Buhari’s Historic Victory: The Real Dawn of Nigerian Democracy?

After over three decades since seizing and losing power in military coups; after three attempts at getting in through a democratic process; after three days of a tension-filled election, Muhammadu Buhari became the first Nigerian opposition leader to oust an incumbent president through the ballot box. This puts him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of Africa’s most challenging democracies.

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Ousted President Goodluck Jonathan in an unprecedented move, called Buhari to congratulate him even before the result had been officially announced. According to Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC),”At about 5 minutes to 5, President Jonathan called General Muhammadu Buhari, the winner of the elections, to congratulate him,

Buhari-and-Jonathan

This smooth concession of victory by Goodluck Jonathan would surely come as a surprise to millions of his supporters especially given that former Minister of Niger Delta, Peter Godsday Orubebe had earlier in a public show of shamelessness and stupidity, attacked the Independent Electoral Commission chairman [INEC], Professor Attahiru Jega, alleging that the result of the elections have been falsified and accusing Jega of bias and partisanship.

Buhari’s victory therefore calls for cautious optimism especially if one where to take a glance at the years since the acclaimed 1999 transition to democratic rule.

With the coming to power of the Obasanjo regime in 1999 as a democratically elected government following several years of military dictatorships, it seemed a new dawn had come for Nigeria. In his opening address to Nigerians, Olusegun Obasanjo raised people’s hopes when he said:

I shall end this address by stressing again that we must change our ways of governance and of doing business on this eve of the new millennium. This we must do to ensure progress, justice, harmony and unity and above all to rekindle confidence amongst our people. Confidence that their conditions will rapidly improve and that Nigeria will be great and will become a major world power in the near future. (The NEWS, June 14, 1999)

But as events later turned out, Nigeria was in for the greatest economic, political and social nightmare. The “democracy” under Obasanjo was one in which one man who called himself the “President” ruled the nation as a personal estate, made mockery of the constitution, controlled the nation’s coffers and dished out money to other nations as if it were his personal account. After eight years in power, the social ills of the Obasanjo regime had clearly held Nigerians to ransom. Poverty was ravaging the land, many people died of curable diseases simply because they could not afford to pay hospital bills. There was even the uncomfortable admission of the fact that the lives and properties of Nigerians were more secure under General Sani Abacha than they were under the so-called democratic regime of Obasanjo. Unemployment and attendant hopelessness rose, the standards of education fell, there was a marked increase in the number of destitute and beggars on the streets. The skyrocketing of the prices of petroleum products, with an increment made on the eve of Obasanjo’s departure form office, was a clear indication of the level of decay the country had been plunged into. Worse still, it was under this regime which claimed to be able to sweep away corruption that Nigeria bagged the highest award in corruption, coming first in the world. To crown it all, the level of election malpractice was one that also deserved an award.. In the end, it was clear that military dictatorship and democratic tyranny are two sides of the same coin.

Obasanjo Yar'Adua and JonathanThe late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua and his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, therefore, inherited an ant-infested firewood. In a few months they gave much hope to the people with the proposed 7-Point Agenda . But the questions of whether the fulfilment of those new ideas and reforms they were introducing could be considered a visionary hope, was never answered due to the untimely death of Yar’Adua.  It became obvious that the interests which those new reforms were going to thwart were much stronger and more obvious than those they were to serve when Goodluck completely ignored the 7 point Agenda both during his completion of Yar’Adua’s term and the term which he contested and won.

It is therefore not surprising that Nigeria continued to slump further into the morass of hopelessness that characterised the Obasanjo regime. To make matters worse, despite unrelenting economic forces driving Nigeria to become Africa’s biggest economy, the onslaught of the Boko Haram insurgency exposed the ill-preparedness and inability of Jonathan to lead Nigeria.

It is therefore not very surprising that a majority of Nigerians decided that it was time to give Buhari another chance to redeem himself. His perseverance has finally paid off, and with Goodluck Jonathan showing maturity in conceding defeat, Buhari has a huge challenge ahead. He has the experience, and hopefully, with the determination to set the records straight, Buhari might finally usher in the real dawn of an era where the ordinary Nigerian can begin to feel and experience the real dividends of a true democracy!

Paul Biya Dies: What Difference Would it Make?

It has been a while since I posted anything on this blog as I have been trying to sort out some personal issues that did not allow me much time to write. However, since the beginning of March, I have received lots of messages with questions regarding current happenings in Cameroon. The most recent has been the hoax announcement of the passing away of Cameroon strongman and dictator Paul Biya. After some reflection, I started to ask myself the question: would it really make a difference if Paul Biya truly died?

Paul Biya

For those who care to remember, this is not the first time that there has been a fake announcement that Paul Biya was dead.

In June of 2004 it was rumoured that Paul Biya had died following an undisclosed illness at some undisclosed location. As no reporting or discussion of anything related to the president is allowed the late Journalist, Pius NJAWE incurred the full wrath of the President and his institutions for daring to ponder about the state of the President’s health. Njawe was to spend 10 months in prison.

In October of 2008, similar rumours began making the rounds and there were widespread celebrations on the streets of Cameroon. To many people’s chagrin and surprise, Paul Biya returned the country on November 01, 2008 exactly 43 days after abandoning the country, just two days short of him being constitutionally replaced. This time the rumor had it that the absentee president had died at the exclusive “Clinique Générale-Beaulieu” in East Geneva. Given that news of an ailment Biya was said to be suffering had leaked out fueling the speculation of his death, some members of his entourage were fired for violating the code of secrecy.

At the beginning of March, 2015, The Commander in Chief of the Cameroon Armed Forces, Paul Biya again left Cameroon for Switzeroland while soldiers where being killed by Boko Haram insurgents. The conclusion many arrived at was that it must have been nothing short of an emergency to make a president abandon his country and travel abroad at a time when there was a crisis involving terrorists. As the African adage says: “A man whose house is on Fire does not chase rats”. Hence, in line with another axiom which states that “a toad does not run in the daylight for nothing: either it is after something or something is after it”, it was easily surmised that nothing short of an emergency could have pushed Biya to leave the country. By a process of elimination and taking into consideration the man’s age, the most logical conclusion arrived at was another death announcement.

The rumours of  Biya’s death gained momentum on Thursday the 26th of March, 2015 on  Facebook and other social media outlets like Twitter and WhatsApp!

While no official announcement has been made to refute the rumours two days after they started, one is apt to wonder what it would mean for Cameroon if Biya truly was dead!

To the ordinary Cameroonian, it would actually mean very little because as far as they are concerned, The Man Already Died!

Since “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” (Wole Soyinka), it is safe to conclude that Biya died a long time ago. Biya has been dead for most of the 33 years that he has been Cameroon’s president. Biya died when he let the country slump into an economic crisis from 1986 and did little to salvage the situation; Biya died in 1990 when in attempting to stop the rise of Multiparty politics in the country, he ordered the killing of many innocent Cameroonians; Biya remained dead from thence as he was focused only on maintaining his hold on power while the country slumped into a morass of poverty, corruption, greed and hopelessness. So in principle, to many Cameroonians; Biya actually went stone cold when he cracked down on public protests, changed the constitution that made him stay in power; Yes for a the tyranny visited on Cameroonians PAUL BIYA IS DEAD!

However, if Biya was to leave the scene, it would be a make or break situation for Cameroon. Given that most of his cabinet members and close allies are now languishing in prison, a smooth transition after his dead remains a matter of speculation. Perhaps like some of his ‘friends’ his son Frank Biya will take over. Given that Frank is not much in the picture, one therefore wonders what type of president he would make. The most likely and constitutional choice would be the President of the National Assembly Cavayé Yéguié Djibril. But as someone who has been the ruling party – CPDM Political Bureau, one wonders if he will offer anything different from what Biya has been offering!

One thing is certain though, as Caiaphas, once said, ‘You do not seem to have grasped the situation at all; you fail to see that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.’There is no situation which is more appropriate for this statement.

Biya’s dead would be a blessing to Cameroon but let me be quick to add that it would not be in the same sense as Christ’s death was to Christendom but would be exactly in the manner in which Caiaphas meant it!