SLUGFEST OR TURNING POINT?

Author:Versi, Anver
Position:Upcoming Nigerian presidential elections - Cover story
 
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This month sees Africa's most tumultuous election in the continent's most populous country, Nigeria. The incumbent Muhammadu Buhari is going head-to-head with his former ally, Atiku Abubakar. When Nigeria sneezes, Africa catches a cold so the outcome will have repercussions around the continent.

Just weeks before Nigeria's critical elections scheduled for 16 February, Boko Haram claimed it had carried out a major attack on the northeast Nigerian town of Rann. Earlier it had been reported that the Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), an offshoot of Boko Haram, was responsible.

Whatever the case, this attack was just one more in a spate of violence that has rocked Africa's most populous nation and comes as a slap in the face of the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari as he girds up for his battle against another Northerner, Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

Buhari rode to a popular victory four years ago on the back of a pledge to remove violent insecurity in the country, ostensibly by eliminating, or at least severely curtailing Boko Haram and other insurgent groups and resolving the pastoralist versus farmer violence in the country s breadbasket, the middle belt.

There were high hopes that since Buhari is a former military commander with an acute sense of battlefield strategy, he would succeed where others had failed.

Instead, violence and insecurity have increased, although the costs of containing it have multiplied. Some two million people have been internally displaced and the panicky migration to urban areas, fuelled by insecurity, has increased.

Buhari's economic policies have been a shambles and his other pledge, to crack down heavily on corruption, is being laughed out of court. While he himself is regarded as 'Mister Clean', those around him are anything but.

A Lagos wit puts the situation in perspective: "In every election, every candidate swears by all that is holy that he will eliminate corruption--and after every election, corruption still stands tall. It is a hopeless task; corruption is too deeply embedded in Nigerian society --it is a hydra-headed monster, cut off one head and two appear in its place. So the pledge to end corruption is like promising to provide every family with a house--it would be wonderful if it were to happen, but everybody knows it will not."

The issue then for most Nigerians who are realistic is not to chase meaningless promises that cannot be delivered, but which...

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