In six days, Nigerians will be heading for the polls in an election that is unlike any other in our history. Never before has the presidency been so closely contested by two parties of considerable parity. And never before have the stakes been so high.
Actually, the stakes are always very high in presidential elections in Nigeria. The reason is not the stakes in ideological direction. It is more a matter of who is in power and who is not, who can dole out the largesse and to whom.
For that reason, the outcome of elections has often been decided not by the number of votes received, but by who rigged the most. Even parties that could have readily won a fair election resort to rigging anyway just to be sure. Now even when an election is not rigged, people vehemently dispute the result anyway. So violence is almost guaranteed.
The biometric voting cards and digital card readers being used in this election seem to be the solution. Whatever discrepancies there have been in the distribution of those cards by Professor Attahiru Jega’s Independent National Electoral Commission should have been rectified by Saturday. And so Nigerians can go to the polls with reasonable assurances that the majority vote will actually carry the day.
Last Sunday, I wrote about the parallels between the electoral fate of President Goodluck Jonathan and his Peoples Democratic Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party. With just days to that election on Tuesday, the Likud party was trailing the rival Zionist Union party for the parliamentary election.
Then Netanyahu did what politicians often do: say whatever is necessary to reel in voters. He told Israel’s hawkish voters what they wanted to hear: that there would never be a Palestinian state while he remained prime minister. That about-face pledge apparently did the trick. The Likud party garnered more votes than the Zionist Union and thus kept Netanyahu in power.
Netanyahu himself had to be surprised by the outcome. Yet, as with all consolidated democracies, there were no riots in Israel and no bloodshed. One has to believe that Nigeria’s democracy will get to that point someday, perhaps beginning with this election.
With that long preface completed, here are ten reasons to vote for MuhammaduBuhari of the All Progressives Congress or for incumbent President Jonathan.
10 reasons to vote for Buhari
- In the spirit of reciprocal goodwill to the North, Jonathan should not have run for re-election. Alas, he couldn’t resist the allure of power or the pressure to run again.
- The election of Buhari should quell the ire over the derailment of the rotational arrangement that resulted from President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s death. That’s just as the election of OlusegunObasanjoin 1999 assuaged the raging spirit of “June 12.”
- The PDP has presided over Nigeria for 16 consecutive years, that is, since the return to democracy in 1999. It is time to make a change.
- A country cannot consider itself a consolidated democracy until it successfully makes a transition from one party to another. A number of African countries have done it, among them Ghana, Kenya and Zambia. Nigeria is overdue for it.
- Corruption remains a debilitating problem in Nigeria, and Buhari’s reputation alone may be enough to scare the wits out of white-collar thieves.
- By choosing a fundamentalist Christian, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, as his running mate, Buhari has assured Nigeria’s Christians that he is not an Islamist zealot (or at least, that he is a repentant one).
- As a former military head of state, Buhari is in a better position to handle the complicity in the military regarding Boko Haram.
- Though Jonathan is generally well liked in diplomatic circles, he has acquired the reputation of an indecisive leader.
- Foreign investors like stability. To the extent that Buhari is seen as the person to guarantee it, more investors will flock to Nigeria under his presidency.
- This is the fourth time that Buhari has run for the presidency. Someone who is that determined must have good reasons beyond vanity.
10 reasons to vote for Jonathan
- Under Jonathan’s leadership, Nigeria has had the world’s fastest growing economy (at least one of them).That’s despite unending political crises and insurgency. That’s a remarkable achievement.
- Jonathan appointed some highly competent people to his cabinet, among them the globally respected Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
- Although Jonathan is widely criticised for Nigeria’s failure to contain Boko Haram, the reality is that things could have gone much worse. He deserves credit for his delicate handling of the duplicity in the Nigerian military. Any rash move on his part, and the military would have splintered. And that would have meant the end of Nigeria.
- Contrary to conventional wisdom, the PDP has served Nigeria quite well. Nigeria was in danger of another civil war in 1999 and the formation of the PDP as a unifying party saved the day.
- No one who overthrew an elected government deserves to be elected president. Buhari did that in 1984.
- No one who has advocated the sharia law should be president of a multi-religious country. Buhari has done that.
- No one who caused the loss of hundreds of lives by inciting mob violence after losing an election he had no chance of winning should ever be rewarded with the presidency.Buhari did so in 2011.
- Buhari wants the presidency too passionately. Such ambition raises suspicion. Could it be that he badly resented being overthrown in 1985, about 30 months after his own coup? Might he just be obsessed with tasting power again?
- From all indications, Buhari is not in good health. If he wins the presidency and then dies, Nigeria will be back to square one regarding the North-South rotation.
- Though Buhari now claims to be the answer to Boko Haram, he had tacitly supported them, at least through his silence.
If these considerations for making a choice merely complicate matters, they are so intended. What is important is to vote one’s conscience. That is, to vote for Nigeria.