Godwin Haruna.

2015 promises to be Nigeria’s best opportunity to upturn years of rapacious rape by a mindless political class. Across the world, this country is acknowledged correctly, as rich with enormous human, material and natural resources. However, a combination of rudderless leadership, humongous corruption and misplaced priorities have ruined the nation and reduced the mass of the people to paupers. The political class thrived feeding fat on the vulnerability of the hapless commoners, who constitute the overwhelming majority. The political elite dominated by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been notorious in the squandering of the commonwealth because they have tenaciously held on to power at the centre since the nation returned to civil rule in 1999. It is very heartening that 2015 promises to change all that.

From the pulpit to the informed political commentators and the much abused commoner on the street, the mood for change is palpable. This is the moment the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), which was formed as a result of the merger of several parties about two years ago, has to capitalize upon to seize power in next month’s presidential poll. In its presidential primaries held in December to select the party’s flag bearer in the polls, majority of the delegates chose the austere, disciplined and incorruptible army general and former Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari. Against the background of money politics in Nigeria, Buhari won the contest against former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, two sitting governors, Rabiu Kwakwanso of Kano State and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State and media guru, Sam Nda-Isaiah, all of whom are believed to be far ahead of him in terms of political war chest. He won so convincingly and overwhelmingly in a widely acclaimed free and fair primary election contest.

Since his victory to square it against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, who was merely handed the PDP’s ticket after other contestants were pressured to back out, the mood of the nation has been energized towards change. Against the background of Jonathan’s poor performance since he mounted the saddle six years ago, an overwhelming majority of Nigerians have pitched their tent with the stern-looking general. This popular support and goodwill are what analysts and public affairs commentators have based their forecast in the impending presidential poll. But can Buhari cash in on the present momentum and coast home to victory when the chips are down in February?

It looks certain that the desired change Nigerians are clamouring for is about to be bequeathed the nation. The signs are glaring from all corners. The fiery Catholic priest and founder of the Adoration Ministry, Enugu, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka, in a rare New Year revelation to a multitude of the faithful from the South-east, endorsed Buhari as the best man for the job. In a sermon dripping with anger, Reverend Mbaka lampooned Jonathan over what he described as his poor performance in the past six years, and predicted that the second term ambition of the president would hit the rocks. In the widely reported sermon tagged, “From Good luck to Bad luck” at the end-of-year Adoration mass to usher in the new year, Father Mbaka said he and millions of other fellow compatriots were disappointed by Jonathan’s administration which had failed to ensure the release of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the Boko Haram terrorists over eight months ago, not to talk of other heinous crimes of mass killings of innocent citizens.

Remarkably, Rev. Fr. Mbaka had recently anointed Mrs. Patience Jonathan as the next Nigerian First Lady in 2015 when she, alongside the Deputy President of the Senate, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Nwanneka, worshiped at the Adoration Ministry where the First Lady admitted that she experienced “a spiritual rebirth.” On that occasion, the spiritual father also did something symbolic after anointing Mrs. Jonathan – he released some birds to go and fight for Jonathan. However, on New Year’s eve, Fr. Mbaka disclosed that Jonathan was going nowhere as far as this year’s election was concerned, recalling that  one of the birds – which symbolised the President –  he released  during Mrs. Jonathan’s visit to the Adoration Ground,  refused to fly.

“All the other birds I released flew away but the healthiest of them which is Jonathan’s bird could not fly. I tried to make it fly but it could not fly,” he recalled to the huge excited congregation that cheered him on. He disclosed that after prayers, the sign he received from God was that Jonathan was not fit to rule the nation anymore. He alleged that the Jonathan-led administration, was too corrupt and accused the president of surrounding himself with very corrupt public officials, whose corrupt activities he had turned a blind eye while millions of Nigerians suffered daily in abject poverty and endless insecurity.

He said further: “Jonathan has ruled for six years .We need change. NEPA is not working because of corruption. The privatisation of public companies has not yielded any fruit because of corruption. Jonathan surrounded himself with very corrupt officers who advise him. Nigerians are sick and tired of wasting innocent lives without government doing enough to stop the destruction.”

For the doubting Thomases of the seriousness of his revelation, the cleric told the congregation of over 30,000 worshippers that he resisted delivering the sermon which he said came from the Holy Ghost but God warned him to ensure the message was given to the nation not minding whose ox was gored. In his comments on Buhari, Fr. Mbaka, who said he was not being partisan, observed that the APC presidential hopeful could not islamise Nigeria as being rumoured in some circles. He confessed that he had never met the General before but recalled that he fought corruption seriously as Head of State.

“I don’t know Buhari. I have never sat with him before. I am not being partisan, but I want total change in Nigeria.  Buhari cannot make Nigeria an Islamic country because we are in a democracy. It was IBB government that dragged Nigeria into Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). When Buhari fought corruption, people became careful about their actions. Anyone who says Buhari will islamise Nigeria is not being fair. If a northerner will rule the country and insecurity will stop, so be it. If a Yoruba man will rule Nigeria in 2015 and we have peace and stop the shedding of innocent blood, so be it. Nigerians are tired of wasting innocent lives,” said the cleric, who announced that he was not bothered whether the next President would be a Northerner or Yoruba or Igbo so long the person fought corruption and meant well for the citizens.

In the reckoning of analysts, this kind of revelation makes 2015 presidential election not to be too close to call as many people expect. They believe that a winner will emerge so decisively in the first ballot. A wind of change is blowing across the land at the speed of light. It is like a hurricane sweeping across the nation carrying everybody along in its wake and this desire of Nigerians makes Buhari’s victory a fait accompli.

THISDAY Newspaper columnist, Dele Momodu summed up thus: “If President Jonathan is able to bounce back from the current blitzkrieg, then it means the wind of change would have been fatally downgraded to the extent that something major would have gone wrong with the APC candidates and/or their campaign. But I don’t see this happening. I’m willing and ready to place a bet that the PDP has reached its final bus stop, for now, after reigning unchallenged for 16 years. This is to be expected. Even the best of democracies abroad, political parties often suffer from natural law of diminishing returns after staying in power for so long. This kind of fatigue has already set in for PDP and a President Jonathan would be the natural collateral damage in the process.”

He posited further that although Buhari and Jonathan have their drawbacks as individuals, a fact known to many people, but the former seems to have managed his own in such a way that people have come to terms with whatever is regarded as his shortcomings while they have given up on any redeeming grace for Jonathan’s apparent weaknesses. The consensus among serious political commentators is that the president either wittingly or unwittingly has blown apart the enormous goodwill on which he rode to power four years ago through his ineptitude in the art of governance. Contrastingly, his main challenger, Buhari, apart from firming his grip on his core support base in the North, has widened his acceptance across the South-west, South-east and even South-south through a deft political rearrangement in the APC. Buhari’s inroad into the entire Southern part of the country points to a landslide victory on February.

However, despite these projections, the opposition must not be complacent. Although incumbent presidents have been defeated in democratic elections in some African countries notably, Zambia, Ghana, Malawi, Benin Republic, among others, not to mention advanced democracies of Europe and America, where parties change batons routinely, incumbency factor in a pauperized nation like Nigeria, could be very strong. This is more so as being displayed by some rabid and well-funded supporters of the ruling party that elections are not won on issues, but on cash and carry basis. With public purse at its disposal to fritter away, it is very clear that the electorate would be shamelessly lured with cash and other things by the ruling party. This much we know, having raised 21 billion naira in one night! Perhaps, this remains the last resort of the desperate supporters of the ruling party to cling to power. If what happened at the APC presidential primaries is any guide, where the least funded candidate emerged in a landslide, then, PDP would rely on their hefty purse to their peril. The Nigerian electorate have become wiser.

The issues that define this election are very dear to Nigerians irrespective of class. Why should we return Jonathan amid the insecurity of lives and property? In almost five years of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s term of office as Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, the exchange rate of the naira to the dollar was relatively stable. Never was there an occasion to massively devalue our currency as being mindlessly done with its consequent inflation. Then, look at Nigeria’s infrastructure, existing ones are not maintained and new ones are a far-cry so that a journey of two hours by road takes eight hours to accomplish. Added to all these, is the high level of corruption in Jonathan;s government about which practically nothing is being done. So where is the incentive to vote continuity?

On the other hand, you have a Buhari that has held quite a number of public offices in the past during which he acquitted himself creditably. Despite attempts at mudslinging him, no one has come up with any credible accusation of corruption against him. The present frustrations of a vast number of Nigerians clearly puts him ahead of his competitors as the best man for the job. His legacies as head of state when he introduced the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) and the monthly environmental sanitation remain with us till today. His achievements as Chairman of the Petroleum Task Force (PTF), where he bequeathed enduring development projects across the country are some of the positives people point to in their clamour for his emergence as President to halt the sinking ship of state. Despite holding various public offices, including the highest office in the land, Buhari has never been linked with ownership of any oil well or company where he holds controlling shares.

As an ordinary mortal, Buhari does not possess the magic wand to end all of our problems in one full swoop, but his emergence alone is bound to instill confidence in our decadent institutions. This is the confidence required to reinvent the country once more. Also, a Buhari presidency would certainly reinvigorate the confidence of the international community and other institutions in Nigeria’s capacity to restore its fading glory. This is why the APC and Buhari should seize this momentum presented to them on a platter of gold! Some months ago, this emerging epoch seemed unrealistic, but before our very eyes, Buhari holds the ace. He must rise to the occasion, along with his teeming supporters, to deliver the knock-out punch for Nigeria to rise again.

If in the 2003 race, he won over 12 million votes virtually all by himself and in 2011, he also won more than 12 million votes without a visible political structure beyond the street appeal, then, he remains an enigma. The present arrangement which brought forth the party on which platform he is contesting, remains a veritable stage to actualize his dream of re-directing the course of the nation from the present rudderless leadership.