By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Few weeks back, the media savvy governor of Ekiti State, Mr. Peter Ayo Fayose, inaugurated his campaign for the highest political office in the land. Hardly had he ended his press briefing on this thematic political issue before the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) warned him to stop the campaign. INEC was of the opinion that it was too early in the electoral calendar for political campaigns which would herald the presidential election that is about two years away. But since that colorful declaration of intent by Mr. Fayose of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many other political interest groups have heightened their open campaigns for one candidate or the other. Those who sprang up to urge President MuhammaduBuhari to re-contest for a second term did not even listen to the warning on early campaigns issued by INEC.
Then on Wednesday, November 29, in far away Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, during the Summit of African Union and European Union, President Buhari gave his notice that he would, indeed, seek reelection come 2019. Buhari’s subtle declaration is yet to elicit any warning from INEC, which jumped up very rapidly to warn the opposition politician, Mr. Ayo Fayose, to stop his presidential campaign.
Buhari’s declaration also followed the impactful departure from the All Progressive Congress of his kinsman, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who was e a Vice President of Nigeria for eight years. Atiku’s departure from APC was anchored on what he alleged to be a lack of internal democracy within the newly formed All Progressives Congress, which came into political reckoning when the then incumbent president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, gave Nigeria the good luck of ceding power to an opposition party after a highly contested election in 2015.
The APC is an amalgamation of several parties including Buhari’s CPC; Bola Tinubu’s ACN and remnants of All Progressives Grand Alliance from Imo State who emptied themselves into the newly formed alliance in obedience to Governor Rochas Okorocha.
The APC was also able to wrest power because of the overwhelming financial contributions of some disaffected governors of the then ruling political party-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – and some of their Senators, including the current Senate President – Dr. Bukola Saraki.
The erstwhile Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, is said to be on his way back into the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – the party that made him Vice President for eight years.
But, certain political principalities are already critical of the move by Atiku to dump the APC to find his way back to his former party. Most of those who threw these punches at the direction of Atiku Abubakar are known to be paid supporters of President Buhari who himself had on two occasions switched allegiance from All peoples Parties to set up his CPC and then the All Progressives Congress that resulted from the political amalgamation of some individuals who were bent on displacing Dr. Jonathan from office in 2015.
But come to think of it, which amongst the politicians in Nigeria has ideological discipline to stay in one political party, in and out of power? The truth is that even from 1999 when there were only few political parties, almost all of these parties lacked unique identity and ideological leanings that would fundamentally make them different from each other.
At that time, one of the biggest political thinkers, Chief Bola Ige of blessed memory, described the existing political parties as the five leprous fingers of one hand. The philosophical epithet written about these earliest political parties by the late Chief Bola Ige, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was because he participated in the authorship of the so-called manifestoes of all the political parties. Bola Ige exited his party known as Alliance for Democracy to join his kinsman, Obasanjo, to form the PDP-led Federal Government. He was murdered in Ibadan as a serving Federal Attorney General.
Also from 1999 till date, one distinguishing characteristic of politicians is the capacity to switch allegiance at the speed of lightning just so that the selfish interest of seeking power by all means is achieved. Politicians in Nigeria are known to hold fast to the shallow, untenable and ethically deficient saying that in politics, there are no permanent friends but permanent interests.
I, therefore, beg to differ from the political ‘bandwagonists’ of our time who pay more attention to individuals than ideologies. I, hereby, declare that I am neither for Atiku Abubakar nor for Muhammadu Buhari, but for a true Nigerian nation state governed with the fear of God and strict adherence to democratic principles and constitutionalism.
I hereby repeat what is written in first Corinthians, Chapter three, verse four as follows: “some of you are saying “I am a follower of Paul, others are saying I follow Appollos, or I follow Peter, or I follow only Christ Jesus.” In obedience to the critical thinking of Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher who said that “I think, therefore I exist,” I will say that Nigerians should think only of how to make Nigeria a peaceful home for all citizens whereby all citizens are equal partners.
In making our decisions on who is best suited to steer the ship of the Nigerian state in 2019, we must look beyond the fantasy of thinking that the solution to our numerous problems lies squarely with either the two old men called Atiku or Buhari.
Far from it! Let me state that the reasons for believing that neither Atiku nor Buhari holds the magic wand to our problem is because the duo failed to concretely address the Nigerian situation when they held political offices. In fact, they are sources of many of the developmental challenges confronting us.
I begin with Atiku Abubakar, who as the then Vice President, was allowed by his political principal, Chief Obasanjo, to oversee the economy for a brief period before both of them started internal warfare over political power. It is a fact that poverty, unemployment, insecurity and above all, corruption, were the major developmental challenges that were not sufficiently tackled.
Rather, what happened was that members of the political class embarked on a buying spree of public assets under the spurious privatization exercise. NITEL and Nicon Hilton were sold to politicians and Nigerians were shortchanged. Many other strategic national assets were sold out to this political clique. Both the then President Obasanjo and the vice president were fingered in the repossession of several strategic national assets sold at giveaway prices and, since their departure from office, they have lived like kings.
Volker Treichel, a lead economist with the World Bank summed up the unemployment situation in Nigeria as follows: “shift of employment into family agriculture. Growth of employment in the agricultural sector is consistent with the absence of improvements in agricultural productivity; strong agricultural performance reflected primarily the rise in the prices of agricultural commodities; share of people outside the labor force and outside training has remained constant, and for the youngest age bracket, rising youth unemployment.
Onwubiko is founder of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)