In just six days, the nation would have unanimously elected whom they trust to lead them from the convoluted mess Nigeria has become after sixteen harrowing years of a pseudo-democracy that has exacerbated not only the conditions of the country but also the fractures of a badly cobbled nationhood. For sixteen years, Nigeria has been a jarring paradox of mass suffering in the midst of plenty. Nigeria had been a land of relentless privations even when oil flowed ceaselessly, and prices of same skyrocketed.
Pundits have posited that the March 28 rescheduled polls will be the first real election we have had since 1999. By that, they mean that the ensuing election has generated enough consciousness and awareness as to lead the citizenry to make a right choice on who leads them from May 29, 2015. Implicit in that reading also is that the features and processes INEC had put in place, especially the card readers and permanent voters' card have imbued much confidence in Nigerians that for the first time since our fruitless expedition in a mismanaged democracy, Nigerian votes may come to count in this election. This ray of hope has gone to pump up interests and passion in the election where Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan are set to clash. Equally, the concerns and backlash traceable to the election even beyond the borders of Nigeria have reached a feverish pitch.
There is no doubt that the whirlwind generated by the Buhari candidacy is so enormous that it sends spirals of relentless jitters down the spines of the beleaguered PDP government and its supporters. As has been confirmed by a Jonathan supporter and leader of the Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Fredrick Fasheun, the knowledge that Buhari would have won the election if it were held at the earlier scheduled date of February 14 made the PDP and its cahoots to force INEC to shift the election by six weeks. This confession represents the widespread feelings of Nigerians despite the feeble protestation of the presidency that the election was postponed on the alibi of launching a six weeks blitzkrieg against a Boko Haram insurgency that has raged for over six years.
Now, with the election just by the corner, has the Jonathan presidency, and PDP succeeded in staving off the fearful Buhari victory that precipitated the postponement of the election? Have Nigerians in the past six weeks, come to change their perception of the six years of Jonathan as a colossal waste that informed the Buhari popularity surge? Have Nigerians now forgotten the endless array of hefty corruption that defined and still continues to define Jonathan's stewardship? Have Nigerians forgiven the borderless state of insecurity that assailed them while Jonathan looked clueless and vacant on how to secure Nigerians from sundry assailants? Have Nigerians now come to the fact that our worsening state of infrastructure is the best we can have? Have Nigerians now accepted the international contempt, ridicule and scorn the Jonathan government brought on the country as a result of its awkward mishandling of issues and policies?
Yes, Jonathan has shared out bales of dollars. Yes, he has met and re-met traditional rulers, religious leaders, ethnic militia warriors, sectional groups, traders, student bodies, market women, etc. Yes, he has danced and exercised on the streets and has popped up in quite unlikely quarters for the six weeks he forced out from INEC. The poser is; are these enough mitigation for the clear damages we suffered for his dereliction of duty and bizarre license for official corruption for the past six years as to reverse our opinion of him? Yes he has shared out hundreds of millions of dollars, does this tame the fact that Nigeria, as at today, has the world's largest population of poor people, has one of the world's highest infant mortality rate, has one of the world's least life expectancy? Are the goodies he has been freely sharing for the past six weeks enough to tame the ravaging pangs of poverty, malnutrition, hunger, now making mincemeat of millions of Nigerians? Will the shared dollars be enough for all of us to purchase our generators since the public power supply has gone in smokes? Are the goodies the president is doling out enough for our millions of teeming jobless youths to make any meaning with their frustrated lives? Is the dollar rain enough to buy scarce petrol at so high a price as N150 per liter, as is becoming real in our country? Are the dollars now being generously distributed meant to arrest the crashing value of our currency which had become a worthless paper with all the attendant economic toll on long-suffering Nigerians? Our stock market is now rated as the worst performing in Africa, will the dollars Jonathan is sharing held arrest this drift?
I can go on and on and paint gory pictures of a bankrupt economy where industries are closing shop, laying off workers in droves, ministries are allocated peanuts, states are going bankrupt, educational and health sectors are going under, unemployment has worsened, crime and insecurity have blossomed, inflation has quadrupled, etc. what is not certain is whether sharing out hundreds of millions of dollars will tame these vicissitudes and assure Nigerians of a better future under a Jonathan that mismanaged a six years oil windfall and has ran Nigeria to the very brinks of economic collapse. I know that
On the other hand, have the factors that spiraled the Buhari candidacy into an attractive whirlwind and elevated his persona to a cult figure waned in the past six weeks? Have the critical indices that led every local and international poll to give the coming presidential election to Buhari been vitiated? Has Buhari declined in popularity just because Jonathan deployed stomach infrastructure to the same victims of his government's crooked economic policies? I don't think so, and Nigerians are not so shifty as to arrest their passion just because Jonathan came to town with bales of dollars.
It is obvious that the Jonathan presidency and the PDP misread greatly the pin that fires the Buhari candidacy by engaging in heavy disbursement of money and patronages in trying to douse Buhari's rising popularity. In the first place, it is the absences of such money and patronages that rev up passion about Buhari. It is the fact that he came in contact with money, influence and power and refused to steal to get rich and powerful that oils the wheels of his Catholic constituency. It is the fact that after holding every lucrative office in the land, Buhari refused to be tainted by corruption and graft and still connects with the poorest of the Nigerian poor. It us the simple, honest, frugal and truthful life Buhari lives after contact with power that attracts fanatical following for him today. This is the priceless flavor that drives his raging candidacy in a land where corruption has been deliberately promoted to not only frustrate every effort to deal it a rough nose but ensure that whoever emerges with the real credential and capacity to fight corruption is violently repulsed as we see with the desperation to tar, demonize and frustrate Buhari.
Buhari gains tremendously from the fact that millions of those who spend their resources, time and energy to fight his presidential campaign battles do not know him in person nor do they plan to ever know him in person unlike the well lubricated Jonathan/PDP campaign rocked daily by charges of financial malfeasance and scandals. Those fighting for Buhari are freelance volunteers who see their efforts as patriotic duty to salvage a crumbling country and arrest its fearful drift. This is the single greatest staying power of Buhari, and this fires the most successful battles and revolutions that have never been cowed or defeated in history. So Buhari is as good as being the next President of Nigeria so doling out dollars as vote bribe cannot make a dent on their efforts and resolve. The fact that Jonathan went on a dollar sharing spree to arrest his own rustication from power can on,y worsen his case from what it was on February 14 when out of fright for a Buhari shellacking, he and his minions forced a postponement.
As written recently by Jonathan's Ally and former Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries and also former Chairman of the National Population Commission, Eze Festus Odimegwu, a nation without the likes of Buhari is doomed. I share Eze Odimegwu's view, and I know millions of Nigerians share his noble views. Ethnic and religious bigotry, smear, dirty campaigns, lies, and fabrications have done their utmost, but they cannot arrest the change Nigerians fervently yearn and work for. Intrigues, antics, and desperation have run their full course, but they prove so weak against the change Buhari's emergence promises to Nigerians. Counting days, I can see the bright rays of hope wafting through the very darkest moment of the Nigerian firmament. As the PDP tries all manners of desperation to stop an idea whose time has come,I can see Buhari getting permanently etched in the minds of more Nigerians as the only one that has practically proven able and capable and with the right moral carriage to arrest the floundering drift of the Nigerian state. Nigerians see in his clean, straightforward, untainted life the needed compass to re-direct Nigeria to the paths of moral rectitude. They see in him the person with enough will and ethical demeanour to deal with the decibels of corruption, ineptitude and mismanagement which have been at the root of Nigeria's progressive decline especially in the past six years.
Just some few days and Nigeria will surely march into a new dawn. Buhari will be on the driving seat and with him comes a rejuvenation of our fast dying hopes in a country which exists for all of us.
Peter Claver Oparah
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