By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Background: The Democratic Context and Contest
Recently, His Excellency, Amb. (retd.) Ignatius C. Olisemeka, former Nigerian Ambassador to the United States, made the point “a leader must have a strong, solid, moral and disciplined background, the inspirational ability to galvanize his people to higher, lofty and common purpose.”
This was contained in one of the rarely expected testimonials endorsing Gen. Buhari’s leadership and why he should be the next President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
For Amb. Olisemeka, Nigeria badly needed “a leadership that will turn the country around; and rescue us from the depth of chronic indiscipline, disorder and decadence we have, over the years, gradually descended and slided into.”
That Nigeria badly needed a leadership that can rescue the country “from the depth of chronic indiscipline, disorder and decadence” cannot be contested. Amb. Olisemeka simply spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians. What is sharply being contested is whether Gen. Buhari can provide that leadership.
Our electoral option is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Of course, in between, there are other less prominent candidates. The challenge before Nigerians, as far as the 2015 elections are concerned, is making a choice between President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari.
With a voting population estimated at about 60%, our young people are certainly the dominant players. Being the victims of almost a failed nation as evidenced by the increasing rates of unemployment (23%), poverty (70%), crimes, etc. one expects that they could make rational decisions. This is however a function of their knowledge base in terms of what the two candidates represent especially with respect to capacity to rescue the nation.
Parts of the questions that should dominate the minds of many young Nigerians include: what will be the new initiatives of government to address in particular the problems of poverty and unemployment in the country post May 2015? How can these initiatives, for instance, respond to the crisis in our education sector? The big elephant in the room is the insecurity challenge; what will government do to defeat the menace of Boko Haram in the country? Against the background of our two choices, whose leadership will respond to these challenges effectively and faster? President Jonathan or Gen. Buhari?
In summary, these are both the context and the issues for contest in the 2015 elections. Providing answers require comparative assessment of the two candidates. In a functional society, propaganda will take bearing from the facts. Our curriculum of education would have unbiasedly tutored our youth about what the facts are.
Both contemporary and comparative assessments of performances of current and previous governments should have guided the decisions of our young people. It is possible that this is the case. In which case the campaign messages of both President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari would not in any way attempt to take our young people for granted. To that extent therefore messages would not distort history.
President Jonathan Vs. Gen. Buhari
Unfolding events, especially coming from President Jonathan’s campaign, contradicts and distorts the facts. Given that our youths are active witnesses of current situation (2010 – 2015), the major challenge is how they are able to interpret our national developments under President Jonathan. Questions such as, why the current high state of insecurity? Why is Nigeria under President Jonathan losing its territory to rag-tag Boko Haram insurgents? Are they superior to Nigerian army? If so, what could have accounted for that superiority?
If not, why has it taken the Nigerian army so long to be able to assert its superiority to defeat Boko Haram? Could the speculated conspiracy theory whereby Northern leaders, including Gen. Buhari, are using Boko Haram to disgrace President Jonathan out of power, really be true? What benefit does such conspiracy theory portend to the Northern leaders and why has President Jonathan’s administration been unable to assert its hegemony and bring to end activities of Boko Haram? Could the conspiracy by the Northern leaders be informed by a Machiavellian logic of the end justifies the means?
Other questions starring the face of President Jonathan and his team include: why is the government unable to provide enough jobs, reduce poverty, etc.? Or put differently, is it true that government has transformed the economy? Is it true that government through SURE-P, etc. has provided millions of jobs? Have these really taken care of the national needs? What could government have done differently?
Answers to these questions could have naturally lead our youths to objectively assess the Jonathan administration. The big dilemma of the President Jonathan campaign could perhaps be its inability to provide convincing empirical answers to these questions – undisputed answers that mirror the lives of our young Nigerians. For instance, answers such as creating millions of jobs under SURE-P have not explained why the jobs have not resulted in reduced poverty in the country. The other predicament of the regime is why the provision of those millions of jobs did not translate into protection for our youths.
Lack of protection could have explained why thousands, if not millions, of our youths become vulnerable to administrative extortions by top functionaries of the regime through job recruitment scams such as the prisons, immigration, customs, police, etc. recruitment exercises that required qualified young Nigerians to pay for job applications resulting in the unfortunate stampede of March 15, 2014 in Abuja Stadium causing the unfortunate deaths of at least 15 young Nigerians.
Claims such as with the rebasing of the Nigerian economy, we are now the biggest economy in Africa needs closer interrogation. In concrete terms, what does this mean? Of what use is it to have the biggest economy with levels of poverty and unemployment?
Inability to provide convincing empirical answers to these questions has pushed the Jonathan campaign to present a propaganda version of historical interpretation of what Gen. Buhari represents. Records of Gen. Buhari’s leadership between 1984 and 1985 are being presented through adverts in prints and electronic media. Following the emergence of President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari as the candidates of the two leading parties – Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) – the President Jonathan’s campaign attempted to hoodwink families of some refutable Nigerians that were victims of alleged Buhari’s dictatorship to reject the candidature of Gen. Buhari based on the propaganda version of his 1984 government. Notably, Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s and Alh. Shehu Shagari’s names were flaunted. Representatives of both families publicly dissociated the families from those propaganda claims.
By far, the most resounding masterstroke against the anti Buhari propaganda came from Mr. Tunde Thompson, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ms. Lola Shoneyin and Mr. Ismail Lawal. These are people that were direct victims of the so-called authoritarian highhandedness of the 1984/85 era of Gen. Buhari’s government. Mr. Tunde Thompson was jailed under Decree 4 in 1984. Mallam Adamu Ciroma, being a Minister under the regime of Alh. Shehu Shagari was together with many political office holders of the 2nd Republic unfairly detained for months. The father of Ms. Shoneyin, like Mallam Ciroma, spent months in jail.
Mr. Ojuolape Lawal, father of Mr. Ismail Lawal, was one of the three men executed for drug trafficking in 1985 by Gen. Buhari’s administration. That Mr. Ismail Lawal would announce that execution of his father “doesn’t matter” on account of which he declared that he “would vote for Gen. Buhari” is by far the one singular most important endorsement Gen. Buhari has secured in the contest for 2015 elections. Like Mr. Lawal, Ms. Shoneyin, Mallam Ciroma and Mr. Thompson all endorsed Gen. Buhari.
History, Politics and Leadership
Politics is practically about capacity to express our choices. Under democratic system of government the choices should be expressed in the results of periodic elections based on which leaders will emerge. Most times, our choices don’t have to be rational, logical or even informed by the facts before us. Clearly, with the levels of decay in the country, our choices seem to be dictated by the perception of the dangers facing us as a people. The views being expressed by people such as Mr. Tunde Thompson, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Ms. Lola Shoneyin, Mr. Ismail Lawal, etc. basically reflects the estimation of the national danger facing us as a country.
Perhaps, the increasing momentum of the Gen. Buhari campaign is an indicator to this reality. Somehow, President Jonathan’s campaign is able to correctly read this national estimation. It is however unable to respond appropriately and persuasively to be able to win the hearts of Nigerians and to that extent therefore hopefully win the votes in the 2015 elections. In the circumstance, President Jonathan’s campaign is becoming more and more desperate and in the process present messages that only distort history and in many instances present fabricated stories, all aimed at proving how Gen. Buhari is such a bad leader that represent threat to the nation.
As a result, there is the calculated design to confuse our young people about what defines the danger. Is it the inability of the current government to guarantee protection of life and property, which is the primary function of government, or the potential of a Gen. Buhari presidency, which may reincarnate the 1984 experiences by throwing many innocent Nigerians into jail, executing drug pushers, etc.? Is it possible for Gen. Buhari presidency (or anyone for that matter) to re-enact the 1984 scenario of enacting retroactive decrees, arbitrarily arrest innocent Nigerians?
The desperation to make the case that Gen. Buhari represent the danger made President Jonathan’s campaign to produce messages such as the one purporting that after Gen. Buhari lost the 2011 elections, he wept and declared never to contest again. The truth is that Gen. Buhari, saddened by the national reality, wept while addressing a world press conference at the International Conference Centre on April 13, 2011, as it closes its presidential campaign just before the 2011 presidential election. The 2011 presidential election held April 16, 2011. Such messages denigrate the person of President Goodluck Jonathan, insult our sense of historical recollection and reduced President Jonathan’s campaign managers to bunch of liars.
In all these, it is therefore important that we remind ourselves as Nigerians that in democratic political systems, some of the defining attributes of leadership are lost or muted based on how we desire to interpret our history. Should we rely more on distorted historical accounts; we are more likely to end up producing dishonest leaders.
This may perhaps be one of the many justifications why we can have a President of the Federal Republic that can attempt to prove that stealing is not corruption. This may also account for why billions and trillions of naira will be missing, misappropriated, disappeared from public treasury, etc. and no probe can lead to any judicial action.
With a campaign that clearly threw away virtues of honesty, it was very easy to use issues of age and military background. Reason, Gen. Buhari is 72 years old and a former military dictator. With such allegations, one would expect President Jonathan’s campaign to be radically different. Unfortunately, the reality is that, if age is anything to go by the PDP Presidential ticket is equally old with an average age of 59. Expanding the analysis to include leaders of the campaign organizations, PDP present a far older team with the DG of the campaign, Col. (retd.) Ahmadu Ali being 79, Chief Tony Anenih at 82 (10 years older than Gen. Buhari), Chief Bode George, among others, leading the PDP team.
Col. Ali, Chief Anenih and Chief George were retired military, police and naval officers respectively. Why then the noise about Gen. Buhari’s military background? Is it because the PDP leaders such as Col. (retd.) Ali, Chief Anenih and Chief George were not privileged to rise to the position of Heads of State? What were their records as military, police and naval officers? How were those records different from those of Gen. Buhari? Perhaps, the narrative of 1978 Ali Must Go embodies the radical differences between these men, on the one hand, and Gen. Buhari, on the other.
Often, it is convenient to pass judgements as not everyone is cut out for the rigorous auditions associated with political leadership under whatever circumstance. Yet, because political leadership produced under democratic dispensation is one of the most important innovations of civilization and remains the best means of legitimizing leadership by ensuring that leadership and power are arrived at through majority decisions as reflected in periodic elections. Nigeria is today at a critical crossroads – one where the quality of leadership – more than anything else is one that will determine the destiny of over 170 million people for the next generation.
Why is the issue of leadership so critical, especially for Nigerian youth who have not have the opportunity to experience genuine and quality leadership, nor realize that a choice as simple as the choice of who to elect has more far-reaching consequences than they can possibly imagine? Is there anyone out there that will set aside partisan considerations and set the records straight so that we can at least learn from history and not repeat the mistakes of history?
The Pre-Gen. Buhari Narrative
Clearly, the biggest debt older generation of Nigerians owe our younger ones is to reconstruct political leadership in the mould of sound values set in the plaster of logic and the common good and as exemplified by force of personal example, courage, conscience, charisma, humility, fairness, ability to listen, penchant for team work and capacity to make difficult but expedient decisions.
The attempt to reduce the factors determining the choice we are going to make in the coming elections in propaganda terms need to therefore be resisted. We must proceed based on the capacity to recall true accounts of our history. In doing so, some facts should be established, especially around the factors that led to the December 31, 1983 military coup, which produced Gen. Buhari as Head of State. For instance, why was the Alh. Shagari government overthrown? Did it just happen because Gen. Buhari and his colleagues in the armed forces were opposed to democratic rule?
Any objective presentation would highlight the following:
1. With the coming of Alh. Shehu Shagari’s government on October 1, 1979, prices of crude oil shot up to $29.27 per barrel from $14.33 in December 1979. By July 1980, the price had risen to $37.00 per barrel and went up to $40.00 per barrel in January 1981. Between April and December 1980, Nigeria earned N10.366 billion as oil revenue, which almost doubled what the country earned in 1979. By mid 1981, there was oil glut in the international market and prices of crude oil began to tumble and by mid 1981 it has collapsed to about $18.00.
2. High oil revenue at the beginning of the Shagari administration led to high public expenditure resulting in high pay for public officials – President N50,000, Vice President 30,000, Federal lawmakers N15,000, etc. Note that at that time the naira was stronger than US $. This led to agitations for increased workers minimum wage in the country, which used to be N80. After two day national strike led by Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on May 11 – 12, 1981, N125 minimum wage was achieved.
3. Declining oil revenue in 1982 resulted in President Shehu Shagari proposing the Economic Stabilization Act to the National Assembly, which was expeditiously passed. This Act contained a number of austerity measures designed to check the sliding trend of the national economy. The stabilization measures as contained under the Act include exchange control – Basic Travel Allowance (BTA) was reduced to N500 from N800, Business Travel Allowance similarly reduced to N2,500 from N3,000, among other measure.
4. Some of the resultant impact of the 1982 economic stabilization measures includes retrenchment of public sector workers and by December 1983, it was estimated that about 20,000 public sector workers lost their jobs. Declining revenue and reduced public expenditure also resulted in non-payment of salaries especially teachers’ salaries running into months. This led to increased incidences of public sector strikes.
5. Import restriction measures led to phenomenal shortages of what was then categorized as essential commodities from Nigerian markets. Milk, sugar, bread, etc. falls under this category. By December 1983, government resorts to distributing some of these products through the public sector.
6. Rising problems of budgetary deficits led to considerations by the Shagari government to apply for $2.8 billion IMF loan with the conditions of Naira devaluation, withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products, rationalizing public sector workers (in other words mass retrenchment) and trade liberalization measures.
7. The challenge of responding to problems of declining revenue by the Shagari administration couple with the need to pacify international financial institutions pushed the regime to adopt unpopular policies such as reduced public expenditure on sectors such as health and education leading to increases in the costs of feeding and accommodation in Nigerian universities and introduction of fees in public hospitals across the country.
8. Politically, the Shagari regime was a ghost of itself by December 1983. Long before then, problems such as the deaths of 50 Nigerians in Lagos in a Black Maria in March 1980, the massacre of innocent protesting Bakalori peasants by the Nigerian Police in April 1980, allegations of corruption against leading public officials of the Shagari administration, etc. contributed substantially in eroding the legitimacy of the 2nd Republic.
The Buhari Narrative
While it is important to avoid approaching the debate with the goal of rationalizing why the 2nd Republic under Alh. Shehu Shagari collapsed the way it did, it is important however to point out that by the time of the collapse, Nigerians were yearning for justice. Somehow, the rumor of military overthrow of the government was almost everywhere, especially following the landslide rigging of the 1983 elections. This largely accounted for the popularity of the coup that ushered Gen. Buhari in December 1983.
In many respects, it needs to be stated that the arrest of the 2nd Republic political office holder’s by the Buhari regime was very popular. The anti-IMF stance of the 1984 Buhari administration was also very popular. The major problems Nigerians had was the fact that the regime continued with economic austerity measures of reduced public sector expenditure resulting in retrenchment of another 10,000 workers.
A major achievement of the administration was that phenomena of corruption in the public sector were drastically reduced. Arrests and trials of the 2nd Republic political office holders endeared the regime. Recovery of some public funds e.g. N300,000 from late Sabo Bakinzuwo, former Governor of old Kano State raised expectations. Attempts by the regime to bring late Alh. Umaru Dikko to trial, including the dramatic attempt to kidnap him from London on July 5, 1984 and bring him back to Nigeria soared the popularity ratings of the regime at home as one that is determined to bring all corrupt Nigerians to face justice.
The anti-corruption stance of the Gen. Buhari administration naturally led to strong regulation of distribution of essential commodities. War Against Indiscipline (WAI) launched by the administration promoted values of discipline in the country.
If anything, one of the public accounts of why Gen. Buhari was overthrown by Gen. Babangida, include the retirement of some senior military officers, including Gen. Aliyu Gusau from the Nigerian army and the plan to retire Gen. Babangida on alleged charges bordering on profligacy. Once the Gen. Buhari regime was overthrown, some of the first actions of the Gen. Babagida government was to reverse the retirement of Gen. Gusau and with Gen. Babangida as military President therefore halt his retirement. Some of these revelations by Newswatch under late Dele Giwa were said to have made intelligence arm of the Babangida regime to be uncomfortable. And with the effrontery of the late Dele Giwa Newswatch to doggedly continue to investigate the whereabouts of Miss Glory Okon who was being detained on charges of drug trafficking, the public suspicion, rightly or wrongly, was that the death of Dele Giwa on October 19, 1986 through a parcel bomb was the handwork of the Babangida administration.
Assessment of the Gen. Buhari’s administration therefore will be incomplete without looking at the context that produced it. The most important point that cannot be missed was that just like our contemporary reality, Nigeria was confronted with crisis of economic downturn occasioned by sharp decline in oil revenue, corruption took over our public life, there was complete collapse of values and problems of drug trafficking was beginning to rear its ugly head by December 1983.
In evaluating both the Shagari and Buhari regimes, it is important to emphasize that they both came at a time of national nostalgia following the short reign of Gen. Murtala Mohammed when the country experienced six months of exemplary leadership. This was the period when our Head of State move without siren with just his driver and ADC. It was also the period when all government employees had to be exemplary.
A major contrast with the Murtala administration was that for the six months of the regime, no Nigerian was arrested. Not even when Dr. Obarogie Ohunbamu accused Gen. Murtala of owning fleets of trailers and rows of houses. Instead of arresting Dr. Ohunbamu, Gen. Murtala went to Igbosere magistrate court and sued him. Following that court action by the Head of State, the Federal Director of Public Prosecution on behalf of the Attorney General of the federation promised that Dr. Ohunbamu would be given “every reasonable opportunity to prove or justify his assertion” including freedom to enable him search for and obtain evidences. The matter was scheduled to come up for hearing on March 17, 1976 and Gen. Murtala was assassinated on February 13, 1976.
2015 and What to Make of the Gen. Buhari Narrative
The emergence of Gen. Buhari in the early hours of January 1, 1984 with the identity claim of being an offshoot of Murtala/Obasanjo administration rekindled hope in the nation. There was no way it could have in anyway match that claim with an agenda of fighting corruption without fighting 2nd Republic politicians. Other levels of political enquiry, at the time, justifies the December 31, 1983 coup based on issues of class preservation with the threat of the possibility of a J. J. Rawlings type of coup.
For very ordinary Nigerians, given the perceived sense of loss and declining welfare of citizens, a J. J. Rawling coup in 1983 would have been very popular. Somehow, there are still public commentaries that suggested that we are where we are today as a nation, held hostages by corrupt politicians, because of the absence of the J. J. Rawlings type of coup. With Ghanaians basically now restoring their national pride with public institutions especially in relations to health and education comparatively doing very well, sympathy for our dominantly perceived corrupt public officials is low and dangerously clamor for the J. J. Rawlings treatment.
The popularity of Gen. Buhari, especially in the North where increased poverty is the dominant attribute since the mid 2000s as revealed by Dr. Charles Soludo as Governor of Central Bank, owe its origin to this reality. Presenting negative interpretation will not change this reality.
In some ways, it needs to be acknowledged that Gen. Buhari of 2015 is radically different from Gen. Buhari of 2011 or even 1984. In 2011, Gen. Buhari’s popularity is limited to the Northern parts, his party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was poorly organized and therefore his campaign was less impactful. In 2015, he had a national party, All Progressives Congress (APC) with a campaign organization that matched that of the PDP in everyway.
Moving Beyond Static Analysis of Threats to Agenda Setting
Thanks to the 2013 merger of our legacy parties – ACN, ANPP, CPC, Okorocha’s APGA and New PDP – our country is blessed with an opposition party that is able to develop the needed strengths to present a formidable electoral contest for the 2015 elections. It is however important that we are able to go beyond static analysis of threats of 1984 and move into the realm of agenda setting.
From all indications, PDP is not favorably disposed to any discussion of agenda setting especially if that would take bearing from the poor records of the last sixteen years. Distorting our history would only amount to resistance to do the needful. The challenge of moving Nigeria forward is not about producing a saint but one that involve a strong recognition of the need to throw up competent, courageous, selfless and inspirational leaders. Therefore in engaging the debate, our past experiences should serve both as reminders and as compass.
It is therefore with this in mind that we should engage all actors including our youths based on a strategy of using the current national struggle for the soul of the nation, to provide the needed critical support to our leaders by drawing attention to take the right initiative. Leaders that distort history in order to project themselves must be avoided as they can only compound our national problems.
With President Jonathan and Gen. Buhari being our choices for the 2015 elections, clearly, the nation is left with only Gen. Buhari as our only hope. Being the only hope doesn’t mean Nigerians may not have issues, disagreements or even grievances arising from the leadership styles of Gen. Buhari. Our preoccupation should be how to ensure the provision of institutional and organizational mechanism to address such issues, disagreements and grievances as integral components of the new government and the consolidation as well as guaranteeing the growth of the APC post 2015 elections. Accordingly therefore the following proposals could be considered:
1. Avoiding the PDP Pitfalls: Gen. Buhari and our APC leaders need to take urgent steps to avoid the PDP pitfalls. Under no circumstance should victory in the 2015 elections take our attention away from the need to continue with the project of building our party, APC. Just as we prepare for the March 28 elections, our party needs to adopt a double strand leadership setup. One strand will be the team to drive government. The second strand will be the team to drive the party. While the governmental team will have the task of giving life to the vision of the party as encapsulated in our manifesto, the second, will have the task of consolidating and growing the party.
In approaching this responsibility, we need to be reminded that our party is young and the task of consolidating and growing it will call for sacrifices. A major aspect that needed immediate attention is that of developing the administrative capacity of the party, which would require professionalizing functions of the party. This is important given that almost every leader will want to serve in government. Being a party that is borne out of sacrifice, some leaders need to make the needed sacrifice in order to consolidate and grow the party.
Consolidating and growing the party will require that we are able to continue with the strategic goal of combining with new political partners, which was what made the 2013 merger successful. Given current challenge of fighting against the attempt of the President Jonathan administration to subvert our democracy, our party has found new allies such as Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Kowa Party, National Conscience Party (NCP), etc. As we approached the 2015 elections and after, Gen. Buhari and our leaders need to win the confidence of leaders of these parties to agree to combine both on short, medium and long term strategic political agendas.
Inability to address this challenge is what has since 1999 destroyed the core values that produced the PDP and reduced the party to a Frankenstein monster.
2. Political Leadership Development: There is the urgent need to free the process of political leadership development in the country. Situation where money exclusively determines the emergence of leadership is unhealthy. In fact, should that be exclusively the case during the December 10, 2014 APC Convention in Lagos, it is debatable if Gen. Buhari would have emerged as the APC Presidential candidate for the 2015 elections.
What this requires is that Gen. Buhari’s leadership should encourage democratic emergence of leaders at all levels. Accordingly, processes of nominating leaders should promote consensus building and elections. It should also require that public functionaries must respect citizens and where it is established that public functionaries contemptuously disrespect Nigerian citizens, appropriate sanctions should be applied. This may require APC to develop some byelaws to regulate conduct of public officials. Being a ruling party, as custodians of the nations constitution, APC must be governed by its internal rules. That way, Gen. Buhari Presidency will be able to guarantee unfettered constitutional development of the country.
3. Meeting Public Expectations: Amb. Olisemeka has argued that “it will soon be clear that those of his (Gen. Buhari) followers of questionable and dubious pedigree who think they can latch on to the reputation of this rare Nigerian would be the first to be highly disappointed.” This is an important precondition in ensuring mistakes such as Kano 2003 – 2011 and Bauchi in 2007 are not repeated.
Related to this is the issue of who is qualified to be part of Gen. Buhari’s team in government. During the town halls meetings in both Lagos and Kano, Gen. Buhari has assured Nigerians that his government will assemble qualified and competent Nigerians. In far more profound ways, on February 26, 2015 at Chatham House, London, Gen. Buhari announced that corrupt Nigerians would not be appointed into his government. And while responding to questions from both Aljazeera and CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Gen. Buhari emphasized that his government will operate based on 1999 constitution.
These declarations have further served to rekindle the hope of Nigerians around the notion that a federal government led by Gen. Buhari will be a radical departure from what we had in the last sixteen years under PDP. It will above all also be a democratic government as opposed to the 1984 military government. We need to develop the needed capacities both within APC and as a people to be able to push Gen. Buhari as President of the Federal Republic to give practical expressions to these declarations.
4. Promoting National Reconciliation: Ethno-religious conflicts over the years have engendered high tension and frequent violence in the country resulting in unfortunate loss of lives and property. Mutual suspicions saturate the polity. Gen. Buhari Presidency needs to emerge with a strong national agenda to promote national reconciliation.
5. Agenda for the Youths: Gen. Buhari’s presidency need to prepare to rollout radical policies that will address the crisis in our educational sector in very fundamental ways. A situation where parents receive better education than their children is unacceptable. Again, a situation where virtually everyone with means send their children outside Nigeria for education, including ridiculously primary education must be halted by all democratic means possible.
The good thing is that the APC Manifesto has very far-reaching progressive proposals. What is urgently needed is some complementary demand framework driven by our young people. Given the urgent need to develop our young people, Gen. Buhari’s Presidency need to consider developing a mentoring agenda whereby all appointees should appoint at least one young person, persons under the age of 35, as Personal Assistants, Special Assistants or Special Advisers.
In addition to mentoring, we need to have a strategic plan as a nation to develop sporting activities as integral components of our educational sectors with the goal of discovery the talents of our youth at the same time promoting sport as economic activity.
The 2015 elections, from all indications, is not just about making a choice between President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; it is not about choosing between PDP and APC; it is not about our interpretation of, or capacity to distort, history; it is not a contest to showcase how rascally we can be.
Democracy as expression of civility should not denigrate or antagonize age. The Gen. Buhari challenge given present Nigerian reality is about lifting Nigeria out of crisis of monumental proportions. Reducing the issues to age, military background or educational qualification of Gen. Buhari may only serve to distract and confuse young Nigerians who may only rely on secondary sources for the accounts of the Gen. Buhari era of 1984.
There is no doubt that the scale of Nigeria’s problems calls for the development of good competent and courageous team of leaders to drive the business of governance. We need to approach this challenge as citizens and offer our contributions in our different roles wherever we find ourselves. Finally, we must be ready to tenaciously seek to develop the capacity to engage all our leaders to consider and negotiate all proposals. That way, our democracy will have a meaning and the provisions of Section 14(2)(a) of the 1999 constitution, which declared that “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution derives all its powers and authority” shall be true.