Since the two dominant Nigerian political parties, PDP and APC, unveiled their presidential candidates for the 2015 elections, the choice between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari has become unavoidable. “Nigerian dilemma” – this is how it was dubbed by the media. I have decided to scrutinize both candidates and find out what Nigeria would look like with each of them at the helm.
The influential foreign media in their recent publications have claimed both options are failed. While the New York Times has described the major candidates as ‘’Nigeria’s miserable choices’’, the Economist of London has found it difficult to endorse any of them. However, finally, they have decided on ‘’ (Buhari) a former military dictator’’ who ‘’is better than a failed incumbent’’. Such claims have created a firestorm of controversy especially among Jonathan’s supporters. Nevertheless, the opinion expressed by the authoritative media has revealed how tough is the choice confronting Nigerians ahead of the polls.
Here is a paradox: it is the failures of the Jonathan’s administration that have actually made the candidacy of Buhari extremely appealing. The New York Times has stated “that (Buhari) has emerged as potential winner is more of an indictment of Mr Jonathan’s dismal rule than a recognition of the former military chief’s appeal”. In essence, Jonathan’s incapability has contributed to Buhari’s brand much more than the fact he was a president three decades ago.
Thus, what would the life of Nigerians look like if Buhari wins? Would he be the knight in the shiny armour fighting all our troubles away? Undoubtedly, Gen. Buhari with his ascetic, Spartan, uncorrupted personality stands out against President Jonathan who has deliberately encouraged corruption by defining it as ‘’ordinary stealing much to consternation of Nigerians”.
Buhari has declared: ‘’There will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference”. However, his decision not to investigate the past corruption crimes is rather confusing. Does this mean the old sins will all be written off? What will happen to the billions of stolen money? Won’t Buhari’s anti-corruption war be a clean sweep?
One more worrisome aspect of Jonathan’s administration is the aggravation of social and economic inequality. According to the World Bank about 100 million Nigerians are living below the poverty line. While addressing this issue in London, Muhammadu Buhari stated: ‘’The current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery’’. Possessing the reputation of a friend of the poor, Buhari would be able to introduce policies that will help eliminate poverty.
As for Boko Haram reign in the north of Nigeria Buhari has vowed that ‘’no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering and border controls to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes’’.
President Jonathan administration’s economic policies have all been mired by the ever-aggravating corruption. Gen. Buhari has promised to ‘’use the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly’’.
If Buhari wins, things won’t be so easy for him. First he will have to deal with elements in his own party who were part of the system he is trying to change. He will also have to get his reforms through to the National Assembly. But I am absolutely sure about one thing: Buhari is perfectly cut out for the Presidency.