Anatomy Of Nigeria’s Top Three Presidential Aspirants By Abu Oare

The 2015 Nigerian presidential election is almost at hand. Although, there are quite a number of aspirants vying for the exalted office of the president, three of them, for obvious reasons, stand out as the topmost contenders – Atiku Abubakar, General Muhammadu Buhari, and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. This essay is aimed at x-raying their résumés in order to guide the Nigerian electorate to make informed choices before casting their votes come February 2015, God-willing. This is not about endorsing any of the candidates. It’s about making sure that we don’t vote for just anybody this time around merely on ethno-religious sentiments, but based on the aspirant’s impressive credentials. So let’s get down to business.
Atiku Abubakar (Age: 67) Meet Atiku Abubakar, former Vice-President for eight years and one of the key founders of the Peoples Democratic Party, which is now the biggest political party in Africa. Atiku was instrumental to the rise of former President Olusegun Obasanjo from prison to the Presidency. As a Vice President, Atiku introduced a number of initiatives such as the National Poverty Eradication Programme and was a part of the formation of the Universal Basic Education program. He is also credited for organizing an Industrial Roundtable during his time as VP. Atiku advocated for the revival of education in Northern Nigeria. He founded the America University of Nigeria and very recently he gave scholarship to 15 of the Chibok girls that escaped from captivity to study at the university. Both Atiku Abubakar and General Muhammadu Buhari are of the All Progressives Congress. Therefore, only one of them will emerge as the party’s candidate for the general elections. Now let’s talk about the other side of Atiku. There are more than a dozen cases of corruption against him, even though he has consistently denied all, claiming they were all politically motivated by OBJ – his former boss – through the EFCC. Some of the charges, however, include embezzlement of public funds as well as money laundering. He and one of his wives, Jennifer Douglas Atiku Abubakar, were accused of laundering more than $40 million to the US. He was also accused of diverting about $125 million of public fund into his private project, and another $6 million from the Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund that was directly under his supervision into a company in Louisa, Kentucky. As a matter of fact, the US congress man that was involved in that case was sentenced to 33 years in prison and is still there serving out his jail term. Furthermore, there are allegations that Atiku received more than $4.6 million in bribe from the German company, Siemens. The FBI raided his house in Maryland, USA and his wife fled to Nigeria. Atiku has a $1 million house in Potomac, Maryland. General Muhammadu Buhari (Age: 71) Buhari took over power from former President Shehu Shagari in a military intervention on December 31, 1983 and he was in office for less than two years. Before then, Shagari’s administration was accused extreme corruption, waste of resources, mismanagement and lack of sanitation. Under President Shehu Shagari, Nigeria was bedeviled with religious and political violence. Here are some of the good things Buhari did in the past. He and his Chief of Staff, Tunde Idiagbon, arrested and imprisoned many corrupt politicians, including ministers, numbering into hundreds. Everybody that had questionable wealth at that time became afraid to show it off because Buhari’s administration had zero tolerance for corruption. Buhari launched the famous War Against Indiscipline, which forcefully instilled discipline in Nigerians. It became a crime at that time to rush into buses. People were forced to queue up in banks and market places and Nigerians became orderly. Everybody was treated on first come, first serve basis, and not a matter of who you know. Everyone obeyed traffic laws, students were forbidden from cheating, sellers were prevented from arbitrarily raising the prices of commodities in order to exploit the masses and make quick gains, showing up late in the office was no longer accepted and neglecting ones children was a punishable offence. He also introduced the famous Environmental Sanitation throughout the country. General Buhari paid up all our debts during his regime and inflation rate came down from 23 per cent to five per cent. The naira became so strong at that time and drug trafficking became minimal, as it was an offence punishable by execution. Before becoming the Head of State, Buhari was the Petroleum Minister under President Obasanjo from 1976 to 1978. He was also the head of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation when it was first created. At that time, he built three oil refineries – one each in Port-Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna – and Nigeria was refining her own oil. Nigeria was also exporting refined product at that time. In addition, Buhari masterminded the construction of 20 oil depots and laid over 2300km of pipeline throughout Nigeria. Under General Sani Abacha, Buhari was appointed as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, controlling billions of dollars. To his credit, the PTF was managed with transparency. It published its annual report on time and addressed regular press conferences. The PTF rehabilitated our mass transit system and constructed roads all across Nigeria. In fact, in the four years that Buhari was in charge, the PTF constructed more roads than the Nigerian government had constructed in the last 15 years. The PTF under Buhari also supplied text books and other learning materials to students nationwide, and they provided drugs for hospitals. Buhari was actually the one who discovered the late Prof. Dora Akunyili and nominated her for her position in NAFDAC. General Buhari was the first Head of State or President to put women in cabinet. He has one house in Kaduna and one in his home town in Daura, Kastina State. He does not have any house or land in Abuja, Lagos or anywhere else. When he was sponsored abroad for military training by the Nigerian government, he remitted the remnants of his stipends on his return to Nigeria. He is the only Nigerian former Head of State/President with no foreign bank account or assets abroad. In spite of the exalted public offices he has held, Buhari has no filling station, let alone an oil rig and he currently lives on pension. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t getting paid when he worked as the head of the PTF because he was already getting his pension at that time – so he refused to collect any pay. Despite the fact that various tribunals were set up by OBJ and IBB to investigate him, General Buhari has never been found guilty of embezzling a kobo of public fund. Lastly, when Buhari was the Head of State, he stood up against Western interference. The IMF and the World Bank pressured him to devalue the naira because it had risen really strong (about N1 to $2), but he refused and focused on paying off the existing debt. In fact, Nigerians could spend naira when they went outside the shores of the country. Consequently, the IMF and the World Bank cut off Nigeria from the World Trade Organization and General Buhari resorted to trade by barter – exchanging oil for goods from Brazil, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, and any country that would trade with Nigeria. The Western interests were actually the ones that sponsored IBB to overthrow Buhari and cause him to do their bidding of devaluing the naira. Babangida readily cooperated because Buhari was about to send him packing at that time for allegedly been involved in some drug-related issues. Now let’s take a look at some not so good things about Buhari. When he was jailing corrupt officers, some innocent people were affected, even though they were later released. Many people were thrown in prison before they were proven guilty or otherwise. Also, Buhari’s government sentenced some drug dealers to death and a lot of people found that as extreme. He hired an Israeli to kidnap Umaru Dikko, one of the alleged most corrupt officials during Shehu Shagari’s regime, who escaped to the UK when Buhari took over power and attempted to smuggle him back to Nigeria. Also, under what was known as Decree 4, Buhari announced that any journalist that wrote articles that he could not back up with evidence would be jailed, and he actually jailed some journalists for about four months. Buhari stopped the Lagos railway construction, insisting that Nigeria was borrowing money to do the construction and he needed to stop all the borrowings and think about how to pay-off the existing debts first. He is accused of concentrating most of the road constructions during his time in the PTF in the North. And he is perceived by many as too strict and rigid. There are speculations by many Christians that Buhari is a Muslim fanatic and his sole aim is to Islamise Nigeria. This is an obvious misconception because Babangida was actually the one who enrolled Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Conference. When Buhari was the Head of State, religion was never an issue. Not a single religious violence was recorded in Nigeria during his regime, even though he and his deputy at that time, Tunde Idiagbon, were both Muslims. No chance would have been more ample than that if he actually wanted to Islamise Nigeria. Buhari had a Pastor in 2011 (Tunde Bakare) as his running mate and his cook and personal driver of 10 years are both Christians. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Age: 56) Jonathan has been a Deputy Governor, a Governor, a Vice President, an Acting President and a President. He’s been in power for almost six years now, having served out the remaining two years of late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua and now about to complete his fourth year in office after his swearing in as President on May 29, 2011. Some of the good things Jonathan did in the last six years include repainting of several airports, provision of air-conditioned trains in Lagos as well as light rail in Abuja, construction of railways to link cities and states, and fixing of Benin-Ore Expressroad. Also, Jonathan privatised electricity generation and distribution, and he sent some Nigerian students abroad to study on government scholarship. He claims to have created a million jobs and reduced poverty by 50 per cent. Unfortunately, both claims remain spurious and unverified. No one has really seen where those jobs are, and there is no substantial evidence that he actually reduced poverty by anything above five per cent. With Jonathan’s agricultural transformation, Nigeria’s food import bill has reduced from about $7 billion to $4.3 billion annually, he set aside N50 billion for agriculture mechanization and Nigeria now has Africa’s largest rice mill. Lastly, Jonathan’s Government announced that it has reached a ceasefire with Boko Haram and promised that the abducted Chibok girls were on their way back to reunite with their families. Unfortunately, though, the unilateral announcement soon turned out to be an April fool’s joke. Now let’s peruse some not so good things about GEJ’s résumé. He has shown quite an unbeatable tolerance for corruption, which has been the second biggest challenge of his administration, after Boko Haram. Not a single public office holder has been successfully prosecuted since Jonathan became president. On the contrary, a lot of evidently corrupt people are actually been celebrated under his watch. For example, former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, allegedly spent $2.5 million on bullet-proof cars. She was eased out of office four months after but was never prosecuted. Instead, she was honoured with a chieftaincy title in her home town, and she is currently vying for a seat in the Senate on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party. Likewise, “Honourable” Faruk Lawan and Femi Otedola got away with $600,000 bribe scandal despite audio and video evidences. And those who embezzled the police pension fund amounting to billions of naira are still enjoying their loot. Only one of them, John Yusuf, was given a two-year jail sentence with an option of fine in the sum of N750,000, in what seemed more like a pat on the back after conniving with others to defraud the pension office of N27.2bn. The main suspect in the scandal, Abdulrasheed Maina, is still at large and no one seems to be on his trail. President GEJ pardoned DSP Alamieseigha, the former Governor of Bayelsa State, who was convicted for stealing millions of dollars of tax payer’s money, and he sacked the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, for blowing the whistle over the missing $20 billion from the federation account, which the government explained away as “only” $10 billion used for kerosene subsidy. Jonathan is the first Nigerian president to own up to ten presidential jets. He has so far refused to make a public declaration of his assets in the spirit of transparency and accountability as exemplified by his predecessor, Umar Yar’adua. In fact, he publicly proclaimed on national television that he doesn’t give a damn about asset declaration. Under the watchful eyes of President Jonathan as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, Boko Haram has killed more than 13,000 Nigerians and displaced over three million. And more than 200 girls were abducted from a secondary school in Chibok, North-East Nigeria, and have remained in captivity for about 6 months and still counting. Nigeria has borrowed about 10 billion dollars since Jonathan became president – from China and others – and he is the first Nigerian president to budget a billion naira for food alone in the presidential villa, whereas 75 per cent of our graduates are unemployed. Jonathan removed oil subsidy, hiking the price of PMS overnight by more than 200 per cent, which caused a national protest in January, 2012. His petroleum minister, Deziani Alison-Madueke, has been fingered in several probes and accused of diverting oil wealth for her personal use and for renting private jets. President Jonathan is yet to do anything about her. Before becoming the president, GEJ allegedly diverted $1 million from Bayelsa State’s poverty alleviation fund into entertainment, using it to pay the famous American singer, Beyonce, when she performed in his home state. President Jonathan publicly endorsed “stomach infrastructure”, a new parlance in Nigeria which is used to refer to sharing rice and kerosene to the impoverished masses in order to buy their votes during elections. Finally, under President Jonathan, a number of journalists have been summoned, harassed and even arrested by the Department of State Service. This is the summary of the three main candidates applying for the number one job in Nigeria. By their records, we shall sort them out and decide who gets the job. Share this: Share on Tumblr

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