As polling day 14 February approaches, it appears to me that support for either President Goodluck Jonathan or his main rival Muhammadu Buhari is more driven by antagonism towards either candidate than their individual merits.
From my discussions with practically everyone I know in the pro-Buhari camp, for them it is time for “change”. They don’t care whether it is Mr Ibu or Buhari. It is just a matter of “Goodluck has to go”. There is no point re-electing such a failure. I fully understand that sentiment. Goodluck can’t simply be re-elected on his record of growing insecurity, corruption, crumbling infrastructure, austerity, worsening electricity supply and so on. So it seems, at least for the people I have spoken to, that their support for Buhari is a protest vote against Jonathan, and not on the basis of any coherent idea of what Buhari represents.
This stance mirrors that of many Goodluck supporters, especially among people from the southeast. In their view Buhari is just not credible because of his record as an apologist for Sharia Law, his image as a Muslim fundamentalist and memories of his short-lived dictatorship as the head of a military junta. This stance is also understandable.
Goodluck does not deserve to be re-elected after claiming in 2011 that: “If I’m voted into power, within the next four years, the issue of power will become a thing of the past. Four years is enough for anyone in power to make a significant improvement and if I can’t improve on power within this period, it then means I cannot do anything.”
Well, it is time we started holding our rulers to account. “The issue of power” has not “become a thing of the past”. Four years was more than enough for him to make a “significant improvement” in delivering improved power supply. He failed and it means he “cannot do anything” – as he has proved with insecurity, combating Boko Haram, and any practical indices of progress.
But anyone that thinks Buhari represents a “change” from the failures of Jonathan needs a reality check.
For starters, nothing in Buhari’s record from his time as Head of State suggests he has any economic policies different from the tried and failed of the PDP regime. In fact, when he took part in the presidential TV debate before the 2011 (s)elections, he mumbled the same answers of privatisation as the solution to power supply problems. He had to be reminded by the moderator that his alleged solutions were no different to what the current regime was peddling.
Secondly, Buhari’s party the APC is mostly a congregation of disgruntled elements from the PDP, including former Vice President Abubakar Atiku, governors Rotimi Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwaso, etc. Its most influential member is former governor of Lagos State Bola Tinubu, once described by the then anti-corruption czar Nuhu Ribadu as someone whose “criminal case is of international dimension”. Is this the “change” we need?
As a military dictator Buhari introduced “Decree 4” to curtail press freedom and locked up journalists Tunde Thomson and Nduka Irabor for reporting what brought the government to “disrepute”. He also banged up teacher and activist Tai Solarin for alleged “acts prejudicial to state security”. Fela Kuti was also jailed on trumped up charges. He would later sing that Buhari was a “beast of no nation, animal in human skin”.
The “choice” Nigerians face between Goodluck and Buhari is no real choice at all. While Goodluck does not deserve to be re-elected, Buhari does not represent change apart from in the alphabets of the ruling party. In the film “Brewster’s Millions” Richard Pryor ran a protest campaign urging people to vote for “None of the above” and “None of the above” won. Nigerian voters should have had that option on the ballot.
Many have asked me what they should do since they have to either choose between Goodluck and Buhari. The trouble with voting for either of those two is you legitimise their totally predictable misrule for the next four years and you have aligned yourself with people that don’t mean well for the country, despite their posturing.
There comes a time when doing nothing is an option. If you object to the choices before you, you should abstain from voting. If Goodluck and Buhari are the only real choices you have, the ballot is not worth the paper it is written on.