THE crowded field of presidential aspirants has been cleared up for a straight contest between two individuals, with the emergence of candidates for the two leading parties in the land, the APC and the PDP.
The contest for Aso Rock Villa has come to a two horse race between Gen. Mohammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan. The 14 February, Valentine’s Day presidential battle, will be far from being a lovers’ affair when the two combatants square up for action. If anything, it promises to be full of intrigues, surprises, suspense and a lot of tension.
It couldn’t possibly be otherwise because what Nigerians will be witnessing is a reprise action, literally a return bout between Buhari and Jonathan, who slugged it out in the 2011 election. In that previous encounter, Goodluck Jonathan carried the day, and remained in office after first using up Umar Yar’Adua’s unfinished term. In addition to the questions raised with regards to the integrity of the election by the Buhari camp, not a few northerners thought Jonathan ought not to have contested at all or, in the alternative, give up his position for another northerner to utilize the ‘northern’ slot, albeit on a fresh note. The consequence of the differing perceptions of the result of that election and the propriety of Jonathan remaining in office was the widespread violence that gripped many parts of the north in the immediate aftermath of the election. Our hope and prayer is that the February election should be rancor-free and conform to civilized standards.
The narrowing down of the field of candidates began when Buhari trounced other contestants at the APC primaries last Thursday in Lagos. He got more than half of the delegates’ votes on a day that was made more intriguing with the downgrading of Atiku Abubakar, earlier seen as Buhari’s main adversary, to the third place. Jonathan who emerged his own party candidate on the same day did not have to contend with any opposition.
He was the sole candidate, anointed well before he finally chose to buy his party’s presidential nomination form. Even this was reserved for him alone until one or two other interested persons were grudgingly accepted into the contest after loud protestations. It was, nevertheless, very clear for whom the PDP ticket was meant and, indeed, reserved. What’s left now but to look ahead to the elections and the chances of the two candidates?
Based strictly on the scorecard, Goodluck Jonathan ought to lose the election. He has failed on the scores that should ordinarily matter to Nigerians. He makes no pretence about fighting corruption, Nigeria’s major problem, or plugging those avenues through which Nigerians are pauperized. His management (or is it mismanagement?) of the country’s security situation signposts his unsuitability as a leader in a time of grave crisis, even war.
His leadership temperament is made for and belongs in a different epoch. To be sure, he did not create these problems. Indeed, the Nigerian situation is programmed for failure and only a leader with the right frame of mind and grit of character can make things work. These are obviously not Goodluck Jonathan’s strongest points. Even though the electoral field now looks a little unpredictable and a Jonathan victory dicey (depending on how the opposition manages Buhari and his choice of running mate), Jonathan might yet win the election.
The reason is that Nigerian politicians hardly ever win on account of their performance in office. When they lose, it is also hardly on account of their performance or non-performance. Electoral victories or failures are most often settled on account of ethnicity and religion. On this score, the candidates are expected to fare best in their respective geo-political zones- Buhari in the north and Jonathan in the south, particularly in the South-south and south-east.
The West where APC is relatively stronger than PDP might hold the ace for who emerges president. A lot depends though on the religious inclination of who Buhari picks as his running mate. Which brings me to the second deciding factor in a Nigerian election- religion. A Christian running mate for Buhari would be reassuring for millions of Nigerians who loathe a muslim-muslim ticket at a time when Islamic fundamentalists have made the religion anathema in places outside the north.
The fact that Buhari has, since his first coming as a military leader, been portrayed as an Islamic fundamentalist and lackey will do little to help his electoral chances especially in the South-east where APC is viewed, as it has been portrayed there and elsewhere, as a party of islamists. This fact may partly explain the wholesale adoption of Jonathan as a son of the soil in the South-east.
In practical terms, to speak today of the APC to Nigerians of particular ethnic backgrounds or religious bent is to be supportive of the insurgents that have made life unlivable for many Nigerians in the North-east. In other words, it is to espouse an agenda for the islamicisation of Nigeria. While Buhari’s antecedent as an uncompromising leader in the mould of an islamist has been invoked against him by his opponents, his reputation as an incorruptible leader should count for much in our choice of a president in 2015. This is certainly the very score, including widespread insecurity of life and property, on which Jonathan has failed to discharge his remit.
One must include the high unemployment rate in the country among issues bordering on insecurity of life. Many Nigerians are simply hungry and without any means of sustenance. You only need to look around and not the statistics from Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s office to appreciate the level of pain and hopelessness that has pervaded the land. It is deeply painful to see just how little Nigerians are asking for to survive amid the mindless brigandage and wastages by their leaders.
Jonathan’s make-up portrays him as a leader for another era and time. The leader Nigeria needs today must be sure of his place and able to stand to the demands of the office. Such a leader cannot and must not continue to feed Nigerians vacuous hopes of a better future while the present looks unlivable. Nigerians need a determined and focused leader.
Of the two candidates up for election next February one certainly has these qualities more than the other. And that is not Jonathan. This makes it all the more intriguing that the presidency is within his view, to say nothing of it being out of his reach. This, however, looks less certain than in the past. Nigerians must in the end cast aside unworthy sentiments and be clear-eyed in making their choice while praying that whoever emerges their next president would take us beyond our present rigmarole while upholding the people’s interest.
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