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The Political Contest Between Dr Goodluck Jonathan and Gen Muhammad Buhari

By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria – The Nigeria general election to select a new president for 2015-2019 has been slated by the electoral body in Nigeria, INEC, for February 2015. The two main political parties have selected their candidates as the incumbent president from the PDP, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and from the main opposition party APC we also have Gen Muhammad Buhari, a former Head of State in Nigeria 1983-1985. The two candidates need no introduction either about the history of Nigeria, its economy, its different nationalities, its weaknesses or even if there are sources of strength. There are about a dozen other political parties that may have candidates at this level but all of them add together can only advance or destabilize the chances of these two candidates. Hence, if all things go well Nigeria will have either Dr Jonathan returning to office or losing to Gen Buhari. There could be a re-run by the Nigeria constitution and we forecast that even that possibility can only throw out the other numerous candidates to leave the field solely for Jonathan and Buhari.

Nigeria is a unique composition of people, and although these two main candidates do not fully represent the Nigeria nations, we fairly accept them for an unbiased expression of Nigerians and their aspirations. There are two different nations in these two main candidates. Dr Jonathan, the incumbent, is from the South-South area of Nigeria, predominant professing Christianity and where a great oil wealth has been flowing into the Nigeria national treasury; which of course has promoted the corruption mafia. Dr Jonathan came to limelight showing a background of an average Nigerian and a commoner and a hope for ordinary Nigerian. On the other hand Gen Buhari is a successful product of the Nigerian Army who fought in the civil war, became governor of State and Minister of Petroleum during the military and also a Military Head of Nigeria. He is from the Northern Nigeria where Islam is well pronounced and professed; he carries an unwritten mark wrongly or rightly, of a potential jihadist. It is going to be an interesting contest this time around. Jonathan had the upper hand over Buhari in 2011 but since then the fortunes of Buhari have improved with PDP members deserting their party and Buhari’s CPC merging with others to form a new APC. For APC members it is a test run of the newly acquired electoral machine.

Jonathan and Buhari

Jonathan and Buhari

The contest between Jonathan and his rival Buhari runs like a seam across the entire Nigeria political history. At times the North gains the upper hand, at a few other times the South prevails, at many other times the ill conceived battle is between the Christians and the Muslims in Nigeria and they always want to be relevant for self, but the schism always resurfaces. Nigeria has never had a messiah; otherwise our fortunes should have changed for the better. The political conflict has its roots in the colonial history, the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 and the independence that came Nigeria’s way in 1960 instead of 1957 when the Southern territories and Ghana were freed. Britain and the West seemed to have preferred the North for whatever their reasons. But the southerners thought they were more educated and should have been allowed to lead the newly independent country. Each time the contest has been fought using every ethnic and religious weapon and intrigues, rather than very objective political tools. Today the difference in education level between the regions is minimal but the task facing Nigeria is colossal.

We are possibly at a crossroad where the worse mistake can take place. Hence it is important to make a clear choice. One thing that is going well for the incumbent President Jonathan is his calmness and humility, indicated from outward at the least, our first lady notwithstanding. What might have allegedly started amongst three old friends in River State that caused a disagreement may have become a national issue culminating in political splitting and ranting, the end of which is still unknown. A statesmanship approach is needed but Nigeria cannot wait indefinitely for our lives to be hanging under controllable insurgencies. There are insurgencies that are uncontrollable and unpredictable but Boko Haram ought to be controllable and predictable. The price of crude oil as at Tuesday December 16 2014 was below $60 and we reason that the fall is still ongoing. Nigeria successive governments have been mismanaging and squandering several opportunities to diversify and improve the overall economy. The politicians instead of working on legislations that could have improved the economic profile of the nation went rather on awarding allowances for self.

Another crossroad is to go back to Gen Buhari whom IBB and his team chased out of office in 1985. I was fortunate to know the late Gen Tunde Idiagbon (the second in command to Gen Buhari in 1983-1985) briefly simply because we maintained our cars in the same spot at that time. He was quiet, frank and forthright and would bear out his mind on any Nigeria subject. I liked him. At a different time I went to a Church on an assignment here in Ilorin and was told about a woman that sat next to me as the wife of late Gen Idiagbon. These are unassuming first class Nigerian citizens who are driven by their inner beauty rather than, noises, head ties, perfume and make-ups. Perhaps Gen Burahi that I only met at a lecture he delivered at ABU Zaria in 1976 when he was Petroleum Minister is anywhere like late Gen Idiagbon. However Gen Buhari can be estimated on his own individual merits. He has to differentiate between his first coming in 1983 and the possibility of another one this 2015, and between serving Nigerians and serving some particular Nigerians, between economic empowerment and thinking that he has a mission to drive away capitals from Nigeria in his perceived effort fighting the ghost of corruption. Nigerians have a choice to make. Incidentally Buhari can talk and we must listen to him rather than what we write on him.

We need to understand their leadership traits as we choose one or the other. One type of leadership displays a contradistinction of humility and commitment, of one to whom life is a duty rather than an achievement. He steps in to prevent any disaster on his people. He readily owns up to his responsibility for his action or inaction and he is accountable. He pledges to be accountable for our safety or bears the consequences. His leadership is burdened by responsibility and sustained by commitment, rather than one that is buoyed by self-confidence and driven by ambition. It is a leadership marked with personate commitment and self-abnegation. Another leadership is represented by growth, achievement and generally to add or move forward. These two types of leadership are essential and vie for ascendancy in our every thought and feeling, in every choice we make and every action we take in the course of our lives. Our apprehensions are right now multi-facets. Do these two leaders find themselves as choices of others rather than their commitment to service and national duty? Do they know what is meant by democracy, religious freedom, economic empowerment and national territorial integrity? Do they know the average thinking of a back man in the world? Can they project the Africans in Africa let alone those that are being hunted down by American police and the American law on mere cigarette offences? Are these agents of foreign powers to be used against us in anyway?

Hence the choice before Nigerians is not simply whether PDP or APC but rather ensuring that democracy plays its role to create a free community of people where individuals can realize their material and spiritual aspirations. The people need to be awake and then find a president that is also well awake. The president must be awake to our security, economic plights, allowing individuals to worship as they wish, and leadership by example and by cohesion rather than ordinary force of law. Nigeria is at a crossroad and the politicians must help themselves, rather than thinking that they are helping the nation, by abiding by the outcomes of elections and following rule of law.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi
ipinyomira@yahoo.co.uk or/and raipinyomi@unilorin.edu.ng



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