Nigeria’s Presidential election is scheduled for April 9; however, at a campaign rally in Lagos on Tuesday, March 1, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the undisputed godfather of current President Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, who is also a candidate in the upcoming election, was full of celebration galore by declaring victory as if the election was over.
The event was also attended by Chief Bode George, a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart who was convicted of corruption by the Nigerian court in 2009 for complicity in an 85 billion naira fraud at the Nigerian Ports Authority where he was Chairman.
According to an account of the campaign rally printed in Nigeria’s widely read daily newspaper The Punch, Mr. Obasanjo said to Mr. Jonathan in the presence of other high-ranking members of the ruling PDP: “All that you need from me is to congratulate you. Let us congratulate ourselves for this victory.” However, the declaration of victory did not end there. The paper reported that Mr. Obasanjo commenced to sing in Yoruba words literally translated to mean, “Bravo is the song of the day/ Obasanjo cannot condone/Obasanjo would resist if we vote and we don’t win.”
This declaration of victory is insulting to Nigerian voters. It also underscores concerns that some powerful ‘kingmakers,’ such as Mr. Obasanjo, like to manipulate the outcome of the elections in Nigeria to suite their own agenda. It suggests that votes do not count and power does not belong to the people in Nigerian democratic society.
There is nothing convincing about Mr. Jonathan since he assumed office after the untimely death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar’Adua, that demonstrates he is adequately prepared to lead the country toward reform, economic prosperity, and to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Nigerians by providing jobs for over sixty percent of unemployed Nigerian graduates. Mr. Jonathan is a candidate of PDP, the so-called political party that is nothing more than a lobbying interest group primarily interested in sharing what has been known as ‘Nigerian national cake.’
It is not surprising that Mr. Jonathan has been running a rudderless administration with little oversight and replete with fiscal irresponsibility. For example, the Financial Times of London and Nigerian newspaper Next reported earlier this year that investors shun Nigeria’s $500million Eurobond because they are concerned with how $20billion in the Nigeria Excess Crude Account shrunk to less than $400million under Mr. Jonathan’s watch.
Similarly, Mr. Jonathan’s own Presidential Advisory panel recommended that he reduce the size of his large government to save money for infrastructure development. Rather than heeding this advice, Mr. Jonathan created frivolous portfolios for newly appointed aides, such as an Advisor for Diaspora Affairs. Mediocrity and cronyism also crept into his administration when the Nigerian Senate confirmed the appointment of Mr. Jonathan’s nominee for the post of ambassador -- someone who can neither recite the Nigerian national anthem nor explain the duties of the ambassadorial post.
Moreover, the President has refused to engage his opponents in the April 9 elections in debates to discuss the issues, policies and their respective manifestos for Nigerians. Another bizarre twist that was introduced into Jonathan’s campaign is an admission of truth by former President Obasanjo that there were zoning agreements in the Peoples Democratic Party between the North and South regarding who would produce Nigeria’s presidency. He further suggested that Mr. Jonathan would be a one- term president and that northern Nigeria will produce the next president. This double talk and turncoat behavior by Mr. Obasanjo, a statesman who is expected to rise above partisanship and selfish interests to provide straightforward and truthful communication regarding all areas of national concern, causes Nigeria to be more polarized along ethnic, regional and religious lines. As a result, the country’s fragile unity and stability remains more vulnerable than it has ever been before.
The best way for Nigerians to move forward and experience real democracy is to make sure that PDP is voted out of power, otherwise we risk being a perpetual One Party State. A vote for President Jonathan is a vote for four more years of economic stagnation and continued suppression of the Nigerian people by the corrupt political class that has created an abnormal society whereby we have two paradoxical Nigerians – the Haves and the Have Nots -- who live in two different Nigerias. It is alarming that juvenile delinquency is on the rise in a country with inmates whose age ranges between 8-15. It is also a shame that Nigeria now has first- class and third-class citizens, among others, in pecking order. For example, there are first-class Nigerians like billionaire Aliko Dangote, who made his fortune through his cozy arrangement with Obasanjo’s regime, which “encouraged the sell off of State-owned corporations, presidential aircrafts and government properties to Dangote and other questionable businessmen,” according to the Sahara Reporters website. While the poor Nigerian masses, including the “Talakawas” on the streets of Kano City in Mr. Dangote’s home state can hardly survive on less than $2 a day, our Forbes magazine-ranked richest man in Africa, with an estimated net worth of $13.8 billion, bought himself a ‘token’ brand new Bombardier Global Express XRS private jet for a mere $45million for his birthday.
I also think it is high time that former President Obasanjo take a back seat from his usual business of pre-anointing who rules Nigeria. He should let the Nigerian people decide the country’s destiny. It is shocking that Mr. Obasanjo had imposed his own preferred candidate as the flag bearer of PDP for gubernatorial elections in his home state of Ogun. I hail from Ogun State, like Mr. Obasanjo, and find it disturbing that he handpicked a septuagenarian former military general with health issues to succeed the outgoing governor of the State, Gbenga Daniel, who has his own political baggage.
Nigerians can make a statement with their votes by rejecting the overtures of PDP, which has been either through buying voters conscience with money or by poll rigging, as was evident in past elections. For example, courts overturned the elections of PDP governors who stole the people’s mandates in States like Edo, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun, respectively.
Finally, this presidential election is about fighting for the future of Nigeria between the retrogressive forces that have turned the country into their milking cherry orchard and those who believe in a Nigeria for all. A vote for an alternative party rather than PDP will be good for the country and help to restore the hope that we have a system that works. Mr. Jonathan is a disingenuous character that lacks passion, conviction and gravitas to lead Nigeria to the desired Promised Land.