After waiting for so long to declare his ambition for a second term, perhaps, waiting for Allah’s permission, or for the “Nigerian people” to “push” and “plead with him” to run, PMB has finally declared for the 2019 Presidency. Only political or information neophytes would have doubted that PMB would certainly seek reelection. I had predicted, nay written about this, more than six months ago, using his now, famous “body language”.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is PMB’s undoubted constitutional right to contest for the Nigerian presidency, having run only once.
His earlier occupation of the number one seat as a military Dictator is not counted under our constitutional organogram.
However, it is also the constitutional right of Nigerians to roundly reject him at the polls, having performed abysmally and disastrously below average. The evidence is all too glaring, admitting of no ambiguity. Let us look at some of the areas:
This is one of his three-legged areas of pact with Nigerians.
The economy is in an all time low. From an over $500 billion rebased economy (according to World Bank and IMF), which PMB met, he took Nigeria into recession and now claims to have taken it out. He says this calls for celebration. But, the figures don’t tally, nor does the story jell. Nigerians are hungrier today than they were 3 years ago. They have been rendered destitute and impecunious.
Many have resorted to going to Lybia and attempting to cross the seas to European countries, to escape from hunger and squalor, thereby dying in the process. More Nigerians have taken to prostitution across European nations more than ever before. Many of them are gang-raped, sodomised, enslaved and bestialized. The youths have taken up arms, committing more heinous crimes, such as robberies and kidnap, more than ever in the history of this country.
Where PMB and APC promised 3 Million new jobs per annum, they have caused Nigerians to, paradoxically, lose about 3.5 Million jobs annually, according to his own Federal Government Bureau of Statistics. Price of fuel alternates between N145 per litre and N400, whenever available. He met it at N87 per litre. A bag of rice now sells for between N15,000 and N20,000 per bag. He met it at N7,500. Prices of goods and consumables have gone out of the reach of the common man, with Nigerians literally feeding from dust bins. So, on the economic front, one of his tripodal promises, he has failed Nigeria and Nigerians. Is this why they will vote for him again? I want to see.
WIPING OUT INSECURITY
The second leg of his campaign mantra was to wipe out insecurity. At campaign rallies across Nigeria, he convinced gullible Nigerians that as a retired military General, he would lead from the front to crush Boko haram. Indeed, he gleefully told a bemused country in December, 2015, that Boko haram had been “technically defeated”, and repeated it in 2016, that it “has been beaten”.
But, Nigerians know that Boko haram is stronger today, more potent and more deadly than it ever was. We are regaled daily (check online, print and electronic media), with tales of Boko haram’s blood-letting exploits, maiming, killing and burning houses across the North East. With apparent government collusion (the military in Dapchi were hurriedly posted out). Chibok was re-enacted in Dapchi, where over 110 secondary school girls were viciously abducted. They were later “released” in a Hollywood, Bollywood and Nollywood style, in broad daylight, by the same boko haram after mind bungling sums were said to have been paid to them as “ransome”. They were never waylaid and massacred.
Many detained, and even convicted boko haramists have been incredulously released in alleged “prisoners swap”, and money paid to them. With this, they purchased more modern war equipment to emerge with more deadliness. The Sambisa forest that was said to have been cleared is today brimming with the dreaded sect.
If Boko haram regarded as one of the 4 leading terrorist groups in the world were considered deadly enough, the rampaging herdsmen has become more murderous. Day-in-day-out, they kill innocent Nigerians in their homes, their farms, burn others, lay siege on whole communities, rape their wives and daughters, and kidnap their males. Never has Nigeria witnessed more insecurity than it is today. Whereas Boko haram was limited to the North East, herdsmen menace spreads across all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
Government does not even pretend to want to curb the insurgency. Not a single herdsman has been arrested or prosecuted by the government. Kidnappings, murders, suicides and rape cases, have since increased geometrically, rather than arithmetically.
Consequently on the insecurity front, PMB has scored below average. Is this why Nigerians will vote for him?
THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION
Let us look at the 3rd leg of his tripod: Fighting corruption. PMB’s greatest failing is perhaps in this anti-corruption context. He had promised to fight corruption. Three years down the line, he has not secured a single conviction of any high profile, politically exposed person. Rather, Nigerians have been treated to ludicrous media trial. In desperation, the government has now released names of opposition members whom they have charged to court, but cannot prove their cases against as “looters”, without any court conviction or judicial pronouncement to that effect. This is in sync with the government’s now infamous disrespect and disregard for due process, rule of law, independence of the judiciary and disobedience to court orders. Impunity reigns supreme. In appointments, cronyism, nepotism, tribalism, clannishness and favouritism triumph over merit and competence.
Transparency International, in its recent corruption perception index, has rated Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa, beaten to the second position in West African by only one country. Nigeria placed 148th globally, out of 180 countries freedom of speech, press freedom, NGO’s freedom, and sundry liberties are seriously curbed, leading to a reign of fear and terror.
Where the government fights “corruption” amongst opposition and critics with pesticides, herbicides and insecticides, it caresses and deodorizes its own corrupt officials, ministers, serving military Generals and kitchen cabinet members with sweet smelling sasarabia cologne.
Corruption reeks everywhere in the government, with many Pandora boxes of oozing gates: “Mainagate”, “Babachirgate”, “Health sectorgate” and “NNPC gate” (where the Minister of state, Petroleum Resources, revealed to a shocked nation how $23 Billion contracts, were irregularly awarded and signed by PMB on his sick bed abroad, at a time Osibanjo was already the acting president). Note that the Dasukigate’s of $2.1 Billion on which the government has pegged its anti–corruption fight is less than 10% of this “NNPCgate”. Corruption now struts around and about proudly, unrestrained, walking on its fours, head and even buttocks. Corruption has now assumed a larger-than-life image, with the government not only protecting it, but nurturing and fertilizing it. Some members of this government who have been indicted by Judicial Commissions of Inquiry in their states when they were either governors or chairmen of Boards are shielded from public scrutiny and prosecution.
The government operates opaquely, tyrannically and dictatorially, nuances unknown to a constitutional democracy. Monies (such as the attempt to take $1 billion out of the Excess Crude Account), are appropriated without approval by the National Assembly, an arm that is, together, with the judiciary, is treated by the PMB government with contempt, disdain and near ostracism.
I WELCOME PMB’S DECLARATION
I therefore welcome Buhari’s declaration. Let me remind him that he had set packing a sitting president, GEJ, in 2015. In Sierra Leone, a sitting president Samura Kamarathe, the All People’s Congress (APC), (note the similarity of names), that has been sent packing by the opposition contestant, Julius Bio. So, the rumours that the APC/PMB’s government is banking on massive rigging of the 2019 election to win is merely illusory. It cannot work.
Nigerians are more enlightened today than ever before. They will use their PVCs to vote wisely, notwithstanding any acts of intimidation or coercion. 2019 is just 10 months away. I will keep my fingers crossed to see how it all plays out. The months ahead will be very interesting. And quite testing.
(Chief Mike A. A. Ozehkome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb, Ph.D, LL.D
Constitutional Lawyer and Human Rights Activist writes from Abuja).