This week, two eminent personalities shared their perspectives with us on the possible outcome of the 2019 general elections with special focus on the stewardship of President Muhammadu Buhari. First is Professor Tunde Adeniran, a chieftain of the fast-spreading Social Democratic Party (SDP) who says President Muhammadu Buhari does not deserve a second term in office, citing his “poor” handling of the senseless killings in the land as reason for the need to have a new man at the helm.

Tunde Adeniran
Tunde Adeniran

Unlike Adeniran, Aisha Yesufu is not a politician but a human rights activist who has been in the vanguard for the return of the kidnapped Chibok girls in the past four years. In the words of the dogged fighter and advocate of justice, the Buhari administration is making the same mistakes made by the immediate past administration, arguing that today, the social conditions under which Nigerians live, bear no proportional relationship with the abundant wealth in the land.

Would this count against Buhari at the end, Yesufu says the people are now wiser than they were years ago but insists the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign group is not a political pressure group but an assemblage of like-minds pressing for the release of hapless girls held in captivity owing largely to the failure of government. Excerpt!

Saturday Vanguard: Some chieftains of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) recently met with two former Presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and General Ibrahim Babangida with the later openly endorsing the party.

What does this mean for the SDP as the nation heads to the polls in 2019?

Adeniran: It is good news; a very positive development towards 2019. It is incontrovertible that from what they have individually and collectively suffered in the last three years, Nigerians, old and young, and across the divides, are by each passing day, getting increasingly interested and desirous to keenly participate in the next general elections. Across the country, even much higher than what obtained in 2015, there is a noticeable level of consciousness and awareness among the citizenry as to the power of the instrumentality of the PVC they hold in their hands to determine their fate through their vote.

Today, everywhere one goes around the country, across the north and south, you get to see a huge mass of deeply disenchanted Nigerians who, given their negative submissions and verdicts of no confidence in the present administration, are apparently doing a count-down to 2019.

There is that bustling enthusiasm of the people even in their state of pervasive distress and though they are being subjected to the most severe socio-economic conditions, yet, they are patiently waiting and eagerly looking forward to taking the opportunity of the next election to push out this present government that has brought widespread insecurity, poverty and lack upon the people, and inflicted incalculable harm on our national life more than any other government in recent history.

APC has proven only just one point- that it is a political institution that is emblematical of national misery.

Ahead of the 2019 polls, the implication of the recent open endorsement of the Social Democratic Party, (SDP) by former President Ibrahim Babangida, and the warm reception that Chief Olusegun Obasanjo accorded the leadership of the party, as well as his kind comments about the SDP show it is a credible and viable alternative, a party that has the endorsement of key pillars of our national development – national leaders who believe in the stability of the political process, the imperative of change and a new enthronement of a new political order in view of the very unpleasant experiences of the nation in virtually all spheres of our national life in the last three years, especially in area of national security.

The gale of positive reviews, analysis, comments and endorsement of the SDP by eminent Nigerians, especially those that came recently from these two national leaders who unarguably occupy significant places in the national life of contemporary Nigeria, is an endorsement of a paradigm shift in the way and manner our national affairs have been badly handled, especially the case of our increasingly flagging economy, the cloud of gloom that has pervaded our national landscape under the watch of President Buhari who seems not fully prepared to tackle the terror of herdsmen who have come to compound the lingering danger of Boko Haram.

These killings, which have put a knife to the very jugular of our union, foreshadow national doom if not stopped forthwith by the government of President Buhari.

At the on-going rate, it may just be that we would one day wake up and be confronted with a state of anarchy loosed upon the land in a proportion we have never witnessed, and the nation will be engulfed by a wild conflagration, which we may be beyond our capacity to quench.

The foregoing upsetting possibilities, among other concerns and worries, I believe, account for the reasons that all well-meaning Nigerians and true patriots, especially the two former presidents and national leaders who have demonstrated deep interest in the well-being of the nation over the years, have decided to shift their focus from the ruling APC and the PDP, the hitherto main opposition, and are looking elsewhere for credible alternative political party that can provide the right political leadership and direction for national stability and sustainable development, and to safeguard the continued existence of Nigeria, so that the ‘’there was a country” narrative of the late iconic story teller and writer, the late Prof. Chinua Achebe will not find practical expression and manifestation under Buhari’s watch.

It is as a result of this that Nigerians have come to find the SDP as that credible alternative and the party that is well primed to fill the yearning gap in the polity, having realized the gross failings and the under-performance of the APC administration under a president who promised to do so much but has only succeeded in delivering so little, and has thereby eroded his value and demystified his hitherto iconic status.

Some opposition parties in the land have been calling on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to put on the garb of impartiality as the elections draw closer by the day. How satisfied is the SDP with the level of preparedness of the umpire?

It is said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. We need to be mindful of the fact that integrity, effectiveness and efficiency of our systems and public institutions are elemental prerequisites for sustainable national development. We must ensure that our institutions effectively and efficiently discharge their mandates in the larger interest of the nation.

This also very much apply as pre-conditions for the growth and deepening of our democracy, and INEC plays a central role as the administering body of the nation’s electoral process, especially as it prepares itself to perform the onerous task of being the umpire of the 2019 general elections.

The expression of concerns and calls by concerned Nigerians on the commission to discharge its mandate efficiently by conducting the 2019 elections in a most free, fair and credible manner are patriotic calls and should be seen as such by all irrespective of whatever interest anyone seeks to protect. This is because the elections would mean so much for the country. Besides, Nigerians, home and abroad, and the international community are looking up to the commission to patriotically discharge this hallowed responsibility in order to secure the future of the country.

I wish to also add that truth of the matter is that one can only assess and make informed submissions on the preparedness of the commission when the arrangements and plans which they have in place towards the general elections have been sufficiently studied and examined. As outsiders, I think it will only be fair for us to give the commission the benefit of the doubt that it should and will do its very best in making adequate plans to deliver credible elections to the country, bearing in mind that there are high expectations from Nigerians, and the international community is anxiously waiting to see what will happen in Nigeria in 2019.

I want to believe that the leadership of the commission realizes that the nation is at critical juncture of our national life and have therefore come to the right understanding of the huge burden of responsibility it bears to engender a wholesome democratic process that will lead to a successful outcome of the whole electoral exercise which will ultimately safeguard our national stability, and also enhance democratic consolidation in the country.

There are speculations that the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar may defect to the SDP if he fails to clinch his party’s Presidential ticket. Are you aware of this?

I am not aware of that, but if the former Vice-President chooses to come to the SDP, I am sure the party will welcome him very warmly, just the same way we have welcomed and will still welcome other Nigerians who see the SDP as a credible alternative to the APC and the PDP.

The coming into the SDP of seasoned and big-time politicians like Atiku, if it happens, will definitely add value to the party, but there is a caveat to that. Everyone who chooses to come must be ready to abide by the constitution, rules, regulations and guidelines of the party when they come into the party.

They must be ready not only to comply with the provisions of the party’s constitution but be prepared to work in line with the ideology, programs and policies as contained in the SDP manifesto, and they must re-orientate themselves and prepared to be real party men. By this, I mean they should be ready to subject themselves to the party and not for the party to be at their mercy.

There will be no compromising the ideals, mission and vision of the party which essentially border on redeeming the nation from its present precarious state to which it has come, and giving the citizens a better deal through the instrumentality of the people-oriented ideology of the SDP.

How do you intend to get Nigerians to buy into your vision for the nation considering that the polls are less than a year away?

Nigerians in their numbers are already buying into the vision and mission of the newly re-invigorated SDP through our vigorous sensitization and aggressive canvassing of our views and positions on national issues and of course, through publicizing the programs and policies of the party, particularly what make it distinct from the APC and the PDP.

Social Democracy of Democratic socialism is the defining ideology of the SDP. This implies that the people are at the centre of all development processes, and their security and welfare are the paramount and primary responsibility of the state.

As such, Nigerians are being made to come to the appreciation and understanding of the party as the real peoples’ party in the true sense of the word. Nigerians are the beginning and the end of all development processes, which is why many groups and some small political parties have decided to come into the party to work to liberate Nigerians from the debasing poverty and lack that they are currently being subjected to. We are all determined to rescue the country’s polity from the reign of impunity, imposition and other negative tendencies that are destructive to our political culture and national well-being.

Nigerians will like to know in specific terms what your party is offering them differently from what they got in the 16 years of PDP stewardship and the past three years of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

What the SDP offers Nigerians is clearly distinct from the crowd. The party is the peak of the pack, and as a people-centered political party, when it gets to power in 2019 by the grace of God, will recognize and be seen to recognize in practical terms, the sovereign authority and the will of the people as the supreme law; will create an enabling environment for the people to decide their fate and take control of their affairs by offering good policies, programs and vision for democratic, just, equitable, egalitarian and prosperous Nigerian society for all.

The party will place value on the people through pro-people and pro-poor policies that will engender a classless society. Our policies and programs will promote human security and the overall well-being of the Nigerian people.

To differentiate the SDP from the ruling APC and PDP, in specific terms, the health program of the SDP, for instance, will place high emphasis on adequate funding by ensuring that the annual national budgets comply with the United Nations allocation benchmark. We will strengthen our primary health care and will provide care for the individual from cradle to the grave. Our agricultural program as designed, will be faithfully implemented to bring about self-sufficiency and food security for the nation, and will empower our youths and individuals to be independent by making agriculture and agri-businesses very attractive to the young people.

SDP government at the federal and state levels will banish poverty, halt the ravaging hunger and lack from the country in a most sustainable way, and will also enhance economic diversification using agriculture as the platform. Under an SDP-led federal government, the country will grow what the citizens eat and they will eat what we grow.

Considering the fact that education is key for the development of the individual and for achieving sustainable national development, it will be given priority consideration. The education program of the SDP will ensure that qualitative education is made available to every Nigerian by making primary education up to the secondary level to be government-financed and compulsory. And there will be institutionalized capacity-building for teachers.

To what extent do you think government’s handling of the killings in the land will affect its chances in 2019?

There is no arguing the fact that President Buhari has let the nation down in the handling of the security challenges of the nation under his watch. He has exacerbated and compounded the security situation in the country in the last three years. Whatever his government does or does not do, as well as their actions or inactions and bad policies are bound to have consequences. I see 2019 election as his terminal date as the election will provide opportunity for the people to drive his government out of power and will install a credible alternative.

The spate of mindless killings in the country, which is not in any way abating, will largely contribute to the defeat of this administration because the people of Nigeria have totally lost faith, trust and confidence in the APC to provide security of lives and property, which is the primary responsibility of government.

It is rather unfortunate that President Buhari has demonstrated very low capacity in providing the essential leadership that could hold Nigeria together. He has clearly shown that he is not the father of all parts of Nigeria as he is expected to be, and cannot provide security for all citizens. It has been seen so far that he lacks innovative ideas that can grow our economy.

He has by all these and many more given the electorate enough reason for him to be roundly rejected in the coming election. No matter what he does to circumvent the electoral process, he will certainly be shown the way out in 2019 because he can no longer be trusted. There is the widespread fear that with him as president any further than 2019, the country will definitely go under. But God will not allow that to happen to us, because Nigeria is God’s own country.

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