by Adeyemi Olufemi
In more experienced democracies, the choice of who deserves to be elected the president of Nigeria between President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of state General Mohammadu Buhari, in the 2015 presidential election would be a forgone issue due to the fact that both contestants have been in office as president and Nigerians have experienced the governance styles of both, with first-hand observation of their strengths and weaknesses, and importantly what both achieved while in office.
It is important to examine the public records for the facts of what both did while in office because as Professor Wole Soyinka said about the public records of General Buhari while he was in office, “History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future”.
Hence to commence an examination of the record of both leaders we must start with the most critical, security. Much has been said about the record of performance by President Jonathan on security, while he declared a state of emergency and changed several Service Chiefs, all these efforts have been adjudged more from the fact that the well-resourced Boko Haram, like ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as their Salafist comrades in Chechnya, Russia are still holding ground against the Nigerian Army. What is however without doubt is that with respect to the Jonathan government, the threat to the security of Nigerians are from external forces, Boko Haram, Kidnappers, armed robbers, etc. The latter two have been a problem for every government depending on scale, while religious zealots have periodically caused mayhem in the North generally and the North East in particular, in other regimes although with greater brutality.
In comparison however, whereas the threat to the security of Nigerians came from forces external to government in the Jonathan regime, with the Buhari regime, government itself was the source of the greatest threat to the security of Nigerians. Under Buhari’s regime anyone could be detained at his whim using draconian decrees, the list of those incarcerated under Buhari is lengthy, Sam Mbakwe, Fela Kuti, Femi Aribisala, Bisi Onabanjo, Bola Ige, Audu Ogbeh, and so many others. Individual security was so bad under Buhari that when Pa Adekunle Ajasin was acquitted twice by courts that found him not guilty of Buhari’s accusation of corruption, the Buhari regime re-arrested and detained him under Decree no. 2. While Buhari detained Tai Solarin and denied him medication even while Tai Solarin was having persistent asthmatic attacks. Even worse, Buhari ordered the judicial murder of Bernard Ogedengbe , who was sentenced to death under Decree 20 for a crime he committed before Decree 20 was enacted whereas it carried a lighter sentence when he committed the crime. Buhari refused to accept any pleas to spare Ogedengbe’s life, hence under General Buhari the state denied the individual his life at the whim of ‘President’ Buhari. To summarize the state of security under Buhari’s regime, Professor Wole Soyinka expressed shock that any Nigerian will ever contemplate voting for Buhari as a president thus, “Buhari enslaved the nation. He gloated and gloried in a master-slave relation to the millions of its inhabitants. It is astonishing to find that the same former slaves, now free of their chains, should clamour to be ruled by one who not only turned their nation into a slave plantation, but forbade them any discussion of their condition”.
A second but important sphere for comparison is education, because although Nigerians like to celebrate oil and gas and the easy wealth it brings, globally it is acknowledged that the most important resource for a nation is its human capital, its people, their abilities and capabilities and how these capabilities are enhanced through education, formal and informal. In this regard, even some elders in the north of Nigeria who now tout Buhari as the presidential candidate of the north, like former Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Coomasie, are unable to wipe out the indelible annals of public record, where Buhari is noted to have stopped food subsidies in Nigerian universities and thereby prioritized the introduction of malnutrition into universities as an opportunity cost for other economic decisions. In contrast, Coomasie and his ilk are unable to deny the fact that Goodluck Jonathan has built more Universities in Northern Nigeria within three years from 2011 to 2013 than any northern leader ever did between 1960 and 2013. The list of these universities include, Federal University Lafia (2011), Federal University Wukari (2011), Federal University Lokoja (2011), Federal University Kashere (2011), Federal University Dutse (2011), Federal University Dutsin-ma (2011), Police Academy Wudil (2012), Federal University Gashua (2013), Federal University Gusau (2013) and the Federal University Birnin-Kebbi (2013), before this only the Gowon and Babangida governments built up to four universities each while others established one or two between 1962 and 1988.
Moreover, apart from the overwhelming and unprecedented investment in primary school education, through the universal basic education, vocational schools, and the launching of the special funding of the all-embracing education called Almajiri education -the very first in the history of northern Nigeria- the Jonathan administration took children from the streets of northern Nigeria and gave them new opportunities, whereas some elders of northern Nigeria who called western education “Haram” denied them formal western education but offered instead religious knowledge and USD 2000 Kalashnikovs to use as Boko Haram foot soldiers.
Again on the very critical issue of the economy, some have attributed Buhari’s regime with stabilizing the economy at a turbulent time by using counter trade to keep the IMF in abeyance, but this was not the independent assessment of evaluators who observed that the counter-trade mechanism was abused to siphon public funds by converting Nigeria crude to laundered funds for cronies of the Buhari regime. Of course, this could not be scrutinized by the Nigerian press. Those who dared ended up at No 15 Awolowo Road in Lagos or other such detention centres created to silence critics of the Buhari government. Still, independent assessors at the GATT, later the WTO, had written in their report number BOP/W/102 of September 1986 that on the Counter trade,” “Four principal countertrade agreements were concluded with Brazil, France, Italy, and Austria. This policy, while permitting a certain amount of extra imports to enter, was subsequently seen as causing considerable diversion of trade and substantial extra cost to the economy as a whole”. In contrast the past four years of the Jonathan administration has seen a steady economic growth of over 6% with a much larger GDP. Some have criticized the growth, saying it did not trickle down to all spheres of society, but the same thing has been said of the Chinese development which is poised to become the biggest economy in the world.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.