Judging from the rising clamour for change among Nigerians, occasioned by the mounting disillusionment with the way the ruling PDP has led the country thus far, with the prevailing state of insecurity, economic downturn and the rising profile of corruption combining to make Nigerians groan under dilapidating conditions, many have come out clean to demand for change, the need to usher in a new leadership possessing the required political will to put the country back on the path of genuine growth.
With the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as the presidential candidate of the APC, through a process described as the most free, fair and credible in the nation’s democratic space, many Nigerians have come to see the lanky general from Daura, in Katsina State as the man with the zeal, determination and required moral rectitude to take the country out of the present quagmire , particularly at such times that the PDP that has ruled the country for the past 16 years, appears to have failed to put it house in order.
The general outcry that greeted the recently concluded PDP primaries, with several aggrieved members coming out to protest what many described as “imposition of candidates”, with the governorship primaries of two states, Adamawa and Taraba, held outside of the states, in Abuja, contrary to the party’s constitution, among others, more than anything else signified the unrepentant posture of the ruling party against alleged accusations of supporting and propagating impunity and corruption.
Pundits are of the view that handlers of President Goodluck Jonathan may have played into the hands of the opposition by the strategy they might have adopted to sell their candidate, the alleged recourse to sentiments, be it religious or ethnic. Many are of the view that the PDP started out on the wrong foot when the President’s handlers chose to appeal to primordial sentiments rather than seeking to convince the electorate on what the party has done or could do, to better the lot of Nigerians.
The alleged predisposition to subverting the laws of society, where impunity has become the order of the day, with the PDP seemingly obsessed with power for power’s sake, rather than seeking power in order to pursue a holistic approach to functional leadership that could satisfy the yearnings of Nigerians and to ensure collective prosperity, or even extend the border of the country’s democratic space, has led many to believe that the PDP has but lost touch with reality; that unmistakable demand by Nigerians for a break from the past which the ruling party has allegedly continued to signify.
The case of Gbenga Daniel, former Ogun State governor, serves as another pointer to the alleged recourse to subverting the laws of the land just to satisfy selfish ends. Gbenga Daniel, who was previously undergoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged gross financial mismanagement, recently declared before journalists that the National Working Committee (NWC) of the PDP has directed him to contest for the Senate. The implication of his statement is that members of his constituency may not play any significant role toward attaining his aspiration, with his election into the Senate already a fait accompli!
Recently, the ruling party, under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, has suffered a deluge of condemnations from Nigerians, even from no less a person than former president Olusegun Obasanjo, who in his book “My Watch” berated the president for seeming ineffectiveness in tackling the woes confronting the nation. In the book, Obasanjo laid out the various ways in which President Jonathan has failed as a leader.
In the area of corruption, which many believed was responsible for the present situation of the country, Obasanjo was of the view that “we have been going back steadily from the inception of Yar’Adua’s administration when the ‘hunter’ became the ‘hunted’. But under Jonathan we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power.
“If what is called ‘corruption’ is stealing, under the watch of Goodluck Jonathan, then government has become legalised and protected robbery”.
More recently, while hosting the South-West women leaders at his residence in Abeokuta last Monday, Obasanjo took another swipe at the President, alleging further that Jonathan has squandered $25bn crude oil savings left behind by his administration.
“Our economy should not have been this bad. When I was leaving office about eight years ago, I left a very huge reserve after we had paid all our debts. Almost $25billion we kept in what they called excess crude. The excess from the budget we were saving as reserve for the rainy days. When we left in May 2007, the reserve was said to have been raised to $35billion,” he said.
“But today, that reserve has been depleted! Today, that reserve has been depleted. The reserve we left when we finished paying all our debts, our debts that was about 40billion dollars, that is including debt forgiveness, the remaining debt was not more than $3billion. Our reserve after we had paid off this debt was about $45billion. As I said, they continued till the end of 2007, I heard that the reserve increased to almost $67billion before the end of the year. Our reserve now, learnt is left with around only $30billion.
“That is why the Naira has been falling against the dollar. What would now happen, I learnt if you want to buy a dollar now, it’s about N192 or N195. What it means is this, what you have been buying at N150 to a dollar, now you need N192 or N195 to buy it. That is the real situation. Is there any remedy? There is, but it does not come overnight because it means we have to give up all the bad things we have been doing,” Obasanjo said.
Though Obasanjo denied being against the President, he however urged the women “to vote according to their conscience”, unlike in previous occasions when the former president would openly canvass support for the candidate of the ruling party.
“I have no grudges against Jonathan and I think Jonathan equally has no grudges against me. I’m not quarrelling with Jonathan but all I know is that whatever is good for Nigeria, that I’m ready to die for,” he said.
“I emphasize that whatever is good for Nigeria, is what I’m ready to defend with my life. Whoever, I emphasize, whoever says he would not do anything good to Nigeria, even if he says he’s ready to go ‘konko below’, I’m ready to square it up with such a person. I say again, whoever that person may be; I want you to get that correctly. If this country is going to change for the better, it would start from the top and if it’s going to be otherwise, it would start from the top, too,” the former president stressed.
Only recently too, a Catholic Priest, Ejike Mbaka, demanded for the resignation of the president or be voted out over Nigeria’s alarming insecurity and corruption, urging his followers instead to vote for the APC presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari.
“We need change, whatever it will be, let it be. This is my golden message to my beloved country, what actually is happening? The multitude of our youth; the quality young men, quality young women, brilliants youth – but nobody has plans for any of you, our so called leaders should come and apologise. In 2015, it shall not continue like that” Mbaka stated in a sermon titled, ‘From good luck to bad luck’.
On the political turf, based on analyses by pundits who have surveyed unfolding events across the country, the PDP and President Jonathan may be in for a surprise during the February, 15 presidential poll. According to a political analyst, a university Don, who chose to speak on the condition of anonymity, it is becoming glaring that the president may suffer unimaginable defeat in the polls based on the permutation of the expected voting pattern across the country.
“Unlike in previous elections, the PDP has failed by mounting a campaign based on causing divides along ethno-religious lines. The PDP will woefully fail in the north; will only win in two out of the six states of the north-central, Benue and Plateau. With 14 state governors already in its kitty, it means that the APC and Buhari would require only 30 percent of the votes from the South-West to carry the day” the source stated.
Judging from the prevailing clamour for change among Nigerians, occasioned by the harsh economic reality, coupled with the insecurity brought about by the activities of the Boko Haram, the political terrain leading to the presidential election could indeed spring surprises, with the scale expected to turn in favour of the APC presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, even as the ruling PDP continues to ensnare itself in countless internal wrangling that may eventually break the party apart.