Supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress, are leaving nothing to chance as mudslinging and name-calling characterise their campaigns to win February 14 presidential election despite the many hurdles before the two candidates
| By Olu Ojewale | Feb. 2, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
IT could hardly get worse. Barely a week after majority of the 14 candidates in the February 14, presidential election signed an accord to work towards a violence-free conduct, the media campaigns, utterances and actions of supporters of the main political bigwigs in the election appear to be working contrary to the peace pact. Less than one month to the presidential election the frenzy in the political landscape is becoming charged as the main political parties continue to churn out inflammatory advertisements and making unguarded utterances in apparent disregard to the spirit of peace accord signed by the presidential candidates that attended the sensitisation violence-free accord signed in Abuja on Wednesday, January 14.
One of the ugly developments was the stoning of the convoy of President Goodluck Jonathan, who led the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to Katsina State in furtherance of his re-election campaign on Tuesday, January 20. General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the All Progressives Party, is from the state. Trouble started when Jonathan, in company of Namadi Sambo, vice-president; Adamu Mu’azu, national chairman of the PDP and Governor Ibrahim Shema of Katsina State, among others wanted to pay a courtesy visit on Hajiya Dada, mother of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua. As the convoy of the president and members of his entourage was entering into the Yar’Adua Quarters, some youths holding brooms and were chanting “Sai Buhari” surged forward to block the convoy. It took security agents quite a hectic time to disperse the crowd.
Having succeeded at the time, as the convoy was leaving the Yar’Adua’s compound, the youths who had regrouped, again moved to attack the president’s convoy. Security agents had to fire tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd to allow the president’s convoy to depart from the area. But as the convoy made its way towards the Katsina Airport, the youths pelted it with stones. Mercifully, there was no report of serious damage or injury recorded. Both the PDP and the APC have since condemned the action, saying it was against the spirit of democracy.
Similarly, on Monday, youths in hundreds in Sokoto, Sokoto State took to the street near the palace of the Sultan of Sokoto, to carry out a symbolic sweeping of the floor. The action was taken shortly after President Jonathan and his entourage left the Sultan’s palace to Shehu Kangiwa Square today to hold a rally.
Ibrahim Musa, one of the sweepers, told journalists that the exercise was to demonstrate to the PDP leaders that the people of the state were not in support of Jonathan’s re-election bid. “You can see things for yourself. Mr. President just passed and we youths mobilise ourselves to clear our area for peace, progress and political growth of our country,” he said.
Abdullahi Isa, another sweeper, described the symbolic sweeping of the roads as a clear indication that Nigerians needed a change of leadership direction. “Nothing seems to be moving hence the need for well meaning Nigerians to support the cause of political change being championed by the progressives,” he said. Isa said that no one asked the youths to sweep the road, adding that they came out to show their disdain for the PDP-led government. “I have three graduates in my house. No work for them,” Isa said, adding that the PDP should forget Sokoto and, indeed, the North-West because he would not get votes there.
But the two incidents, which apparently overshadowed campaign promises of President Jonathan, were not regarded as inflammatory as the front-page advertisement in the national dailies sponsored by Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. Prior to the advertisement on Monday, January 19, Fayose had questioned the state of health of Buhari following reports that he fell during his campaign in Calabar. But he stirred more controversy across the country with his advertisement entitled “Nigerians Be Warned”. It has the portraits of the late Nigerian leaders from the North West, who had died in office from General Murtala Mohammed, General Sani Abacha to President Musa Yar’Adua, and on the picture of General Buhari, who is also from the North West, is a question mark. It quoted a Bible passage saying: “I have set before thee life and death….” Stating that General Buhari is 72, the advertisement said: “Will you allow history to repeat itself? Enough of state burials! Nigerians vote wisely. Vote Goodluck Jonathan. Northern presidency should wait till 2019.”
In response to the advertisement, Buhari, in a message on his official Twitter handle said: “How can his (President Goodluck Jonathan) campaign be talking about ex-dead leaders, jogging around the stadium and outright lies about health?” He said that campaigns should focus on national issues and not on his state of health and dead Nigerian leaders. Buhari dismissed the allegations that he is sick as something borne out of mischief, assuring his supporters that he is fit as a fiddle.
The Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, described the advertisement as “reckless”, adding that the PDP leaders had turned themselves to God. Lolu Akinwunmi, president of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, the advertising regulatory organisation in Nigeria, described the advertisement as “unconventional, shocking and controversial.”
The APC, on its part, described the advertisement as “choosing death for our candidate.” The party accused the PDP of threatening Buhari’s life and paying lip service to the Abuja accord signed on Wednesday, January 14, by the parties to ensure a violence-free election. The APC, in a statement issued in Lagos by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, said: “But for our party’s ceaseless enlightenment of our members and supporters to shun violence of any kind even when provoked, and the peaceful disposition of the APC as a party, one can only imagine what could have happened in the wake of this demonic advert, laced with ethnic put down and a morally-repugnant death wish for a fellow being.” The party, therefore, called on those who witnessed the signing of the peace pact, especially Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general, and Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth secretary-general, to take note of the serious breach of the agreement and urgently called Jonathan and his party to order.
”We are also calling on all Nigerians, as well as security agencies, the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, and the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria, APCON, to take note of the political desperation of the PDP and its supporters, while warning that we will hold President Jonathan and his party responsible if anything untoward should happen to the APC presidential candidate,” it said
The APC said it was not the first time that the president and his supporters had broken the Abuja Peace Accord. ”Two days after the pact was signed, our party’s office at NGO community in Andoni Local Government Area of Rivers was bombed, the second of such incident in the state allegedly by the PDP thugs. Then our party members were attacked severally in Sokoto by the PDP thugs aided and abetted by the police, while the PDP Governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Yero, has been inciting violence against the opposition in his state,” the party said.
It said the fact that the perpetrators of those incidents got away with their actions without any censure from the president emboldened another die-hard supporter of the President to throw caution to the wind and embark on a course of action that has now exposed, for the world to see, the level of desperation by the president and his party ahead of next month’s polls.
“Never in the history of our nation has there been a more egregious act of desperation by a politician who would wish death to his opponent, with the action aided and abetted by otherwise respectable media organisations that chose to put financial consideration over professional ethics, morality and even national unity,” APC said.
The party urged the media, which has always been in the forefront of the fight for democracy in Nigeria, to exercise the utmost restraint at this difficult period, calling its attention to the inciting role played by the hate radio, called Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines, RTLMC, in the Rwandan genocide in 1993. It said President Jonathan, who has been saying his political ambition is not worth the blood of anyone, could have had the blood of many Nigerians on his hands had the APC supporters not been peaceful and cool in the face of this egregious act of provocation.
“When we saw the advert on the front page in certain papers, we were taken aback not because we had any grand expectation of civil conduct from the indecorous… Governor Fayose, but because no one could have imagined that the PDP’s desperation would descend to the level of publicly expressing death wish for political opponents. That this is coming from the Governor of a State is appalling and highly distasteful. No doubt Gov. Fayose is the poster boy for what the PDP stands for: insensitivity, desperation and deception. Otherwise, how could any well bred person, whether or not he is a state governor, attempt to incite a whole section of the country against another in such brazen manner?” the APC statement said further.
That notwithstanding, another controversial issue concerning the candidature of Buhari is that whether he has the minimum requirement of secondary school certificate. The APC candidate did not attach his educational credentials to the presidential nomination form he submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, stating that they were with the military. As the controversy over the credentials entered its third week, the military, on Tuesday, January 20, contradicted the general’s claim. Olajide Laleye, a brigadier-general and director of Army Public Relations, in Abuja, at a news conference said: “The entry made on Form 199A at the point of documentation after commission as an officer indicated that the former Head of State obtained the WASC in 1961 with credits in relevant subjects. Neither the original certified true copy nor the statement of result of Major General Buhari’s WASC result is in his personal file. I hope this explanation will put to rest, the raging controversy surrounding the secondary school credentials of Maj. Gen. Buhari as it affects the Nigerian Army.”
The Army, however, showed journalists copies of the documents filed by Buhari for his commissioning as an officer. The principal of his secondary school, in recommending Buhari for commissioning as an officer, said: “I recommend him for military commissioning; I consider that Mohammadu Buhari will pass the West Africa School Certificate in English, Maths and three other subjects.”
Perhaps, irked by the ceaseless controversy raging on the matter, Buhari, on Wednesday, January 21, spoke in Kano, capital of Kano State, describing the controversy over his West Africa School Certificate, WASCE, as sheer mischief orchestrated by the PDP. Speaking to reporters at Kano State Government House, he explained that he initially presumed that the school certificate was with the Nigeria Army, until the military high Command proved otherwise. The former head of state said he sat for the WASCE in 1961 with examination number 8200002.
Buhari said: “I only will read the statement and I will encourage you and advise you to do what you know best. I consented to address you this morning because of the general concern of my many supporters and well-meaning Nigerians that the issue be addressed. Otherwise, I would have dismissed it for what it is—a sheer mischief, and will not have considered it an issue.
“I assumed all along, all my records were in the custody of the Military Secretary of the Nigerian Army, a position I have been privileged to occupy myself, much to my surprise, we are now told that although, a record of the result is available, there are no copies of the certificate in my personal file. This is why I formally requested my old school—the Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, which is now known as Government College, Katsina, to make available the school copy of the result of the Cambridge West African School Certificate. This will be made available to the press the moment this is available.
“However, let me say for the record that I attended Provincial Secondary School, Kaduna. I graduated in 1961, with many prominent Nigerians, including Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, former Chief of Staff in the Supreme Headquarters; and Justice Umar Abdullahi, former President of the Court of Appeal. We sat for the University of Cambridge WASCE examination together in 1961, the year we graduated.”
Buhari, however, urged the PDP and President Jonathan’s campaign team to give priority to issues like insecurity, official corruption, poverty and unemployment, instead of mischief and name-calling.
“I have contested three times under the same rules set by INEC where there is a basic educational qualification you must have. I was allowed to contest all these elections because my certificate was in order and there were individuals that wrote to the United States War College and the college answered them and they were published in the newspapers,” he said.
Analysts say Buhari may be right that he had contested thrice without attaching his credentials. But that was because the INEC had not included a section in the form, insisting that candidates must attach their credential unlike before.
This seems to explain why the President Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Group, in a statement signed by Femi Fani-Kayode, head of media and publicity of the campaign organisation, said in part: “The fact that he got away with it in 2003, 2007 and 2011 does not make it right. The minimum that Nigerians require from Buhari is the presentation of his secondary school certificate which enabled him to gain admission into the Nigerian Military College in 1962 and on which basis he became a commissioned officer of the Nigerian Army.”
However, the controversy over the APC presidential candidate’s school certificate was somewhat doused when Katsina College, the school where he passed out, released Buhari’s statement of results on Wednesday, January 21. The results showed that Buhari had one good, four credits, one pass and two failures in all the eight subjects he sat for at the examination. Buhari’s best result was in History where he had Good B3, credit passes in English Language C5; Hausa Language C5; Government/Hausa Literature C6 and Health Science C6. English Literature fetched him an ordinary pass of D7, and F9 in Mathematics and Woodwork.
That notwithstanding, some analysts say opposition members may still want to use the results against him because the first name on the results was spelt as Mohamed and not Muhammadu that the APC presidential candidate bears. Besides, they claim that the affidavit that he swore to claiming that his credentials were with the military could be regarded as an act perjury and used against him in court. Will the matter over Buhari’s certificate be allowed to rest now? This is one obviously question that may not produce an immediate answer until, perhaps, after election and the swearing-in of the next president.
Be that as it may, the campaigns of PDP and APC have started to show that the two leading candidates have a lot of convincing to do persuade electorate in their favour and shun the kind of intolerance witnessed in some places since they both started mounting the soapbox.
The APC is demanding for a change, while the ruling PDP is not only asking for continuity. The PDP has remained persistent in its arguments that the transformation agenda of the Jonathan administration had brought about a lot of development to Nigeria.
Unlike the previous election when the defunct ACN asked its supporters to vote for President Jonathan in the presidential poll, the APC is solidly behind Buhari. This election is very important to the general because it is likely to be his last. At 72, Buhari is unlikely to make another attempt after this fourth time he would be offering himself for the office. In 2003, he had faced former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was the PDP candidate. Then, Buhari was the flag bearer of the defunct ANPP, the main opposition party. In 2007, his opponent was the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, protégé of the then incumbent President Obasanjo. And, in 2011, he had President Jonathan to contend with. Analysts believe that this could be the opportune time for the retired general because of the mood in the country in which people are asking for a change. More so, the ruling party is perceived to have failed to deliver on many electoral promises Jonathan made to Nigerians in 2011.
Indeed, when Jonathan contested the presidential election in 2011, the issue of security was on the card because Boko Haram, an Islamic sect, which has become a terror group, was just gaining ground having just been on the scene for only two years then. But its activities seem to have intensified rampaging and destabilising the whole of North-Eastern part of the country. Ogbonnaya Onu, former governor of Abia State and a chieftain of the APC, in an interview boasted that Buhari would be elected next year because Jonathan had failed to address the nation’s problems. “We all have seen that President Jonathan has failed on all fronts. Innocent Nigerians are losing their lives every day, corruption is on the increase, government is at the lowest ebb and we are in horrible times. Looking at all these, there is no way Nigerians will cast their votes for the same man who is responsible for all their woes,” Onu said.
Apart from failing to fix the security issue, President Jonathan, who campaigned with promises to fix the erratic power supply, build refineries so that Nigeria would no longer depend on importation of fuel, fight corruption among others, is believed to have failed to deliver those promises. Since Jonathan formally took office in May 2011, the level of power generation and distribution has gone up to 4,000megawatts up from 3500 megawatts met it despite the sale of the sector to private operators. Notwithstanding more than $2 billion government investment in the project, Nigerians are yet to get adequate power supply. In fact, in the past two weeks, thousands of homes in Lagos, and several other states have hardly had power supply. To make matters worse, no reasons seem to be forthcoming on why the power supply dipped or whether the nation would realise the target of generating and distributing 5,000 megawatts of power supply this December as promised by the government.
The Jonathan administration is equally believed to weak in fighting corruption. Since the inception of the administration, the fight against corruption has been tepid at best. There has been no conviction of any corrupt government official. Despite Jonathan’s pledge that his administration would end the scourge of corruption ravaging the country, the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, CPI, released on Wednesday, December 3, said Nigeria only performed marginally better than its 2013 rating. Out of 174 countries evaluated for corruption, Nigeria ranked 136th alongside Russia, Cameroon, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon, as the least transparent. That means the six countries, Nigeria inclusive, are the 15th most corrupt in the world. Nigeria was 14th most corrupt in 2013. Even with the ranking a lot of people were not convinced that the present administration had done much in fighting corruption. In summary, former President Obasanjo scored President Jonathan’s performance so far as below average. “I will not accept responsibility for his performance. There is nobody that gets such a position without being helped,” Obasanjo said.
But the president himself would not be put down. In his acceptance speech to members of the PDP on Thursday, December 11, the president enumerated his achievements in agriculture, aviation, oil/gas, roads, power, sports, railway, women/youth empowerment, housing, port reforms, electoral reforms, and the national conference, among others. His sign post achievement is the diversification of the economy especially in agriculture which has made food available and stabilised prices despite the fall in oil revenue and slide in the value of Naira.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, data on consumer price index for the month of November 2014 shows that inflation eased for the third consecutive month from 8.1 percent to 7.9 percent, as a result of slower rise in food prices. The efforts of government to boost food production all across the country are paying off. This year alone, the government added 12 million MT of food to the domestic food supply, according to Ministry of Agriculture data. These include maize: 6.13 million MT; rice: 3.25 million MT; cassava: 2.12 million MT, amongst others. Despite the naira devaluation, there has been a very marginal increase in food prices due to increased food harvests.
Nonetheless, Jonathan has warned that the opposition was desperate to employ every means including intimidation and false accusation to get to power but he appealed to the party members to remain focused on the mission at hand to secure the country’s future. “Let me emphasise again that nobody’s political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. We must eschew violence even in the face of the most outrageous act of desperation. We must make sure our supporters have their voter card or get them motivated and eager to make their mark for our children, for a stronger economy and for the security of the country’s future,” he said.
Despite the epileptic power supply in the country which is increasing production cost and killing off small and medium term businesses in the country, the president insisted that his government was capable of handling the economy. He disclosed that his capable economic team had already mapped out strategies to manage the current oil price volatility and its threat to the nation. He also assured Nigerians the fight against corruption was on course and would be won with the strong institutional reforms he has introduced to nip the problem in the bud instead of parading corrupt officials on air as was done previously but has not put an end to it over the years.
That, perhaps, gave Faoyse the courage to boast that the president would win the next presidential election. “Nothing will stop Jonathan in 2015. Those going about blackmailing Jonathan are wasting their time. We have the strategy. We have the people. We have done it before,” Fayose said in a newspaper report.
Similarly, Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom, who chaired a meeting of the PDP governors in Abuja on Tuesday, December 16, disclosed that the PDP still remained the largest party and a party to beat in any election. He said that the meeting which was attended by 15 governors deliberated on the state of the nation particularly issues of security as well as the need to strategise for 2015 elections. Part of the PDP plans, according to sources, was to find a way to quickly pacify aggrieved members so that they would work for the party in the next elections. The ruling hierarchy was said to have been told that it would be suicidal to violently rock the boat now.
Not all Nigerians have sympathy for the PDP candidate. Mwuese Akura, a business woman based in Benue State, a middle belt state in Nigeria, is not amused by the ruling party’s campaign to win the next elections. “Jonathan should just go. We are tired of him and his party. They are just stealing Nigeria’s money without leaving anything for the common man to enjoy.” Akura said she would be voting for Buhari in the next presidential race.
In any case, President Jonathan is not the only one who has some problems to solve ahead of 2015 elections. Buhari similarly has a big hurdle to scale. He is infamously remembered as the one who truncated a democratic government in 1983. May Ubeki, a supporter of Jonathan administration, said Buhari should be elected as president. “Unblessed are those that forgive Buhari who truncated our democracy in 1983. Remember, we didn’t get back this democracy until 1999. That is 15 years,” Ubeki said.
Similarly, Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, in an article posted on the Internet, referring to Buhari’s antecedents said: “This intervention has been provoked, not so much by the ambitions of General Buhari to return to power as the head of a democratic Nigeria, as by declarations of support from directions that leave one totally dumbfounded… The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change.
“In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.”
Despite his character flaws, Buhari ranks among few Nigerians that are regarded as incorruptible. Analysts believe that he is one person who has sustained an unblemished image in Nigeria in terms of ability to ‘say no to corruption.’ That, indeed, was the hallmark of military administration when he took office as military head of state in 1983. The late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari’s second in command, justified their seizure of power by reprimanding the civilian government of President Shehu Shagari and describing it as exceedingly corrupt. The regime, thus, launched a popular “War Against Indiscipline, WAI, campaign, through which it tried to set a new road-map for the country’s politics, introducing strict economic and political policies that was not allow to go far because of General Ibrahim Babangida’s coup of August 1985.
Having failed in the previous three attempts, many Nigerians are also beginning to see Buhari as a desperate politician and power seeker. The thinking in some quarters is that his ambition for the seat has become an obsession. Buhari himself answered that perception while canvassing for the support of his party during the APC primaries held in Lagos, on December 10 and 11. He said: “Personal ambition does not drive me in this regard. I seek to be the next president of our beloved nation because I believe I have something to offer Nigeria at this time of multiple crises. Insecurity, corruption, and economic collapse have brought the nation low. Time is past due that we work together to lift Nigeria up. I am ready to lead Nigeria to its rightful future,” he said.
Like they say, time heal wounds. That, perhaps, was the reason why some persons who were injured by the Buhari military administration in the 1980s, could find it in their hearts to forgive him. The administration had that time, jailed some alleged politicians and journalists, even for doing their legitimate duties. Tijani Musa, a former editor of Triumph newspaper in Kano, said he was ready to vote for Buhari because the nation would need the change. “I am now in support of Buhari. The PDP has taken us for a ride for so long; so, we need a change,” he said.
Buhari promised the desired change shortly after he was elected as the APC presidential candidate on Thursday, December 11, Buhari said: “We will govern Nigeria honestly in accordance with the constitution of the country.” He assured the nation that his government would secure the territorial integrity of the country, tackle corruption and see that no one is discriminated against on the basis of religion or gender, among others. Buhari, therefore appeal for support so that the change the party has been clamouring for could come into fruition. “I need your support; I need your help to become president of Nigeria, so that government may come to serve you; so that it may bring relief to the broken and weary among us and so that we may usher in a new Nigeria meant for us all. A Nigeria which is a birthright of everyone with exclusive position of no one,” he said.
In the political calculation of the APC, Buhari has Yemi Osinbajo, SAN and professor of law at the University of Lagos, who is contesting with him as vice-president. However, the only known political office ever held by Osinbajo, 55, was that of commissioner for justice and attorney general of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007. He is also an in-law to the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, having married a granddaughter of the former premier of the defunct Western region. The choice of who emerged as Buhari’s running mate had generated intense debate and interest since the emergence of the former head of state as the APC’s flag bearer on Friday, December 11. But all that is history now.
Osinbajo, a pastor at the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, and the chairman of the governing board of the Redeemer’s University, was thought to be a powerful choice to match the Jonathan ticket that has been wooing the Christian constituency through serial pilgrimages, and the subtle elevation of the status of the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria to a virtual presidential adviser’s position. By the choice of Osinbajo, Buhari is making history as first presidential candidate to run for election twice with another cleric and lawyer. The former head of state ran the 2011 presidential race with Tunde Bakare, a lawyer and senior pastor at the Latter Rain Assembly.
In any case, the emergence of Osinbajo, a technocrat from South-West, means that if the APC wins in 2015, South-East would have the opportunity to produce a Senate president.
Nevertheless, observers believe that the 2015 would be fiercely and keenly contested. But Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former chairman, Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, Lagos State, warned the nation to prepare for a violent aftermath if elections were not carefully managed. “If Buhari wins, the Niger Delta people will go to the creek to disrupt operations that they do not allow their kinsman to get a second term. If Jonathan wins, there will be trouble in the North because the late Yar’Adua did not complete one term in office before he died. So, there will be trouble because the North feels that it was their turn to produce president when Jonathan was elected in 2011. So, whoever wins among the two candidates is not going to be easy in 2015,” Ubani said.
Indeed, Niyi Osundare, a professor of English, said the only way to handle the 2015 elections is for the Nigerian politicians to “blackmail people of Nigeria with sincerity and transparency.” According to him, public opinion should be respected and must count. “The election must be seen to be transparent and they must be sincere enough to accept election results irrespective of the outcome,” Osundare said.
That notwithstanding, with the power of incumbency, a lot of people think that Jonathan has a bright chance of returning back to office based on his achievements irrespective of other ills plaguing his administration. Buhari also has his own baggage because of his past and the way people perceive him and his party. But with the clamour for change in some quarters, it is also believed that the former general also has a chance. However, the electorate is expected to decide on any of the candidates on February 14, 2015, hopefully on issue-based campaigns.