Sunday, November 18th 2018 is yet another milestone in our journey towards building an enduring democracy in Nigeria. The ban on partisan politics was officially lifted by the INEC following at statement that read: “Political parties who have fielded candidates for the February 16th, 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections will by Sunday, 18th November 2018, commence campaigns across the country.

“This is in line with the Timetable and Schedule of Activities issued by the Commission and in accordance with Section 99(1) of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) which provides that ‘the period of campaigning in public by every political party shall commence 90 days before polling day and end 24 hours prior to that day’.

The major actors in the political process took to the streets with each unveiling their policy thrust on how they intend to convince the Nigeria people to give them their franchise.

The APC under incumbent President Muhammad Buhari promised to take Nigeria to the “Next Level”.
While the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who is the Presidential candidate of the PDP Promised to “Get Nigeria Working Again”.

Now that the two major actors in the political process have unveiled their policy thrust to convince Nigerians to give them the opportunity to serve in the most exalted office in the land. We as public affairs commentators are left with the duty of analysing those policy thrust and sharing our political perspectives with the Nigerian people.

President Muhammad Buhari while kick starting his campaign for the 2019 general election at a conference hall at the Presidential Villa unveiled how he intends to take Nigeria People to the “Next Level”.

In a well crafted speech which he started by high lighting the state of the Nation when he took over in 2015 and how He promised to “change the country”. And this is how he said it. “Four years ago, we promised Nigerians real change – in what we do and how we do it. 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 fulfil our promises – and while the road may have been difficult, over the last three and a half years, we have laid the foundations for a strong, stable and prosperous country for the majority of our people”. He emphasized by stating that the work they did in the nearly fours years are; “Foundational work (and) is not often visible, neither is it glamorous – but it is vital to achieving the kind of country we desire”.

He also subtly accused his predecessors for the rot in the system when he said; “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”.

The President continued by listing the achievement of his government in the last four years; “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. We liberated 17 Local Government Areas from the grip of insurgency.
Brokering and sustaining peace in the Niger Delta has also been crucial to stabilising the polity”.

We supported state governments with bailouts that enabled them to pay workers on their payroll.
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.

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.

Nigeria more than ever before needs a stable focussed government to move the agenda for our country forward. Join us to the “Next Level” of prosperous, strong and stable Nigeria

The former Vice President in similar event in Yola unveiled his policy thrust for the 2019 general election with the premise to; “Get Nigeria working Again”
The policy thrust of the Atiku campaign is based on the policy document and his televised address to the Nigerian People where he posited that “Nigeria was once working”.

According to him when he was the Vice President of the Federal Republic and chairman of the National Economic Council under Obasanjo- Atiku government, “they exited Nigeria from the Paris club debt overhang, they grew the economy to be one of the largest in Africa, introduced the Gsm revolution, Reformed the Pension Administrations Introduced the National Health Insurance System, they also had a plan known as “NEEDS” which worked, they reformed the civil service by cutting waste in government spending through its monetization programme, created the ICC and EFCC, Provided a living wage for the civil servant then.
According to him these are the foundation work needed by all nation to leap to the next stage of development.

The policy document he unveiled in Adamawa represent his agenda with the Nigeria people.
The key messages of the of the documents are;
1. Nigeria is under performing;
2. There are some structural fault-lines;
3. The unity of the Nigerian state under threat.

The document also discussed about his covenant with the Nigerian people in which it believes;
“Nigeria can deliver; Nigeria can surpass its own growth expectations; Nigeria can realise beyond its dreams; It then went on to “pledge to the Nigeria people that: “WE CAN GET NIGERIA WORKING AGAIN”

To achieve this the document high lighted how it want to get there. This is defined by its mission to;
1. Ensure unity of the Nigerian state:
2. Ensure the security of lives and properties of the Nigeria people;
3. Ensure the prosperity of the Nigerian people and the state.

These will be achieved through;
1. Building the economy of our dream;
2. Job creation and entrepreneurship development;
3. Poverty Alleviation and economic empowerment;
4. Infrastructural dev.
5. National security;
6. Anti corruption;
7. Good Governance etc
The policy thrust document ended by asking the question. “ why is the different? Is it?

These are some of the issues we would navigate and see what makes the prepositions submitted by the two parties different and whether or not there is a paradigm shift.
Conceptually all the documents addressed the issues that are core in our journey to towards economic and political growth and building a just and egalitarian society.

Specifically, they both talked about how they can deal with issues relating to; wealth creation, anti corruption, health care, security, education, poverty alleviation, unemployment and good governance etc.

The fundamental difference of the two are, while President Buhari is saying, he would take Nigeria to the “Next Level”. The former Vice President Atiku is saying, lets “Get Nigeria Working Again”
Now lets examine the two clichés in the light of their performances as highlighted.

The President started by saying that four years ago, they promised Nigerians real change. To do these they offered Nigerians an ambitious plan for a secure, prosperous and corruption-free country”. The question to ask is Nigerians prosperous today? has our living conditions changed? has Nigerian become a corruption free country? The answer to these are NO.

Infact the living conditions of Nigerian people has in the real sense worsened mass poverty, hunger, frustrations, un employment, in security and general restiveness in the society has continued un abated.

The President accepted this when he said, “the work we did in the last three and half years was “Foundational” which means they have not been able to achieve their goals. The Nigerian state has been there for 58 years and certainly it can not be at foundation level governance is about continuity and developing what others started.

The President also in his speech said ” 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. We liberated 17 Local Government Areas from the grip of insurgency.” Yes, there may be no local government under the direct control of the insurgents but one can not say for certain the war has been won.

Infact on same day the President was making that famous speech, Boko Haram insurgents attacked and killed several Military personnel. We have in previous write ups argued that the war against the insurgency was only successful in the urban centres and this position put to the President by His Royal Highness the Shehu of Borno when he said “ the threat of Boko Haram is still very potent as farmers are being attacked and killed on a daily basis in the villages and communities surrounding Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. “Quite a number of farmers are being killed and kidnapped on a daily basis around Molai General Area, which is just 10 kilometres away from the metropolis, along Maiduguri – Damboa – Biu road. “Most of the surrounding villages and communities in Konduga, Damboa, Mafa and other local government areas have been razed down in the last two weeks. “We plead that the federal government and the security agencies review the strategies in nipping this lingering crisis in the bud.”

The President claimed of brokering and sustaining peace in the Niger Delta but the truth is, the relative peace in the Niger Delta region was as a result combination of efforts that predates his administration.

In the fight against corruption the president claimed the introduction of the Single Treasury Account has according to him “made it more difficult for ministries, departments and agencies to exercise the unrestrained liberties that helped foster a climate conducive to corruption. Yes the TSA has curtailed the ability of Ministries and Extra Ministerial Departments to have direct control over the IGR they generated, but it has in no way stopped them access to resources.

The president’s assumption that 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” is also suspect because all the projects he mentioned under infrastructural developments apart from the road that are financed from budget line allocation, the others are being financed through borrowing from the Chinese and other International Financial Agencies thereby adding to rising debt profile of the country. In fact the opposition is accusing his government for borrowing in last three and half years more than the entire amount it borrowed in sixteen years.

The Federal Government bail out to the state governments to pay workers on their payroll can not be seen as an achievement rather it is a way of encouraging the states to continue with their mis application of public funds, which has become the hall mark of their tenure.

These are the murky waters the President want us to navigate in the next four years. Whether or not these wishes are going to translate in to reality, the President want us to believe he has integrity to do that. Success as we know it does not rely on integrity alone but it must go hand in hand with capacity and competence which the administration has shown lack of it.

The events of the past fours years and the President’s style of leadership does not give us the comfort he would deliver on those promises.

Our premise was informed by lamentations contained in the letter Reverend Father Kukah wrote to the President telling him about the Nigerian situation, “You know sir, that you rode into town like a knight in shining armour, carrying the joys, pains, anxieties and fears of a people whose broken dreams had littered and turned the landscape into a kaleidoscopic scenery of desolation and despair.
“In your campaigns, you promised to restore a sense of national pride in us by slaying the dragon of corruption, banishing the retrogressive scourge of Boko Haram, bringing back our daughters from Chibok and making our country and citizens truly safe.

“We waited in hope right to the end of the first year, but somehow, amidst some hazy weather, all we heard was the sound of screeching tyres with the plane carrying our hopes seemingly unable to take off.

“It finally did but we had barely gained altitude when sickness struck and you spent the better part of a year seeking healing.

“The nation prayed for you and miraculously, you recovered. Evidently, you had been saved for a purpose. Our prayer is that this realisation will help you understand that you have a date with history and divine judgment.

“For now, before your eyes and in your hands, our country, our communities, our people are all in a state of stupor” this situation has not significantly changed since he made those statements.

Consequently, the new cliché that the government is going to take us to “next level” is tendentious and misleading.
In his admission to the failure to change our lives under the “change Mantra” which they now call the period “foundational”.

We must remind the President and his writers, that Nigeria is 58 years old and to assume that we are still at foundation level is either they don’t understand how government works or they are just being wise by half.

From colonialism to date all the governments that came contributed their quarter in bringing us to where we are today. To assume that only them can solve the problems of Nigeria is not only dishonest but an insult to our collective contributions in our journey towards nationhood.

Is Buhari therefore promising to take us to the next level of insecurity, abuse of court order, high level of poverty, hunger, Farmer – Herdsmen conflict, religious divisiveness, election thuggery, selective anti corruption application, harbouring of corrupts officials as long as they have electoral values, segregating the society in to “them vs us”?

His counter part in PDP is arguing that when they were in government “Nigeria was Working”.
He went on to say that when he was the Vice President of the Federal Republic and chairman of the National Economic Council they exited Nigeria from the Paris club and other International Financial Agencies debt overhang; they grew the economy to be one of the largest in Africa; Introduced the Gsm revolution; Reformed the Pension Administrations; Introduced the National Health Insurance System; Created the ICC and EFCC the agencies the Buhari government are using to fight the anti corruption crusade; These are truism and no body can deny these facts. The plan to get “Nigeria Working Again” if based on the above premises are hard to debunk.

This not withstanding however issues of corruption and lack of integrity the PDP government is now being accused of is putting dark cloud on Atiku’s campaign for the Presidency. Rightly so being a founding member of the party and its Vice President for a period of eight years. Atiku is vicariously a party to the sad period of the PDP’s history in government. Just like he is also a party to the failures of the APC’ government which he just left.

Knowing very well he stands in between the political history of the two major political parties, he decided to cut a niche for himself by saying lets “Get Nigeria Working Again”

This must be his tacit admission of the fact that things are not working well with the two political parties. But as a democrat he must compete on a platform and the best happens to be that of his original party.

The point he is trying to make is that the Party can be a vehicle while the Person on the platform is the driver and he is the one who can make the difference.

The world is full of those examples. In South Africa when Nelson Mandela left, Mbeki took over and he was removed in his second tenure. Zuma who took over was also removed for alleged corrupt practices, but that did not change or the destroy the ANC as a party.

In the USA when Obama took over from Bush a Republican, part of reason for his success at the polls was the financial crisis that resulted in America going in to recession.

The Democrats spent eight years under Obama and in spite of his high approval rating, strong economy and job creation, it could not stop the Republicans from coming back to power with Trump who himself was first a democrat before pitching his camp with the Republican, in spite of his many baggages.

The inter play between the Party and the Individuals that drives its fortunes are therefore mutually inclusive one can not happen without the other. Actors can be changed the party remains to build again and Atiku know this very well.

In analysing the two policy documents presented to the Nigerian people, the former President of the Nigeria Bar Association Mr Olisa Agbakoba, In an appearance on Arise TV, he described as a “complete disaster”, the “Next Level” campaign document launched by President Muhammadu Buhari 2019 presidential campaign organization.
He dismissed Buhari organization campaign document as a mere “handout” as it allegedly lacks the “conceptual overhang” expected of a document prepared to show a road-map of what the President intends to do if elected.

According to him, “The one for Atiku is 80 percent. It’s got the right stuff in it. It needs more work, but it’s a working document. It’s something I can live with. I see nice things there. It’s a conceptual framework that creates microeconomic stability. It’s got all the nice indices in it”.

“On evaluation, it is clear that the economic blueprint unveiled by Atiku addresses national needs than Buhari’s economic plans.

In spite of this however the Political actors have now defined the way forward for 2019 general election.

If you are among those who believe in “Getting Nigeria Working Again” they have provided a justifiable reason for you to vote for them.

Conversely, if you are on the side of the “foundation makers” and believe they can take you to “next level” the choice is yours.

I would like to end this discourse with the words of the former Head of State General Abdulsalam Abubakar in a lecture he delivered at National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) in Kuru, on ‘Election and Security in Nigeria: Policy Options and Strategies’. He said, “every citizen must do their duty; you must not sell your vote, you must register to vote, and stop criticising the failures of government if you will not go and vote them out if they are not doing their job”.

With this, the choice is now before the Nigeria people. The drum beat has started. Good luck.

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