The 2019 presidential election is like no other election Nigerians have had in the past. The Nigerian voter has been slapped hard in the face to make the most difficult choice of the presidential candidates of the APC or the PDP. These two parties have dragged the nation down since the return to democracy in 1999 with a leadership that is elite based, resource consuming and critically lacking in nation building necessary to make Nigeria a great nation.

With only two weeks of campaigns left, it is folly to wish away these two, as the dire choices Nigerians are left with. There are scores of other registered parties who may have more and better-qualified presidential candidates, to provide the kind of leadership required by Nigeria in the 21st Century. These are flag-bearers too and their party symbols would appear on the ballot. But for pragmatic reasons it is better to see them as mere blank spaces in a multiple test question paper. Only one of these two political parties, the APC and the PDP are the unfortunate options for winning the presidential elections!

I entered the presidential race on the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), a party founded with strong ideological commitment for the downtrodden and social justice in Nigeria. I spent huge amounts of my personal resources and those given by volunteers, family, friends and youth advocates; traversing the country; consulting, campaigning and learning from the citizens for fourteen months. I had hoped that my vision, education, experience and passion to make a difference, were sufficient to give me a ticket in the keenly contested SDP party primaries. This did not happen! I lost! My party, the Social Democratic Party has since then been hounded down by external hegemons and internal demons inhabiting the nervous system of the party. Intra-party clashes; feuds, recriminations and legal barriers have been overwhelming!

Some of the SDP presidential candidates, defeated like me at the primaries, moved out and became flag-bearers of these other parties and joined the team of smart, highly articulate and brilliant candidates and flag bearers, where there were no other aspirants. Their party primaries were merely boutique consensual affairs. One of the defeated SDP candidates went to court and further polarized the party, winning at the High Court level and losing to the original winner at the Court of Appeal. I did not go to court nor leave the party. Instead I resolved to forge on to make the SDP the real third force and provide a viable alternative for the Nigerian voter, as the Campaign Director General. I had to resign from this position soon after the inauguration, for personal reasons! The SDP has been systematically bludgeoned by teething problems and is not able to match the APC nor PDP campaign reach. It can therefore not position itself as the third force political party capable of defeating the APC nor PDP presidential candidates. The party is also unwilling to be subsumed under the wings of the PDP as a junior partner or a concubine, which must be seen but not heard!

This is why it has become necessary for me to inform my party men, friends, sponsors and supporters across the country and in the diaspora of where I stand politically. Fellow compatriots, we need to make a stand in the ensuing dilemma of whether to vote the APC or the PDP. Followers of my writings and postings on the social media and my campaign team “The Revolution of hope” could easily mistake me for being a hater of Buhari, especially in my previous admonitions of the president for his lack of empathy and aloofness from the genocidal tragedies taking place in the Middle-Belt of Nigeria and other places.

Many identify me with the viral post on Facebook, a year ago advising the president not to contest the election but to concentrate on leaving a legacy of peace. Some Buhari supporters, sheepishly snub me, fearing I may have been infected by Buhariphobia. They are wrong. I am clean. On the contrary, I love Buhari and his commitment to serve the nation despite monumental odds. I admire his guts, his resilience and his mystique. In fact in my private and public character I am known to sympathize with the underdog. President Buhari is the underdog in this election where if it was to be a referendum on his four-year tenure he deserves to lose bigly. Security is a major concern still!! Yet, my heart goes out to him as a victim of capricious forces of nature and human greed beyond his control. His sickness and its aftermath and the ridiculing of a sick but highly accomplished national icon affect my deep sense of decency and respect for elders. The mocking of President Buhari as a Sudanese imposter are jokes in very bad taste. This is why I am tempted to side with him when the principalities and powers of Nigeria the Military-Political- Clerical Complex that has ruled Nigeria since 1966 is avowedly against him. But…

The ruling party the APC has floundered and squandered goodwill by breaking all campaign promises of 2015. Security is a major concern still. Corruption is on the upsurge and the economy is comatose. The president’s inner circle is a rotten core of insidious corruption. They gloat as they perform the worst form of corruption, political corruption, which is now threatening our democracy. The APC must win at all costs! Having desecrated the institutions of state- the police, the army and other security services, they are now destroying the Judiciary. They did not stop there. They had stomped the political terrain in Ekiti and Oshun States rehearsing, how the 2019 elections could be won without popular mandates. They, rather than pity an ailing and elderly Muhammadu Buhari, who should have been retired to spend time looking after his health with his family, have captured the president as a vote catching machine with which they intend to bludgeon the electoral process. Watching president Buhari publicly televised, repeatedly falling on the campaign trail, or attempting to debate in an incoherent babble at TV events is a painful thing to me. His puppeteers are unconscionable if not outright diabolical. It is horrific Elder Abuse. Buhari does not deserve this! He is obviously suffering from an existing ailment or a new infection. His ill-health, ominously held as a sacred state secret is so obvious! His pitiless handlers are cruel and heartless. If INEC is a good referee; they should postpone this elections now and send for the full medical report of the ailing president. An Interim Government of National Unity (IGNU) is not out of place. A new timetable could be announced, and fresh elections could be conducted. Nigerians are sick and tired; of electing presidents who end up in Air Ambulances and Hospital beds in foreign lands instead of providing leadership at home!

On the other side, the PDP that recklessly abused power during its reign and threw away its mandate in 2015 to the APC, is made up of some of the most vicious and greedy parasites this country has produced. Some principal characters of this dramatic party have no social conscience. They have no allegiance to God, man, or country. I know them up close because I was also a card-carrying member. Throughout most of the PDP reign in 1999-2015, it appeared that the PDP had made a conscious choice against nation building. Instead they developed crony capitalism and distilled from the dregs of Western neo-liberal economy the cruel designs of an avaricious and pitiless market that swallowed resources meant for nation building and left out investment for critical infrastructure, education, agriculture and health! They sold out critical national assets to themselves and their friends and cronies and created global billionaires. The Nigerian politicians and business friends became unbelievably rich while the citizens grew poorer. And even today the citizens grow poorer as the political class is feeding fat. The legislative houses are bazaars for unearned wealth while State Governments leak with virulent corruption, impunity and arrogance of unlimited power.

The PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar like Buhari is Fulani, but unlike Buhari he served in the Customs instead of the Army and is more civil more likeable and emphatic. As Vice- president he was his own man. During the Zaki Biam massacre, I enjoyed working with him and other brothers to establish peace between the Tiv and the Jukun. He was able to take an unflinching stand for peace and bridge the divide between the warring parties. I can never forget accompanying Atiku in a helicopter with the State Governor Mr. George Akume to Zaki Biam the day after his PDP government mowed down hundreds of civilians in the infamous Zaki-Biam massacre. Atiku condemned his own government and said “two wrongs don’t make a right”. He is a consummate politician who knows the power of intellectual content to governance. He is quick to surround himself with the best brains at short notice and is loyal to his friends whom he promises to enrich when he becomes president.

But if I consider Atiku abubakar as being a better candidate than president Buhari in the presidential election, his party campaigns strike fear in the mind of some of us. We had hoped in vain that the nation needed now to focus on nation building through the elimination of corruption, ethnic and religious bigotry, then rebuild the country through education, infrastructure, health and agriculture. Nigeria needed political, social and economic restructuring one block after the other. I don’t seem to hear these manifested from the PDP campaigns. Even the Atiku restructuring mantra is now only a hoarse inaudible whimper. All I hear are insults piled upon insults, flung like feaces into the face of an elderly ailing man who should be pitied and retired gracefully like the Zimbabweans did to President Mugabe who was in sounder health status than Buhari. The PDP candidate brags that he will sell the NNPC to individuals even if it costs him his life? Wow!! There is no worse testimony of impunity in a liberal democracy where checks and balances circumscribe presidential power. Where would the legislature be? What of the Judiciary? Are we expecting more of the same seizure and sale of national assets to friends and cronies as had taken place in the PDP governments of the past? Has the Wazirin Adamawa learnt or remembered anything from the abortive election experiences of the Turakin Adamawa?

I failed to emerge as my party’s candidate. My party’s symbol might appear on the presidential election ballot despite the legal acrobatics going on. It will not create a ripple in the results! My party is a political token now. I am an optimist but not a fool. The SDP is a party for tomorrow. We must therefore make a choice from what we have on the ground between the incumbent ailing and elderly President, Muhammadu Buhari or the Former Vice- President Atiku Abubakar. The choice is between the APC bloodshed and a pre-colonial feudal outlook on the one hand or the PDP a party that is weak on policy and altruism but heavy on conspicuous consumption crony capitalism and seems to condone corruption.

I, Iyorwuese Hagher, an erstwhile SDP presidential aspirant, and firm believer in the greatness of Nigeria, hereby ask my party supporters and the Nigerian voters, to exercise their conscience and civic rights. I encourage you to vote for whosoever you are inclined to by conscience, as president. As for me, I will toss up a coin and see on which face there is sunlight. If you then still ask me where I stand? I stand with the downtrodden Nigerian people who deserve better choices than these.

Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher

SDP Presidential Aspirant.