In Praise of Buhari's Democratic Freedom
“Nigeria’s democracy is steadily improving with deeper understanding of the culture and tenets among the people, and strengthening of the institutions that guarantee free and fair elections... I emphasize free and fair elections at all times”, President Muhammadu Buhari, while receiving Governor General of Canada, Her Excellency Rt. Hon. Julie Payette, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
I am confident in this topic I took up to write on. It is my writ and I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise. Such person cannot withstand the challenge with sincerity. President Muhammadu Buhari has broken the record to be the only Nigerian President who has virtually provided the level ground for democracy to thrive in all ramifications, not partially life before, in Nigeria. Please, do not be in a haste to judge me. Take your time and read through. You may be convinced. Truth is hard to accept but it is the exalted abstraction that defies defeat; it prevails, however long it may take.
Buhari commands an unparallel leadership charisma. His democratic regime has deepened democracy in Nigeria. He has won the love of Nigerians and the people of the world as a rare gem in democratic institutionalization. Let me pinpoint areas where Buhari has been recognized as the first. For the first time in Nigeria, money politics is becoming obsolete. The borders are very tight against “importation” of hard currency by politicians. Thanks be to the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for job well done. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is tightly monitored against financial sharp practices. Buhari has warned against the use of any money from the government treasury for his re-election campaign. He reiterated his commitment to eliminate corruption in campaign financing in the country and directed cabinet ministers to take advantage of technology to reach out to voters on the need to return the APC led administration. This is the first time, an incumbent President will openly make such proclamation. Nigerians want change and Buhari has proven beyond doubts that he can deliver that change. He has taken drastic actions to ensure that Nigerians are no longer swayed by money politics. Though it will take sometimes to fully materialize, the 2019 electioneering experience is just the starting stage.
The Sunday edition of Punch Newspaper on April 19, 2015 reported former President Jonathan as demanding for the audit and refund of election campaign funds of N2tn. The same report exposed the PDP party officials as to have spent the money on the acquisition of car and properties. This can be described as a high level of financial recklessness. It was quite unbecoming of a party that lorded itself over a sovereignty and expected to remain on such power for 60 years. It is dangerous for such party to come back to power.
For the first time, many political parties participating freely in Nigerian general elections despite the fact that the “free money” in the name of grants to parties during the PDP era is over. What does this signify? It means that despite the fact that INEC does not give free money again, the democratic environment is much more conducive. If it were in the past, PDP would have bought over almost all the parties in the name of solidarity. Now, political parties do not even have the free money to lobby for alliance. Politicians who often used the electioneering period to show off their “illegally acquired” wealth and bamboozle the electorate have suddenly gone underground because Buhari’s democratic freedom is curbing waste, gerrymandering and evasive politicking.
For the first time, apart from too many registered political parties, many presidential candidates may be contesting. According to a Daily Trust report, there are 47 candidates for the February 16, 2019 Presidential polls. I have not heard of an election in Nigeria which featured such number of contestants. If it were in the past, the incumbent would have frustrated or bought over some contestants. Some of them may have been charged to court for “framed cases”. Some may have been hospitalized or even sent to the grave. Some may have been silenced in one way or the other. Only Buhari can allow this democratic freedom in Nigeria. Only Buhari will constantly call on Nigerians to vote the best amongst the Presidential candidates, knowing fully that they are his opponents. His democratic freedom is for all Nigerians to thrive and earn legitimate pursuits.
Buhari is the only President of Nigeria whose democracy, Nigeria missed for very long time before 2015. The Presidential candidates and their parties are Muhammadu Buhari (APC),Aiku Abubakar (PDP), Adesina Fagbenro-Bryon (Kowa Party), Reverend Chris Okotie (Fresh Party), Gbenga Olowepo Hashim (African Peoples Trust), Hashim Santuraki (Mega Party), Chief Sam Eke (Green Party), Olapade Agori (National Action Council), Edozie Madu (Independent Democrats), Elder Williams Olusola Awosola (Democratic Peoples Congress), Usman Ibrahim Alhaji (National Rescue Movement), Oby Ezekwesili (Allied Congress Party), Ahmad Sakil (Unity Party), Prince Ike Keke (New Nigeria Peoples Party), Isaac Babatunde Ositelu (Accord), Maj. Gen. John W. T. Gbor (All Progressice Grand Alliance), Olusegun Mimiko (Zenith Labour Party), Nicholas Felix (Peoples Coalition Party), Breakforth Onwubuya (Freedom and Justice Party) and Apostle Sunday Chukwu Eguzolugu (Justice Must Prevail Party).
Others are Donald Duke of Jerry Gana (Social Democratic Party), Hamza Al-Mustapha (Peoples Party), Obadiah Mailafia (African Democratic Congress), Rabia Cengiz (National Action Council), Isa Bashiru (advanced Nigerian Democratic Party), Omoyele Sowore (afican Action Congress), Chike Ukaegbu (Advance Allied Party), Yusuf Sani Yabagi (Action Democratic Party), Pastor Habu Aminchi (Peoples Democratic Movement), Chuks Nwachukwu (All Grassroots Alliance), Hussein Ababakar (Mass Action Joint Alliance), Eniola Ojajuni (alliance for Democracy), Tope Kolade Fasua (Abundant Nigeria Revival Party), Moses Shipi (All Blending Party), Kingsley Moghalu (Young Progressive Party), Eunice Atujide (National Interest Party), Ahmad Buhari (Sustainable National Party), Alistair Soyode (Yes Electorates Solidarity), Yunusa Salisu Tanko (national Conscience Party), Rex Adebanjo (Youth Party), Habib Muhammad Gajo (Young Democratic Party), Davidson Isibor Akhimien (Grassroots Development Party), Peter Nwangwu (We The People of Nigeria Party), Yahaya Ndu (Afican Renaissance Party), Babatunde Ademola (Nigeria Community Movement Party) Ishiola Balogun (United Democratic Party) and David Esosa Ize-Iyamu (better Nigeria Progressive Party) amongst others.
With some of the parties sounding like business and worship outfits, I want to believe that most of them are jokers only allowed because of the boundless democratic freedom of the Buhari’s regime. Some of the names are so funny that they reveal the identities of their owners. Some of them are surely that of individual families, virtually hoping on any alliance for relevance. One wonders why some of the contestants are in the courts quarrelling over a position that will yield them nothing other than enlarging their political profiles as former presidential candidate of so and so party in the so and so year. For the first time, the Nigerian media is freer from corruption. Recall the corruption allegations that were levelled against some media organizations before and during the 2015 elections. Some of them, especially those owned by politicians of political parties, were beneficiaries from the looted funds for military weaponry to fight insurgency in the northeast.
For the first time the national assembly has held the executive arm of government hostage.
In some states, many senators and reps lost woefully. Those who won under Buhari’s shadows but failed to represent their people very well could not even find any mercy, not from Buhari himself. In some states like Niger, the incumbent three senators lost their re-election bids under the APC. For Buhari’s democracy to cover you, you must perform. I am sure that if the ministerial positions were to be elective, imagine what would have happened. For the first time, Nigerian government is busy recovery stolen national assets instead of selling them to government officials and their cronies. It is frightening the way the candidate of the opposition party, PDP, is threatening to sell off the remaining national assets when elected as president.
The controversy over the leadership of the national assembly can only be tolerated by Buhari’s democracy. In the past, who dared the executive arm from the legislative arm and went free. Nigeria’s history is full of cases of forceful change of leaderships of the assembly with impunity and grand style. In the past, the national assembly was marred by ceaseless reports of “Ghana-must-go bribery” for every national duty it discharged. However, the difference now is in inducement or succinctly put it corruption which Buhari’s democracy does not accept and allow. Buhari is not ready to bribe anyone to do the job for which government pays. He is also not ready to bribe anyone to carry out anti-democratic actions such as forceful impeachment or removal of public officers through inducement. At the state assembly level, the case is same.
For the first time, there is revolution in the national and state assemblies. Every politician who sought election and succeeded in getting re-election ticket under any part especially the APC must have gotten it on merit. All those who rode to victory on Buhari’s shoulders but did not deliver were laid off at the party primaries or they defected to other parties. For the first time in Nigeria, there is stability in the Ministries. All the minsters have been given ample opportunities to prove their worth in the ministries. In the past, ministers were changed or redeployed like the way women do for fashion. Despite pressures from the opposition and even APC party stalwarts, Buhari’s democracy is for freedom and opportunities for the delivery of democratic dividends. And most of the ministers have delivered.
That is Buhari’s democracy. He once proclaimed at a forum: “Those who play politics without shame thought that I will plot secretly to remove the National Assembly leadership. I have told you several times that these politicians don’t know who I am. I am a man who is committed to the rules as I did in the military when I was in the military and as I’ve been doing in politics since 2003 when I joined politics. If the National Assembly leadership is changed tomorrow, it has nothing to do with me because I’m not a member and I’m not a rich man, so I can’t finance it. Nigeria’s treasury is not my treasury, neither will I allow anyone to steal from it. However, I will do everything democratic and constitutional to ensure that Nigerians get better deal in 2019, I will go length and breadth of Nigeria to ensure that credible lawmakers are elected. God will help us....”
First the time, the appointments by previous government would be allowed to stay throughout the first tenure of a successive government. Most of the appointments made by the PDP have remained unchanged throughout the Buhari government. That has never happened in the history of Nigeria. For the first time, we have a president whose wife is not too influential on him or even the president of Nigeria in disguise. Have we forgotten the powers of Stella Obasanjo, Turai Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and Dame Patience Goodluck Ebele “Azikiwe” Jonathan? I do not need to go into details. Any person who was in Nigeria or had interest in Nigerian politics from 1999 to 2015 should know the weakness in governance when a leader cannot differentiate between governance and private business/family life. Yes, Buhari’s democracy cuts a sharp edge between the two lives, however by not squeezing the woman folks but limiting their interference in governance on the accounts of marital relationship.
As Wole Soyinka would say, in the past looters were rejected in the society, but today they are celebrated; they get chieftaincy titles and national honours. More worrisome, they come out without shame to seek leadership positions. A bad attitude, it is said, is like a flat tire of a vehicle, if it is not changed, there is no forward movement. For the first time, government activities are seriously going on during electioneering period. Every sector is very active. And for the first time, we are having a President who believes in “first-for-Nigerians”.
Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja.
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