Who says a ruling party is invincible? In a free and fair election, anything can happen. Ask the highly successful democracies like the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many others. They have an enduring legacy of free and fair elections. India too is now in their midst. We are talking about places where elections are so peaceful that the winners were magnanimous in victory and the losers were humble in defeat. That is what it should be. That is what Nigerians expect here too.
As recent as January 2015, Greece conducted an election in which the erstwhile opposition party, SYRIZA won 149 seats while the then ruling party got 53 seats, according to analysts, the worst result that the ruling party ever recorded. Ten years ago, the party now in power got only 4% of the seats in parliament. During the campaign SYRIZA had used as its slogan, “Hope is Coming”. On the day of its victory the chorus changed to “Hope Begins Today”.
The People’s Democratic Party, PDP has been ruling Nigeria for 16 years without any formidable challenge. Over the past few months, we are beginning to feel the Greek scenario in Nigeria. The opposition coalition that has become a political party called the All Progressives Alliance, APC is out with a right slogan at an appropriate time. ‘Change’ is now a buzzword in the country. Indeed, change may be coming. The crowd at APC’s rallies represents Nigerians stamping their feet on the ground that change must occur in this election. They have been sending clear messages to PDP that the time has come for power to change hands. Buhari’s campaign rallies all over the country constitute a study of the emotions of Nigerians for change at this time. Campaign arenas are filled to capacity. In fact, the man of the moment could not address the mammoth crowd that surged in Maiduguri.
The APC candidate has been delivering a message of change all over the country and he is getting the kind of attention that he never got in the previous attempts he made to become Nigeria’s President. For some reasons, he is driving home his points. He has said that he will fight corruption and he will do so constitutionally. He has held key positions of minister of petroleum resources, state governor, Head of State, Chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF. In all these offices, he has not been found to have helped himself with public funds. While his colleagues as former heads of state earn N23 million as monthly pension, Buhari wrote to the appropriate authorities that he felt that he should be paid N2.3 million—just 10% of what the others are being paid.
Meanwhile, the Goodluck Jonathan administration has virtually abandoned the anti-corruption policies of the previous administrations. He lost the moral right to fight corruption when he handed out state pardon to his political mentor, Diepreye Alamesiagha, former Governor of Bayelsa State under whom he served as deputy governor. Indeed, he trivialised a very serious matter and here comes the payback time.
For many Nigerians, a man who has led by example will be just what is required at this moment. It will be a great relief for everyone. Instead of business as usual, let us experience a period of accountability for a change. As our people say, there is no smoke without fire. There are indications that those who have milked the country dry are throwing a lot of money into this campaign to ensure that Buhari does not come to power. A former Governor of Central Bank, Charles Soludo has revealed that over US$30 billion had been stolen through crude oil theft, corruption at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, import duty wavers etc. As some of them have been quoted as saying, it will be bad enough that they may have to lose their loot but worse still that they may spend the better part of their lives in jail. However, the truth is that a vast majority of Nigerians are raising their voices that it is only a Buhari who can dare these demons and at least take the nation off their stranglehold on power and the treasury.
Buhari has also said that he will fight insurgency. He had pursued and chased out some Chadian rebels who infiltrated the northern borders of Nigeria when he was a military commander. Again, a lot of people are listening to that message because the present government had waited for too long to face the threat of BokoHaram a terrorist group that has been killing innocent people and who had abducted nearly 300 young girls from their school in Chibok. Up till now, the girls have not been rescued. The Jonathan Administration said time without number that his government was winning the war on terror. Patriotic Nigerians wanted him to win the war. However, his lackadaisical approach to serious national issues has prevented him moving the nation forward in any positive direction. His friends and critics are united in one question they are now asking: can Nigeria with the present regional force decimate Boko Haram before March 28, 2015 when the presidential election will hold, if that is one of the surreptitious reasons why the election was postponed for six weeks?
The issues in the election have crystalised and with every passing day, the Nigerian people are becoming conversant with the reasons why the time for change has come. Take the case of the Nigerian economy as an example. Youth unemployment is predominant. The other day in March 2014, the Nigerian Immigration Service made a mess of a recruitment exercise. It brought into the Abuja National Stadium, thousands of job seekers for a paltry number of vacancies and for the first time in recent time, the turnout was a barometre of youth unemployment. A stampede at the stadium led to loss of some lives and injury to many. The officials that should have held themselves accountable for the incident are still in government. In other climes, they would have resigned or be shown the way out. It’s all about lack of sensitivity to the plight of the Nigerian youths and a fall out from it now is that change is necessary so that the country can head towards a more purposeful direction
– Olarewaju wrote in from Abuja
Views expressed are solely author’s