With the presidential primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC ) over, the stage is set for next year’s general elections. Even though there are many political parties in Nigeria, political observers are in agreement that the 2015 power struggle will be between the PDP and the APC which, unarguably, is the main opposition party in the nation.
And as activities gather momentum ahead of the presidential poll, which is the ultimate election, one question that keeps agitating the minds of many is – Who wins Nigeria’s ticket to ‘Aso Rock’. As usual, the public domain is awash with all manner of permutations over the chances of the major candidates.
For many, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was recently endorsed by his party during the National Convention of the PDP remains a man to beat despite the challenges, facing the present administration under his tutelage. Not a few also insist that 2015 general elections provide the best political window for Gen Muhammadu Buhari to clinch the coveted presidential seat. So, the stage is set as the results of the primaries of the two leading political parties show that their candidates – Jonathan and Buhari – enjoy full support of their parties across the nation.
While President Jonathan emerged PDP candidate unopposed at a National Convention held in Abuja, Buhari’s victory was overwhelming as he garnered a whopping 3,430 votes to emerge the presidential candidate of APC in a keenly contested primary election held in Lagos.
So, the long-awaited battle is here again with stakeholders and observers already assessing their strengths and weaknesses and that of their platforms to determine the possible president of Nigeria in 2015.
However, irrespective of the political divide one belongs, many agree that the nation is approaching another epic battle. It is one game which its outcome cannot easily be predicted. Coincidentally, the election would hold on Valentine’s day, February 14, when most people usually lower their guards to show love to one another.
As expected, supporters of both candidates are talking tough ahead of the elections.
Ekiti State governor, Ayo Fayose seemed to have captured the thinking of Jonathan’s supporters when he was recently quoted to have said: “Nothing will stop Jonathan in 2015. Those going about blackmailing Jonathan are wasting their time. We have the strategy. We have the people. We have done it before”.
But the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal who is Buharis’s supporter thinks otherwise and he made it clear in his statement: “By voting APC at the centre, you will be voting for prosperity and eradication of poverty. What we are witnessing today in Nigeria is not governance, but mis-governance.
“We are witnessing a system that does not have the interest of the people of this country at heart. It is also incumbent on us as a people to turn en-masse and vote out Goodluck Ebele Jonathan come 2015. That will bring peace, progress and development of Nigeria”.
With both candidates enjoying reasonable percentages of support, many would like them to be put in proper perspective.
Even though critics of President Jonathan argue that he has not done well enough to deserve a second term in office, critical observers think otherwise. Those who are not favourably disposed to Jonathan would insist that beyond all is that he has not lived up to expectation in the fight against Boko Haram. Many insist that under his watch, the Boko Haram challenge has become literally insurmountable and leading to a veritable insurgency that has caused the death of thousands of citizens with the government sometimes appearing helpless.
As convincing as the arguments in this school of thought appear, there are many who believe that no president could have done better in the same circumstance that Jonathan found himself. The argument among those here is that from inception, right from when Jonathan was acting for late President Umaru Yar’Adua, some powers that be did not give him a chance. Many recall that some prominent politicians including his opponent, Gen Buhari voiced it out in 2011 general elections that they would make Nigeria ungovernable if they lost in the poll.
There are those who argue that, the Boko Haram phenomenon has toughened Mr. President and has made him more confident as both Christian and Muslim leaders have come out openly to criticise Boko Haram which has attracted global recognition and condemnation. Not a few argue that some elites who have failed to achieve relevance in the ballot box, are merely exploiting Boko Haram to instigate insecurity in the country.
Political observers insist that such people had initially adopted several measures to discourage President Goodluck Jonathan contesting the 2015 election but failed, hence the resort to instigate insecurity in the nation.
Many believe that even those who do not like Jonathan would agree that under him, there had been the promotion and practice of true democracy by creating an enabling environment where people from diverse backgrounds and views can be accommodated.
Supporters of the present administration count the conduct of free and fair elections in the country, including the 2011 poll which was adjudged to be the most credible election of its magnitude in the country. Part of the positives of his administration is that there had been relative non-interference with electoral and judicial matters. Evidence of that showed in the number of governorship elections in the country since Jonathan became the President. Even though many criticize the development, under Jonathan, the nation rebased it’s GDP for the first time in over a decade to become the largest economy in Africa.
Critical observers do not forget the containment of the deadly and highly contagious disease, Ebola Virus Disease which is raging many countries even at the present.
There are those who argue that despite the shortcomings of President Jonathan’s achievements, he is still a better option when placed side by side with Gen Buhari.
Without sounding patronizing, supporters of the former Head of State are in agreement that among the elite in Nigeria, Buhari ranks one of the best when they are subjected to an integrity check. Analysts believe that he is one man who has sustained an unblemished character in Nigeria in terms of ability to ‘say no to corruption’. There is no gainsaying that his anti-corruption stance is his Unique Selling Point in next year’s election. Many believe that Buhari has become a factor in Nigerian politics and leadership with his uncompromising attitude. This is primarily because as soon as he took office as military Head of State in 1983, Buhari, and his second in command, the late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, justified their seizure of power by reprimanding the civilian government of Shagari and describing it as exceedingly corrupt.
Their response was to launch a popular “War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign, through which they attempted to set a new road-map for the country’s politics, introducing strict economic and political policies that have been described by some intellectuals as ‘Buharism.”
But the question in some quarters is- does Buhari have any baggage weighing him down ahead of 2015 presidential election. Many would respond in the affirmative. Buhari’s critics argue that his strong personality is even a minus, as he has the tendency not to be a listening president when he assumes power.
Many also are beginning to see him as a desperate politician and power seeker as he is contesting the presidential election for the fourth time. The thinking is that his ambition for the seat has become an obsession.
What many of Buhari’s critics would not forget in a hurry is the coup which saw him truncating the nation’s democracy in 1983. The thinking among people in this school of thought is that had it not been for that coup, the nation’s democracy would have stabilized by now.
In an article referring to Buhari’s antecedents, Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, and posted on the Internet, he said:
“This intervention has been provoked, not so much by the ambitions of General Buhari to return to power at the head of a democratic Nigeria, as by declarations of support from directions that leave one totally dumbfounded.
“It would appear that some, myself among them, had been over complacent about the magnitude of an ambition that seemed as preposterous as the late effort of General Ibrahim Babangida to aspire yet again to the honour of presiding over a society that truly seeks a democratic future.
“The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change.
“In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.
“Buhari – need one remind anyone – was one of the generals who treated a Commission of Enquiry, the Oputa Panel, with unconcealed disdain.
“Like Babangida and Abdusalami, he refused to put in appearance even though complaints that were tabled against him involved a career of gross abuses of power and blatant assault on the fundamental human rights of the Nigerian citizenry.”