By IFEANYI OTTAHAs this month’s general elections draw nearer Political pundits have expressed their worry over how political parties and their candidates are playing Politics of bitterness and rancour.
According to them, Presidential campaigns by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate President Goodluck Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate General Muhammadu Buhari have witnessed unprecedented war of words, character assassination and verbal assault instead of issue based.
Today, Nigeria is faced with Socio-Political and economic challenges and there are inter-tribal and communal clashes across the country. There is the Boko Haram insurgency in the North, the kidnaping and armed robbery in the south. There is also acute unemployment and corruption in Nigeria.
These are issues some Nigerians said they want the candidates to address if voted into power and not by openly attacking each other.
In a saner opolitical clime, it is expected that the candidates, who are seeking election into public offices will engage themselves in intellectual debates giving the people proofs on what they will do in office better than their opponents.
At this level, the issue of national importance will dominate political campaign. Candidates are expected to make promises that are realistic and achievable. The Political Parties will roll out competitive manifestoes and tell the electorate how they want to run the country better if given the opportunity.
Meanwhile, while the APC is busy blaming the PDP for the woes befalling the country since it came into power in 1999, and also verbally criticizing President Jonathan’s actions and inactions, the ruling Party is also attacking Buhari’s comments perceived to be controversial, his administration as the former Head of State between 1983 and 1985, his education certificate, his ethno-religious affiliation and his age.
The APC Presidential campaign team had expressed its disappointment with President Jonathan over his inability to tell Nigerians his achievements in the last six years in office.
The Party alleged that the President’s campaign dwelled on personal attacks, rather than addressing national issues.
For instance, the Director, Media and Publicity of the APC Presidential campaign, Garba Shehu, in a statement said President Jonathan spent valuable time at the PDP Lagos and Enugu campaign rallies reading copiously excerpt from the maiden speech of (a military dictator who annulled the widely acclaimed June 12, 1993 Presidential election won by the late Mko Abiola) General Ibrahim Babangida, who over threw Buhari in 1985.
Shehu said: “Nigerians do not expect a Political commentary from President Jonathan of a nearly 30 year old speech delivered to the nation by IBB. What Nigerians expect to hear, among others, is what he has achieved in the last six years and why corruption still remains endemic and the economy in shambles.
“Is this what is needed to free the Chibok girls, strengthen the Naira, pay salaries of civil servants, stop the industrial stealing of crude oil or ensure the safety and security of Nigerians?”
The Party also said that after six years of President Jonathan administration the nation is still gripped by pervasive insecurity, aggravated unemployment notably among the youths.
Gen. Buhari had also on January 10, 2015, warned that Nigeria would be in trouble if the PDP wins the February elections.
Buhari, while addressing a campaign at the Michael Okpara square in Enugu, told the gathering that it would be a mistake if they failed to vote out the PDP.
He said, “If you make a mistake to allow PDP to rule again for the next four years we will all be in trouble.”
The electorate numbering over two hundred thousand had expected to hear how he would tackle the issues affecting the nation.
Observers have posited that what Nigerians need to know is what Buhari and the APC will do and how they will do it.
On the other hand, Jonathan during a campaign rally at the Nnamdi Azikiwe stadium Enugu on January 9, said that Buhari could not remember his mobile phone number at his age. At that rally, Jonathan’s address was basically responses to previous statements or comments made by Buhari and the APC.
He accused Buhari of deceiving Nigerians by promising to revive the economy without explaining how he would achieve the feat. President Jonathan further asked how Buhari would develop the country’s economy, a feat he could not achieve while he was in office as head of state between 1983 and 1985.
“Is it now that Buhari cannot even remember his phone number that he can change the economy of the country?” Jonathan asked.
The PDP Presidential candidate said although he did not like to go personal during campaigns sometimes circumstances demand that certain things must be said.
He further said that Buhari belong to the medieval age and that he (Buhari) intends to run the Federal Government as a medieval king.
President Jonathan said, “We cannot run the government as if we are in the medieval age, we cannot run a government where somebody said he would throw people into jail.
“You are not a medieval king, a medieval king can throw you into jail but we have to follow the rule of law because we cannot go back to the old days.”
In his reaction concerning President Jonathan’s speech at the rally in Lagos, the Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola said the President lacked the capacity to rule the country, adding that Jonathan spent almost one hour criticizing his predecessors without speaking on his plans for the country.
The governor said: “I spent about an hour listening to the President in my State. For almost the same period, I saw a very angry President. I saw a President who is lamenting about people judging his performance and blaming all those who ruled before him, forgetting that he has been on this job for six years. And he kept saying ‘they say we don’t have a plan’, and for almost 45 minutes he did not reveal a plan on security; he did not reveal a plan on corruption. I listened to him.
“After six years without being able to articulate what he has done and what he will do but blaming everybody and forgetting that he is the commander-in-chief; if the kitchen is becoming too hot, as it’s becoming obvious, he must get out of it.”
Fashola pointed out that the issues of that would form the basis of debate for the elections would be how well the citizens of the nation had fared under the present administration. He said the President’s comment that his generation had failed Nigerians was personal to him. He told the President to accept responsibility for his failure to address the challenges confronting the nation.
Fashola challenged the President to summon courage and own up to his government’s failures in the last six years, rather than point accusing fingers at past leaders.
On the other hand, PDP and President Jonathan campaign organization have also accused the APC and Gen. Buhari of allegedly masterminding the attack on President Jonathan in Katsina State.
The PDP Presidential campaign organization said it would hold Buhari responsible if anything should happen to Jonathan in the course of the electioneering while PDP spokesperson, Olisa Metuh said the Party would no longer tolerate such acts of violence on any of its members.
Both Metuh, the publicity Secretary of the PDP, and Femi Fani-Kayode, the director of media and publicity of the PDP campaign organization, reacted to the katsina incident.
Fani-Kayode, at a press briefing in Abuja, said, “Let us take this opportunity to also serve them (APC) notice that if anything untoward happens to our candidate or his supporters during the course of this campaign we shall hold Buhari and his Party responsible and the consequences would be grave, unimaginable and far reaching.”
Fani-Kayode alleged that a group of broom-wielding vandals, chanting “sai Buhari”, hurled stones at the convey of the President and that but for the gallant efforts of the security personnel, “this small group of violent vandals would have harmed the President and caused damage to the vehicles in his convey.”
He said it was regrettable that the stoning occurred in ‘Katsina, the home state of Buhari, and reminded Nigeria that the APC Presidential candidate had visited Bayelsa state, where President Jonathan hails from and that there, Buhari was not molested.
He described the action of the APC supporters in Katsina State as “despicable, barbaric, shameful and highly reprehensible.
“Metuh, in a statement in Abuja, said the attack was “a clear indication that the APC is not ready to go back on its rabid desire to attain power through violence despite signing a peace pact a week ago in Abuja.”
He said, “This brazen attack on the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our Presidential candidate clearly showed that the APC was never committed to the spirit and letters of the Abuja peace accord which they signed in the presence of prominent Nigerians and the international personalities.
“It is unfortunate that while the PDP and other parties are busy ensuring that their members and supporters remain committed to a peaceful electioneering, the APC has been hatching plots to unleash violence on our candidates and members.
“We want all lovers of democracy to rise in condemnation of this dangerous phenomenon; these early developments clearly demonstrate that the comments and declarations by the leaders of the APC that Nigeria would be thrown into chaos and bloodshed should it lose the February general elections were real.”
Metuh commended the maturity and the peaceful disposition of president Jonathan and the leaders of the PDP even in the face of provocation.
He said, “The irony which we wish to place on record is that the APC, which has successfully completed its campaigns in the South-South, including Bayelsa, the home state of President Jonathan, without any incident and has even signed a pact to maintain peace, is turning round to unleash thugs to disrupt the presidential campaign of our party.”
However, political observers are of the view that while the presidential candidates of PDP and APC are busy attacking each other, the Islamist sect, Boko Haram are busy killing and maiming innocent Nigerians in the North-east part of the country. They noted that while the economy is still battling to survive the impact of the global crash in oil price, which a monolith economy like Nigeria depends on, ideas on how to manage the situation are yet to be known from the two combatants.
Former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark has called on Jonathan and Buhari not to engage in a dirty fight in their determination to win the presidential election. He said, “Buhari and President Jonathan are our sons. They should fight a clean fight.
No religious or tribal sentiments. They should know that no tribe can do it alone. No religion can do it alone”.
Many Nigerians who compared the political parties in the First, Second and Third Republic with this democratic dispensation, have said that today’s political parties lack ideology.
According to them, instead of fighting with ideologies, politicians now fight personalities.
At an election sensitization workshop on non-violence ahead of the 2015 general elections held in Abuja Buhari reiterated the need for Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct credible polls, as a panacea to post-election violence this year, apparently to prevent a reoccurring of what happened in 2011.
President Jonathan, however, said the fear of accepting defeat was responsible for the violence, insisting that it was not caused by electoral malpractices.
At the workshop, where a former Secretary General of the United Nation, Kofi Annan and a former Secretary-General of the Common Wealth, Emeka Anyaoku were in attendance, presidential candidates however signed a five-point accord for peace ahead of the general elections.
Meanwhile, former Secretary-General of the National Democratic Coalition and convener of the coalition of Democrats for Electoral Reform, Ayo Opadokun, said the campaigns have been on issues. He said he had listened to both Jonathan and Buhari during their campaigns and they dwelled on issues, including corruption, power and education.
He recalled that part of the agreements signed by candidates was not to insult each other.
He, however, berated Jonathan and the PDP for the comments on Buhari.
He said, “If it is true that Jonathan said Buhari cannot remember his phone number, then he has contempt for the institution he represents. The public expectation for somebody in that office is abused. He is supposed to be not only responsible but to have the best of human virtue, decorum and civility.”
United States Secretary of state John Kerry has said that the United States will deny entry to anyone responsible for stoking violence during the February election.
“Given the stakes, its absolutely critical that these elections be conducted peacefully that they are credible, transparent and accountable”, Kerry told reporters on a visit to Lagos, after meeting with President Jonathan and Gen-Buhari.
Kerry urged the leading presidential candidates to refrain from fermenting violence after the February election. “It is absolutely critical that this election can be conducted peacefully. The international community is paying very close attention to this election”, he said.
“This will be the largest democratic election on the continent”, he said.
Both candidates pledged to tamper down on violence, Kerry said, but the Secretary also issued a warning: Anyone who incites postelection mayhem will be ineligible to enter the United States.
“It is imperative that Nigeria holds its elections on time”, he added, an apparent response to comments from the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, this week that the February 14 poll should be delayed.
He condemned savage attack by Boko Haram militants. He played down reports that the U.S. had grown frustrated with Nigeria’s military commitment to fighting the insurgents. “The United States is deeply engaged with Nigeria.
“Does it always work as we would like or as well as the Nigerians would like? The answer is no”.
He said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Nigeria and stood ready to do more if the February 14 election proceeded in a non violent, democratic fashion.
“Bottom line, we want to do more and that was part of the message to both President Jonathan and General Buhari today.
“We are prepared to do more but our ability to do more will depend to some degree on the full measure of credibility and accountability and transparency and peacefulness of these election.” Kerry added.
He suggested that there was a link between the peaceful conclusion of free, fair and timely elections and further US support for Nigeria against Boko Haram. Kerry warned that action needed to be taken, with the so called Islamic State militants in Syria Iraq trying to extend their reach into parts of north Africa.
“It is obviously a concern that they try more aggressively to try to spread to countries of other parts of Africa”, he said.
However, Southern leaders under the auspices of southern Nigeria People’s Assembly (SNPA) unanimously endorsed President GoodLuck Jonathan’s re-election bid in the February 14, 2015 Presidential election.
They, however, vowed to resist all attempts by the Independent National Electoral commission (INEC) to resurrect the implementation of the 30,000 additional polling units.
In a Communiqué issued after its 5th General Conference held at Golden Royale Hotel, Enugu which was signed by former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekwueme, Chief Edwin K. Clark, co-chair / leader of South South and Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu, leader of the South West, the group vowed to resist any attempt to employ violence to kill innocent Nigerians on account of the outcome of the general elections.
The conference deliberated on the current Socio-Political and economic situation in the country, particularly the national elections scheduled for the 14th and 28th February, 2015 as well as the unending Boko Haram terrorist activities in the North Eastern part of the country, amongst others and noted that:
“The continued escalation of the Boko Haram activities close to 2015 general election is unhealthy to the unity and stability of the country.
“The unfortunate post-election massacre of innocent Nigerians in parts of the North in 2011 and its portending danger in 2015.
“The report by the leadership of the attempt by INEC to create 30,000 additional Polling units, which would have given the North an undue electoral advantage which is only being temporarily suspended.
“The distribution of Permanent voters’ Cards appear to have given the North advantage over the South, as over 12 million PVCs have been given to the North West along.
“The need to expand the frontiers of cooperation beyond Southern Nigeria for the peace, unity and progress of the country.
There has always been an orchestrated attack on Presidents / Heads of State of Southern Nigeria origin, leading to massive protests and destruction of life and property in the North simply because it is the thinking of the Northern oligarchy that power must continue to reside in the North.
The problems of Nigeria predated the emergence of President Jonathan’s administration and he has demonstrated passion and commitment in addressing them through his transformation agenda.
The convocation of the National conference by President Jonathan in response to our collective calls shows that he is a President with a listening ear who wants the good, betterment, stability and progress of the country.
Accordingly, the conference resolves as follows: Nigerians are full of expectations that the resolutions of the National Conference will be faithfully implemented to resolve the continuing contradictions in the Nigerian Polity and lay a solid foundation for a more just, more equitable society in which all can have equal sense of belonging.
That the decision to endorse President Jonathan is based on through assessment of his manifest strides and achievements in the past three and half years as the President and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
That a think-Tank of the Assembly should be empowered by the leadership of SNAP to commence the task of advocacy before and after the 2015 general elections.