NEWS COMMENTARY LOOKS FORWARD TO THE NIGERIAN ELECTION ON FEBRUARY 16

The most populous Nation on the continent of Africa, Nigeria goes to the polls to elect a new leader or retain the incumbent on Saturday February 16. Millions of eligible voters will join long queues from Lagos to Calabar and from Abuja to Kano to seal the fate of the leading contenders in this poll. Interestingly, more than 70 Presidential Candidates have signed up with the Country’s Electoral Commission to be part of history. But all eyes will be on the two protagonists for Saturday’s polls; that is President Mahamadu Buhari and Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is actually making a second bid for ‘Aso Rock’, Nigeria’s seat of government. Even before the queues form on Saturday, the two have been going at each other ‘hammer and thongs’. As Buhari’s supporters accuse former vice president Atiku of tainted and deep-seated corruption, Mr. Atiku’s followers think Nigeria cannot continue on the same path of slow progress and ‘corruption massage’.

President Buhari, who swept to power, riding on the crest-wave of disaffection for former president Goodluck Jonathan, has so far failed to tackle the two grisly issues that catapulted him into power. The issue of corruption and the fight to halt the insurgent Islamic group, Boko Haram. With Supporters waving the popular ‘broom’ and chanting ‘broom revolution’, the 76-year-old former military general is said to have done little to bring corruption to its knees in Nigeria. Indeed, his opponents say the many corruption cases initiated by Mr. Buhari have not resulted in any conviction. Worse still, Transparency International had indicated that Nigeria has not done enough to exterminate the canker. All these have made things difficult for the untainted former general as the D-day approaches. Mr. Buhari’s critics are quick to point out to him that his fight against corruption is one sided. One Senator told the press that the President uses ‘insecticide’ to fight corruption among those outside his circles but uses ‘deodorant’ on his allies involved in same.

But truth be told, Nigerian voters find themselves in a difficult situation because Mr. Buhari’s main contender, Atiku Abubakar is no better. Mr. Atiku’s reputation has consistently taken a battery, as he has had to fend off allegations of corruption against him. Worse was to come when he committed a political ‘faux pas’ declaring that his journey to ‘Aso Rock’ is not to enrich his family but his friends’. The comments shook the very foundations of the institutional fight against corruption. And realising his huge gaffe, and the attendant backlash, Mr. Atiku quickly pulled the reverse gear, by clarifying a statement that has already dented his campaign. Unfortunately for Mr. Atiku, President Buhari’s implementation of the ‘treasury single account initiative’ has succeeded in making it difficult for funds to be diverted. This, observers believe has given a shot to the president’s campaign. Mr. Atiku’s trump-card however, lies in his convincing rhetoric’s on the economy and his ability to create jobs for the youth. But would that be enough to sway voters to vote for him? Inextricably linked to the endemic corruption in Nigeria is the battle to wipe out Boko Haram extremists who have perpetrated some dastardly acts against the people of Nigeria in more than a decade now. The most notable being the abduction of hundreds of female students, several of whom are missing with their whereabouts still unknown. One report said ‘the Islamic rebels are gaining grounds, launching sophisticated attacks on weary, under equipped soldiers.’ How they can be stopped in their tracks remains a big question. Indeed, most Nigerians see tomorrow’s elections as a verdict on president Buhari’s four-year handling of the twin issues of corruption and Boko Haram. But the alternative in Atiku is even a bigger headache for the 84 million voters who will be in queues to cast their ballot. So, who is the best candidate to carry the problems of Nigeria for the next four years? A big decision to be made tomorrow. lt is our hope that the election will be free, fair, transparent and the outcome accepted by all.

BY: EDMOND TETTEH – GBC NEWS DESK

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