This is a season of hire-wired deceits, misinformation, campaign of calumny and spewing of outright falsehood and lies – all to hoodwink and deceive ordinary and gullible Nigerians for their votes.
I am not worried about these antics of the politicians. It is their way. For them, their business is politics and their politics is business. No scruple. My real worry is that many Nigerians who are the elites can see through some of these outright falsehoods but have decided to sit on fence and keep an embarrassing silence. They forget that millions of ordinary Nigerians who are confused and hoodwinked by these falsehoods and who do not have access to facts depend on their voices and guidance to make their choices. This is, therefore, a message directed at those silent Nigerian elites who should speak up at this time. For me, I have decided that enough is enough. This is the time to speak up.
Unfortunately, many of our elites do not want to speak up now because they do not want to be caught on the wrong side of any government in the next four years; they prefer to play safe, not wanting to be tarred with the brush of partisanship. But, I ask: what is wrong with partisanship in a country where you and your children have a huge stake? What is wrong in speaking up and standing up for what your conscience tells you is the right thing to do? What is wrong in being caught on the wrong side of the government in the next four years, if only you would be caught on the right side of posterity?
Except for a few class of persons like INEC officials, security agencies and those on the Bench, every other Nigerian has a duty - yes, a duty - to speak up now for our country, and to come down from that fence on which they are sitting regarding the 2015 general elections. Those elites who do not speak up now for fear of being branded partisan and losing face upon defeat are enemies of the people who are looking up to them for guidance.
My message to those silent elites today is that whilst they are sitting on the fence, people are being killed like flies in some parts of the country on a daily basis; whilst we are on that fence, our foreign reserves are going down, corruption is growing like cancer, poverty is growing even in the face of dubious economic theories and figures, and we continue to live without adequate power supply. Yet, those who should speak truth to power are sitting on the fence in anticipation of personal gains. I am sorry, but today I have come down from that fence because my buttocks are already hurting from sitting on it.
Do not forget that I am from the Niger-Delta region and all my close friends and associates are the main supporters and aides of Mr. President. Two or three Governors who are either my former classmates or colleagues are the main backers of Mr. President. It is so easy, so convenient and so seemingly logical for me to get into that political mix and forget about the good of my country for personal gains. The disgusting message we hear all over the streets of that region every day at this time - promoted by the hirelings of the President – is that Goodluck Jonathan is “our son”, so we have no choice but to support him. In fact, I see some of my “brothers” from the Niger Delta region these days strutting all over the place, denigrating people from other regions. It is typical of what the Yorubas call “omo oju ori ola ri” (a person whose eyes have not seen wealth before).
But the question I ask those who tell me such nonsense and behave in such a manner is that, after the next four years, what is next for us? Is our entire future and that of our children dependent on a South-South President for the next four years?
Kindly note that in getting down from the fence and speaking up at this critical time, I do not mind if you speak up for Goodluck Jonathan. Yes, you have a right to do so as a Nigerian. But, as an elite, your stand must be known so that when the massacres continue because of cluelessness, when the unrestrained stealing of our public resources continue, when darkness continues to befall the nation because of lack of power, it is important we all remember those who betrayed their conscience and the people because of ethnicity and self-aggrandisement and for posterity to record it as such.
We have a President who has no single appetite to fight corruption – yes, none. Imagine a campaign that is dominated by the theme of corruption, yet the President has decided to appoint a person facing trial for money-laundering as his Director of Media and Publicity. If nobody would say it, I will say it because I am the one prosecuting the fellow in court and the case has been adjourned to February 23 and 24 for trial. Part of the lies told is that the fellow has been freed whereas some of the counts in the Charge were just struck out and the court held that he has a case to answer on some other counts. Yet nobody is asking the President these hard questions.
The President only mouths anti-corruption. The other day (December 23rd, 2014, I think) the President said he would like to erect a Hall of Shame for Nigerians who engage in corrupt and unwholesome activities that bring the country to disrepute. But he was the same person who brought a convicted criminal, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, out of the Hall of Shame to the Hall of Fame by misusing his power of Prerogative of Mercy when he granted pardon to this self-confessed ex-convict. Imagine the pain, the efforts and resources that go into securing a single conviction for corruption in this our clime. Yet, the President decided to spoil the party for anti-corruption campaigners. On top of that, he displayed corruption within corruption by selective pardon when the likes of Tarfa Balogun, Lucky Igbinedion and others who were convicted about the same period did not enjoy his Presidential pardon.
Yet nobody is asking these hard questions on the campaign trail. The funny thing is that, nearly six years into his tenure as President, Goodluck Jonathan said the other day that he is just coming up with a plan to tackle corruption!! Haba, Jona !
To add insult to injury, President Goodluck Jonathan decided to tackle the corruption of stealing of our resources in the high seas by empowering small-time crooks and criminals to police our waterways. This is because he has no idea as to how to revamp, re-organise and re-invigorate the Nigeria Navy to perform its constitutional duty. These days, it is an eyesore to see our military chiefs and officers kowtow to these empowered small-time crooks and criminals for appointment and promotions and other privileges. The disaster about this initiative of empowerment of crooks and criminals is that crude oil theft has never been so high, so rampant in the annals of this country than it is now. Why? Because the President has put a rat as a watchman over a morsel of fish. It is sad to say, but the President, by his actions, has shown no spine, no appetite, no nerve to fight corruption. He just continues to sink into an abyss of moral debauchery.
The other tragedy of this President is that, even as he is on the campaign trail, in the last one month, the omnipresent insurgents have attacked towns like Baga, Damaturu, Biu, Askira-Uba, Konduga, Marte and Gombe. Even as we speak, the Boko Haram insurgents are in total control of the whole of Borno State except Maiduguri, Monguno, Dikwa, Konduga and Biu. The insurgents are in total control of towns like Baga, Bama, Gwoza and Banki.
Before Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Boko Haram was nothing but a rag-tag group of extremists living in enclaves like Sambisa, while our proud military boys patrolled the towns. Now, under Jonathan, the reverse is the case. Our military boys are now in enclaves while Boko Haram patrol our towns. Is it not shocking that insurgents have a free reign to enter cities, abduct young girls like in Chibok, burn houses like in Baga, slaughter people for hours like in Konduga, Gwoza etc, yet our military men are nowhere to be found and they do not even give hot pursuit to the retreating insurgents? What is really going on?
One obvious flaw is that our President has lost control of the military and the top hierarchy of the military is merely feeding fat on this unfortunate situation and the President seems to be totally helpless in the face of this.
The only response the President and his handlers can proffer is to hide this glaring and crass incompetence under political gymnastics; they blame the opposition on the one hand and in the same breath, they say it is a world-wide trend and Nigeria is just having its fair share of a global malaise. Is this true? As President, you are the Commander-In-Chief. If you have evidence against the opposition, just come out with it and arrest the ring-leaders. Do not cry like a baby as Commander-in-Chief. Deal with the situation. That is why you occupy that seat. Till date, no single evidence has been produced against any of the opposition leaders linking them with the insurgency. Rather, what we see is a President who is supposedly bent on fighting insurgency but who is wining and dining with someone who has been directly linked with sponsoring the insurgents and even traveling with such a person to Chad at a time when the State Security Services officially invited that person to answer questions relating to the insurgency.
Another calamity and embarrassment is that our President, his Service Chiefs and security advisers were all led into wasting public funds by entering into a phantom cease-fire deal with fake Boko Haram leaders that left them with bloodied noses. Not to also mention the short-lived public celebration of the supposed killing of the Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, by the President and his security team, only for the outlaw to appear in subsequent videos posted online, taunting the Nigerian government. Any four more years of a Jonathan Presidency can only lead to more carnage by the insurgents. He just does not have the requisite capacity to tackle this problem of insecurity. The truth must be told.
Yet you hear the President say that the nation will appreciate him better after he has left office. I am sorry, but we have seen enough bloodshed and incompetence in the last six years to know there is nothing more to expect the next four years and we have seen enough to do an assessment right now and not in the future.
In all his campaign tours, the President is already sounding like a broken record. He says he has made the rails to function again. He mentioned this so much that you imagine that he was primarily elected to revive a few train lines. It sounds very funny when you hear such things, whereas the primary duty of government is the protection of lives and properties. If that primary duty fails, then the government has failed. It is like an undergraduate hoping to be promoted to the next level by barely scraping through the ‘electives’ and failing the core courses. It will never happen. So, is the President providing train coaches to be transporting the dead bodies from the North to the South? Are the trains to be occupied by living human beings or dead human beings?
Make no mistake about it, like the President always says, it is true that we have a rise of terrorism around the world. But, we have all seen how governments around the world respond quickly and decisively to any attempt for terror to rear its ugly head within their society and how they quickly crush it. We saw it happen in the United States after 9/11; we saw it happen in Britain after the July 7, 2005 bus bombing; in the last few days, we have seen it happen in France and in Belgium. In all these cases, all attempts were nipped in the bud. Even, here in Nigeria, previous governments have nipped insurgency in the bud. The ONLY government that has allowed it to fester, germinate and grow into a full-blown war leading to a successful secession of some parts of the country is that of President Goodluck Jonathan. It is so bad that hardly a day passes by without reports of one insurgent activity or the other leading to loss of lives and limbs.
The President is also quick to mention that his administration has made the Nigerian economy the number one in Africa. He forgot to mention two things, though; one, that some of the major sectors of the Nigerian economy, that is, the telecom sector, financial services and the Nollywood industry that were taken into account to re-base the economy were sectors not created or grown by his government. Secondly, he forgot to mention that the so-called re-basing has no impact at all on the ordinary Nigerian as the 2014 World Bank Survey still shows that Nigeria is ranked third among world top five poorest countries with sixty-one percent (61%) of its citizens living below $1.25 dollar per day. No government can boast of any economic growth or theory that does not have a direct impact on the lives of its ordinary citizens. It is like a father coming home to announce and jubilate about a pay rise and promotion at workplace, yet the wife and children cannot eat or live better many months later.
The Nigerian people have tolerated too much and taken too much battering from the PDP-led Federal Government since 1999. Under the Jonathan Government, the situation in the country has sunk to an all-time low, except for the few benefitting directly from the government. They are blind to criticism and blind to healthy opposition. They hurl abuses at anyone who dares to point out these acts of maladministration. In saner societies, the President will not be allowed to campaign in many parts of the country. The people will rise against him and chase his convoy away.
The clear alternative to this monumental mess is the person of General Muhammadu Buhari. Let us be clear that Buhari does not present the total package Nigerians want at this time. He is human, he is not perfect. But at this point in our history, at this time, at this moment, he presents the only viable option and avenue for the people to vent their frustrations and anger against an inept and clueless Federal Government. He represents the rallying point for the frustrated and teeming masses of our people. He reminds me of MKO Abiola (with some of his imperfections) who became the rallying point in the struggle against military rule.
That is the change we are talking about. It is not a change from imperfection to perfection. It is a change from hopelessness and cluelessness to some hope and to some expectations.
All the personal attacks on the person of Buhari in the last few weeks have only convinced me that he is the best available option at this time. Anyone on the weaker side in any argument always resorts to personal abuses and attacks. Have you noticed that on corruption, the only accusation against Buhari is that, he was too high-handed in fighting corruption in the past? In other words, nobody can/has accused him of lacking the courage, zeal and will to fight corruption. On the other hand, the President eats, sleeps and wakes up with corruption. In one of his famous interviews, he did not even see stealing as corruption. That is why he does not see the point why he should not appoint a person standing trial for corruption as his Director of Media and Publicity. He just does not care.
So, Nigerians, we must decide what we want. When Buhari fought corruption and was supposedly high-handed, he was ruling with Decrees. Now, he has the Constitution, the National Assembly, and the Judiciary without ouster clauses to guide him. It is therefore only an idiot that will believe the propaganda that he would throw everyone suspected of corruption into jail. I feel so sorry at times for the gullible masses of this country who fall for such cheap propaganda. But it is his type of appetite and revulsion against corruption that we so dearly need at this time.
You may say whatever you like about Buhari, but in terms of the character, the steel, the competence to lead the nation out of this period of insurgency, nobody can compare a Goodluck Jonathan to a General Buhari. Just imagine the Service Chiefs (who were probably in secondary school when Buhari and others fought the Civil War) sitting in front of Buhari to brief him about the situation in the North East, and attempting to mislead him about movements of artillery, brigades or troops and, the strategy against the enemy!
The attack on Buhari’s certificate is most unfortunate. Only fools can be deceived that a sworn affidavit in place of a certificate that you cannot readily produce is not sufficient for certain purposes. What is important is that the school(s) and dates are mentioned in such affidavits which can be subject to verification. But unfortunately the President’s team has carried on as if leadership is a function of academic degrees and qualifications. This is so sad. Leadership is a divine quality, almost always bestowed at infancy so much so that even in primary schools, we see traits of leadership amongst pupils. If it were not so, then there would be no need for elections. We should just look for the most qualified professor in our Ivory Towers and make him President because that would be the best material for President.
Besides, what moral right has Jonathan got to discuss Buhari’s certificate when I have since informed him that his Comptroller-General of Customs, Alhaji Abdullahi Dikko forged all his certificates, yet the President has not even ordered a simple investigation into the matter. He has turned a willful blind eye to the issue.
The orchestration of the age of Buhari is just another mischief, symptomatic of the weaker side the President’s team find themselves in the argument. Agility and strength and good health is not exactly a function of age. Yar’Adua did not die in power because he was an old man. Abacha did not die in power because he was an old man. Obasanjo ruled until he was seventy (70) years and it is the same set of PDP big wigs that are now criticizing the age of Buhari that were promoting and supporting the third-term bid of Obasanjo that would have taken him to, perhaps, seventy-eight (78) years as President. Today, Obasanjo still jumps about at nearly eighty (80) years or perhaps more. Professor Wole Soyinka, at over eighty (80) years, still travels everywhere, delivering lectures.
The relevant question here is that, is the age more important than the character or the character more important than the age? For those who are Christians, remember that the Bible says in Proverbs 16:31 that grey-headedness is a crown of beauty if found in the ways of righteousness. It is idiotic to deride an elderly person who is still agile and upright in character, instead of us praying that we live up to that age and we are blessed with such strength at such an age. During the Second Republic, the South-West and South-East massively voted for Awolowo and Azikiwe respectively who were both over seventy (70) years old, yet nobody raised an eyebrow.
Finally, this is not the time to adopt the herd mentality by joining the so-called “winning train” because the ruling party is always expected to rig elections in its favour. What we are witnessing with the large followership of Buhari is a revolution, a mass movement, a display of anger by the people against Jonathan and his government. This is a time for well-meaning Nigerians, the elites to rise up and speak truth to power, regardless of whose ox is gored. We can halt the slide to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc by our simple votes. We must vote out incompetence, cluelessness and corruption.
The epitaph that will be left for the Presidential years of Goodluck Jonathan is this: HERE IS A PRESIDENT WHO DESTROYED PDP AND ALMOST DESTROYED NIGERIA.
I have purged my conscience. Now, I can sleep.
FESTUS KEYAMO, ESQ.