by Femi Aribisala
Between 1983 and 1985, Peter Onu of Nigeria was Acting Secretary-General of the OAU. At the 1985 Summit in Addis Ababa, statesmen like Julius Nyerere, President of Tanzania, lobbied for his election as substantive Secretary-General. However, there was a major stumbling block to Peter Onu’s candidature: his Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, was campaigning against him.
Buhari claimed: “This generation of Nigerians and indeed future generations have no other country than Nigeria.” But when the crunch came, his allegiance to Nigeria disappeared. In the election of the OAU Secretary-General in 1985, Buhari voted against Nigeria and for Niger instead. He secured the election of Ide Oumarou, a Fulani man from Niger; as opposed to an Igbo man from Nigeria. By so doing, Buhari became the first and only Head of State in the history of modern international relations to vote against his country in favour of his tribe.
Years later, General Buhari marched all the way from Daura to Ibadan to demand of Oyo State Governor, Lam Adeshina: “Why are your people killing my people?” Again, he was not referring to Nigerians as his people. Instead, he was an advocate for the rights of murderous Fulani herdsmen who killed Yoruba farmers that objected to their cattle grazing on their land and damaging their crops. This same Buhari who voted against Nigeria in 1985, and said in 2003: “Muslims should only vote those who will promote Islam,” is now shopping for votes nationwide. He should be rejected outright.
Ignorance running riot
If APC had wanted to be taken seriously, it would have come up with a better presidential material than Buhari. There is something anomalous about a party whose mantra is change, recycling a 73 year old man as its candidate for the president of modern Nigeria. Buhari has little or no understanding of public policy. That is why APC will always come up with some excuse or the other not to have him participate in a debate with Jonathan. Buhari fought corruption by imposing ridiculous 300-year sentences on offenders. He fought exam malpractices by imposing 24-year prison sentences on school children.
He dealt with indiscipline by flogging people to queue at bus-stops. He dealt with food shortages by sending soldiers to break into private warehouses and shops. He fought trade imbalances by taking Nigeria back to the stone age of trade by barter (counter-trade). He sought to extradite a Nigerian from Britain by drugging and crating him.
There is so much about Buhari ending the Boko Haram insurgency as he did the Maitatsine insurgency in the 1980s. But the General needs to be advised that Boko Haram is not Maitatsine. Maitatsine was in two towns: Boko Haram is in three states with spillover effects into others. Maitatsine fought with bows and arrows: Boko Haram fights with sophisticated weapons. Maitatsine was a local insurgency, Boko Haram is an international phenomenon.
Anti-corruption hypocrisy: Buhari does not know what corruption means and how to fight it. He became Nigeria’s Head of State through the corruption of a coup d’état and he then tried to fight corruption with corruption. Imposing retroactive decrees and killing Nigerians under them is corruption. Putting an Igbo vice-president in Kirikiri, while placing the Fulani president under palatial house arrest, is corruption.
Detaining people like Michael Ajasin in jail, even after they were discharged and acquitted by kangaroo courts, is corruption. Jailing journalists for telling the truth is corruption. Putting pressure on a judge in order to jail Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is corruption. Shepherding 53 suitcases of contraband unchecked through Customs during a currency change exercise is corruption. Swearing an affidavit that your school-leaving certificate is with the military when it is not, is corruption.
Transforming Nigeria: Buhari’s shameful past is dwarfed by the achievements of Goodluck Jonathan. Under Jonathan, Nigeria has emerged as by far the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of $503 billion; nearly double the previous estimates. South Africa now comes a distant second with $350 billion. With the unbundling of PHCN after 52 years of gridlock, and with now the realizable target of 20,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020, Nigeria’s GDP will soon double that of South Africa.
CNN Money projects that the fastest growing economy in the world in 2015 will be China (7.3% growth rate); followed by Qatar (7.1%); and then followed by Nigeria (7%). This belies all the misinformation about the Nigerian economy dished out by the APC and attests to the astute management of the economy by the Jonathan administration. The seemingly ambitious Vision 20 2020, proclaimed under the Abacha regime to make Nigeria one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020 is now well in sight. Today, Nigeria is already the 23rd largest economy in the world. Kudos to Jonathan, we have overtaken such European countries as Austria and Belgium.
In 2010, when Jonathan became acting president, life expectancy in Nigeria was 47 years. Today, it is 54 years; an improvement of seven years. Adroit application of SURE-P funds has reduced the maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria by 26%. Under Jonathan, Nigeria has become Guinea Worm-free; a disease previously affecting 800,000 Nigerians yearly. In the last six months, there has been no new case of polio in Nigeria. If this goes on for another two and a half years, Nigeria will be declared polio-free.
Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, hailed Nigeria’s fight against polio as one of the great world achievements of 2014. He said: “The infrastructure Nigeria has built to fight polio actually made it easier for them to swiftly contain Ebola. The fact that Nigeria is now Ebola-free is a great example of how doing the work to fight things like fighting polio also leaves countries better prepared to deal with outbreaks of other diseases.”
Investors’ haven: In the last three years, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has ranked Nigeria as the number one country for foreign investments in Africa. We also receive more home-remittances than any other African country; a vote of confidence in our economy by Nigerians living abroad. They remitted $23 billion in 2013, a figure far more than the $18 billion received by Egypt; the country with the second highest home remittance in Africa. It is a testament to Goodluck Jonathan’s adroit management of the Nigerian economy that the richest African is now a Nigerian.
In 2010, when Jonathan came to power, Aliko Dangote was the 463rd richest man in the world, with a total fortune of $2.1 billion. Today, he is the 23rd richest man in the world, with a total fortune of $25 billion. Dangote’s billions are “made in Nigeria.” Indeed, under Jonathan, Nigeria now has the fourth highest rate of returns on investments in the world, according to UNCTAD.
Crisis of unemployment
The big challenge has to do with jobs. Every year, another 1.8 million people are offloaded into the job market. However, while the APC says Buhari will create 720,000 jobs a year if elected, Jonathan created 1.6 million jobs in 2013. He has established such innovative programmes as Nagropreneurs and YOUWIN that support young farmers and entrepreneurs with grants, training and mentorship. He has also instituted internship schemes to enhance the capacity of university graduates to secure gainful employment.
The unemployment problem is compounded by the more than doubling of the education budget under Jonathan. Every Nigerian child now has the opportunity to go to school. Indeed, there has been a 10 million increase in school enrolment in Nigeria under this government. There has also been a 75% increase in O’ Level credit pass in Maths and English. Jonathan established 125 Almajiri schools in 13 northern states. He also established 14 new federal universities. There is now a federal university in every state. Indeed, the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls derives from the disenchantment of the Boko Haram that many Northern girls are now going to school.
Dealing with corruption: According to Transparency International, Nigeria has not become more corrupt under Goodluck Jonathan. Out of 178 countries ranked in 2010, Nigeria was the 134th most corrupt country. In 2014, Nigeria was ranked 136th. Unlike Buhari, Jonathan understands that corruption has to be attacked institutionally, from the roots. Therefore, he proposed the abrogation of the petroleum subsidy; one of the biggest avenues for corruption in government. However, Nigerians refused. Jonathan has sanitized the corruption in fertilizer distribution. The Minister of Agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina, lamented that between 1980 and 2010, Nigeria lost 776 billion naira to corrupt fertilizer racketeering.
That effectively came to an end under Jonathan. Through the innovative e-wallet system, farmers are given cell-phones through which they now have direct and easy access to government-provided fertilizer, chemicals and seedlings. Jonathan has also sanitised the banking system by removing dinosaur managing directors, recovering indigent loans and using AMCON to mop up bad loans. By instituting e-payment systems, he sanitized the civil service by removing 50,000 ghost-workers in one fell swoop. He has equally got rid of ghost voters from the electoral register; over 1 million ghost voters were removed from the Zamfara INEC register alone. Under Jonathan, we have had free and fair elections one after the other; in Edo, Anambra, Ondo, Ekiti and Osun.
Agriculture has been transformed under this administration. Thanks to Jonathan, agriculture now accounts for 22% of Nigeria’s GDP, more than oil and gas which only account for 15.9%. Under Jonathan, Nigeria has recorded a more than 50% reduction in food imports. Prior to his presidency, we had a food import bill of 1.4 trillion naira. But now, it is less than N700 billion. With the innovation of dry season rice-farming, Nigeria has reached 60% self-sufficiency in rice production. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Nigeria is now the largest producer of cassava in the world. The Jonathan government built six strategically-located perishable cargo airports in Ilorin, Jalingo, Jos, Lagos, Makurdi andYola; in close proximity to Nigeria’s food baskets.
It is remarkable that Northern farmers were able to donate five million tubers of yam in order to raise 5 billion naira for Buhari’s presidential election campaign. If Jonathan’s transformation agenda in agriculture was not working as planned, they would not have been able to do this.
Femi Aribisala is a scholar and international affairs expert. He is currently an iconoclastic church pastor in Lagos. He is also a syndicated essayist for a handful publications in Nigeria.