Home Business News Between GEJ’s Today And GMB’s Yesterday, By Mohammed Haruna

Between GEJ’s Today And GMB’s Yesterday, By Mohammed Haruna


In an interview with Channels TV three Mondays ago, Dr Doyin Okupe, a senior spokesman of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ), said the All Progressives Congress, the country’s leading opposition party, made “a fatal error” by electing General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB), a former military head of state and serial loser in the country’s presidential elections since 2003, as its candidate for the February 14, 2015 presidential election.
General Buhari won his party’s presidential primaries, held on December 10 in Lagos, by a landslide, much to the surprise of most pundits who had forecast a tight race between him and former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar. Indeed, so confident was the Atiku camp of his victory that his able spokesman, Garba Shehu, boasted on the eve of the primary that his principal’s acceptance speech had already been written. Shehu, you may recall, had conducted the vice-president’s highly successful media war in 2007 against his estranged boss, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo.
“For you to know how confident we are,” Shehu said, “Oga’s acceptance speech has already been written. So we are winning.”
In the event, Shehu and his oga couldn’t have been more disappointed; not only did he loose to Buhari, he also lost to a much less fancied Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, the Governor of Kano State, who came a very distant second. The scores were 3,430 for the winner, 974 for the governor, 954 for the former VP, 624 for Rochas Okorocha, the Governor of Imo State, and 10 for Sam Nda-Isaiah, the publisher of Leadership.  
 The contrast between Buhari’s win and the coronation ceremony of President Jonathan as PDP’s candidate in Abuja on the same day couldn’t have been starker as a comparative study of the internal democracy of the two parties; the ruling party simply made it absolutely impossible for anyone to contest for its presidential ticket against the incumbent, inadvertently betraying a lack of confidence that the man can retain his ticket even in a rigged primary.
When Okupe said he knew Buhari’s election was “a fatal error” he of course meant it for APC. Buhari, like Generals Ibrahim Babangida, Abdulsalami Abubakar and Obasanjo (whose spokesman he once was), he said, only reminded Nigerians of a past that was best forgotten. Well, contrary to Okupe’s wish, APC’s “error” may well turn out to be fatal, not for itself, but for PDP which has ruled (misrule is more like it) this country since the start of the Fourth Republic in 1999 – and has threatened to rule us much longer for at least the next half century.
Okupe’s remarks in the Channels interview merely echoed his master’s acceptance speech on his coronation as PDP’s candidate. “The choice before Nigerians in the coming election,” he said in the speech, “is simple: A choice between going forward or (sic) going backwards; between the new ways and the old ways; between freedom and repression; between a record of visible achievements and beneficial reforms and desperate power-seekers with empty promises.” 
I do not have any opinion poll to back my belief but I have no doubt that if Nigerians were free today to choose between the immediate and distant past Okupe has denigrated, on the one hand, and his principal’s present, on the other, the vast majority of them will prefer the past. Whatever those like Okupe who prefer the status quo may choose to believe, the fact is that Nigerians have never had it as bad as it has been in the last five years under President Jonathan, the good people of the oil producing Delta region he comes from not exempted.
As Eric Teniola, a veteran reporter and now a frequent commentator, pointed out in a well researched piece, “Changing tide for the Niger Delta” in The Guardian (December 24), with the region blessed with a development commission (NDDC), a ministry and the Presidential Amnesty Programme, all being allocated princely sums that are the envy of most states in the country – not, above all, to mention a president who is a son of the soil – money has since ceased being an object for the region. 
Yet, today the ordinary people of the region have not in any way been better off than they were in the past. On the contrary, they are probably worse off today, as they wallow in  abject poverty in sharp contrast to the mindless opulence of a few of them who the president seems ever so proud to say, as he repeated during his fundraiser two Saturdays ago, he has made millionaires and billionaires and, who knows, even trillionaires.
Speaking on December 23 at the inau-guration of the Enugu-Port Harcourt train service the president repeated the statistical self-delusion, following the so-called rebasing of our Gross Domestic Product this year, that his administration has grown Nigeria’s economy into the biggest in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. “We have,” he said, “managed the economy such that it has risen to be the greatest economy in Africa and one of the biggest in the world.”
Obviously the president, in repeating this mantra about Nigeria’s new economic status, chose to ignore a report, issued by the UK-based Legatum Institute, a research organization that documents annual prosperity indicators around the world, which listed Nigeria as 125th in poverty out of 142 countries the institute surveyed.
The report, issued on December 19, had said, “Despite its latest status as Africa’s biggest economy, and its government’s claim of improved standard of living, Nigeria was not only one of the world’s least prosperous countries in 2014, but also one of Africa’s poorest beaten by smaller nations like Niger, Benin, Mali and Cameroun… Remarkably, Nigeria failed to make the list of Africa’s top 10 most prosperous countries, a league dominated by Botswana and South Africa.”
Obviously this is not a record any leader who cares for the welfare and the happiness of his people would be proud of. As The Punch said in the conclusion of its strongly worded front page comment, “Jonathan’s N21 bn donation: Impunity taken too far,” (December 23), “It is all evident that Jonathan has failed badly to build a credible, honest and minimally effective government for almost half a decade that he has been president. This is regrettable indeed.”
Yet we are told that we should reject change and vote for the status quo next year when our yesterday seems all so much better than our today.
Of all the things the president said in his acceptance speech as PDP’s candidate, the most profound for me was one of the shorted paragraphs in the speech. “Our mission,” he said, “is to secure Nigeria’s future.”
On his current record of his abysmal failure to even secure our present, it seems highly doubtful that he can secure the country’s future – certainly not with the level of threat we have repeatedly been subjected to by several of his henchmen like Asari Dokubo who have said his loss next year will mean the end of Nigeria. Given the widespread public concern about recent massive and illegal importation of arms as articulated only the other day by former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Bolaji Akinyemi, in a letter to the President and to Buhari as the two leading presidential contenders, pleading with them to sign a memorandum of undertaking that they will get their respective followers to eschew violence especially after the election, Dokubo’s threats cannot be dismissed as empty or idle.
Predictably, threats from the likes of Dokubo have provoked counter-threats from Buhari’s camp, the most controversial of which has been the threat by Rivers State Governor and now the Director-General of Buhari Campaign Organisation, Rotimi Amaechi, that the opposition will form a parallel government if PDP wins, his assumption being, of course, that PDP cannot win next year’s election if it is free and fair.
Amaechi’s threat is to be condemned as much as Dokubo’s. However, whereas government officials have condemned Amaechi over his threat, they have maintained a deathly silence over those from the president’s men.
Not only have government officials condemned threats of violence from opposition elements, they have now gone further to threaten them with arrest and imprisonment. Only two Mondays ago, the combative Minister of Police Affairs, Chief Jelili Adesiyan, said he has ordered the Inspector General of Police and the Directorate of State Security to arrest anyone “making mutinous and inflammatory statements.”
He named no names but it was obvious he was referring mostly to Amaechi, especially over another statement the governor made condemning the death sentence passed recently on 54 soldiers for alleged mutiny in the war on Boko Haram terror in Borno State. “The soldiers,” the governor had reportedly said, “have a right to protest for the federal government’s failure to fully equip them.”
If the rather liberal interpretation of Amaechi’s words by PDP and government officials is accurate, he was hardly alone in speaking them. In this he was clearly in the company of such human rights lawyers like Femi Falana, SAN, and the Nobel Literature Laureate, Wole Soyinka, who have said the inability of government to arm and motivate the soldiers adequately are mitigating circumstances for their misconduct. 
More importantly Amaechi is in the good company of one of the most respected retired generals of the Nigerian military, Major-General Alabi Williams. 
 “Those playing politics with the lives of these soldiers who were being sent to commit suicide in the name of fatherland and they refused, have to be ashamed,” the general, who retired as an officer and gentleman of the highest integrity and as the Chief of Defence Operations, Planning and Training in 1993, said recently. “The army’s top hierarchy is covering up its weaknesses by court-martialling these soldiers. Period.”
As the February presidential approaches the question then is not whether our present is worth preserving, because obviously it is not. The question is, can the opposition deliver on its promise to bring an end to our nasty and brutish present? My answer will form the subject of this column next week, God willing. 
Source: Dailytrust
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