It’s the second time President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari are going head to head, and this time the rivalry between them is fiercer than ever. Both have them have gone round the country to canvas votes and convince the Nigerian people that they’re the best man for the job. They’ve each made promises and taken shots at each other. Now the president has said he’s better than Buhari and everyone else who will be on the ballot.
“I haven’t seen anybody among the 14 presidential candidates that can run the country better than me,” he said last week. “If I’m bad, give Nigerians a better alternative. Get a better material that you don’t need to intimidate people or tell lies to market.”
Jonathan admits there could be Nigerians more competent and qualified than him to run for president, but he thinks the opposition parties haven’t picked candidates with the right credentials.
“I’m not claiming that I’m the best person in Nigeria. I used to say that even in the university, I made a second class upper. I didn’t make a first class, but there are so many first class graduates in this country. I don’t have the best brain. I didn’t study a prestigious course. I’m not a lawyer or a doctor. I’m not an engineer. So I cannot say I’m the best.”
“But if I’m bad and PDP made a mistake to present me, the duty of a rival political party is to bring a credible candidate whose credentials are okay, someone it can market freely and who can beat me any day. Then the electorate will decide”.
“I’ve listened to statements, speeches, interviews and I haven’t seen any of them offering anything new. I haven’t seen any of them saying that in agriculture, this is what the present government is doing. I want to do things this way and it’s a better option. I’ve not heard any of them saying anything about railways. The railways were dead in this country for over 30 years.”
Jonathan was a student when Buhari was head of state 30 years ago, and now the old general is running against him for president. What does Jonathan think about the former general’s record compared to his?
“General Buhari was the head of state for 18 months. I remember in those days when Buhari was head of state, I was doing my master’s degree programme and there was this screaming headline in one of the national dailies, ‘Weeds overtake rail lines!‘ That was what we got. But now we’ve rehabilitated 90% of this old narrow gauge and we’re adding the standard ones.”
The main point of Buhari’s campaign seems to be his reputation as an incorruptible person and his experience as a former soldier. So people think he’s someone who will deal with corruption more effectively and fight the insurgency in the north better than Jonathan. But Jonathan thinks this is illusive.
“When you tell Nigerians you want to fight corruption, people will be happy. It’s like a dummy that you can use to deceive people. General Buhari used the same corruption fighting ploy to chase the politicians away [by the coup]. He said this country was too corrupt and he was going to deal with them and he took over. Some people were given 300 years imprisonment, 200 years imprisonment. But did that stop corruption? If he had defeated that corruption, it won’t be with us today.”
“[When Buhari was in charge], people were queuing up to buy essential commodities. I was doing my master’s degree as I said. I couldn’t even read on some nights because I had to go and queue up to buy one run of milk and one packet of sugar. If you didn’t queue up overnight, the items won’t get to you when they open the warehouse in the morning.”
“By the time they open the store by 8am, the items would have finished before it got to your turn. So if he had defeated that corruption then, it won’t be with us today.”
Buhari has promised to clamp down on corruption, but he hasn’t really explained how he’ll do this. He had a chance to do so during the Amanpour interview when the woman directly asked him how intends to combat the problem, but his response was off.
“If somebody says he wants to fight corruption, you must tell me how you intend to fight corruption. Look at what we have done in the agric sector. We stopped fertiliser corruption. We’re going to make that cut across all sectors. The next sector we’re going to is petroleum,” Jonathan said.
“We’re building a system that, even if a person wants to steal, he won’t be able to steal. First, you must prevent stealing before you talk about enforcement. Prevention is more potent than enforcement, because in enforcement there are lots of limitation because of our legal system. So if Buhari wants to reduce corruption, he’ll have to tell Nigerians how he plans to do that.”
General Mohammadu Buhari’s party, All Progressives Congress (APC), also hit back at the incumbent president by blaming him for deliberately allowing the Boko Haram insurgency to aggravate leading to the death of over 15,000 Nigerians and the displacement of over 3million others in the past six years.
In a statement issued in London on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party however hailed the military for the successes it has recorded in the battle against Boko Haram in recent times, saying the string of victories confirms the party’s stand that the Nigerian military can hold its own anywhere and anytime, if provided with the necessary equipment and if the morale of the troops is not undermined.