By Tonnie Iredia
The statement credited to Nigeria’s First Lady, Aisha Buhari that two powerful persons in the corridors of power are responsible for the inability of President Muhammadu Buhari to perform optimally is no doubt loaded. It should not surprise anyone that she did not bother to name the two people having established earlier that it is not difficult to identify them.
Speaking through the BBC two years ago, she explained that “you will know them if you watch television.” This column thinks the people are by far more than two. Indeed, several persons who belong to the numerous Buhari support-groups have done more damage to the administration in their overzealous attempt to drum unnecessary support for the President. Like their predecessors – the ‘transformation ambassadors of Nigeria’ of former President Goodluck Jonathan – the support-groups turned President Buhari’s first term in office into a period of electioneering rather than that of governance. Public statements by Buhari admonishing them not to break the law prohibiting political campaigns less than 90 days to elections were ignored.
Both the groups and the President himself probably did not fully comprehend the negative consequences of the premature campaigns which were quite disgusting to many citizens. They wasted the administration’s energy on the mundane instead of the substance of governance. We are now into the approved period of electioneering when our people would look out for two things; first, electioneering promises from other candidates and second, explanations from the incumbent on the many things that were not done since 2015.
In other words, the incumbent would be more than others taken to task because having been given a chance to perform; he has to convincingly account for the past. No one would expect answers from the support-groups but from the candidates. President Buhari may be required to tell us now why he allowed two people or more to serve as distraction to his government.
During this period of electioneering campaigns, mundane issues would be irrelevant. What Nigerians want to hear from the ruling party cannot be perceived vices of the candidates of other parties. Not at all; in its place, we want to hear how the living conditions of our people can improve. Attacks on Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition party will not help. In the past, we heard so much of how wrong it was for him to have gone to Dubai to plan his campaign strategy. If Atiku likes, let him take his campaign headquarters to Czechoslovakia, we are more concerned about how to reverse the trend whereby Nigeria has become the leading nation for infant mortality. Again, whether Atiku can travel to the US or not is not what matters now, instead, Nigeria is in dire need of a person that can push our nation away from being the poverty centre of the world. As aptly put by Bismarck Rewane, one of Nigeria’s foremost economists, our “economy is not yet in optimal level of employment, output production, and investment.” Except we get it right, we may descend to the level whereby in the words of Obiageli Ezekwesili, the Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN) “the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria would increase from about 88 million today to 120 million in 2030.”
Therefore, those rented crowds that have been begging the US government not to grant Atiku, an American visa greatly miss the point because our past leaders who had multiple US visas could not develop Nigeria. Conversely, the opposition parties must also not be involved in the same shadow chasing. Whether Buhari has school certificate or not is irrelevant now as it was in 2015 because our past leaders with all forms of degrees left us where we are now. So, it is time to hear substantive matters like the viewpoint of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA, Dr John Gbor who pledged to give education 26 percent of national budget estimates, if elected President in 2019. The APGA flag bearer explained “the 7 percent the education sector presently receives in budgetary allocation was responsible for the industrial and other crises plaguing the sector.” We cannot but agree with him.
The Young Progressive Party (YPP) which has Kingsley Moghalu, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, as its presidential candidate holds the same viewpoint. It is instructive that the YPP’s policy thrust revolves around developing the rich human capital that is in abundance in Nigeria. This is why the party insists that “in pursuit of a knowledge economy, education shall be the hub of our development quest since no nation can grow beyond the quality of her education.” If we had done this in the past as Chief Obafemi Awolowo did in the old Western Region, our education sector would not have been replete with dilapidated structures and poor learning implements. We would not have had recurring strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU which often left Nigerian students more at home than in their campuses.
Another former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia who is now the Presidential candidate, of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) is poised to bring peace and development to the country by ensuring that “we don’t do stupid things with our economy-things like fuel importation, which costs us a whopping $1.5 billion monthly and putting immense pressure on our naira; like mismanaging an economy that earns, as at today, N21 trillion annually, out which the Federal Government earns about N8.4 trillion but spends N6.4 trillion on fuel importation.” Comments such as these are more relevant than personal attacks such as anyone saying a young candidate like Omoyele Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters, is unsuitable as a Presidential candidate because he is yet to serve as a councilor. Some of the elderly failed us woefully in the past just as some young leaders have not done well not because of age but personal incapacity.
This is why we need to hear from each candidate during this period of electioneering not only on what he/she intends to do to develop Nigeria but how it will be done. Nigerians must satisfy themselves on the personal capacity of the candidates and not through the shouting of electioneering slogans by supporters. Each candidate must be made to convince different interest groups on their desires- affirmative action for women, employment for youths, vehicle worthy roads and not only road-worthy vehicles for transporters, no pay, no work, and not only no work no pay for workers etc. This is the hour for substantive speeches.