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Ogbonda: Think Nigerians, before you vote!

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YOU may not be able to spare the N100, N200 or whatever the cost of the papers you would wish to read; never mind accessing electricity to watch TV and listen to news in the comfort of your homes, but you cannot have missed the political campaign noises around you.

    Worryingly, rather than being treated to matured debates of what is to be done to improve the general living conditions of ordinary Nigerians, what is being offered are noise of ugly lies, false accusations, impersonations and blatant character assassinations. This ugly spectacle has gone beyond the normally acceptable abuses, which often follow political campaigns. What is being displayed are acts of desperation and lack of ideas by desperados.  Sadly, PDP and its propagandists have reached a new low in gutter politics. In any part of the world where humans reason and mete out appropriate sanctions for bad behaviour, PDP will, without much ado, rue their luck. And they may yet do. After 16 years in power including six years of President Jonathan, PDP should have records to be proud of and campaign on. Elections are normally a referendum on ruling party’s performance. Name calling and mudslinging are never substitutes for grown up debates and campaigns for national prosperity and progress. Any serious government that served for 16 years should be able to reel out its achievements without prompting. 

   PDP need to show a cause why it deserves another four years in office. Exploiting the nation’s fault lines of ethnicity and religion would not pass for reasons for re-election. The questions PDP need to answer are; what did it do with all the billions of Naira, pounds and dollars accrued in the last sixteen years from the sale of oil? How many jobs have been created in the last sixteen years? How many hospitals and schools have been built, adequately staffed and standards rose in the last sixteen years? How many roads have been built? How much electricity has been generated in the last sixteen years? Or, say what it would do to halt the ominous signs of economic melt-down staring at the nation. These are issues that matter to ordinary Nigerians and not religion or areas people were born. Would an Igbo man in critical health condition refuse a treatment from a Yoruba medical doctor? Who in dire need would refuse assistance from a stranger because he professes a different religion to him?  

    In truth PDP’s poor performances in the critical areas of national life despite the billions of dollars voted for their provision are not mainly due to corruption, but a genuine lack of desire to ameliorate the sufferings of the dispensable masses.  The woeful performance and egregious stripping of public assets by the PDP are the reasons why it is not confident in campaigning on its record.

    Fortunately, for Nigerians and sadly for PDP, the APC is reminding Nigerians of the deficit in democratic dividends created by PDP.  While the APC is pushing for the election to be a referendum on PDP’s stewardship, on its part it has been staking out its programme of action for Nigeria. The APC has framed its campaign on anti-corruption, security, jobs creation, quadrupling current power generation, economic diversification and other progressive ideas in its manifesto. These are not mere wish list as some have suggested. If corruption is drastically reduced, cost of governance rationalised as APC has pledged these realistic goals become easily achievable. Some of the promises are cost neutral but will significantly enhance the country’s development. For instance, the reform of the judiciary and dismissing highly corrupt judges will cost nothing, yet will restore hope in the rule of law and order.

    The uniquely Nigerian phenomenon of mass membership defections from one party to another has raised questions about motives and the inference of the dilution of APC’s puritan image by former PDP members. This assertion ignores significant actors in APC. They are Gen. Buhari, Chief John Oyegun, Asiwaju Tinubu, Prof. Osinbajo, Governor Fashola, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and others. These people have never been in the PDP. They have remained in the opposition camps since 1999 despite making huge contributions to the emergence of our new democracy. They remain committed to pursuing alternative democratic agenda.  Gen Buhari’s haters, those who wish to recall the events of 1983, have conveniently forgotten where the majority of the third world was then. It was an era of military regimes. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s attempt at democracy (1979 – 83) with NPN was disastrous. NPN was an affront to sense and sensibility. The less said of it, the better. 

     Gen. Buhari (rtd) remains the only former head of the Nigerian state that decent Nigerians can trust with their personal monies. On Asiwaju Tinubu, as governor of Lagos State he performed better than all other governors in Nigeria during his term. He worked with Prof. Osinbajo who improved the efficiency of Lagos State judiciary. In leaving office Tinubu worked for the emergence of Fashola whom Nigerians agree has done a thoroughly decent job in Lagos. Before you forget, in the struggle against Abacha, in NADECO-Abroad, Asiwaju Tinubu and Chief Oyegun were in the vanguard of that movement. Chief John Oyegun, I remember despite insults from some hot heads in the London pro-democracy movements persevered in building a viable movement. Amongst all the personalities in NADECO-Abroad, Oyegun volunteered to lead Biodun Sowunmi and a third person to leaflet the new Labour Party government at their annual conference in Brighton, England in 1997. The above are acts we need to see in those who will rescue Nigeria from its nadir. Perhaps, Chinua Achebe in – The trouble with Nigeria, would have settled for less messianic leaders provided they were nationalistic and committed to doing their honest best for the people. So we need to make the best choice out of what we have, therefore I urge all not to sleep-walk into the polling boots and to go with their heads and not their hearts. 

    I am not wont to making predictions, but here is a brief story not completely irrelevant to what I wish to say in a moment. In 1988, I wrote to Michael Dukakis, the presidential candidate of the American Democratic Party, warning that if he continues to let George Bush Snr. to run sordid story against him, he will woefully lose the election, he allowed Bush and he lost. I don’t know if my letter got to him. But in 2008, Dukakis in an interview regretted his mistake in allowing Bush to get away with it. I will now say this, without the slightest fear of contradiction, if Jonathan comes back, Nigeria will be in for a meltdown. Sorry, if it is too apocalyptic. 

The Intellectuals 

It is frustrating seeing people sit on the fence and pontificate without attempting to step unto the breach. Buhari is not good, Jonathan is not, and who in Heaven’s name will do the job? If Jesus Christ made the choice of His disciples from all manner of people, including the one that will betray Him, why are we not willing to choose from what we have been presented? For now there is need to be pragmatic because whether we like it or not, it is either Buhari or Jonathan. This is the basic choice for those who will elect the next president.  For me on the critical issue upon which all Nigeria problems currently emanate from – corruption, Buhari gets my vote to fight it. All Nigerians must seriously commit to slaying the ogre of corruption; otherwise the country will not succeed. If Buhari can not slay it, I am sure certain he will take a serious stab at it, particularly with our support.  I don’t think many Nigerians are under the illusion that Buhari will take us to our nirvana, but with what we are presented with, he is best able to commence that journey. 

   Like you, I too, believe in the need to restructure Nigeria and build strong institutions that will guarantee and defend rights of citizens and reduce excessive power of office holders. It is for this reason that in Nigeria in 1993, and on my way from Port Harcourt to Lagos by road, I told University of Benin students who had hitched a ride that if I were in Nigeria, it would have been neither Abiola nor Tofa for me. Why, they asked? In answer I said that the fundamentals for democracy are none existent in Nigeria at the time.  I advised that they should join the civil liberty organisation or other civil rights groups to develop democratic ethos, which sustain democracy.  I will, if I consider it necessary, return to this matter at some future date, because I believe that there is need to organise for fundamental structural changes as I have alluded to in a previous article. 

• Ogbonda wrote from London.



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