by Peter Obi
On Tuesday, January 5, the All Progressives Congress (APC) kicked off its campaign in Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, where it attempted to showcase what it has to offer Nigerians. Like I said in my recent intervention in the media after the event, it was nothing but empty declarations about what the party ‘would like to do’. The APC had nothing to offer in terms of real understanding of the problems of the nation and any detailed plans about how to solve them.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on the other hand, kicked off its campaign in Lagos, the supreme headquarters of the APC on January 7, with clear and loud statements about its understanding of our national problems, the steps it is taking in dealing with them and how it will continue to steer the ship of state towards sustainable development, according to the 21st century standards. The important thing to note here, among others, is the absence of a plan for national development from the APC fold.
During the kick-off by the APC, the party said it would stop insurgency, but did not say how. It showed no knowledge of the capacities and challenges of the armed forces and was content to merely assuring Nigerians that once elected, it would stop insurgency the way its standard-bearer stopped the Maitasine group in the 1980s. It took President Jonathan and the PDP rally to know that past Nigerian governments, including that of Gen Muhammadu Buhari, have consistently failed to equip the armed forces and make them combat-ready. The APC failed to situate the problem within the contemporary global and national challenges and, therefore, had nothing to offer by way of real solutions to the problem.
Thanks to these two rallies, Nigerians now know that one party is a hands-on leadership machine, while the other is only good at generalisations and unfounded claims. Yes, President Jonathan has now told us, and this is confirmed by available records, that even under Buhari in the 80s, ammunition was not bought for the military by his government. Nigerians also now know that it was actually the current dispensation of President Jonathan that the federal government started equipping the armed forces again.
Whereas the APC told Nigerians that it would reduce corruption by demonstrating political will and jailing everyone who is found guilty of corruption, the PDP told us that jail terms and guilt are determined by courts of competent jurisdiction. This means that a government must follow the rule of law and allow court processes to take their due course. Thus, one must dismiss the APC empty platitudes, as it shows no knowledge or understanding of the socio-economic realities that encourage corruption and make it fester.
Worse still, it knows nothing about how to fight it beyond talking about a nebulous ‘political will’ that translates into nothing when examined more closely. No nation is immune from corruption and nations reduce corruption through institutional checks and not the advertised personal honesty of one individual.
Anyone who listened to President Jonathan during the kick-off of the PDP campaign must have heard him say that he will build institutions that will reduce corruption, in spite of the universal human challenge of deviating from the norm now and again. He did not say he will personally frighten people into avoiding corruption, no! He will make it unattractive and unrewarding through institutional checks.
Both the PDP and APC candidates have been Heads of the Nigerian State. The APC candidate says “I have done it before, I will do it again by jailing those found guilty of corruption,” but without telling us how he will do it differently from when he sentenced some presumed offenders to 300 years in jail.
The PDP candidate, on the other hand, says: “I will bring corruption to an end in Nigeria by a consistently, law-governed approach that simultaneously strengthens the crime-fighting agencies while also leaving no one in doubt that the judiciary, not our individual feeling and conjectures, must determine guilt and culpability of accused persons at all times.”
We need only look at how the Jonathan government has over the years reformed fertilizer procurement and provided employment through agriculture, Sure-p, YouWin and many other programmes. Curiously, it is the APC whose campaign promises a government without plans that is turning around to accuse the PDP of running a government without plans.
They failed to tell Nigerians the fruits of that plan. President Jonathan was able to reel out what his government has done, as well as the results, based on well-laid out plans. For instance, he said Nigeria could not have become the biggest economy in Africa without planning. By responding to all the issues raised by the APC one at a time, the president has elevated the quality of political debate for the forthcoming election and is indirectly urging others to do likewise.
The APC talked about improving the quality of education and left it at that. The PDP on the other hand, told us what its government has done in education, such as setting up 12 federal Universities in states of the federation that did not have any. The president told us how his government tackled enrolment and drop-out issues, among so many others.
He gave factual proof of hands-on capacity, unlike the APC that said that it will first hire technocrats to help it craft solution to Nigeria’s problems, after the elections. If, as APC said, it will depend on technocrats to help it design what to do, we must conclude that the party is for now bereft of ideas. So why vote for such a party at all?
One area about which the president spoke admirably is transportation. He did not say what he will do, but he showed us what he had done. He showed how his government has ended up re-awakening our people’s hope that the country will re-ignite its well-known capacities and remain on the track of progress now bestowed on it by this government. The president spoke emotionally about the trains coming on tracks after more than 30.
He talked about the revolution in our Sea ports that now run 24 hour operations, instead of the nine hours he met when he came on board. This is a clear proof of good leadership, including the on-going building of more sea ports, the rehabilitation of the old, narrow airport rail tracks and the building of standard ones.
It is curious that the APC at a Town Hall meeting held in Edo State yesterday by its vice-presidential candidate (Professor Yemi Osinbajo) promised the people that the APC would initiate micro-power projects, among other initiatives. All the APC needed to do before the meeting was to have educated itself. It is sad that a party would want to lead this country without even bothering to find out what is going on around it.
I have been part of political campaigns at different levels and I have always preferred to deal with issues the way President Jonathan is dealing with them today. The PDP, through its standard-bearer, has taken matters beyond the domain of banality. It is now for others to move up, using these two kick-offs as reference.
Peter Obi is the former governor of Anambra State in Nigeria.
Opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.