A Nation At The Crossroads By Timi Frank

jonaAs we inch closer to the D-day of the Presidential election on Saturday I can only but hope that Nigerians will seize the opportunity of the ballot box to redirect the course of our history. It remains to be seen if Nigerians will vote for the ‘Apostles of Continuity’ or the ‘Apostles of Change.’ Voting for continuity will mean that we shall continue yo live in darkness and led by corruption-infested administration. Voting for continuity will further nail our confine and consign the poor and vulnerable to be perpetual slaves in their land of birth. But change beckons in unmistakable terms and I known when placed side by side, Nigerians will vote for change rather than continuity.

There is no gainsaying the fact that the ascendancy of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the highest office in the land has brought untold hardship on the people. This is a government that claims to have spent over $30 billion in the power sector, yet electricity is still dismally low. This is a government that has watched while its officials plunder the nation’s treasury to near zero. This is an administration that went prodigal with our oil resources only to slam austerity measures on the poor masses at the slightest economic shocks. This is a government that could not or refused to tackle insurgency in parts of the country only to claim it has achieved a measure of victory in just five weeks. This is a government whose policies or lack of it have sufficiently hampered industrial growth and yet say it is providing jobs through ‘you-win’ or ‘you-lose’ enterprises. Nigerians must now decide between change and continuity. The former promises great hope and optimism while the latter spells doom because they can only continue to buffet us. For over 15 years Nigerians have continued to suffer from the effects of impunity and corruption. We have lived in darkness – no electricity, no water, no opportunities for our children. The PDP government has ruined the lives of generations.

The inability or unwillingness of the PDP administrations to checkmate the history of impunity for very serious crimes has emboldened politicians to continue to engage in acts inimical to the growth and development of our country. We must ensure we elect a President that will not only dismantle this architecture of impunity but rebuild our society based on the rule of law.

What dire challenges confront us today? The institutionalisation of armed robbery, kidnapping, the ravages of ethnic militias like the OPC, MASSOB and the ex-militants. The recent award of mouth-watering security contracts to some of these groups by the present administration is telling. Political actors and indeed the government have often denied that they created and are sustaining these groups for political ends. Now they are out on the streets.

Already MASSOB and OPC have undertaken road shows in the most bizarre and abhorrent manner in the streets of Lagos and Awka, the Anambra State capital to openly demonstrate their gratitude and loyalty to their new patron – President Goodluck Jonathan. It is however hardly surprising that President Jonathan has unashamedly aligned with the some of the groups he once described as major security threats to the country. Jonathan had, in a mid-term report to mark the 2013 Democracy Day, noted that, “The nation faces three fundamental security challenges posed by extremist groups like Boko Haram in the North, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra in the South-East, and the Oodua Peoples Congress in the South-West.” I think the president will one day complete the triangle by throwing his weight behind Boko Haram to help him further intimidate the people of the North to vote him into power. Is this the new face of Nigeria we want to see from May 29?

Who is more poised to give the anti-corruption commissions the needed impetus to end the stealing and misuse of public wealth? Who among the two frontrunners will strengthen the judiciary and provide it with adequate resources, reform the security sector and ensure that Nigeria’s teaming population can benefit from the country’s abundant natural resources?

Whereas we owe it to our youth to provide them with an opportunity to gain the skills that will enable them to keep Nigeria as the greatest nation in the world, successive PDP administrations including the present one have frustrated them and turned to them to recruits for political banditry. We need a President who can give the youths their pride of place as future leaders. We need a president who will not only turn our socio-economic woes around but one that will make our country to become a destination of pride and purpose.

We need a President who will reform and reequip our security forces and root out endemic corruption which for decades impeded Nigerians’s access to basic health care, education, and other socio-economic rights. Despite the recent rebasing of our economy and vast valuable mineral resources Nigeria remains one of the world’s poorest countries on the World Bank Index. The recent assessment by the World Bank on the situation of poverty in the world, where it ranked Nigeria third among the world’s 10 countries with extreme poor citizens cannot be allowed to continue by those championing “continuity” in the forthcoming elections.

Nigerians must as a necessity realise that the woeful result of the World Bank report is a wake-up call to vote “change”. From the assessment, the World Bank established that Nigeria with about 170 million population falls among countries with extreme poverty whose over 70% population live on $1.25 (N200) or even less per day. Specifically, the report showed that seven per cent of the 1.2 billion people living below poverty line in the world are Nigerians. “The fact is that two-thirds of the world’s extreme poor are concentrated in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). If you add another five countries: Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, the total grows to 80 per cent of the world’s extreme poor,” the report stated.

I will rather vote for a forward looking candidate with a pedigree of courage, vision, proactiveness, dependability and a shrewd manager of resources than a profligate, visionless and laid-back candidate in the name of continuity. We are at a crossroads and the way we cast our votes on Saturday will determine whether we are ready to leave Egypt for the Promised Land or stay in Egypt and dine with the Pharaohs.

What we need more than ever is a visionary leader whose bipartisan efforts, cross-sector support, resilience in the face of obstacles, and singularity of focus will raise and put our country on the path of growth again. General Muhammadu Buhari – the Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) today represents the face of change in Nigeria. He is widely acclaimed both at the local and international levels to posses the Midas touch that will ensure growth and speed our progress.