(By David Oluwasegun Ogundipe)
“The stage is set, they are here again! You have seen them, in person, or on the television screen or on their glossy and catchy banners. Some of us have heard them, either directly or through other media. You know them – the public servants who would rather die than not serve you. People in whose hands politics has become a lucrative business and ancestral heritage. Here is the season of promises – I will build bridges in your toilets, you deserve tarred roads in your chalets, and your son must study law in Harvard. Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to this crucial moment“.
In any ideal nation of the world, it is always a noticeable and remarkable attribute of any political aspirant, especially for the office of the Presidency, to be an articulate individual with the ability to intelligently answer questions on topical national or international issues. The American people must have been conscious of something – that words are products of thoughts and that to a great extent, words determine actions. If that was a guess, they were never wrong. Lincoln, Kennedy and Obama are examples of what such a consciousness births, but only in an ideal nation. Do not tell me Nigeria is not America! It is a polite way of saying they are normal, we are not.
The stage is set, they are here again! You have seen them, in person, or on the television screen or on their glossy and catchy banners. Some of us have heard them, either directly or through other media. You know them – the public servants who would rather die than not serve you. People in whose hands politics has become a lucrative business and ancestral heritage. Here is the season of promises – I will build bridges in your toilets, you deserve tarred roads in your chalets, and your son must study law in Harvard. Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to this crucial moment.
The last few weeks in Nigeria have not been quite different from the others. No, the bad roads remain and the good ones are still motorable. People still win generating sets as prizes for paying electricity bills regularly. The third mainland bridge? It is still there. Then there is the unusual harmattan. No, I leave that for Earthfile on Channels. Let us review the pre-election movies with our primary concentration on the campaigns of the two most famous sides: PDP (the Democrats) and APC (the Change Makers).
To an extent, Nigerians have been informed of the plans both sides intend to build on if elected. In fact, the two sides, by a way of allusion also informed us of the fates that will befall us if they are not elected. One side promised a parallel government while the other assured us that the 54 years old nation would be forced to become an Islamic nation by the opponent. Whichever way, the event will unfold itself, but before it does, shall we jointly access our leaders of tomorrow?
I have listened to the Presidential aspirants of both parties on their agenda at least four times each. I saw their rallies at Lagos, Rivers, Osun, Oyo, Bayelsa, Ogun, Calabar etc. The two sides said a lot, but one thing was common: the inability to say anything. If you think that the Democrats have said anything tangible, it is because you are already used to an irresponsible government. If you think the Change makers have addressed the issues, it is because you are so desperate for change that your lack of choice left you at that corner. Now, calm down and consider the many problems facing this nation in the areas of power, health, roads, education, security and economy. If you are still unable to see it right, let me use a simple illustration.
Nigeria is a 54 years old business enterprise that belongs to your family. You took over from your old father as a Director. It has been managed for 6 years the same way President Jonathan managed Nigeria. Now, the manager you appointed 6 years back wants to account. Consider the gains, losses, amounts unaccounted for, the record of fraud and mismanagement, the developments, the wrong business plans, the wrong investments, the laudable ones, what the manager promised to achieve before he was appointed and what he is saying now. Consider everything a good business man must consider. Keep your assessment sheet. Now, consider an intending manager insisting that whatever your assessment and decision about the incumbent manager is, he can do better. Take General Buhari’s agenda in the few states he has spoken as the proposed business plans of the intending manager. Do not forget that the intending manager once ran the same firm for your father. Consider the confirmed things your father and his friends told you about him. Do not forget how his managerial task came to an end then. Something tells me, you can submit your assessment to your inner self. Hey! Stop writing. Let us proceed.
From my assessment, President Jonathan’s agenda is bereft of something. That thing makes him appear like a man who cannot afford this country her goal. After 6 years, all President Jonathan could mount the campaign podium to tell Nigerians is “if elected, I will…” What happened to “in the past years, I…?” Has he admitted that the remnant of his late Oga’s tenure and his first term were nothing to sing and dance home about? What made him conclude that stealing is not corruption? What happened to the Alameseghia, Lawani and Oduah’s cases? What about the $20billion NNPC fund? Has the battle against terrorism been lost? What is happening with our Chibok sisters? Why is he avoiding Chibok? At what stage does stealing become corruption? Is there a minimum amount “stealable” before one can face the wrath of the law? Why can’t he just score points with what he has done? What happened to the promise of stable power supply he made in 2011? Why is the President promising not to build jails? Why did he say he won’t even maintain the existing ones? Whether by commission or omission, some people will go to jail. Is Mr. President saying the commission of crime will no longer be punished? By saying he won’t maintain the existing ones, is he saying those in jails do not deserve a humane treatment?
For General Buhari, the need to tell Nigerians the reason he should be elected still stands. We can play politics, but not with our future and that of generations unborn. The need for change at all cost seems to make us forget the one question the General must answer. That he fought corruption then does not necessarily mean he will fight it again. How do we justify the public vested incorruptible nature of General Buhari, especially in relation to his new friends? Of all types of insanity, political madness is the most difficult to be cured of. Are we just to believe that General Buhari’s new companions have been cured of the penchant for siphoning public funds? Is General Buhari telling us they would face the consequence if they are caught? Is it true that his only mission is to have his pound of flesh for being overthrown by General Babangida? Why is he not coming out clean on his certificate scandal? Yes, the certificate may have nothing to do with being a good leader but there is a minimum academic requirement for anyone vying for the number one seat. Is it true that he is having health issues? If yes, what plan does he have to ensure it doesn’t jeopardize the interest of the nation if he eventually emerges winner? How is he managing it? Something does not just connect in General Buhari’s camp. To both sides, why don’t they consider our tertiary institutions for their campaigns? Are students less important or not politically relevant? Won’t we be affected by the policies they will make?
I may be a neophyte in the politics of the bigger Nigeria, but I am not ignorant of some political gimmicks. Actively or passively, the last 6 years of my life were not without a great deal of politics. I have found myself either appointed or elected to at least two offices in a year. I know how good it is to stand before one’s political friends. I know how weak the knees might be when you face your political “enemies” and also the mixed feelings that come with standing to be assessed by both. To emerge victor, I had to speak more, I wrote more, I listened well, my level of humility increased, we did political permutations, there were night meetings and strategies were put in place. I remember I had to answer some odd questions and I had to account for many things, even my life outside politics. You know how it feels when after a well presented manifesto the only question someone could ask was “is it true that you only enter the library to see girls?” Politics is just like that. It is not different from what is obtainable in the bigger society; it is just that the one at our level is on a smaller scale. Talk about political assassination, it is done too at our level, only that here, it is about assassination of character. Despite that, we all ensured that we addressed the relevant issues with logic and practicability. This is missing out in the campaign of both Presidential aspirants.
In recent times, I have met people whose basis of support is just on the religion of the candidate. As a matter of fact, I have a friend who, whether by mistake or choice, believes that Jonathan has been endorsed by Nigerian churches, youths, women and must win at all cost. I made him realize nothing of such will happen in a sane society because while religion thrives in dogma, politics is about probity and choice. In his fury, he told me to google the Abuja Declaration of 1989 and I replied that I have known enough Declarations to be a good citizen, a responsible father, a loving husband, an amazing son, an efficient employee and a modest Christian, any other Declaration I do not know is not worth knowing. It is too dangerous to make a choice again on the religion of President Jonathan or the change slogan of General Buhari. Our choice should come from their answers to the pertinent questions.
Well meaning Nigerians have questions that President Jonathan and General Buhari must answer. We crave for a chance to meet the duo and engage them without fear or bias. The Democrat has not told us why he should remain and the Change maker is yet to tell us why he should be put there. The 2015 general election is a politics of questions if we want a change that will also be democratic.
David Oluwasegun Ogundipe is a Nigerian.