In less than two weeks, Nigerians will go to the polls to elect new sets of leaders to pilot the affairs of the country for the next four. Never has the choice before Nigerians been so neatly divided as in this election. Never has the lines been so clearly spelt out. Whichever way one looks at it; it is a choice between two divergent options, two opposites that have no meeting points. President Muhammadu Buhari is on the ballot.
He leads a government and party that believes in frugal and transparent management of Nigeria’s available scarce resources to tackle the multifarious problems wracking the Nigerian nation. His is an honest, Spartan and scorched-earth effort to take Nigeria from the corrupt, byzantine era that saw Nigeria decay abysmally even in the midst of tremendous earnings from oil; the sole revenue earner that country knew till Buhari came to power.
On the other hand, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar leads a challenge from the school that sees corruption as a driver of growth, even when Nigeria had a decrepit picture to tell when corruption reigned supreme before 2015. He is the main challenger to Buhari’s inclination to zip up the treasury to sundry predatory influences and ensure that every kobo in the treasury is utilized for the benefit of all. Curiously, Atiku and the spectrum he leads so believe so much in the productive capacity of corruption that they have made no effort issuing a rejoinder to the widely-held belief that they deliberately see corruption as a way of life. In fact, Atiku has said, without qualms, that if he becomes president, he will not only not trouble treasury looters but will offer them amnesty so they will invest their loot in the economy!
So, the coming February 16 presidential election leaves no blurred lines for Nigerians. The choices are clearly distinct. They are two parallel lines that don’t have a point of convergence.
In choosing to elect Buhari, Nigerians would be voting to continue his policies of the past four years, which has elicited wild, angry and noisome opposition from those that benefitted from Nigeria’s defenestration till he came in 2015. On the other hand, if Nigerians choose to elect Atiku, they would have voted to bring back the era of licentiousness that Buhari replaced and liberalize the kind of plunder that saw Nigeria regress even when oil money was flowing in abundance. If Nigerians elect Buhari on February 16, they would have reaffirmed their readiness to continue with him on his mending task of fixing a nation that was left a carcass after a sumptuous feast by all manners of predators and ghouls. They would have elected to continue with him on the straight and narrow way he had charted since May 2015. They would have elected to continue with his gigantic building of infrastructures across all sectors, fixing multitudes of decayed and abandoned infrastructures across the country and his careful reflation of the economy through measurable and trackable re-building processes, his ambitious social intervention programme that has dealt so well with the age-long afflictions of the downtrodden, the neglected, the vulnerable and the powerless cadres of the population.
If Nigerians decides to re-elect Buhari, they would have boldly voted to continue with his on-going war against corruption and decadence, which remains the greatest single atrophy that has held down the growth and progress of Nigeria. If Nigerians –re-elects Buharfi, they would have thumbed up his diversification efforts aimed at finding and developing new fonts of revenue for the country and plug the precarious over-dependence on oil. Sure, this dependence is responsible for the internment of other viable sectors and the exposure of the country to the precarious fluctuations of oil prices. Nigerians know quite well that the drastic fall in oil revenue plunged the country, and indeed other oil-dependent nations that believe in plundering their oil wealth into the kind of recession that happened here as Buhari came in. So voting for Buhari will mean that Nigerians approve his efforts at forging new areas of revenue to curtail the aftermaths of oil price fluctuation and place the country’s economy on sounder footing.
Voting for Buhari on February 16 would mean that Nigerians align with Buhari’s agricultural revolution which had seen the ban on imported food items and the deliberate policy of encouraging and financing massive local food production such that today, Nigeria has achieved near-sufficiency in food production, unlike the period before Buhari came. Of course, voting for Buhari will mean that Nigerians agree with his bold policy of curbing importation of freebies and non-essentials. Voting for Buhari will mean that Nigerians indeed agree and attest that he has curbed the security quagmire he met when he came; where a sizeable portion of the country was under the direct control of terrorists and every part of Nigeria was subjected to ceaseless bombings, killings and other forms of insecurity. Voting for Buhari in the coming election will mean that Nigerians are on the same page with the impeccable leader on his insistence that Nigeria is for all and not exclusively for a select few that had wangled their ways to the corridors of power. It would be a vote that Nigerians agree with Buhari’s frugal attitude to state treasury, his intolerance for free loading, his deliberate investment in regenerative capital, building up the plundered foreign reserves and every other measures he had taken to pull Nigeria from the woods.
On the other hand, if Nigerians decide not to re-elect Buhari and go for Atiku, it would mean that Nigerians want to return to the byzantine era of free looting of the commonwealth, the state of terror where sundry terrorists ravage the country and kill and maim at will. A vote against Buhari and for Atiku will show that Nigerians are tired of Buhari’s frugality, his impeccable honesty and careful attitude to the treasury. They want to return to the era of free-sharing, the era of bizarre stealing and uncurbed access to the treasury which reigned before Buhari came and which fires most of the angry tirades of those that benefitted from that rotten order against Buhari. If Nigerians vote against Buhari and for Atiku, it means that Nigerians are in love with sleaze, which Atiku, as a person, signifies and which reigned unfettered when Atiku was in power as Vice President. If Nigerians vote against Buhari and for Atiku on February 16, it means that Nigerians truly believe that a state of wanton corruption which Atiku personifies serves better benefits to them. A vote for Atiku shows that Nigerians want to continue in Egypt, with the attendant appurtenances of slavery and bondage just because they relish the meat of slavery they were fed with during their years in captivity. If Nigerians vote for Atiku, it then means that they prefer that all their infrastructures die while they gobble the morsel of stolen resources pilfered from the state till. These were the story for the period Atiku was Vice President and thereafter when his PDP was in power before Buhari came in 2015. As I have said earlier, Atiku typifies this era so a vote for him is an approval to return to this epoch. So far, Atiku and PDP have shied away from the challenge thrown to them by Nigerians to list their achievements for the 16 years in power especially the eight years Atiku was Vice President as a way of advertising his competence to be president. Instead, Atiku and PDP have generated a list of Eldorado they say they will do if they come back to power, carefully ignoring the atrophy that marked their debilitating rule for which the PDP has offered a tepid apology but Nigerians know that they will not get anything different from this era of liberalized stealing and decay if they elect Atiku as President on February 16.
As a sitting President therefore, the February 16 polls is a referendum on Buhari. A re-election means approval and voting him out means rejection of all he stands for. So the choice is not between two candidates with similar or near-similar attributes, potentials, promises. The two candidates are diametrically separated from each other. What Atiku is contrasts sharply with what Buhari is and what they do both in and out of office. Buhari’s governance style of restricting access to state treasury and rather investing the country’s resources to critical infrastructures fuels all the bricks and bats the opposition has thrown against Buhari since he came. He ignited what should be seen as a revolution with his war against corruption, which has taken a huge toll on the activities and survival of a huge cartel of parasites that live freely off the commonwealth. Even among some people that initially supported him, his blunt refusal to latch open the state coffers for their nestling has sparked a huge revolt that had seen many of them ditch him and pitch tents with the other side of the divide. Nothing had been spared by those who are directly targeted in the war against corruption, their beneficiaries and cronies from attacking Buhari these last few years. In equal fashion, the age-old dependence on corrupt freebies by sundry genres of the population; religious leaders, traditional rulers, socio-cultural groups, ethnic interests, contractors, hirelings, cronies, speculators and all manners f predators have been curbed and this curbing has elicited wild reactions against Buhari by the displaced vermin. He had been called unprintable names, he had been placed on uncountable death wishes, he had been personally attacked, slandered and abused; all because he adamantly refused to throw the treasury open for free-feeding as was the case before he came. We had heard from many desperate quarters how his efforts to zip up our treasury had led to the death of the economy, inflated poverty and caused several problems for Nigeria and Nigerians.
What even ignites the fury of his opponents is that he suffers these tantrums and desperate symptoms silently and continues in his mission. What more, Buhari makes no effort to tell his story. He has a stoic aversion to the press and doesn’t believe in lobbying anybody to push his story. Buhari has threaded the path no Nigerian leader has ever threaded. He has marched where angels fear to tip-toe. He marches on the feet of the sacred and untouchable people that believe that Nigeria is theirs to do as they like with glee. He tramples the sacred coven of the corrupt with relish and these have accounted for the enormous gang-up against him. Buhari faces the most formidable gang-up by Nigeria’s elite from every sector and class than all other Nigerian leaders combined. That is the direct pay-off for trying to stop corruption, which runs at the blood vein of majority of Nigerians. This is the reason no past leader has gone any appreciable distance in squelching this monster. But Buhari, by taking it on all fours, has dared the kind of insurrection that has been raised against him.
By February 16, we shall know if indeed the common Nigerians whose fates and lives were directly affected by the actions of both Buhari and the principalities fighting him, want to go with Buhari or those he is fighting for. We shall know if all the darts and arrows that have been thrown from very many angry quarters on Buhari for four whole years have hit target. We shall know if Nigerians want to continue their march to the Promised Land or execute a quick return to Egypt. By February 16, we shall know if the ordinary Nigerians; the last bastion in a democracy have been seduced to abandon Buhari or they have merely endured the tantrums of the displaced free-loaders and just waiting for such events as the one of February 16 to just show these desperate coyotes that are mindful of the turns in their destiny. So whichever way it goes, February 16 is a referendum on Buhari and Nigerians will eagerly speak through that referendum.
Peter Claver Oparah
E-mail: [email protected]