The first time I collected a voter’s card was during one of Nigeria’s several aborted transitions to democratic rule. At every opportunity, I yearned to cast my vote and stood for hours for that privilege – braving rainfall, sunshine and hunger. I never saw the outcome of my votes. In 2003, 2007 and 2011, my preferred candidate for president – Muhammadu Buhari – either lost, or was adjudged to have lost.
I had no idea democracy was this sweet until I voted again for Buhari, and against all odds, he was declared the winner of the 2015 presidential election. So what happened to the famed ‘rigging machine’ that swore to rule Nigeria for 60 years? How come the power of incumbency, coupled with the hundreds of billions of naira and the ‘South West Dollar Shower’ failed to deliver victory to the ‘ruling’ party? Was the huge sums spent on bribe and blackmail and in compromising certain segments of the media and clergy worth it? I hope lessons have been learned.
Meanwhile, while congratulating Nigerians on the outcome of the elections, we should be under no illusion that change will be easy or immediate. So much damage has been done that it would be a feat if the in-coming administration spends the next four years merely digging Nigeria out of the deep hole that Jonathan’s forgettable years in office put us. The hope is that Buhari in office remains the same as Buhari in opposition – the man who promised to sweep away corruption.
The question now is; how big is Buhari’s broom? Will the broom be long enough to sweep out some of the individuals and groups that have stolen enough money to run Nigeria for years? Will the broom be broad enough to reach inaccessible culprits, especially within the deeper reaches of the public sector?
Will Buhari’s broom be strong enough to catch the perpetrators of the fuel and kerosene subsidy fraud, failed refineries contracts and other anomalies in the oil sector? Will that broom be sturdy enough to catch oil ‘bunkerers’ and their helpers in the security forces?
It is true that the president-elect has indicated that he wants to simply draw a line on corruption and move forward, but Nigerians have a right to demand that he stretches his broom backwards a bit. For instance, if we demand a probe of the scandals in the defence sector, including arms contracts, the cash scandals and the massive withdrawal of foreign currency under the guise of security, will Buhari’s broom be sturdy enough to ferret the culprits?
Similarly, if we demand answers to the huge cost of power blackouts in Nigeria, will Buhari’s room be robust enough to sweep the darker recesses of the power sector and bring out the nearly $30 billion spent to make us more miserable, the fraudulent privatization of the sector and the hundreds of billions of naira given to supposedly private companies? Will Buhari’s broom sweep away the rot in the public sector, judiciary, police, military, and the banking sector?
We are praying.
The limits of hate
During the presidential campaign, the duo of Ayo Fayose and Femi Fani-Kayode led in the propagation of outright lies and hate messages against Buhari. However, less read and heard was an otherwise respected intellectual, Femi Aribisala who seemed to be on a personal or commissioned vendetta against Buhari and Tinubu.
Aribisala devoted his column in the Vanguard for several months to the two men. For example, beginning from December 23, 2014, he authored a four-part series titled, “How to lose the presidential election four times” which ended in January 13, 2015. A week later, he wrote, “Time to disgrace the self-appointed godfather of the South-West”, in apparent reference to Tinubu. The following week, it was “Muhammadu Buhari lied under oath”. On February 3rd, it was, “Jonathan is a superior presidential material to Buhari”.
On the week of February 10th, Aribisala wrote, “The end of Buhari’s presidential candidacy”. On February 24th, he wrote on “The end of APC’s fabricated momentum”. A week later, it was “Why Nigerians must reject the second coming of Buhari”. On March 10th it was, “Why Buhari will not agree to a debate with Jonathan”. Yet on March 17th, it was, “Buhari and the Lion of Bourdillon”. Just days before the election, he wrote, “101 cogent reasons why Jonathan must be re-elected”.
Freedom of expression is the right of everyone, but what motivates an intellectual of Aribisala’s standing to spew such drivel?
Nothing Special about Jonathan’s concession
Much has been made about out-going President Jonathan’s concession, but it is nothing exceptional. He ran for election and despite overwhelming federal might and some funny results from the South East and Niger Delta, lost.
What was he supposed to do? Refuse to hand over? Until the last moment, he was trying to doctor the results and only gave up when he realized the game was up. Gracefully or not, Jonathan had no choice but to concede!