Barely two months to the forthcoming general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has lifted the embargo placed on campaigns. TOPE FAYEHUN, in this report dissects the campaign issues of the two leading presidential candidates, the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari and former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar
As the 2019 general elections inch nearer, political parties and their candidates have officially flagged off their election campaigns in accordance with the guidelines of the electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
National discourse is now being dominated with who and who are the frontrunners for the various elective offices. There are also speculations about possible alignment and realignment of forces ahead of the February 2019 polls.
Apart from party primaries, which had come and gone, another process of electioneering that requires high wired politicking and intrigues is the campaign which may in no small measure influence voters’ choices at the poll.
As it stands now, Nigerians across the country soon after the campaigns, will be going to the polls to elect their preffered candidates to fill vacant elective positions ranging from the presidency to the state Houses of Assembly.
Apart from the 2015 general elections which saw to the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan, political observers believe that the forthcoming elections will be the most keenly contested since Nigeria attained her independence.
Those who share this view base their proposition on the campaign manifestoes of the various political parties in the race.
Although the elections, particularly the presidential election, is as well for fringe political parties to test their strength and popularity, it has been read mainly as a contest involving the candidates of the two leading parties in the country, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); with their respective flag bearers, President Muhammadu Buhari and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.
Moreover, Nigerians and keen political observers within and outside the country are eager to know and witness campaigns devoid of character assassination, mudslinging and violence.
However, the two gladiators have unveiled their campaigns. While the governing APC and its presidential candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari tagged their campaign slogan “Next Level”, the leading opposition PDP and its candidate, Atiku Abubakar recently unveiled thier policy document with a slogan of “Get Nigerian Working Again” with economy, unity and national security taking the front-row.
The most interesting part of this was that the two leading candidates launched their plan for the country within an interval of 24 hours with a clear vision of what the country needs to move forward.
In the “Next Level” which officially contains the APC’s roadmap ahead of the upcoming elections, President Buhari said he promised Nigerians real change four years ago which he had worked hard to fulfill.
The President noted that “Nigerians sent a clear message in the last election, and our platform offered a new, ambitious plan for a secure, prosperous and corruption-free country. We have worked hard to fulfill our promises and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundation for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people.
“Foundational work is not often visible, neither is it glamorous but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire. Judging by the prior depth of decay, deterioration, and disrepair that Nigeria had sunken into, we are certain that these past few years have put us in good stead to trudge on the Next Level of building an even stronger nation for our people.
“We were a nation at war but we delivered on our commitment to secure the territorial integrity of our nation in the face of a raging insurgency that devastated many parts of the North East.”
President Buhari used the avenue to reeled out some of his achievement in the area of security, which includes,” liberated 17 Local Government Areas from the grip of the insurgency. Brokering and sustaining peace in the Niger Delta has also been crucial to stabilizing the polity.”
According to him, “Despite the difficult circumstances presented by weak oil prices and reduced oil production, we delivered on our commitment to making public investments to spur economic growth, job creation, and broad-based prosperity.
“Agriculture continues to expand our economic base, as do our investments in deficient infrastructure across the length and breadth of this nation. We implemented a responsible and transparent fiscal plan for the challenging economic times that saw us doing more even with lesser oil revenues.”
He said “Grand scale corruption perpetrated at the highest level of government is now a thing of the past, just as the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has made it more difficult for ministries, departments, and agencies to exercise the unrestrained liberties that helped foster a climate conducive to corruption.
“The nation’s wealth is now being invested in capital projects to expand infrastructure and connect people, goods, and opportunities by rail, road, and air. Also, the Federal Government supported state governments with bailouts that enabled them to pay workers on their payroll.
“We took an unprecedented step towards creating a fairer and more equitable society by implementing Africa’s biggest social investment programme. Through the National Social Investment Programme, we are providing direct support to over 13 million Nigerians who need it by giving relief and assistance to unemployed youth, our children, the weak and vulnerable as well as small and medium businesses.
“But even as we lay the foundation for a stable and prosperous nation, we acknowledge there is still much to do. The Next Level of effort focuses on job creation across various sectors.
“From an enlargement of the N-Power programme to investing in technology and creative sector jobs to agriculture and revolutionizing access to credit for entrepreneurs and artisans, there is scope for over 15 million new jobs.
“The march away from a mono-economy must continue with our industrialization plan coming to fore. With specific plans underway to exploit the comparative advantage of the geopolitical zones and different states by developing 6 Industrial Parks and 109 Special Production and Processing Centres (SPPCs) across each senatorial district, our incremental move away from oil dependence is assured.
“In addition, our development of the Special Economic Zones will quickly concretize our Made in Nigeria for Export (MINE) plan. To sustain food production and value addition, our mechanization policy for agriculture will make tractors and processors easily accessible and available for farmers across Nigeria.
“We will continue a wide scale training policy, prioritizing technology to reach the demography of young people within the productive sector on a massive scale even as we create jobs and growth within our economy.
“We believe that our people who are still in poverty have a direct way out and up through our expanded National Social Investment Programme. We believe we can implement the painstaking and comprehensive policy and work we have done to bring an end to the perennial conflict between farmers and herders – a conflict which is heightened by a struggle for land, water and pasture and the effects of climate change and every now and then, opportunistic and cynical manipulation by political actors. We are implementing a blend of measures that ensure that justice, order, modernization, and new economic paradigms emerge.
“Perhaps our biggest ambition yet is the overhaul of our education sector. Every child counts – and simply, whatever it takes to prepare our teachers, curriculum, and classrooms to attain the right educational goals that grow our country, will be done.
“We will remodel 10,000 schools every year and retrain our teachers to impart science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics using coding, animation, robotics to reinterpret our curriculum.
“We know that to succeed, moral integrity and conscience must continue to form the dominant character of our nation and its leadership. Corruption is an existential threat to Nigeria. Despite the gains we have made in closing the gates, we know that there is still much ground to cover to stop systemic corruption.
“We are committed to deepening the work we started this first term such that the nation’s assets and resources continue to be organized and utilised to do good for the common man.”
While submitting during the unveiling of the “Next Level” campaign slogan, the President noted that the next four years will be quite significant for the country.
He disclosed that “Nigeria is faced with a choice to keep building a new Nigeria- making a break from its tainted past which favored an opportunistic few. Our choices will shape us – our economic security and our future prosperity.
“Nigeria, more than ever before, needs a stable and people-focused government to move the agenda for our country forward. Join us on this journey to the Next Level of a prosperous, strong and stable Nigeria!”
However, the PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar in the documents tagged the “The Atiku’s Plan” noted that the sad fact today, as you know, is that too many of our people are not working and are living in poverty and insecurity.
“The very fabric of our society is breaking down. We have never been so divided as a nation. The most important question in this election is: are you better off than you were four years ago, are you richer or poorer? That is why our primary focus is to get Nigeria working again.”
According to Abubakar, “the two major indices of deterioration in the welfare status of Nigerians in recent times are the increasing rates of youth unemployment and high level of poverty”.
In his policy document, the former president said he is targeting a gross domestic product of $900 billion (788 billion euros) by 2025, more than double the current amount and pledged to lift “at least 50 million people out of extreme poverty”.
In contrast to the President Muhammadu Buhari’s seeming affront comments about the country’s youths, “do nothing” and want everything for “free”, Abubakar pledged to revive an apprenticeship programme which will recruit 100,000 artisans to train one million people.
Abubakar, who had spent the preceding months crisscrossing the country, engaging Nigerians on key elements of his ‘Get Nigerian Working Again’ slogan, said, If elected President next year, he would be pro-active in attracting investments, supporting the 50 million small and medium scale enterprises across Nigeria for the purpose of doubling the size of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product to US$900 billion by 2025.
The former vice president said,
“I am strong of the view that I am just one Nigerian and one Nigerian cannot be as wise asstrongerians. That is why I will offer an inclusive leadership. Atiku Abubakar is 100% for 100% of Nigerians, 100% of the time.
“Too often, Nigerians have been promised better governance by those seeking their votes. Such individuals have preyed on the legitimate desires of our people for their conditions to be improved, that they make all sorts of promises.
“I am not one for making grandiose promises. Rather than promises, I believe in policies. A promise is an indication to do a future action. A policy is a plan to achieve future goals.
“As the International Monetary Fund stated very recently, it is the failure of this government to have a coherent and comprehensive set of policies combined with poor leadership that has led to its failure to deliver.
“Over the last 18 months, I have worked with the best experts Nigeria has to offer, to come up with policies and plans that when implemented will get Nigeria going in the right direction again.
“If elected President, I will be pro-active in attracting investments and supporting the 50 million small and medium scale enterprises across Nigeria for the purpose of doubling the size of our Gross Domestic Product to US$900 billion by 2025,” he added.
However, like 2015, political pundits observed that the same issues of insecurity, economic deprivation, dilapidated infrastructures, high unemployment rates, the inability of the country to provide basic services like functional healthcare and education and general despondency among the citizens, still reappear in both campaigns.
While they believe that this season is another familiar season of high-wire political brinkmanship, pundits appealed to political desperados who will try to perpetrate all manner of untoward actions for the sole aim of winning the election.
Analysts noted that the promises made by the two candidates are not new to Nigerians because the previous ones are not fulfilled. According to them, Nigerians are tired of meaningless empty promises that are dished out during elections that would never be fulfilled.
Given the abject state of affairs in the country, political observers said, politicians only exploiting the current situation in the country to re-echo old promises that have been made since independence – roads, bridges, water, healthcare, etc.
Prior to this time, parties’ appeal to voters has always been based on ethnic-regional or faith identities, but it is now observed that the two leading candidates are picking Southern Christian to appeal to the people of the south and the Christian community across the country.
Pundits noted that it will be interesting to see to what extent both parties are willing or able to mobilise voters with policy messages rather than simply appeals to identity politics.
However, according to analysts, there would be many other promises but the point is that Nigerians want the promises to be dissected as to how they would be achieved. Nigerians don’t want fables but feasible roadmap on issues.
They further opined that there should be no religious or ethnic campaigning. No name-calling or labeling of anybody. Rather there should be issue-based campaigning.
Meanwhile, since the campaign started, the two leading political parties have been on the warpath as both tore apart the policies and programmes of one another.
While the ruling APC described Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s, promise of 2.5 million jobs per annum contained in his policy document, as deceitful; the opposition party replied that President Muhammadu Buhari’s Next Level campaign slogan was dead on arrival.
With the launching of his ‘Next Level’ campaign slogan, President Buhari’s re-election is a fait accompli, as there is nobody in the Nigerian political terrain that is capable of defeating him, according to some of his supporter. But the facts on the ground, according to PDP supporters do not seem to support that.
It is now clear to Nigerians, however, that the 2019 presidential election is a battle between the “NEXT LEVEL” and that of “Let’s Get Nigeria Work Again”.
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