The registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) -which was a merger of the main political parties in the country, has generated a great deal of excitement and rekindled the prospect of strengthening democracy and hope in our country, in place of national despair. By this act alone, the leaderships of the merging opposition parties have demonstrated that Nigeria, its future, progress and prosperity of its citizens are greater than individual ambitions. The APC is therefore a platform for Nigerians to have an alternative to fulfil their aspirations and realise their potential with a party that is strong and nationally based. What is more, it will help to arrest the drift towards oppression and anarchy.
Democracy is not just about free and fair elections, the consequence of which parties alternate to form governments. It also provides opportunities for fresh policies to move the country forward. That is why presidential systems have term limits, such as we have but the failed third term attempt is a clear indication that given the opportunity, some politicians will try and subvert the system. In Parliamentary Systems, where there are no term limits, members of the governing parties remove the head of government, however successful she or he is in government and popular with the voters. That was the fate of two British Prime Ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, in recent times. Alternatively, provided there are free and fair elections, the electorate will vote out unpopular governments such as what happened with Mrs Ghandi in India.
The dangers of one party or an individual remaining in power for too long are two-fold: first is corruption of power. Power, it has been said, corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The second element is the temptation to absolutism, the rule of one party has the tendency to become the rule of a faction of the party and ultimately the rule of one person, a forbidding path to a Stalinist state.
Regrettably, after the euphoria of its registration, public discussion has been more about personalities and less on the benefits of the emergence of a strong alternative to the governing party and the prospects it offers to widening democracy and stemming the drift to impunity, where an elected President can say he doesn’t give a damn about public opinion.
The issue is not just about Buhari, but something greater than Buhari or any individual or parts of its whole, it is about Nigeria – its future, progress and prosperity of its citizens, living in peace, harmony, its evolution and integration. By joining the army, I had signed up to lay my life for my country. This was what my colleagues and I faced during our tragic civil war to keep our country united. Nigeria has been good to me. I was an orphan but it educated me and trained me and offered me the ultimate prize any citizen can hope for – its leadership.
My involvement in the political process is another call to duty and my desire to give back to Nigeria a little of what it gave me, by joining hands with others to provide viable options to our fellow citizens and evolve social and economic policies that are sustainable and all inclusive, by a caring leadership that is dedicated to the efficient management of the economy, social justice and individual liberty. Such leadership is not restricted to government alone, we all have roles to play – the National Assembly, the judiciary, the security services, the press and civil society groups, to ensure checks and balances, protection of all under the law, and accountability.
If some politicians find it more convenient to drag public discussion towards the weaknesses of Nigeria, in order to hide their incompetence and divert attention from their theft of public funds, it is the responsibility of the press to steer the debate to policies and programmes, notwithstanding the diversionary self-destruct antics of the PDP.
*General Buhari, former military Head of State, is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC).