In less than 24 hours, the much-anticipated D-Day will come and Nigerians will have a choice to make between two Titans, the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and the opposition presidential hopeful, General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress. Though there are other contestants, at the end of the elections, they will also win – that is, win the title of “former presidential aspirant” to their names.
In the history of presidential elections in Nigeria, none has been as heart-gripping, mind-boggling and tension-soaked as the one to be conducted tomorrow. This is partly due to the ascension of men of questionable character, election riggers, confirmed criminals, ethno-religious bigots, serial anarchists and (un)repentant militants whose love and hatred for the major candidates have taken electioneering and campaigns to new heights of infamy. But judgement day is tomorrow and tomorrow will certainly come between the apostles of moving FORWARD and the supporters of Mr STRAIGHTFORWARD.
In his well-acclaimed lecture, “Towards Peaceful Elections in 2015: The Roles of Stakeholders in Nigeria”, delivered at the University of Ilorin courtesy of its Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies last Tuesday (March 17, 2015), Prof. Danny McCain of the University of Jos lamented the absence of political ideology in Nigeria. His interview with highly educated and no so educated Nigerians confirmed what Nigerians know that “the two major political parties do not have any distinct political convictions…our two parties are parties of convenience. One can transfer from the minority party to the majority party for one’s political advantage not because of political conviction.”
In developing his thesis, Prof. McCain contra-distinguished the Nigerian political terrain from his native American experience where the two major political parties “represent two different philosophies of governance.” The Democratic Party, he said, believes that government is the best entity in society to bring about prosperity, peace and fulfillment for its citizens, which explains why it is called the “big government party”. The Republican Party, however, believes that the best solutions to the problems facing the society are in the private sector. So, Republicans try “to reduce government interference in society as much as possible through deregulation and tax cuts,” he said.
Nigerians do not have the luxury of such deep-seated political convictions that make cross-carpeting from one party to the other rare. Nevertheless, Nigerians have in the two major presidential candidates seeking our votes tomorrow what they lack in party ideologies. The two candidates are both diametrically opposed that it can be safely surmised that they are sufficient bases of our political convictions. Are we just supposed to move forward or we are supposed to be straightforward as a nation? These are the options represented by the two key political figures.
President Goodluck Jonathan has been with us for about six years now and his administrative philosophy and leadership acumen are well-known to discerning Nigerians. Though it may be easy for people to play best (with their mouths) when they are just spectators, not as actual footballers on the pitch, the truth remains unassailable that Nigeria is in a bad shape. There are many people and things that are not in place in Nigeria. Chibok girls are missing. Billions are missing. Jobs are missing. Peace and security are missing.
Today, we are more divided that we used to be and seeds of discord that are suggestive of the colonial divide-and-rule policy have been sown among us because of political expediency. It is this penchant for divisive tactics that is attributable to what an observer like Prof. McCain believes: “there have been more party defections during this political cycle than before”. Being antithetical to the spirit of renaissance, I am personally saddened by the abuse of money and how otherwise respected traditional and religious institutions have been messed up with financial inducements. We are not a conscience-for-sale nation and Nigeria can surely be better than this.
For General Muhammadu Buhari, his reputation and stint at the helms of our affairs is a source of inspiration to the youth and a confirmation that nothing is fundamentally wrong with Nigeria, to paraphrase Chinua Achebe in his “The Trouble with Nigeria”. His anti-corruption stance is well known and his integrity is rock-solid. He is described as straightforward.
According to Hon. Juventus Ojukwu, a former member of the House of Representatives (1979-1983), “This man is so straightforward. This is a man who was the Minister of Petroleum. He doesn’t have an oil block; he doesn’t even have a filling station. Buhari doesn’t have plots in Abuja, a former Head of State, a former Governor. We have been shouting about corruption for a long time and people will tell you that corruption has always been here; but this is the best opportunity we have to change things,” he said.
For Ambassador Ignatius Olisemeka, Buhari is a good blend of short phrases. “As far as I’m concerned, four short phrases summarize my overall impression and opinion of Buhari: an incorruptible man. A patriotic Nigerian devoid of any trace of ethnicism and parochialism. A deeply religious man. Above all, a stern disciplinarian.”
The Buhari phenomenon has unified Nigerians across our narrow cocoons of ethnicity and religion. It is just about political ideology, when the reputation of a single person represents the direction that a whole nation sorely needs. Perhaps it is only Buhari that can constitute the intellectual focus and attract the academic exertions of a prodigious Professor of Tam David West’s calibre.
The personality of candidate Buhari has really shown that Nigerians, without any financial inducement, can work together. Nigerians have a choice between moving FORWARD with the status quo or being STRAIGHTFORWARD as a country of straight and serious citizens.
PEACE IS POSSIBLE
We all have an opportunity tomorrow to shame those who believe that Nigeria will disintegrate on account of this year’s elections. I do not believe so. As the problem starts from the individual, let each of us decide to do the right and righteous thing and make peace possible. Let us think peace, let us talk peace and let us vote peacefully. Confucius it was who said: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in world.”