Written by Paul I. Adujie
Nigerians and Nigeria now have barely four and a half months to a general elections scheduled for January 2011. And so, after 50 years of flag-political independence from British illegal colonial regime, Nigerians and Nigeria is facing a wonderful opportunity to start afresh and anew, better and greater.
After these past decades of missed opportunities after missed opportunities to have developed constitutionally, politically and economically, Nigerians and Nigeria has an opportunity. Will Nigerians and Nigeria sleep-walk to the precipice and fall of the cliff? Or, would there be an electioneering campaign with ideological stances by the plethora of political parties and their myriad posturing personalities parading as candidates for various elective public offices?
There are now a few months before perhaps the most important general elections in many years. As an optimist, I will have to believe that the planned elections will occur and there will presidential inauguration come May 29, 2010.
But where are the candidates? Where are the presidential and gubernatorial elections campaigns? There are now over 60 political parties in Nigeria these days. Where are the candidates? Where are the electioneering campaigns? Why are none of the registered political parties making waves? Why is it that the People's Democratic Party or PDP is the only game in town, the only game in the nation? Why are we not witnessing a vigorous and vibrant debates of the issues? Why is it that the various political parties and candidates are not campaigning and explaining their manifestoes through their chosen platforms and presidential candidates?
Why is it that zoning or no zoning by the PDP seem to be the only debate so far, engaged in by all?
Where are the alternatives, to PDP after absolute control by the PDP since 1999? Should Nigerians not have a wide field of candidates and variety of political parties for Nigerian voters to choose from? Why is no one canvassing ideas with the Nigerian electorate as to what their political party and platform would do for Nigeria differently, compared and contrasted against what the PDP office holders are doing right now in a majority of the states and or what the central government at the federal level is doing right now?
Why is it, that there are very few Nigerians right now, especially, among public intellectuals and commentators, who are raising these pertinent issues? Is it the case that a majority of Nigerians have agreed on something that I am unaware of? Is there a fait accompli that has dawn on some Nigerians?
Going by the current trend in Nigeria, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida may actually think himself of having a chance, even as he retain utter contempt for the Nigerian electorate. IBB remains unapologetic, he has not been made to account for his stupendous ill-gotten wealth and his checkered stewardship, he can now, with a straight face, say, that Nigerian youth are not ready for a transition of power from the old brigade of which he is a part. Babangida is again flouting his loot and hopes to buy his way into a return to Nigeria's presidential duties at Aso Rock?
Nigerian journalists with Nigerian newspapers and other media forums , citizen journalist in alternative or social media have not been doing enough in this campaign season. Nigerian public intellectuals and sundry commentators are always quick to state in their most acerbic and vehement opposition to public policy failures, but, we all now appear at the cusp of a major opportunity of a paradigm shift, and nobody is prodigiously scrutinizing the candidates and their political parties?
Why is it that these opposing political candidates and their various political parties are not now, overwhelming the Nigerian voters or electorate with policy and programs which they intend to foster during the next four years, post January 2011 general elections? Why is it that I am under-whelmed by the low din and murmur of exchange between political candidates and their political parties?
Why is it that, all we have gotten so far, are just mere wrangling and posturing about zoning? And opposing political camps who have merely indulged in obnoxious and cantankerous paid announcements newspapers, in which they ridicule and threaten one or the other, but only over zoning, and not policies and programs which will make the lives of long suffering Nigerians better?
Why are the candidates and their political parties, somehow, too scared to advertise their candidates and their manifestoes? Why won't these opponents and opposition political parties, similarly state and advertise their propose programs, their "superior" candidates and their equally "superior" manifestoes?
I want to believe that Nigerians are all agreed on the all-important matters of making all our public officials accountable, transparent and corruption-free. The rule is: If you are running for public office, you must declare your assets, prove that the sources were crime and corruption-free and genuine. Establish that you have had honest business and profited from hard work; Otherwise, you are disqualified.
I want to believe that all Nigerians are interested in, and invested in producing elected officials who have demonstrated competence, and have excellent track record of service in the private or public sector. I want to believe that the majority of Nigerians are interested in candidates who are focused on our national challenges, such high rate of unemployment, the national epidemic of erratic power supply, unavailability of clean water and the stifling state of insecurity exemplified by the heightened spate of kidnappings.
Safety and security for lives and properties throughout Nigeria, ought to be a national priority meriting a national debate at this moment. The parlous state of our public infrastructure, from roads and bridges to the abject neglect, abandonment and decays and decadence in many sectors and sub-sectors of our national life, screams for analysis, examination, scrutiny and public debates. Why are these needful debates not happening in the face of our general elections in a matter of four months?
Why is it that we are not presently investigating the backgrounds of those who are posturing for elections to the various public offices in our land? Why then would any of us be surprised to any Nigerian that the EFCC, the ICPC, INEC may not have pertinent and salient information with which to disqualify candidates? Candidates which have not been scrutinized, may just find their ways into public offices and it will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth after the elections.
The time is now for all of us, to help the EFCC, the ICPC or the Nigerian Police and all of Nigeria's law enforcement agencies want to know or determine the sources of wealth of potential public office holders. The time is now to determine or find out who the financiers of political candidates' campaigns and whether such candidates have been compromised and mortgaged by godfathers?
This is the time to find out, whether the candidates are issues driven and whether their interests and focus are consistent with those of the general public and the electorate. This is the time to determine, support or eliminate candidates, depending on what is known about such candidates.
This is the time to find out whether or not, the interests of certain candidates and certain political parties are consistent with our common good or greater good, or the interests that are inconsistent with Nigeria's national interests? This is the time to find out whether campaign donors are foreign or domestic and local criminal gangs and crooks? Are you the candidate an erstwhile public official who corruptly enriched himself and now wishes to use your loot as a means and vehicle to public office? Why should all Nigerians not want to know these things for the sake of accountability, probity and transparency?
In the United States for instance, political candidates have to go through rigorous checks, criminal background, even previous engagements in immorality or even simple inappropriate conducts or behaviors are quick to become campaign issues! Did you kick a dog or cat or some other domestic pet in your previous life, Americans want to know, now that you are running for public office.
Did you park in a parking space reserved for disabled or the physically challenged or did you engage in drunk driving? And did you smoke Marijuana when you attended college or university? Americans want to know the most microscopic details of your entire life, to determine your suitableness for office. But in Nigeria, as a prelude to the 2007 elections, there were scrutinizes, heightened scrutinizes, which is so far unheard of in the these several months before the elections in January 2011 as scheduled. Some have in the past called such investigations by EFCC or ICPC investigations to determine these, a vendetta, a vindictive and a selective pursuit of political enemies, these scrutiny remain crucial nonetheless.
I personally want to know what the poor excuse is, for the dearth of presidential aspirants or presidential candidates for Nigeria's presidential elections campaign which is suppose to be in full swing now. What are the excuses? If the real reasons, sorry, excuses, are those that have been adduced by political opponents, and opposing political parties is just limited to their timorous timidity, of fear of death, fear of probe, fear of intimidation, fear of vendetta, so far though, no one have been afraid of efforts geared at scaring off President Goodluck Jonathan from availing himself for re-elections, and yet, these political opponents have neglected to state their ideologies, philosophies, manifestoes, policies and programs? There is really no excuse for available to any politicians and their political parties for neglecting to canvass for votes through their party platforms or manifestoes. Four years ago, the excuse was the fear of a certain chief from Ota, but what is the fear this time? There is no need for fears, and to anyone who is afraid, I will say to them, have some balls! Have some guts!
How is it that the nearly 100 other political parties in Nigeria, other than the PDP, are not ready for prime time? What are their excuses for not selecting or announcing their selections of presidential candidates or aspirants? I am not a member of any political party in Nigeria, but if I were, I would be feeling colossal and monumental slew of embarrassments at the present time. How could anyone explain the lack of boldness and courage on the part of these numerous political parties? I am sure there a persons of courage in all these parties. PDP members are the only ones with courage or sturdiness? Are members of the opposition just lazy or lacking in strategies and vision for Nigeria?
Is it really a matter of lacking in courage or, is it that these other political parties are bereft of ideas? Are they suffering from collective bankruptcies of ideas? Is it the case that these other political parties have nothing to sell to the Nigerian electorate? Is that they have no manifestoes that will surpasses PDP's economic and political reforms agenda.
Is it equally, possibly because the PDP, with all their faults, warts and all, have empaneled EFCC and ICPC and such other Nigerian government organs, agencies and machinery to fight and eliminate corruption from Nigeria public space and have served Nigerians well since 1999? And as a result, no successful campaigns against the PDP can be waged? This is quite tenuous a proposition.
Some Nigerians have not be bitten by the reform bugs. These institutionalized reforms may yet eliminate old habits and negative old ways of easy-riches, easy money or illicit wealth.
I do believe that a vigorous and vibrant opposition are essential ingredients to a true democracy. This is so, just as free and fair elections; right to dissent, robust and vibrant opposition are to a democracy and strengthens it. But where is the Nigerian political opposition to the PDP? Imagine if the PDP actually had party discipline and internal cohesion? I take the view that the PDP is not as formidable as the opposition parties seemed to have concluded. All other political parties in Nigeria would have been extinct by now!
Imagine if the PDP did not suffer from self-inflicted wounds nationwide, Nigeria would probably be single political party state by now and that, of course, is not desirable at all!
It has become increasingly tempting to conclude that the opposing political parties in Nigeria, tens of them, lack ideas, lack men and women of substance, character and integrity. And so, they rely on distractions as cover for their bankruptcies of ideas!
Or could someone tell me why these several tens of other political parties in Nigeria have not announced their presidential aspirant-candidates and manifestoes? Where are the nominees for state governorships and other potential candidates for sundry public offices across Nigeria?
Nigerian political opponents are so afraid of the current office holders or incumbents and the vicious PDP apparatuses, machineries and instruments when it comes to promoting their own candidates and manifestoes? But these same political parties, opponents of the PDP, seem to have no fear and no qualms in giving instructions to President Goodluck Jonathan instructions as to whether he qualifies to run or not, in view of PDP zoning arrangements.
The current vacuum left by Nigerian opposition political parties constitutes the best argument or reason for a run by the incumbent. The vacuum by the opposition, the dearth of their vigor and the bankruptcies of their ideas, the absence of their candidates and manifestoes, in sum, should emboldens President Goodluck Jonathan the incumbent, and the PDP as they angles retain power and position.
The opposition political parties claim they are fearful of advocating and agitating their economic and political positions in manifestoes, they say they were afraid of a certain Olowu of Owu in 2007, but what is the fear this time around in 2010? Is the current president and the PDP, sufficiently threatening to cause the political opposition to cower? They are afraid to stand for what is right, legal and proper? But they are quick to engage in useless personal insults, useless personal attacks as they engage in the equally useless and completely distracting talk about third term!
Nigerians, the victims of failed political and economic leadership, Nigerians, the long suffering mass deserve public debates of our national issues and national challenges and the time to do so is now.
The various political parts need to urgently engage is issues driven campaigns and all Nigerians should urgently demand the imperative of these debates and the additional imperative of subjecting all political candidates to the highest scrutiny before the general elections scheduled for January 2011, we must not fail
The opposition political parties in Nigeria must show us their candidates and their manifestoes and what they will do better, better than President Goodluck Jonathan and the PDP, or the opposing political parties should forever hold their peace.