Flashback: PUBLIC PERCEPTION OF GOODLUCK JONATHAN AND MUHAMMADU BUHARI IN ENUGU

“We Will Hurt Buhari With Our Votes” …say South Easterners

“But Jonathan failed the East” …APC
supporters 

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      President Goodluck Jonathan

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       Muhammadu Buhari

By Amah Baldwin

In 2011 general election, it was between President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari. Again this 2015, the stage is set for the two combatants to slug it out in a contest that has so far generated much tension and anxiety. The duo believe, and tenaciously too that they have good reasons to be Nigerian’s number one citizen come May 29, 2015.

The electorate in Enugu had had the privilege of listening to the campaign promises and messages of both presidential candidates; President Jonathan on January 9 2015 and General Buhari the next day.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC of course, has set March 28 date for the electorate to respond appropriately to their pleas for votes.

What is the public perception of the two candidates?

 Amah Baldwin reports from Enugu.

PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, PDP

Like in 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan remains the candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and basks on the unflinching solidarity coming fom the South East to make mince meat of his opponent. Of course, many believe that having used his powers of incumbency to touch lives, Jonathan would once more trounce his opponent, General Muhammadu Buhari. Support for Jonathan is thick in Enugu State. PDP appears to have struck a deal, if not an accord with the people.

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Political observers argue that the tenacity of this Accord is buttressed by the streak of,  and uninterrupted victories recorded by the party in Enugu state since its debut in 1998. The All Peoples Party, APP and the Alliance for Democracy, AD were the first casualties following the 1999 poll. Successive political parties in 2003, 2007 and 2011 suffered same fate; what more, they fizzled out of the political landscape unsung.

A school of thought believes that, like in previous elections another round of defeat awaits the opposition parties on March 28 and April 11, 2015. In Enugu, President Jonathan is seen by many as a kinsman and a fellow folk, notwithstanding his Ijaw parentage. And for retaining the name – Azikiwe given him,  way back in the 60s shortly after birth, by his mother, that sense of proximity and oneness is not lost on Enugu residents and indeed South Easterners whenever the President is the subject for discussion.

Apart from the primordial sentiments in favour of the President, his political image received some boosts when his administration broke the jinx associated with the Akanu Ibiam Airport, Enugu. He upgraded the facility to international status. Aware of the people’s passion for intercity travels and transportation of goods and services, the Jonathan administration committed a chunk of resources towards the rehabilitation of the rail lines and today the trains are back on the tracks.  Movements of trains, what with the blaring of Oloko Horns have become  a veritable source of delight among Enugu residents who thought the rail system had gone moribund forever. However, it is believed that the decision for many to sink or swim with him would be based, not necessarily on his accomplishments or lack of it for the people, but largely on sentiments.

A former Commissioner in Enugu State, Mr. Igbonekwu Ogazimorah while giving it to Goodluck Jonathan said: “If the truth is told, Buhari comes in the mould of the old hegemonic North, not of the younger generation with broader views of Nigeria and in tune with modern trend. Yes, Goodluck Jonathan has not reciprocated gestures of support from the South East. He made promises he never fulfilled or never even intended to fulfill, yet one would say he represents a greater shed of democracy than Buhari, who, to me has no orientation at all in plural society.”

Because Jonathan is a ‘son of the soil’ voters here are emotionally attached to him. In Enugu, the President’s soap Box oratory concentrated on Buhari, for his alleged past undemocratic exhibitions.  Perhaps, because of Buhari’s anticipated visit the next day, the President tongue lashed the General without mercy. In order to attract public hatred against the APC strongman, Jonathan reminded his large audience that in 1984 as Head of state, Buhari sent their respected leaders – Alex Ekwueme, Jim Nwobodo, Sam Mbakwe and Emeka Ojukwu to jail.

“Don’t vote somebody who will send you to jail for no just cause. Their intention is to start jailing people again. WAI (War Against Indiscipline) should be in the mind of the people and not in a draconian way. 

“We must rule this country as a democracy based on the rule of law  and not as a medieval regime”, said Jonathan.

In Enugu, Jonathan spoke with absolute confidence. It could not have been otherwise, what with the presence of formidable Igbo leaders physically present with their solidarity messages. Of course, the belief is that with the likes of former Vice President, Dr. Alex Ekweme, Senator Jim Nwobodo, Senator Ken Nnamani, Okwesilieze Nwodo, Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, Senator Hyde Onuaguluchi among numerous others solidly behind him, nobody, not even General Buhari could cause the president sleepless nights.

And to make matters worse for the opposition, Governor Sullivan Chime and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, ahead of the presidential campaign rally, re-united to strengthen PDP prowess for the poll.

“It is always very important to have one of your own in leadership positions”, remarked Nwamaka Egbo after collecting his permanent voters card (PVC).

“Over the years, the Muslim North has never hidden their instinct and hegemonic tendencies. They are just overbearing and domineering. But this should stop. No person should go about the quest for power with brazen audacity, we can no longer tolerate that and that is why everybody should rally round this humble man (President Jonathan) to correct the iniquities of the past governments”, said Egbo.

A school of thought believes the APC shot itself on the foot for picking a Northerner and Muslim as its flag bearer at this point in time.

Chijioke Ekekezie was of the opinion that APC ought to have chosen its candidates from either South East or South South.

“By the choice of Buhari, they (the APC) are shutting us out after only four years in power. This is uncharitable, but the good thing is that President Jonathan possesses the arsenal to retire the retired General from further contests”.

Ekekezie predicted a clean sweep in favour of Jonathan and boasted: “watch out, we are going to hurt Buhari with our votes”.

 

GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI, APC

General Muhammadu Buhari is the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC. His ouster as military Head of state in 1985 through a palace coup organized by his military colleague, General Ibrahim Babangida, was said to be so painful to him that he vowed to wrest power once more in the future. Three times in 2003, 2007 and 2011 Buhari made attempts to return to the Presidential Villa, but three times, he met his waterloo and crashed out. In those elections, the General could not muster substantial support from the South East, dominated by PDP and Christians. As a matter of fact, he was viewed with suspicion. Not a few regarded him as a religious fanatic or zealot who had the tendency to islamise Nigeria. Rightly or wrongly the argument is that the APC has links with the dreaded Boko Haran insurgents which had amassed arms and ammunition in an attempt to make President Goodluck’s administration ungovernable and cause division in the country.

Even though, the former military head of state and his supporters have dismissed the contention as mere figments of the imagination of those who peddle it, the disenchantment persists.

As if responding to critics, General Buhari himself at the Enugu Presidential rally told a crowd of supporters that,  “Anyone who goes to burn and kill people in churches and mosques, or kills people in markets or motor parks and shouts Alla huakbar is either the person does not know what that means or does not believe in it. Every religion is peaceful.

“When we assume power in May 29, we will flush these people out of our land the way we flushed out Chadian rebels who invaded Nigeria once; the way we chased out Maitesine in 1984.”

General Buhari needed to provide an insight into what is in stock for the Igbos. Apart from his vow to stop the insurgency in the Northern part of the country and stamp out official corruption, the former Head of state told the mammoth crowd that on assumption of office his administration would embark on aggressive agriculture and micro-finance scheme to reduce poverty in the land and transform the economy for better. According to him, “apart from agriculture being the mainstay of the economy, the coal industry in Enugu would be revamped to play its role in the power rector.”

“The rot in the power sector would be cleared,” he said.

 Buhari’s ardent supporters speak glowingly about his pedigree, reputation and outstanding performance in course of his earlier services to the nation.

Chief Anike Nwoga, Chairman of the Buhari Solidarity Group (BSG) said in Enugu that, “Nigerians everywhere are yearning for change and General Buhari represents that change. Enugu state is not different. “If you move around, you discover that the people are tired of PDP and its failed promises. This election is not a child’s play. We are poised to stop PDP. Anike Nwoga who was chairman of the Youth Wing of the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP) in – the 2nd Republic said further:

“You were here when Buhari visited for the APC rally. Not even pundits predicted that the Enugu residents would on their own exhibit such solidarity for the APC and its candidate. Delighted by what he described as “General Buhari’s growing popularity, a former member of the Enugu State House of Assembly, Hon, Hyacinth Ugwu said the APC flag bearer is an Action Man who can never promise and fail.

Hyacinth Ugwu who secured a fresh APC ticket to represent Enugu South Constituency in the Enugu State House of Assembly (ENHA) took a swipe on the PDP leadership for, according to him, “failing to deliver on their promises”.

“The Igbo nation has an option,” Ugwu said. “Let us be part of the wind of change blowing across the length and breadth of the country.

However, the prospects of his victory in Enugu as in other states within the South East are diminished by one or two factors darkening his credentials. A good number of people argue that the old Northern Region had usurped power for record 38 years against the old Eastern Region’s only 4 years and 6 months. 

Dr. Chiemerie Okafor snapped: “Was this country created for the North alone? My grouse is not against Buhari but against the mindset of some people or certain elements who believe they were born to rule,” Okafor pointed out.

He continued: “In actual fact, I would have loved a situation whereby this election is canceled and President Jonathan makes an announcement, appointing General Buhari Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

“This is an area I feel the impact of the APC candidate would be felt and appreciated”, he stated. “The man (Buhari) has little attachment to material and mundane things,” he concluded.

But Osita Okechukwu, Spokesman for APC in South East cried foul, explaining that Buhari’s leadership qualities could not be doubted by a discerning mind.

Said he: “Buhari has done it before and he is ever ready to do it again. He has rekindled hope to the people of South East that for instance, Coal deposits abandoned since after the war would be revamped.” Osita Okechukwu made it clear that for the Igbos to have their dreams of a ‘piece of the action’ actualized  in the near future, “Buhari is the answer”.

“In the 70s and even up till the 80s, abundant deposits of coal in Enugu was used to power the Oji-River Power station which generated electricity in the Eastern region and beyond.” Since PDP could not do it, APC is here,” Okechukwu said. 

PDP’s Achilles hills in the East are the dilapidated Enugu-Onitsha Express, Enugu-Port Harcourt highway and the 2nd Niger Bridge as well as corruption and poor electricity supply, while APC has to contend with public outrage against a section of the country that believes it has the inalienable right to wrest power and usurp power.

Reverend Fr. Ejike Mbaka’s sermon comes into focus here: “If my father will be my leader and my siblings will all die, let a stranger be my leader and let my family be. “For six years, Onitsha bridge is not built.”

The increasing influence of Buharism is not in doubt in the region, but not enough to diminish the Jonathan’s presidency.

Yes, political observers appreciate the former dictator as a man who defined himself as one Nigerian personality averse to frivolities, gerrymandering and corruptible tendencies.

“He appears to be a man with mission, but his adversaries are not giving him a chance because they expect he would turn an incipient tyrant. But his supporters are spurred by the traits.

Because the general lacks the presence of ex-this and ex-that in APC ranks in Enugu, Chinedu Ezeaso, sympathizer advised him: “Explore direct links with the electorates.”

CONCLUSION

In Enugu state, and indeed in South East, support for President Goodluck Jonathan is tick and appears unwavering. PDP may not repeat the landslides with which it dealt deadly blows on General Buhari in 2011, but all the same the party looks good to escape with a resounding victory barring unforeseen circumstances. Voters regard President Jonathan’s presidency with passion and would do anything to provide him a return ticket, not necessarily on account of his performance, but on primordial sentiments and affinity. He is a Christian and comes from the defunct Eastern Region that had been denied a taste of the plum and coveted seat over the years.

The people may deny PDP block votes ostensibly because of General Buhari’s spirited campaigns which emphasized aversion and zero tolerance to corruption.

One Buhari ardent supporter, Chibueze Nwokike said in reaction to raging allegations that his candidate lacks prerequisite educational qualification to govern a country like Nigeria that, “even if the man presents a plain sheet of paper as certificate, I will vote for him. We believe in him because he is incorruptible. As far as we are concerned Buhari is coming to eliminate corruption so that we can save fund for national development.

But a Jonathan Sympathizer snapped: “With Jonathan on the saddle, Ndigbo are assured a better political future in Nigeria.

This piece was published by The UNION newspaper in February 20 2015 ahead of the Presidential poll of the year.(Flashback)

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