History has been made in the most populous black nation in the world with the election of General Muhammadu Buhari as President of Nigeria. This is the first time since independence that an opposition leader is defeating an incumbent leader. How did this ‘impossible feat’ happen?
President Jonathan was a reluctant boss who became Governor, Vice-President, Acting President and President accidentally. His first name really saw him through without his ever having to contest an election. The first election he contested for on his own steam was in 2011 when he regaled the nation with the tale of his having gone to school without shoes. What he lacked in charisma and colour, he made up with his apparent humble mien and the widespread appeal of his grass to grace story. He swept the polls in the six geo-political zones of the country. In the south-west for instance he won all the states except Osun. He won five states in the North-Central with the exception of Niger and a substantial number of states in the North-East. Why did he suddenly become so unpopular for him to have only won convincingly in the south-east and south-south?
His decision to yank off petroleum subsidy on January 1, 2012 was clearly anti-people. That was a terrible way to start the New Year with many people especially the easterners still trapped in their villages. This led to the Occupy Nigeria movement that spread rapidly like wild fire using the instrumentality of the social media. Protests were held in major cities like Abuja and Lagos. The Freedom Park in Ojota, Lagos became the hotbed of the fight for the common man. The rich and the poor alike were united in this noble struggle. Prominent artistes lent their voice to the campaign. What irked the populace was the loss of lives of some of the protesters and the insensitivity of the Jonathan led government to hold a town hall meeting in faraway New York in America. This was blown out of proportion by Sahara Reporters and it went viral provoking anger in the land.
Corruption in a magnitude that had never been seen before was apparently tolerated by the Jonathan led government. There were mind boggling allegations of massive corruption leveled against the petroleum minister, Diezani Allison-Maduekwe. Her alleged spending of ten billion naira on private chartered jets, mansions abroad and missing funds in the petroleum sector running into billions of dollars stirred up rancourous debates in the land. Jonathan did nothing to institute a probe of these allegations of his kinswoman. When former Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah who played a key role in the 2011 elections through the neighbour to neighbour campaign was discovered to have purchased two vehicles with 255 million naira, it took severe public pressure to have her dropped from his cabinet. She was never invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for questioning let alone being prosecuted for corruption. To add salt to the injury, she is now the Senator-Elect for Anambra North Senatorial District. It was discovered that the President himself acquired about ninety hectares of land in Abuja for the purpose of farming. This was a clear conflict of interest as he was still in power. How did he get the funds to acquire the land? He further angered Nigerians when he failed to declare his assets and said he didn’t give a damn about what Nigerians felt about it on national television. This was the hubris of pride at its apogee. In February 2014, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi the then Central Bank Governor wrote a letter to him alleging that $20 billion of Nigeria’s oil revenue was not remitted to the federation account. Rather than investigate the allegations, he suspended him and eased him out after his tenure expired. Sanusi not only left office with a high approval rating after cleaning the Augean stables in the banking sector that nearly collapsed, he later became the Emir of Kano – one of the most influential traditional rulers in the country. It is no surprise that Kano gave Buhari the highest number of vote in the country – 1.9 million. He made the former militants extremely wealthy by giving them pipeline protection contracts which ran into millions of dollars surreptitiously usurping the function of the navy. He went ahead to grant a controversial Presidential Pardon to his ex-boss and former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alameiyeseigha thereby making a mockery of the anti-corruption campaign and caused deep resentment across the country.
The boko haram insurgents have slaughtered well over twenty thousand people leaving about three million internally displaced. Jonathan’s tackling of the crisis was seen globally as lacklustre. When the girls in Chibok were abducted last year April, he initially refused to visit the place of the abduction which was the height of insensitivity. Dame Patience Jonathan, the First Lady made a cruel joke when she told a principal of the affected school ‘Na only you waka come?’ which went viral and portrayed the first family as insensitive. He was later photographed celebrating his niece’s lavish wedding just a few days after the boko haram insurgents killed 200 people in Baga, a town in Borno state. The election was postponed by six weeks to enable the dicey security situation to improve. Even though most of the areas taken by boko haram were recaptured, it was seen as coming too late.
Jonathan made the costly error of alienating Obasanjo and some key leaders of the PDP who were to later work against his second term bid. Obasanjo was so embittered that he wrote a public eighteen page letter containing criticisms of his government in December 2013. Rather than make peace with the man fondly known as Baba Iyabo, his office retaliated and the boom writings by the retired General continued. It later culminated in his resignation from the party where he publicly tore his membership card. Senator Bukola Saraki was alienated from the party which saw him defect him to the opposition APC. Kwara was among the states that the General got in his kitty. The defection of Senators George Akume, Barnabas Gemade and Samuel Ortom a former Minister of State for Trade and Investment in Jonathan’s government which saw Benue fall into the hands of the Daura born General. Kogi state despite being a PDP state fell into the hands of the APC because of the influence of the likes of Dino Melaye, Abubakar Audu and some other rebels who jumped ship. The disenchantment of the people of the south west led them to shift their loyalty to the APC a far cry of what obtained in 2011.
It is up to the General to unite the greatly divided country and to be truly magnanimous in victory. There should be the avoidance of vindictiveness which will do nothing but bring the nation backward and concentrate on the arduous task of nation building.