4th February, 2015
By Lateef Raji
Without any doubt, this is the season of desperation, lies, fallacies and monumental propaganda for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. In its frantic bid to stalk the current popularity and widespread acceptability of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, the PDP is frenetically embarking on a disparaging smear campaign on his personality.
The PDP, which initially proclaimed sticking to an issue-based campaign, now hinges the bastion of its campaign solely on the demonization of the character of the people’s General. If it is not about Buhari’s certificate today, tomorrow it is about his gapped tooth or even his height or his light skin or his wife. For the PDP, things have become so precariously degenerate!
Of all the lies being peddled by the PDP to blotch the personality of General Buhari, labelling him a religious bigot is most particularly damning and fraudulent. At the slightest opportunity, the PDP and its cronies resort to the religious card as part of the ploy to portray General Buhari in bad light. At the core of this finicky irreverent fabrication is the deception that Buhari has a mission to Islamise the country. What the PDP, the chief custodian and promoter of these lies are yet to tell Nigerians is how a man who ruled the nation as a military dictator and didn’t Islamise the country would do same as a civilian president, with all the democratic checks and balances in place.
The truth of the matter is that Gen Buhari is a practicing Muslim and there is actually nothing wrong with this. The Nigerian constitution permits every Nigerian to practice the religion that he/she believes in and in the way he chooses to. President Jonathan has been worshipping from one church to the other across the country. He was once in Jerusalem with some Christian leaders and a few Christian members of his cabinet and party. He is actually free to do this as guaranteed by the constitution of the country. But then, why is General Buhari being unnecessarily vilified for his faith? To date, no one could actually lay claim to any instance when the General has acted in ways that hinder others from practicing their religion. As it is often said, opinions are free but facts are sacred. When General Buhari took over as the military Head of State in 1984, out of the 19 military governors, he appointed, 11 of them were Christians. The record is there for whoever cares to corroborate.
To demonstrate his dispassionate disposition to adherents of other faiths, General Buhari chose a popular Pentecostal Pastor, Tunde Bakare, as his running mate in the 2011 presidential election. Buhari’s choice of the famous pastor as a running mate rubbish the picture of a religious extremist being painted of him. Yet again, General Buhari has demonstrated his liberal position concerning religion by going for another committed and faithful Christian pastor, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), as his running mate. How could a supposedly Islamic fanatic opt for a pastor as running mate? A religious chauvinist wouldn’t do that! In choosing Osinbajo as his running mate, what Buhari has clearly shown is that he is ready to partner with any Nigerian, irrespective of the ethnic and religious divide, to move the country forward. So, what we have seen in Buhari, through this, is a statesman and a patriot who holds the unity of the country so dearly at heart.
The fear of the PDP as expressed by the president that Buhari would send some Nigerians to jail for corruption as soon as he becomes the president is no surprise. Jonathan’s government courts corruption, and deserves nobody’s sympathy. A corrupt public officer and accomplices belong nowhere but jail houses. However, the truth this time under democracy, and the rule of law, is that due process will be guiding principle. If the General, like any rational leader, is going to fight corruption, he would have to do that within the confines of the law. Nigeria is not a banana republic. The constitution remains the guiding document of faith in the country. It is true Dr. Jonathan has been treating this sacred document with impunity, and believes this would be the same under Buhari. The answer is no. We can see how much disregard he has for the constitution in the matter of advertising, which is the constitutional responsibility of the Local Governments as defined in Schedule Four of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The reality is that the PDP has established a culture of waste in the country for quite sometime, and it is now afraid that if an unrepentant anti-corruption crusader like Buhari ascends the presidency, it portends a great danger for all its crooked and fraudulent elements.
Lies are also being peddled around by the jittery PDP propaganda machinery about General Buhari being a corrupt man. The fact, however, is that, General Buhari is one Nigerian who has lived above board. He has held virtually every juicy position in Nigeria, but until today even his worst enemies couldn’t pin down any allegation of self-enrichment against him. Nobody has yet come out to indict Buhari of taking a kobo that doesn’t belong to him.
Buhari had been Head of State, Minister of Petroleum Resources, Governor of Borno State and Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) which was then the cash basket of the country. However, there has not been even an accusation of him using those positions to corruptly enrich himself. This is extraordinary. The PDP should come out to deny the fact that all former leaders are entitled to N23 million monthly, and only Buhari chooses to earn N2.3 million.
Undoubtedly, what the country needs now is a leader with the anti-corruption stance of General Buhari. Our major problem has been the mismanagement of our resources by a crop of visionless and selfish leaders. At the last count, the Jonathan administration could not account for over $100bn! Corruption remains the bane of the country and any leader who can tackle corruption headlong could actually move the nation to the Promised Land. What we have now is a government that has turned corruption and deception into instruments of governance. The end results are the woes that have befallen the country. When sane and patriotic economic analysts in the country were cautioning our leaders about an impending economic woe, the all-knowing economic managers in Abuja simply shrugged it off as the ranting of ants. However, Nigerians now know better as a regime of austerity measures have been forced down our throats.
For the PDP, corruption is a way of life. The list is innumerable. Fuel subsidy rip-off linking sons of ex-PDP chairmen, the Halliburton scam, the pension scam, the national I.D card scam, the electricity regulation scam, the NPA corruption scandal stirred by Bode George to mention just a few are some of the complex corruption cases through which the PDP has thrown the country into a mess.
What stands Buhari apart today is the very element that is lacking in the current crop of leadership we have in this nation today – INTEGRITY! There is, therefore, no amount of the campaign of calumny that can stop the Wind of Change. It has gathered momentum. The mass of the people are already on board.
GMB is the man!
•Raji is the Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Information and Strategy.