Three long years away from 2015, it is as if the campaigns for the presidential elections have already started. Yet this is happening at one of the country's darkest moments, when Nigerians are fretting over searing poverty and insecurity, and those in power at all levels have barely spent one year in office. We find this not only premature but also insensate and irresponsible.
Instead of tackling head-on the many social and economic problems besetting the nation, some politicians as early as January this year started a campaign for the renewal of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency in 2015. Harping on the elegibility of the president to run for the next election when he had not even marked his first year in office, these politicians re-opened the sensitive issue of zoning. Even when the president recently came out to put a brake on the premature machinations, some of his officials wouldn't hear of it.
But the ante to the campaigns was upped by former head of state and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change at the last election, Major General Muhammad Buhari (rtd). While receiving a delegation of the CPC from Niger State last week, he said: “…they either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 should (happen) again in 2015, by the grace of God the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.” Buhari further went on to categorise Boko Haram, the militant religious sect that is wreaking havoc particularly in the northern part of the country into three, and labelled the federal government as the “greatest Boko Haram”.
If Buhari's choice of words could be described as reckless, outrageous and condemnable, the response that followed was not less so. President Jonathan, through his spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati dismissed Buhari as insensitive, divisive, and unelectable. He even went to the extent of taking a pot-shot on Buhari's stewardship as petroleum minister in the late seventies, a clearly misdirected attack since the Justice Ayo Irikefe panel of enquiry cleared all doubts about any missing money in the petroleum ministry during the period when General Olusegun Obasanjo was head of state.
In adding its own voice, the Peoples Democratic Party described Buhari as a despot and asked the nation to call on him “to spare the nation his thirst for blood.” The opposition political parties also expectedly joined in the fray, not to redirect the sordid debate from the name-calling into which it had degenerated to pertinent issues, but rather raises tensions as it were. The Action Congress of Nigeria described Buhari's warning in an election that will take place in 2015 as timely and asked if the presidency and the PDP had no intention of rigging in 2015, why were they so worried about the consequences of such action. The northern governors also got into the thick of things, arguing during their recent meeting in Kaduna that Buhari's warning was in order, while strategising on how the north could build a coalition to win future elections.
In all that has transpired in the last one week, there was nothing about the welfare of Nigerians nor any attempt at addressing the problems of the day. It has been all about capturing power, essentially for its sake.
Yet a country is not measured by the number of elections it has held but by the standard of living of its people. Nigeria, with all its potentials, is still mired in poverty. Things taken for granted by relatively poorer countries are luxuries to us. Corruption is on the rise. Many of the states are finding it difficult to meet basic obligations. Many Nigerians can no longer sleep with their eyes closed.
We are therefore of the strong opinion that for a nation as economically and socially challenged as ours, it is patently irresponsible and a classic case of work-avoidance that the main issue on the agenda of our public officials is the 2015 presidential election that is still three years away. There is serious work to be done. And those charged with the responsibility of governing should get to work.