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Interrogating Buhari’s term limit and credible elections rhetoric

By Charles Onunaiju. More than 85% of people who braced the lines of existential social and political hazards to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in…

By Charles Onunaiju.

More than 85% of people who braced the lines of existential social and political hazards to vote for President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015, which included a woman who ran out of a labor room after delivery, to vote before embracing her bundle of joy were mostly rural peasants, farmers, urban residents comprising artisans, unemployed youths, professionals and even radical intelligentsia, who have no interest in seeking political offices, political appointments and the likes for which President Buhari’s current obsession with “credible elections” will have a direct impact. They toiled, queued on long voting lines, and overcame intimidations and inducements by the ruling party to vote for President Buhari in the hope he would bring immediate relief to their existential challenges of poverty, hunger, security, joblessness, horrendous and mindless looting of public resources by public office holders.

Nearly eight years in office and on the exit door, President Buhari has no claim of accomplishment in the areas for which millions of Nigerian working people toiled to have him elected.

In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, this September in New York, his speech writers who like to magnify his phantom accomplishments could not dare the world in the face and tell such lies as having tamed corruption, bought insecurity to the heels or given a majority of Nigerians decent life. They rather went on a wild goose chase “for a nuclear-free world and a universal arms trade treaty”, when opaque arms procurements are one of the key lubricants of Nigeria’s debilitating and excruciating corruption.

To further indulge himself and dodge the main issues for which the Nigerian working people toiled, confronted dangers and rejected inducements to have him elected, he went on a clout-chasing voyage. “We believe in the sanctity of constitutional term limits and we have steadfastly adhered to it in Nigeria… have set the goal that one of the enduring legacies, I would like to leave, is to entrench a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections through which Nigerians elect leaders of their choice.”

Even before him, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who desperately wanted a tenure extension in flagrant breach of constitutional term limits, suffered a crushing humiliation. Despite his recent reincarnation and grandstanding, former President Obasanjo will forever lick the injury of his daring political malfeasance.

As for a credible election that is relatively transparent, free and fair, Nigerians have secured it by indefatigable political grit and took Buhari through it, to make him president. If the process is in danger now of being reversed, it is only on account of President Buhari’s inner circle, who recently during their party primary elections both for the selection of candidates for the general election and party officials, demonstrated a horrendous allergy for a free, fair transparent and credible electoral process.

The current chairman of the party, Mr Abdullahi Adamu clinched the top job in the party to the pleasure of President Buhari’s inner circle but the disgust of the overwhelming majority of the party members. The clique around the president was so frightened of the outcome of the intra-party transparent electoral process that they had to force all candidates for the party’s top job to step down, paving the way for the anointing of the current party chairman.

The same method was desperately canvassed for the selection of the presidential candidate of the party, with President Buhari talking down the party members on his prerogative to choose his successor. With the party rank and file determined to have a transparent and credible primary election, the political tide turned furiously against President Buhari’s inner circle in their bid to anoint the party’s flagbearer.

President Buhari’s service to democracy in Nigeria would have been to expand its scope by improving people’s wellbeing so that people might stand more solid against the vulnerabilities of credible elections, which have now become completely roiled by the monster of vote selling and buying and as far as people are desperately poor and living in misery, no law against vote selling will make any mark. If voting is beyond thumbprinting on a ballot paper and is an important choice and decision people make of their lives and future, how rationale are those choices and decisions in the face of extreme material deprivation and agonizing poverty? The quality of election decisions can only be incrementally improved, at the rate people experience improvements in the quality of their lives and sustainably pulled out of poverty.

Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva (2003 – 2011), now a frontline candidate for October 3 Presidential elections in which polls have forecasted his outright win in the first round against the incumbent, is relying on the electoral army of over 30 million Brazilians he pulled out of extreme poverty in his earlier presidency.

Instead of wasting time on nuclear diplomacy that would not impress those who wield it, former President Lula da Silva has told the UN conference “that hunger is the cruellest of all weapons of mass destruction. Hunger continues to kill 24, 000 people a day and 11 children every minute. The challenges posed by hunger are huge and we need to be bold to face the challenge with a sense of priority.”

When you add hunger and grinding poverty to the toxic mix of insecurity that is the present condition in Nigeria, President Buhari’s obsession with an enduring legacy of entrenching a process of free, fair, transparent and credible elections becomes a cruel joke. Under President Buhari’s watch, corruption is at its most vicious form. Previously, public officers pilfer remorselessly and walk away with their loot alone. Now, occupants of high public officers do not just loot but even walk away with public utilities through spurious privatizations and concessions, a thinly veiled act of public asset stripping.

Even President Buhari’s mantra of infrastructure rehabilitation and construction is bereft of the meaning of infrastructure as an enabler and driver of economic and social activities. Infrastructure as decisive as it is, an economic category is not autonomous and cannot exist by itself and for itself; otherwise, it degenerates into dead capital. Without other roles and activities which it compliments a virtuous socio-economic cycle through deliberate policy choices, infrastructure could become a burden. Building roads that do not lead from the farm or factory to the market is like constructing bush paths for the pleasure of the monkeys.

Barely seven months to his exit, President Buhari should restrain the hands of his men from our common till and reflect on how the roads he has built are now leading to kidnappers’ dens.

Mr Onunaiju writes from Abuja