• Friday, July 12, 2024
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Jonathan vs Buhari: Political rivals draw battle lines for bruising campaign

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As the political parties commenced their electioneering campaign ahead of the general election scheduled for February this year, the major question on the lips of many people is the ability of the candidates to deliver on their promises if elected.

Beyond the calls for issue-based campaign, candidates of the two major political parties (People’s Democratic Party and All Progressives Party) are expected to convincingly sell to their compatriots the programmes they hope to carry out for the good of the people and development of the country.

But so far, the campaigns have been characterised by tough talk, self-adulation, name-calling and outright de-marketing.

John Momoh, chairman, Channels Television, believes that what should be at stake are issues such as whether the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, seeking re-election on PDP platform, should be retained or any other of the contenders.

According to Momoh, “what should be the basis for the electorate to either retain Jonathan or vote for another person? What is the person going to do differently; how do we get away from oil-based economy to explore agriculture that could make us offer quality life to the people of Nigeria?”

At the flag off of the APC campaign, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Muhammadu Buhari, its presidential candidate, emphasised twin issues of corruption and insecurity which are critical in the country at the moment.

He said that if voted into office, “we will work hard and fast for you. Our children will go to school and they will return safe. Corruption will be a thing of the past and we will ensure that wealth goes around our citizens in an equitable manner. Government will conduct itself in a disciplined and responsible manner; we will identify problems and fix them.

“Let me make you this promise today: We will protect your children. We will protect your wealth. We will make this country work again.”

The APC has also made the funding of the military a campaign issue, accusing the PDP under Jonathan of earmarking billions of naira in the budget over the years for defence without any tangible results. It has maintained that despite these huge budgetary allocations, the Nigerian military remains poorly equipped and lacks in motivation to confront the dreaded Islamic sect.

Buhari  also accused the Jonathan-led administration of playing politics with the national security, saying this was the major reason the insurgency assumed a dangerous dimension in the last four years. APC claimed insurgency will not only be exterminated but Nigerians will experience security in all ramifications as envisaged by the drafters of the Nation’s constitution in section 14.

By the same token, President Jonathan, who addressed a huge crowd in Lagos, last Thursday, flaunted his scorecard. He insisted that contrary to opposition’s claim that his administration was paying lip service to the fight against insurgency and corruption, it has, rather, delivered good on both fronts, among other sterling performances.

Pundits say that although Jonathan has done well in some sectors, there are still areas of serious challenge that need urgent attention.  According to them, on the economic front, Goodluck Jonathan has made some strides that even the opposition cannot afford to dismiss with a wave of the hand. In agriculture and agro-allied industries, the PDP candidate has developed linkages and value chains similar to what the country had before the oil craze.

Through the Backward Integration Policy (BIP), investors such as Dangote Sugar Refinery, Flour Mills’ Golden Sugar Company, Confluence Sugar, Crystal Sugar Mills, McNichols, among others, are pumping over $2.6 billion in cane development and sugar production in states such as Adamawa, Kogi, Niger and Jigawa, among others. Unlike before, farmers are now partners with sugar makers, as the latter provides the former with financial assistance and technical know-how.

In an exclusive interview with BD SUNDAY, Graham Clark, group managing director, Dangote Sugar Refinery (DSR):

‘’We assist farmers with technical input, in the procurement of fertilizer, in the maintenance of equipment and most importantly, guarantee them ready market.”

Secondly, the corruption which dotted fertilizer distribution has vanished.

For the first time, Akinwumi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, has driven one of Nigeria’s most comprehensive agric programmes, called the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, which focuses on all sub-sectors in agriculture.

Investors have already pumped $7 billion in the cement industry, following the government’s full implementation of BIP in the sector. Local sourcing of raw materials in the manufacturing sector has already reached 59 percent, while capacity utilisation has hit 53 percent.

Due to the full implementation of the automotive policy by the Federal Government, 21 companies has already signed commitments with technical partners to set up assembly operations with product lines for cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs), pick-up trucks, mini-buses, buses  as well as trucks.

But one key weak point of Jonathan’s administration is its inability to fully initiate policies to develop about 74 manufacturing sub-sectors, which are desperately begging for attention. For instance, sub-standard diary, electronics, basic metal, iron and steel, ceramics and batteries, among other products, are still heavily imported, thus crippling the few local manufacturers. This government has also been unable to check sub-standard products from China and other Asian countries, thus making the country a dumping ground.

Another key problem with Jonathan’s administration is lack of protection for the private sector. Multiple taxes and duplication of offices have been a thorn in investors’ flesh. Agencies such as NAFDAC, Customs, SON and CPC, among others, are more of revenue collectors than ‘standard bearers’ or trade facilitators. Up till today, assessment made by SON is never accepted by NAFDAC or CPC.

Moreover, credit rates for the private sector has hovered between 20 and 35 percent, thereby frustrating many SMEs and private sector operators who really need finance to grow their businesses, according to Badaru Mohammed Abubakar, national president of Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture.

Moreover, Jonathan’s administration has been unable to fix electricity, despite handover to the private sector, thus giving him away as a man who knows little about strategic planning and management. Businesses are reeling under high cost of production, resulting from high energy cost.

In the oil industry, stakeholders say inability of this present government to allow international oil companies (IOCs) to explore the deepwater has prevented the country from getting sufficient gas to power the country.

Kandeh Yumkela, the under secretary general and special representative of the secretary general of the United Nations, told a bewildered Nigerian audience last September than 80 million (out of 170 million) of them do not have access to electricity.

Moreover, the level of unbridled corruption that has attended petroleum subsidy since Goodluck Jonathan became president is legendary. Moreover, economists and politicians have blamed Jonathan for his inability to save oil proceeds for the rainy day. While the Excess Crude Account (ECA) has been grossly mismanaged, following counter-allegations over the way money from the coffers has been distributed, the depreciating foreign reserves have shown that it cannot provide a buffer to the economy that has depended on crude whose international price is about $50 as against the budget benchmark earlier pegged at $65.

On corruption index, analysts and political commentators score Jonathan zero. Jonathan had defended himself during the flag-off of his campaign in Lagos that he does not have  to hurl people into prison and crates to show that he is zealous of fighting corruption, obviously an allusion to Muhamadu Buhari-Umaru Dikko saga as well as Buhari’s assertion that corrupt people would be sent to jail when he comes into power.

But evidence has shown that Jonathan has not been man enough in fighting corruption, which has been a cankerworm. BD SUNDAY gathered that the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua confiscated an oil bloc given to a prominent Northern politician by the Abacha government. The politician, who is a popular philanthropist, had lamented that the move was engineered by Olusegun Obasanjo, his estranged friend. But after the death of Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan allegedly returned the said oil bloc to the northern politician and even gave him a political position in Aso Rock.

Apart from the unsubstantiated $20 billion missing from the NNPC coffers, the president has been unable to direct the probe of the NNPC accounts. Also, the pardon of alleged corrupt politicians such as Mohammed Abacha, who allegedly stole N446.3 billion, and Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, his former boss, have been described as shameful. Alamieyeseigha was detained in London on charges of money laundering in September 2005. At the time of his arrest, Metropolitan police found about £1m in cash in his London home. Later, they found a total of £1.8m ($3.2m) in cash and bank accounts. He has been found to own real estate in London allegedly worth £10 million. Following Jonathan’s pardon, DSP Alamieyeseigha is one of the members of the President’s kitchen cabinet. Jonathan’s inability to sack Abba Moro, minister of internal affairs and David Parradang, comptroller-general of Immigration, over the death of over 16 applicants who lost their lives, having paid N1000 for the purchase of forms, has been seen as an indictment. Though Jonathan is not a member of the Nigeria judiciary, Nigerians had expected John Yusuf, who allegedly connived with others to defraud the office and pensioners of N27.2billion, to get a tougher prison terms rather than N750,000. This is also the case with John Yakubu. By implication, the administration did not initiate judiciary reforms that would see a ‘big man’ get the same sentence as a poor man who commits a similar offence.

The shabby handling of Boko Haram by Jonathan is also one reason analyst say he may lose so many votes in the north. Also, poor information management after the kidnap of more than 200 Chibok girls was a sore on Jonathan’s leg. In fact, the fact that nobody hears about them could make Jonathan fight, perhaps, the toughest battle of his life.

But Oliseh Metuh, the national publicity of the PDP, recently accused the APC of financing the insurgents, an allegation the opposition has continued to deny. And despite the denial, there is seemingly mixed feelings across the land. If the PDP message permeates, it could dig in the APC. For both parties therefore, insecurity and the rise of insurgency present a campaign tool.

APC has been seen to represent change. Pundits have said that the party tapped Buhari because its chieftains see him as one who has the capacity to tackle Nigeria’s two worst problems- insecurity and corruption.

But analysts say the party has not been able to tell Nigerians how it intends to diversify the economy and tackle Naira slide.

Saliu Rabiu, an economist, said, “Though my heart is on the party, but I am yet to be convinced on how it can reduce the 24 percent unemployment rate as well as what  it intends to do in the midst of falling excess reserves and oil prices.”

“In fact, I know Buhari tackled corruption through his War Against Indiscipline (WAI) and can fight Boko Haram with his military background, but what can he do to industrialise Nigeria? Does he know how many moribund industries we have? Does he know how to tackle inflation which will likely confront the country at the double-digit rates this year,” Rabiu said.

Zebulon Agomuo, Joshua Bassey and ODINAKA ANUDU