By Sufyan Abbas Mohammed
From what one is seeing, the political fight between President Mohammed Buhari and the former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan appears endless. Nigerians have not forgotten how they were entertained with accusations and counter accusations from both camps, during the campaigns leading to the 2015 general elections.
After the Presidential elections which ex-President Jonathan conceded defeat even when the final results were yet to be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission, one expects these two leaders as members of the Council of State to work together for the good of Nigeria, but the opposite appears to be the case. Going by what we read in the papers and social media daily, it appears as if the nation is still in the campaign mode, more than two years after the last elections.
My candid opinion is that the on going mudslinging affects every one of us as Nigerians. For us as a people, so long as we keep spreading negative news about our leaders, to that extent will our reputation continue to be dragged in the mud. There is no gainsaying the fact that constant bickering is not to the advantage of the two gladiators, the former and serving Presidents, who like big masquerades should not display in small village squares.
Even then, it is very obvious that the wave of ceaseless squabbles between them will obviously hurt the incumbent President Buhari the more.
I say so because Jonathan is no longer the President. As such he no longer, carries the nation’s image or bears its burden as much as President Muhammadu Buhari. Add to that the fact that Jonathan is not in contention for any political office, especially as his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has zoned the presidency to the north for the 2019 polls. This means that Jonathan will not be a candidate in the next general elections.
As far as the whole world is concerned, it is President Buhari that symbolizes the country and may even stand as a candidate in the next general elections. It is therefore Buhari’s image and reputation that need to be protected and preserved.
We all know that if there is any major crisis today, it is President Buhari that will bear the headache, not Jonathan. That is why one is surprised that long after the election campaigns, Buhari’s aides, even in victory, have continued to rattle the sabre of propaganda and stoke the fire of hostility with the former President.
I expected them and their close supporters to be the least to get involved in the on going spate of hate speeches which today pose serious existential danger to our country. Unfortunately this has not been the case. At the risk of sounding personal, I will specifically call out Ms Lauretta Onochie, Buhari’s aide on social Media for excoriation because of her subliminal disposition and insensitive comments on personalities, which are obviously beneath the calling of a public servant of her standing.
In democracy and the act of governance, the World has become a global village in which we all interact and learn from one another. All over the world, Presidents absorb comments from the people, no matter how uncomplimentary. Presidents are not known to abuse and insult the citizen they govern.
It is the price they have to pay for electing to serve the people at that level. A situation where Presidential aides, who ordinarily should be the ones holding up the banner of peace, are the ones abusing and insulting citizens, as is the case in Nigeria, is indeed the tragedy of our time.
One of the laws of natural science is that action and reaction are equal and opposite. There is no doubt that this mudslinging between President Buhari and former President Jonathan will impinge more on the incumbent President, than the former President, if it continues unabated, because it will obviously serve as a needless distraction to the President. Dr. Jonathan lost the election in 2015, and the earlier the ruling party and its agents stop focusing on him, the better for the incumbent President and the Government.
Buhari may not realize it, but it is a fact that one of the major factors beclouding his programmes and estranging him from Nigerians is the constant vilification of Jonathan by his aides and supporters and the former President’s own camp fighting back with their own disparagement. Beyond the attack on Jonathan, Nigerians themselves have also been called jobless, wailing wailers and other denigrating epithets that diminish their essence by the same Presidential aides.
The speech made by Dr. Jonathan during the PDP non-elective convention on Saturday 12th of August appears to have elicited so much negative reactions, especially from that same camp that don’t seem to see anything good in anything associated with the former President. To be fair to Jonathan, there is nowhere in his speech that he directly mentioned the Government or President Buhari in his speech.
He simply cited the areas of the economy where he thinks his Government had done well. What was expected of his critics including the Presidential aides was to either disprove hiss claims, or counterthem with evidence of how the present Government has done better. What we saw in stead, were abuses, insults and the usual sing song on corruption. That was clearly disingenuous and shows how shallow the presidential response mechanism has become. Each time they hold up the corruption banner against the previous administration or allege that “corruption is fighting back”, they remind us of how far they have become removed from the reality of right and wrong, in governance. It is sad this is the only time in our rich history that tribalism and nepotism are no longer considered as manifestations of corruption. If filling all the vacant positions in your establishment with your relatives and people from your village is not corruption, they should please tell us what it is.
In the same vein, an obviously sponsored article in one of the dailies listed oil revenues specifically from 2010 to 2017, in the bid to remind Nigerians that the Government earned more under Jonathan because of prevailing falling oil prices. Curiously, such analysis failed to reflect the total income and accruals vis-à-vis the challenges before both administrations.
The authors of this article should have done well to include in the article, the borrowing plan of both governments to enable us determine the actual spending in real terms. It also should have been clear if it had contained a footnote on the annual budget for those years (2010-2017), and details of how they were funded.
Records show that Jonathan’s biggest budget was in 2014 when the appropriation bill had a face value of N4.6trillion. In 2016 Buhari budgeted N6.08 trillion with N1.84 trillion borrowing component which amounted to borrowing N5 billion a day for the entire 365 days in the year. Similarly, the 2017 budget has an expenditure outlay of N7.44 trillion with N2.36 trillion deficit to be financed through borrowing. It follows therefore that any dispassionate assessment of the income available for any government to spend in a budget cycle should factor in the borrowing plan, before drawing conclusions on Government spending.
Those close to the oil industry know that the higher the crude oil price, the more money spent on subsidy to ensure price stability. Higher subsidy, in turn, eats into the revenue base of the government. This, unfortunately, was the lot of the Jonathan administration.
It was for this reason that the Jonathan government wanted to deregulate the industry in January 2012 but some elements in the then opposition APC frustrated the process through propaganda.
It will also be good to know from the sponsors of this article how much was spent on subsidy between 2010 and 2017. I believe that if Jonathan had been allowed to deregulate as planned, both the nation’s reserves and the excess crude account would have been more robust at the inception of the buhari administration.
It is instructive that those who frustrated the earlier process of deregulation, did not see anything wrong when the present government, embarked on deregulation as soon as they took over from Jonathan.
It must be pointed out that in an apparent bid to make Jonathan look bad by comparing the price regime under both leaders, sponsors of the story ended up reminding Nigerians of President Buhari’s campaign promise to improve crude oil price which is yet to fulfil. Although discerning Nigerians then wondered how one leader would be able to unilaterally achieve, it was obvious that the belief in the magical powers of Buhari then was too strong to allow a critical interrogation of the claim. Maybe we should also remind the Government that Nigerians are still waiting for when petrol will sell for N45 a litre as promised.
But now that the scales have fallen from our eyes, what will be Nigerians’ appraisal of a presidential candidate who promised to raise oil prices during campaigns, only to turn around as President to complain of low prices? It only tells us that a better appreciation of the economic environment was beyond the capacity of such a leader.
*Mohammed wrote from Yola in Adamawa State