By Abubakar Usman
In the past few weeks, some notable and not so notable Nigerians from the northern and southern part of the country have made comments that clearly indicate what interest they represent as far as the 2015 general election is concerned. Amidst several other side comments, the one that really began to give a clear indication of what to expect in 2015 came from the Special Adviser to the president on Niger Delta, and chairman, presidential amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku.
According to Kuku, “It is only a Jonathan presidency that can guarantee continued peace and energy security in the Niger Delta.”
Although Kuku’s comment no doubt speaks volume of him pursuing an ethnic agenda and attempting to sell the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan with the believe that it is his administration that restored peace to the once troubled Niger Delta, one cannot help but give some credence to his assertion as events unfolding in recent times clearly point to the fact that any President elected from outside the region is likely to kick start another resurgence in attacks that led to significant drop in oil output between 2006 and 2009.
Just recently, elder statesman and President Jonathan’s kinsman, Chief Edwin Clarke declared that the Niger Delta people will not accept any position other than president. Clarke’s declaration seems to be a confirmation of the earlier drum beat of war sounded by former Niger Delta warlord and leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Peoples Force (NDVPF), Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubu that President Jonathan must have an uninterrupted eight years of two terms as President of Nigeria.
Dokubo buttressed his position, adding: “I want to go on to say that, there will be no peace, not only in the Niger Delta, but everywhere if Goodluck Jonathan is not president by 2015, except God takes his life, which we don’t pray for.”
Sadly, folks from the northern part of the country have not been any different in such uncouth remarks. Northern groups and individuals have also joined their counterparts in the Niger Delta to say that the presidency must return to the north. Notable among them is the Secretary of the Northern Elders Forum and one time Vice-Chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Prof Ango Abdullahi.
Prof. Abdullahi posits that the North will never again compromise what rightly belongs to it, saying however that the forum has already put all hands on deck to see to the successful return of power to the region. He boasted that the North has the population, resources and all it takes to make them produce the next president.
But how and when the presidency becomes a right of the north or any region for that matter beats my imagination? What these people, both from the north and south have succeeded in doing is to reduce the contest for the Presidency to a regional battle, putting aside competence and other criteria that a candidate who can pull Nigeria out of this current mess should possess.
The unfortunate outcome of this development is that many Nigerians have caught the bug. Visit discussion forums and various social media platforms for instance, everybody seems to be speaking in favour of where he or she hails from or what religion he or she practices. Because of our quest to have our kinsman become the president in 2015, we have relegated other factors that are even more important to the background.
The people of the Niger Delta, particularly those issuing threats to other Nigerians for example have not been able to tell us what President Jonathan has achieved for the three years that he has been on the saddle. Not much can be felt even to his immediate constituency, except for millions of naira in contracts, training and rehabilitation that has been doled out to ex-militants.
The social and environmental problems that pervades the region is still what it is prior to when President Jonathan assumed power. Suffice to add that the clamour for a South-South President is all about the believe that the region will witness rapid development if its own is at the helm of affairs.
In the same vein, the northerners agitating for a Northern President have failed to tell us what remarkable success several northern leaders were able to achieve for the 38 years it governed Nigeria. Even in the north where it is expected that they would focus attention on developing, they failed to do anything.
Today, the region prides as the most backward in Nigeria, laced with poverty and uneducated population. Yet, that is one region that mounted the saddle for the better part of Nigeria’s existence.
While these selfish politicians have sectionalise the office of the President, thus making it a battle between the north and the south, for me it is a battle between Nigerians and PDP, who for 14 good years, compounded the problems faced by Nigerians.
Since 1999, when it assumed powers, “the unreformed, governors-controlled, anti-people and undemocratic Peoples Democratic Party” has set us on a path of retrogression. The rate of poverty has increased, unemployment rate has sky-rocketed, insecurity has continued unabated and corruption has assumed an unprecedented new.
An average Nigerian is now his or her own government. He provides his own water by digging borehole in his premises generates his own electricity with the use of generators and secure his life from armed robbers, kidnappers and hired assassins by engaging the services of private security personnel or guards. Notwithstanding the huge sums of money that has been sunk into providing this facilities and services, the PDP has continuously failed itself and failed Nigerians.
It will be an understatement to say that we didn’t see this coming, but the problem is that we easily forget what tragedy befell us with the PDP in power each time elections are called to choose credible candidates and political parties. We simply have just refused to redeem ourselves from the long sufferings in pains inflicted on us by the so called largest party in Africa.
We had the rare privilege of booting out the PDP government in 2011, after repeatedly failing to do so in previous years, but we failed again. The popular saying adopted by Nigerians then was “I am not voting for the PDP, I am voting for Goodluck Jonathan.”
Now they have voted for Jonathan, but can they beat their chest today and say ‘I’m proud I voted for Jonathan’? Here is one man with practically no track record of performance or any concrete plan of how to pilot the affairs of Nigeria. But for sheer providence, he was not even prepared to serve as President, yet they poured en masse to cast their votes for him. They were simply deceived with slogans like “I have no shoes” and “breath of fresh air”. To put it succinctly, President Jonathan rode on our backs to the Presidency free of charge.
Now, their mistake is staring them glaringly in the eyes, with nobody to come to our rescue, at least not until 2015. Whether they choose to say “we voted for Jonathan and not PDP” the fact is that they have come to terms of how much of a great mistake they made voting him in 2011.
The 2015 election is fast approaching and by then, another opportunity will be given to us to decide how we want this nation to be governed. The big question is, are we prepared to correct our mistakes? Are we going to forget the pains the PDP has inflicted on us and return the party to power in 2015 or are we going to give a chance to the opposition who has boasted it will correct the ills perpetrated by the ruling PDP? What is going to be the deciding factor on who gets our votes by the time elections are called? Is it going to be determined by the region we come from or the region we feel should occupy the presidency in 2015?
How we decide to provide answers to these questions in preparation for the 2015 election will go a long way in determining where Nigeria goes from there.
With the yet to be registered opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) gearing up to rest power from the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the 2015 election will no doubt be a contest that will be determined by its presidential candidate, but be that as it may, should we even give the PDP a chance at all? For me, the battle for 2015 is not about APC versus PDP; it is not about the north versus the south; it is a battle between Nigerians and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The pain the PDP government has inflicted on Nigerians does not know party affiliations, neither does it know regions or tribes. It is to all Nigerians. Therefore, every Nigerian, irrespective of tribe, religion, and party affiliation must unite to push PDP away from the presidency in 2015. We must look at the competence of the candidate, his track record of performance, ability to command political will and incorruptibility in deciding who gets our vote.
It is high time we stop ourselves from being used by the political elites, who create the impression that they are protecting our interests, only to be abandoned when they have archived their aim. We cannot afford the risk of gambling another four year in the hands of the PDP.
Abubakar Sidiq Usman is an Urban Planning Consultant and the editor of Abusidiqu.com. Engaged him directly on twitter @Abusidiqu or through firstname.lastname@example.org