NIGERIA 2019 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND THE CHOICES AHEAD
By Olaniyi Olarewaju
As the Nigerian 2019 election is fast approaching, with campaign activities gaining tract and the nation’s electoral commission ramping up preparations, it is pertinent to also critically appraise the options presented Nigerians in this election. In this article, I will primarily focus on the presidential election which of course draws the biggest interest, and which is also, the most important in this round of elections. Interestingly, unlike other elections since the military handed over power to the civilians in 1999, there seems to be very little optimism and excitement about the 2019 presidential election. In 1999, we were all excited about the prospect of returning Nigeria to democratic governance after about 15 years of military rule. In 2007, it was fascinating to see the nation transition from one democratic government to another. The 2011 presidential election was special in its own way, because of the unique stories of the top candidates in that election. The climax of it all was in 2015, when for the first time in the annals of Nigerian political history; an opposition candidate defeated the incumbent president.
The year 2015 ushered in fresh breath and aspirations for Nigerians following the historic defeat of the then sitting President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Jonathan’s government was clueless in every sense and crippled by widespread corruption within the innermost core of that administration. Simply put, Mr Jonathan’s rule ridiculed governance. Hence, it was not in any way surprising when the Economist, later on, described Mr Jonathan as “an ineffectual buffoon”. There was massive excitement following the election of Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, and his assumption of office brought with it a renewed hope for the future of Nigeria. But only a few months into the Buhari’s presidency, it was pretty clear that – though he may not be as clueless as his predecessor, he obviously brings little or nothing to the table. At his best, President Buhari is torpid and mostly somnolent, and his comprehension of issues is rather poor. This coupled with his ineloquence, translates to a President who is unable to pass a message at critical moments when leadership is required. Buhari’s first one year in office was not only chaotic, but also catastrophic, his economic policies are archaic, he is crassly rigid, and his sluggishness in making policy decisions is legendary.
Hence, the excitement that followed Buhari’s assumption of office quickly disappeared. Prior to his emergence as president, he was generally perceived to be very strong on corruption, security and he was expected to bring the much-needed sanity into governance. In short, the Muhammadu Buhari elected as President is no longer the once strong and tough Muhammadu Buhari the people used to know. Despite his numerous short-comings, President Buhari has put himself forward for an undeserved second-term in office. While he still enjoys cult-like followership in the northern part of Nigeria and considerable support in the Southwest, President Buhari is no doubt, the man to beat in this election. Buhari’s main challenger, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is clearly a no option as Mr Atiku’s reputation speaks for him. Regarded as one of the most corrupt elected officials Nigeria ever produced, Mr Atiku symbolises corruption, official profligacy and everything that negates the rule of law.
Somehow the opposition candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has succeeded in touting himself as a reformer and a successful businessman whose business management style is urgently needed for economic success in Nigeria. The only problem with that is, everything Atiku managed to acquire today, has been attributed to proceeds of corruption and official highhandedness. In an explosive article published by GuardianNewsUSA, the author aptly described Mr Atiku as “an established thief”, he went further to write “Yet, voters are sceptical about Atiku due to his horribly scandalous transgressions as a public servant”. In all of this, no one has better described Mr Atiku as President Olusegun Obasanjo did in his book “My Watch”. Mr Atiku served as vice president in Obasanjo’s administration from 1999 to 2007. In his book, Obasanjo wrote this about Atiku – “What I did not know, which came out glaringly later, was his parental background which was somewhat shadowy, his propensity to corruption, his tendency to disloyalty, his inability to say and stick to the truth all the time, a propensity for poor judgement, his belief and reliance on marabouts , his lack of transparency, his trust in money to buy his way out on all issues and his readiness to sacrifice morality, integrity, propriety truth and national interest for self and selfish interest.” In other climes, Atiku Abubakar will not be a contestant in an election, he will be in prison.
In this election, Nigerians are presented with two unworthy choices – stark incompetence and the other, a man with a very reputable track record of corruption. The lesser options are the handful of so-called “it is the time for the youth” candidates. These crops of young candidates are mostly naive, with a very poor understanding of basic issues of governance; they are misinformed and more disconnected from the realities of the Nigerian nation. Most of them are opportunists who have neither taken time to learn the ways of governance nor understand how politics interface with the people; they have only jumped on the bandwagon of “it is time for the youths”. Their campaign manifestos are populist in nature, grossly lacking substance and the spark of youthful idealism. This is rather unforgiving because the youths should normally be a reservoir of fresh and practical ideas. Therefore, it is agonising to watch these young candidates present very intellectually empty and ideologically barren manifestoes. Leadership requires huge preparation, reading wide, critically studying and understanding not just your immediate environment but also all the interacting components, identifying the problems and critical brainstorming on workable ways forward. Leadership requires vision, purpose and commitment and you can’t just suddenly jump into it.
In general, it appears there is presently a shortage of visionary and morally upright leaders. We are where we are today because of the many things our leaders do wrong, their absolute lack of vision, greediness and a subtle quest for material prosperity which spreads across all the facet of our public life. Gone are the days of leaders who are deep thinkers – visionary and pragmatic leaders who demonstrated a good understanding of the complex challenges of the Nigerian state. With the 2019 election just around the corner, I must say it has been excruciating listening to the candidates speak. The forthcoming election is everything short of defining. It presents no viable option, as the people only have to choose between the devil and the blue deep sea, and that is a tragedy in itself. While a Buhari second term is undesirable, an Atiku presidency is a total no go, hence the dilemma at hand. I simply hope the next four years (though a long time in politics and governance) will pass as fast as possible and hopefully, come 2023 elections, Nigerians will be presented with better and far more worthy options.
Olaniyi Precious Olarewaju 2019
IDEDE Oseyande, a graduate of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, is an unrepentant believer in the Nigeria project.
His concern for the actualisation of a prosperous nation and the continent, in general, is reflected in his written works.
He currently runs an online advocacy platform (www.socialwatchdog.ng) where he engages the government and the people.
Among his published works are ‘What is Left of What is Right?’, ‘The Portrait of a Revolutionary Leader’ and ‘Warri No Dey Carry Last’.
He is a guest writer for several blogs and his Attitudinal and Behavioral Coaching classes has transformed many lives.