Age, Change and a Presidential Ambition

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its supporters have latched in on one factor after another to discredit the presidential ambition of General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC). These range from his military dictatorship background to his uncompromising stance of throwing suspects of corruption into jail once elected, religious inclination and his belonging to the old school or order of politics. The latest and seemingly more potent point exploited by the rival PDP is the age of the former Head of State. Buhari, the 72 year-old statesman is considered too old for the office of the president. The President Jonathan campaign organization uses the age factor to condemn Buhari, describing him as spent and having no current and competitive leadership skills to deal with the complex issues of the 21st 333 century.

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While the PDP and other Nigerians who dismiss Buhari as being too old to do anything meaningful as president keep demanding the re-election of Jonathan, the younger of the two rivals as president on February 14; a significant section and growing number of Nigerians seek change through any other alternative, in spite of age or generation. Their desperation for change cannot be in doubt, informed principally by the fear of a diminishing quality of life, declining economy, and festering insecurity. The quest for change is largely informed by the international embarrassments and helplessness they face everyday for seeming irresponsibility exemplified by political jamborees and nonchalant attitude of public office holders in the face of insurgency and wanton losses of territories to Islamist rebels in the North. The change people seek is significantly warranted by the perennial and endless attacks by criminal gangs, including terrorists, on states, cities, towns, villages; destruction of lives and property that accompany these acts; hoisting of alien flag and flagrant abuse of the territorial integrity and sovereign existence of Nigeria; abduction of hundreds of children, women and men in a country that has both a Federal Government and supposed one of the best armies on the continent; and the multiplication of internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the sovereign land.

The perpetual failures or inability of the state to contain these calamities for the past four years are the reasons for desiring change. It has even been contended that the failure of government alone was enough to warrant a public apology from the president and resignation long ago, as characteristic of civilized societies. But day in, day out, the state is falling into the hands of enemies, while children, women and men are being killed or kidnapped as if the country has been without a sovereign government. While millions of supporters still root for Jonathan on the basis of ethnic or sectional affiliation, or religion, or his acclaimed simplicity, humility and on the basis of his achievements in the rail and agricultural sectors; thunderous echoes of change downplay the value of the exploits in view of the unbearable and unacceptable level of insecurity. To put it mildly, those feats in the railway and agriculture are meaningless in the face of high mortality and fear, which make nonsense of the “transformation”.

Human life is sin qua non in national development; anything short of it- even if the naira and dollar are of equal value- is vain and nonsense. This is why tens of millions have taken to the social and mainstream media to demand change. This is what President Jonathan and his hundreds of special advisers have to understand: no one is condemning them for the sanity in the fertilizer distribution and rebuilding of the rail system. But everyone is lampooning them for not doing enough in containing insecurity and for making human and national security secondary in the human or national development index. No amount of explanation or display of scorecard in areas tangential to human survival or anger on the part of the president about people not showing appreciation for the home-made vehicles initiative, can be comprehended or accepted by any rational Nigerian. Only those alive and living good will drive in those trains and vehicles. Fertilizer is meant for greater food production for a safe and living populace. Those in fear and those killed in insurgents’ attack will not be alive to partake of this “transformation agenda”.

This is the simple logic in the demand for change. The age thesis is whack and ineffective. When change is desirable, people go for the only alternative. Buhari’s re-emergence as presidential flag-bearer when the air of change is compressing into an impending gale is reminiscent of 1983, when the General first came on board. Everyone was simply tired of the ineptitude and corruption of the Shagari administration. Like Jonathan, Shagari, as an individual, was a very good man. But his peers and political associates were a bad influence. Nigeria was rotting away by corruption (brazen stealing was the order of the day and public offices were daily set on fire by officers seeking to destroy theft evidence), abandoned projects, and inability to contain the Cameroonian, Beninese, and Chadian incursions into sovereign territories of Nigeria, Islamist violence, among other decays. When the army struck in 1983 and Buhari was installed as Head of State, excitement and celebration filled the air. The simplicity, humility and warm personality of the president, as well as the modest exploits of Shagari were not enough to stop the Nigerian populace from seeking a change, although a military alternative, which came.

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It is a pity that the achievements of this administration have been overshadowed by insurgency and terrorist acts as well as corruption; but in governance, the end justifies continued legitimacy. Success in exams is the overall grade at the end of it and not the amount of candles burned in the course of preparation. No amount of advertorial on the part of the student about input will describe the success. In the case of Nigeria, what the world sees are endless bombings, rapid spread of terrorism across the North, ineffective state of emergency, desertions and flights of soldiers prosecuting the war against Boko Haram, perennial loss of territories, mounting number of IDPs, recourse to self-help and use of local hunters and civilian JTF as the alternative forces, endless abductions since April when hundreds of schoolgirls disappeared into the forests and have not yet been rescued, and yet regular dances of politicians on the graves of hundreds of innocent children and women killed by the insurgents. Age will therefore be the last thing Nigerians will think on this brink of eclipse as a nation. If age were to be critical to governance, then wisdom and experience have no business in it.

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