Udom: 2015 may not be for Nigerians

IT is an election year again and everyone is shouting change all over the place. Hopeful excitement trails the country’s election prospects so much so that it seems we already take it for granted that this year’s election will surely rub off well on us all. Like all well meaning Nigerians and our well-wishers all over the world, I wish the election outcomes will bring broader smiles to our faces, but unfortunately, unlike most Nigerians, I am reluctant to share in this euphoria/utopia.

   With the risk of sounding like a prophet of doom, I wish someone would get up and show me a reason I should believe that 2015 is going to be the year of our take-off, a la Walt Whitman Rostow. In this piece, I will focus very much on the presidential election due to its universality to Nigerians and because the issues that pertain to it also pertain to all the other elections.

   Let us look at the major presidential candidates – Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari – as, unless a ‘miracle happens’, it is a foregone conclusion that the race is between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). Apart from sharing the ambition of becoming the president of this country come May 29, 2015, both have at various times led this country, albeit  in different political arrangements. I honestly feel that both candidates share the same affinity for and zeal to prosper Nigeria.

   Jonathan achieved a universal price for petroleum products, and in his time as acting president, achieved more than six gigawatts of electricity, reformed the power/energy sector and brought about the confidence we have in our electoral system, among others. For these, I feel he has the credential for aspiring to another term in office.

  Buhari, on the other hand attacked corruption and jailed many government functionaries that held sway in the country prior to his assumption of office as the head of state in December 1983. He initiated and prosecuted the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign that tried to foster orderliness in Nigeria, some of which slogan we see in our daily living today. For these and others, I also feel he has the credential for aspiring to the office of the president.

  For me, both candidates possess the willingness to tackle our national challenges but the issue is how far can any of them go in taking us to the Promised Land?  The real issues about the future of Nigeria lie not just in one man’s willingness to serve the best interests of the country but on the defective structure we have in Nigeria.

  Let us take corruption for instance. How will any of the candidates fight corruption when they are currently riding at the back of corruption. The various financiers of their campaigns are the very people who would be persecuted for corruption should this war be eventually declared. Where did they get the billions of naira they are deploying in their campaigns if not through dubious and corrupt means? Will they suddenly turn around and persecute the very corrupt people who financed their rise to power? To think they will do this is to live in the cartoon world of Fairytopia.

   Assuming Fairytopia exists and the president, come May 29, 2015 decides to persecute corrupt leaders, where would he get the justice system that will be used to achieve this? With court injunctions going at two for one naira, how will the persecution get the desired verdict? It would be good to note that two courts of appeal in this country are in conflict over the legality of the notorious Public Order Act.

   Again, where will this Fairytopian president draw courage and strength from in the war against corruption? Will he last one year and not be impeached by the National Assembly on trumped up charges simply for refusing to share money to members of the ‘hallowed chambers’? Have we forgotten the experience of then Governor Balarabe Musa of Kaduna State, who was impeached because he refused to go along with the selfish interests of the members of the Kaduna House of Assembly in 1981?

   Where will this president turn to for succor, when whatever he will do, he is sure to have polarized opinions? Having lost our collective conscience in this country the elected president is bound to have a balanced pool of people who will either glorify or denigrate him and his office in whatever he does based on religious, ethnic, political or economic considerations.  If he decides to persecute anybody for corruption, his people will rise in his or her defence, and will, in turn accuse the president of ethnicity and witch-hunting instead of looking at the facts of the case.

  If we are to make 2015 a year for Nigerians, we must first address the structural defects we have – eschew bigotry – and rise to elect only those people who can give us good governance. We must choose our leaders based on merit and not on the size of their pockets or political, ethnic or religious sentiments. This is the only way we must clear the Augean stable, make way for accountability in the country. 

   If we are to expect the needed change in the country with the coming general elections, we should extend our focus beyond the presidential candidates, to also include the gubernatorial, National Assembly and state assembly candidates as all of them make the perfect circle that will bring about this change. Hoping only on the president to deliver the change we desire would lead us to one destination: disappointment. 

   We need to elect men and women of goodwill, who will have the will to reform our existing structures – justice, economic, social etc – and make them strong. Only a strengthened structure will demand accountability from the various arms and tiers of government. 

  It is not a thing we’d wish for but something we have to work out for ourselves, starting with the February general elections. So long we allow the products of corruption hold sway in our political environment, so we will remain helpless in this country. 

• Udom, a PR practitioner, lives in Lagos.

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