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Abayomi: Of Problematic Candidates And Dicey Decision

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AMIDST this season of endorsements and un-endorsements, Prof. Oluwole Soyinka recently came out clean on where he stands with the two main presidential candidates that have been presented to Nigerians, when he took a swipe on the frontline candidates, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) of the All Progressives Congress (APC), describing them as ‘problematic flagbearers.’ 

   According to the Nobel Laureate, there is a huge albatross hanging around the necks of the two main candidates. “I can understand the dilemma, which many voters have. One contender is troubled by the present, the other by the past,” he said.

   Clearly, there is the burden and challenge of choice as voters will go to the poll and vote for whoever they perceive to be the lesser evil. Nigeria is now greatly divided between the partisans of change and those of progress or continuity. What we need at this momentous period is for all sides to exercise some self-restraint in assessment and expectations.

   However, to the undecided voters, who are in their millions and many of whom though may be too young or even not born at the time Buhari was Head of State, a little drive down memory lane would suffice for them to come to a balanced conclusion between the two choices before them – the past and the present. This would prevent them from being carried away with the chants of ‘change’ in the air, while not being deluded about the old tale that the past is always better. 

   Buhari came into power via a coup d’état in December 1983, cutting short our democratic experience from 1979 – 1983 after upstaging Alhaji Shehu Shagari. The families of Ambrose Alli, Bisi Onabanjo, Obafemi Awolowo, and Adekunle Ajasin, among many others will not forget how he assisted to cut short their lives, no matter the media spin the APC may employ to distort history.

   While Shagari was put under house arrest with all amenities provided, his deputy, Chief Alex Ekwueme, Lagos State governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Chief Richard Akinjide and their associates will not forget in a hurry the harrowing experiences without proof they were subjected to.

   With the abrupt termination of democracy in the country, the Southwest witnessed several policy reversals, which ripple effects still live with us till today. Some of the reversals carried out with military alacrity were the suspension of free education in primary and secondary schools, light rail system in Lagos, and cancellation of free tuition and feeding in all tertiary institutions.

   Rather, Buhari only succeeded in making “animals” out of us with the introduction of the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). No wonder jubilation rented the air the moment it was announced that he had been removed by another military coup. Nigerians breathed a sigh of relief, as a learned behavior is more effective than a forced one.

   Despite ruling with absolute military might and draconian decrees, he failed to make the necessary and needed investment or changes to the following sectors of our national life:

railway, airport, or seaport despite growing population; education, public infrastructure and utility; and the critical civil service reform that would have driven development.

   All what we could remember of the mercifully short 20 months he ruled Nigeria was the reign of terror he inflicted in the minds and psyche of Nigerians. 

   At 72 and after three failed attempts without success, he is passionately strong on becoming the president; but has that passion been sufficiently scrutinized or is he being shielded by his party to ride on the current disenchantment with the present state of the country and preach change without asking change to what exactly.

   We cannot because some things are not as they should with the Jonathan administration present General Buhari as something that he provably was not. Buhari is a dictator without a forgiving spirit and not a democrat. It’s nearly impossible to change a 72-year-old man that will need to confront and contend with the National Assembly and the judiciary.

   More so, he is in bed with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who has through subterfuge installed Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, his sidekick as the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC. We had once travelled this road before and had been deceived once when former President Olusegun Obasanjo was sold to Nigerians in 1999. Obasanjo, a former dictator, was presumed to have been transformed and purged by his incarceration under Gen. Sani Abacha. However, as posterity would prove us wrong, he turned out to be an embodiment of incorrigibility on several fronts, including flagrant contempt for law and constitution; just as corruption and the cost of governance burgeoned.

   Evidently, the Jonathan presidency is challenged, except we are denying the facts. He has been embattled since the hue and cry that necessitated an unprecedented ‘Doctrine of Necessity’ by the National Assembly to make him the Acting President.

   He has for much of his five-year administration been fighting the Boko Haram insurgency, a creation of the north, which in some quarters is linked to former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sherriff, a stalwart of the APC before he decamped to PDP last year.

   Despite the mounting obstacles, he was able to do the following: biggest economy in Africa, fastest growth rate in Africa, refurbished all major airports, continued the management of toxic funds via AMCON, which has helped our economy, refurbished and revamped the railway, ended the fertilizer cartel of about 40 years, increased the non-oil revenue base from about 10 percent to 30 percent, balanced his appointments to reflect pan-Nigeria, including 35 percent women representation, did extensive rehabilitation of major roads across the country and constructed new ones.

   Also in his litany of achievements are major repair/overhaul of Kainji Dam and other dams, ensured true deregulation of the power sector, settled all arrears with PHCN staff, established 12 new tertiary institutions and Almajiri schools in the north to address the issue of poverty and education backwardness in the region.

   The choice is now left with Nigerians to make and for this great decision; Nigeria hangs dangerously on the precipice.

• Abayomi writes from Lagos


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