Archive for March 2015

Nigeria’s Presidential Warfare And Politics Of Endorsements

March 27, 2015

Casmir Igbokwe

First published in The Union, Nigeria’s daily newspaper

Peter (not real name) forgot his bike in a popular market in Lagos. When he realised this careless mistake, he became quite disillusioned and thought he would never see it again. Like an antelope running away from a predator, he immediately dashed out to search for his motorcycle. To his greatest surprise, he still found it where he left it. His joy knew no bounds.

One particular Sunday, this happy man decided to do a special thanksgiving in his church. He parked his bike on the church’s premises and went to worship and thank God for His goodness and mercies.

After the church service, Peter headed for where he parked his bike. The thing was not there. He brought out his brown handkerchief and wiped his face. Again, he looked everywhere, but no trace of the motorcycle. Gradually, it dawned on him that his priced asset for which he came to do thanksgiving had been stolen!

When a Lagos-based Catholic priest told his congregation this story a few Sundays ago, people laughed. But that is the reality of Nigeria today. Almost every street has a church and perhaps, a mosque. But for most people, this professed love for God is phoney.

Nigerian politicians understand this perfectly and they are exploiting it to the fullest. Some of them have hired pastors, imams, and sundry men of God to endorse their candidates for one position or the other.

Some of these ‘men of God’ go beyond endorsing candidates. They predict, based on presumed revelation from God, who will become the next President of Nigeria.

For instance, on New Year’s eve, a popular Catholic priest, Fr. Ejike Mbaka, in a sermon to his large followers, not only endorsed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Muhammadu Buhari, but also predicted his victory in the March 28, 2015 poll.

The same man, in November last year, had praised the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Goodluck Jonathan, and prayed for him to return to power as President of Nigeria. Mbaka’s double-speak riled a lot of people who tongue-lashed him and asked him to face his spiritual work and leave politics for politicians.

Contrary to the cleric’s prediction, witches and herbalists predicted victory for Jonathan. In a recent media interview, the national coordinator and spokesman of Witches and Wizards Association of Nigeria, Okhue Iboi, said his group had endorsed Jonathan in their covens.

On his own part, Nigerian Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, recently came up with 60 reasons he would not vote for Jonathan. He gave tacit support for Buhari. The same Soyinka, in 2007 , had catalogued Buhari’s crimes in a well publicised article entitled The Crimes of Buhari. Soyinka had said, “The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naïve.”

Many other individuals and groups have also come up with their endorsements and counter endorsements.

So far, there have been threats and counter threats; abuses and counter abuses; and even fears about the continued existence of Nigeria after the elections.

For the main opposition, the APC, the catchword is “change”. At their rallies, they wave their brooms and sometimes do a symbolic sweeping of the ruling party out of power.

The party’s Presidential candidate, Buhari, has promised to tackle corruption when he assumes office as President. His supporters boast that the man has integrity and tackled corruption when he was the military head of state in 1984. In newspaper advertorials, they paint the picture of a disciplined man who would not broach any nonsense from any quarters.

Buhari and his supporters also boast about tackling the prevailing insecurity in the country. As far as they are concerned, President Goodluck Jonathan has failed in protecting lives and property of Nigerians. And they have promised that they will deal a serious blow to a group like Boko Haram if the opposition party takes over government.

There are other sundry promises from the staple of the APC such as creating jobs, eliminating poverty and giving each child a meal a day.

These are easier said than done. Yes, Nigeria needs change, but from what I have seen of the APC and its candidate, they cannot engender that change.

The party is presenting Buhari as a saint now, but he promulgated a decree when he was military head of state and used it retroactively to execute three young Nigerians for drug-related offences. He also used Decree 4 to jail two popular journalists, Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson, for publishing what his government considered embarrassing.

His sense of fairness is questionable. When he toppled the civilian government of Shehu Shagari in 1983, he unduly jailed some prominent politicians especially from the South and left many others, especially from the north where he comes from, to walk free. He kept the then President Shehu Shagari (a northerner) in cosy house detention but detained his powerless deputy who is a Southerner, Alex Ekwueme, in Kirikiri Prisons.

Besides, when he was the military head of state, Buhari was a bit docile and allowed his deputy, the late Tunde Idiagbon, to overshadow him. This may repeat itself if he returns to power.

What surprises many Nigerians is that the leading opposition candidate has bluntly refused to attend a debate with President Jonathan to defend his programmes or manifesto. He claimed the organisers were biased against him. But I suspect that it’s because he is not articulate. He claimed to have a school certificate but has not been able to provide concrete evidence.

In 2011, he vowed never to contest for the presidency again. He has breached that vow, contrary to his public image as a principled man.

Even his famed anti-corruption stance is in doubt as some Nigerians have continued to wonder how $2.8bn allegedly disappeared when he was the Minister of Petroleum under Olusegun Obasanjo’s military dictatorship.

Moreover, there were allegations of corruption and favouritism at the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) during his tenure as the chairman. Currently, many of the so-called progressives who have given him political backing are corrupt. How he will handle them if he becomes president remains to be seen.

At 72, the man is not fit for the demanding office of the President of Nigeria. Ironically, the governor of Lagos State and Buhari’s key supporter, Raji Fashola, in one of the campaign tours in Lagos, urged the electorate not to vote old men into office. He said an old man would end up sleeping all through in office.

Ultimately, President Jonathan may have made some mistakes. But for Nigeria to enjoy an enduring peace, he should be allowed to complete his second term in office. Parking our bikes in Buhari’s church now will bring more calamity to Nigeria. Please prove me wrong if you can.