The Grudge Match By Olawale Olaleye

imageDespite the enthusiasm, Nigeria, either way, is primed to make history this Saturday in a presidential rematch that promises to be intense between President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari, writes Olawale Olaleye

Like Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, whose presidential rematch the world excitedly looks forward to, the duo of Razor (Sylvester Stallone) and Kid (Robert De Niro) – in the comedy/action blockbuster – Grudge Match – had an unfinished business. In their prime, back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the United States, the two had become arch rivals after two fights, one in which Kid beat Razor and another in which Razor beat Kid – the only defeats in their boxing careers.

This, ironically, had left them with no clear champion status and before they could ponder a rematch, Razor announced his retirement without explanation, a development that hurt and infuriated Kid and also cost them a big payday.

Years later, Razor had become broke and working in a shipyard when he was visited by promoter Dante Slate Jr. (Kevin Hart), who wanted Razor to provide a motion capture performance for a video game. Interestingly, it was Slate’s father whose shady business dealings had left Razor in dire financial straits. But Razor wanted no part of this stunt. Kid, a showoff who runs a bar and car dealership, was however down with it.

Grudgingly, Razor accepted $15,000 needed to care for his ailing former trainer, Lightning Conlon (Alan Arkin) and pay his overdue bills. His case was so bad that he didn’t even own a television set. Thus, when Lightning moved in, the old trainer couldn’t even watch his favorite shows like Dancing with the Stars, the need to buckle up became instructive.
At the recording studio, Razor was stunned and taunted by Kid, who was also invited by Slate. The two got into a fight and damaged the studio before being arrested. Naturally, in this age and time, Cellphone footage of the fight was uploaded on YouTube and went viral, giving Slate the idea of organising a final grudge match between Razor and Kid, which he promoted as “Grudgement Day”.
Eagerly, Kid accepted much as Razor was forced to do so, not receiving his $15,000 and also learning he had been fired from the shipyard. Much more for Razor, aside claiming superiority over Kid was the need for revenge against Kid for cheating with his ex-girlfriend, Sally Rose (Kim Basinger), who in the process took in and bore him a boy, who would later become Kid’s trainer.

Razor and Sally made up; she approved of the fight and the grudge match ended in favour of Razor even though Kid nursed no hard feeling. As old men, Kid wanted to prove a point and did prove his point. In fact, the bout ended up a good deal for Slate that he had begun to propose another grudge match between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.

The first presidential encounter between Jonathan and Buhari was in 2011 even though Buhari has had two others before that. He had one in 2003 with Olusegun Obasanjo and the other in 2007 with the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. On the two occasions, he lost to the other guys and so was the bout with Jonathan in 2011.

But like his previous experiences, Buhari did not believe he lost the elections but rather rigged out, using state resources and machinery. Of the three characters he’s had to confront in each of the presidential polls, Buhari has the rare privilege for a rematch only with Jonathan. While the first person, Obasanjo sought a re-election at the time, Yar’Adua’s untimely death prevented a possible rematch with the former head of state even though the latter’s election was adjudged the most fraudulent in Nigeria’s contemporary history.

Although the election of Jonathan in 2011 was not as bad, Buhari still believed he was shortchanged and like he did in his previous experiences, he approached the court in that instance too and as it was with the two others, his case was thrown out. Unfortunately for Jonathan, his presumed victory in 2011 attracted intense protest from the north from supporters of Buhari who were convinced their “idol” was rigged out.

This though may not be unconnected with some of the inciting statements allegedly credited to Buhari in the lead up to the exercise, the impression was that the violent reaction was spontaneous and so, many people including property worth several millions went down with that madness.

Small wonder, the emergence of the two gladiators as the standard bearers of their parties had elicited a degree of worry amongst the discerning, who understand the implications of any intentioned manipulations in this historic rematch. Besides, some incendiary statements from leaders of both parties in the months and weeks leading up to tomorrow have not helped to allay the fears that the exercise would go peacefully.

Worse still, the manner of hate campaigns that characterised the build-up to tomorrow’s election was unprecedented in history. Issues germane to the pattern of choice were played down to the irrelevant. Extraneous and extant factors consequently assumed the centre stage. Society’s renegades were suddenly elevated to national platforms at the risk of national image and integrity. Money politics became the in-thing despite depleting national reserves and the functionally glorified economy, whose indices are not commensurate with the reality on the ground.

That the whole world is gazed on the country is understandable. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with an intimidating market size. Sandwiched by equally struggling neighbours, any major crisis in the country definitely bodes ill for not just the political economy of the smaller neighbours; the west and their allies will also be in perpetual discomfort as a result of the possible influx of migrants to their countries.
Importantly, however, is the fact that this election is not about the individuals standing for election. It is not a match between the minority and the majority of Nigeria. Certainly, not a contest between the Muslim North and the Christian South and the least, of course, it is not one amongst the various ethnic nationalities in the country.

For the record, therefore, it is about the future of Nigeria and her unborn generation. It is about what lies ahead for the country in the foreseeable and unforeseeable future. It is about Nigerians pondering a choice between either their status quo as it were or a future they so can’t determine. To put it most succinctly, it is an option between – more or less – two bad choices.

But where the people are either consensually or otherwise stampeded with two bad if not horrible choices, the need to be circumspect in making a choice becomes sacrosanct. This election, in summary, is a choice predicated on the tripod of Security, Economy and Corruption.

For Jonathan, therefore, his name will be on the ballot tomorrow on the strength of his own record. The world over, incumbents run on their performance records and so, Jonathan’s will not differ. In fact, it is his world against that of his challenger. Interestingly, he is one incumbent running, not only on the record of the constitutional four years, but in addition for him is the one and a half years of the term left behind by his former principal, Yar’Adua.

Thus, as the electorate approaches the booth tomorrow, you are expected to talk to yourself, judging with your lifestyle preceding the Jonathan era and asking yourself some basic questions. These include what is the power situation in my area like? What is the status of my personal economy in the last four years? What was corruption like before Jonathan assumed leadership and what is it now?

Is the security of my life and property including those of my people better off? What is the economy of the country saying today, starting with rudimentary economic literature? Is employment as bad as it was some four/five years ago? What was the state of the infrastructure before his coming onboard and what is it now?

Is the economy being diversified in lieu of the depreciating value of crude oil in the international market? Is the so much talked about improvement in the transportation sector worth the hype? Is the resuscitated rail system worth celebrating in this age and time? What with the agricultural sector, is the transformation initiative really pronounced there?

Whatever answers you are able to come up with in a few seconds that you ponder this should be followed up immediately by the following questions: what is responsible for the state of the nation today? Are they problems designed by this administration or inherited? Did they fester this much as a result of sheer nescience or leadership inanity? Can I trust this administration in terms of keeping to its words and making them its bond? Above all, am I ready to persevere all of these for another four years? Whatever answers you come up with become your decision and you must be ready to live by its consequences, ultimately.

The General isn’t coming with so much to the poll except for the overused credibility factor. The talk about capacity, in his case, is debatable, unfortunately. The factor of age is also present in the gamut of the whole debate. This attempt is his fourth and evidently, his last as a presidential aspirant. He is also coming to the ring with a blighted record as a military head of state that forcefully seized power.

No one is proud of and can defend military incursion in a democratic setting, regardless of whatever excuses that may be up for show. Buhari is coming to the table with this. Yes, he is known the world over as incorruptible. But being incorruptible in a military setting where no one can question his authority differs from a democratic setting where due process and bureaucratic engagements are inevitable.

However, that he has remained and maintained a decent and Spartan lifestyle is not debatable. He has consciously and consistently stayed away from scandals and undue public opprobrium. This, of course, speaks to his person and character. He is generally seen and believed to be a man of his words. A few but critical interventions of his administration in different spheres of the country are some of the testimonials that he takes about. But can they drive the kind of change needed to take the country forward in this age and time?

It is important that an intending voter takes both the retrospective and introspective soul-searching initiative as he approaches the polling booth. Is this your idea of change? Certainly not the messiah, but does Buhari signify the change the entire country seeks at this material time?

What is Jonathan doing wrong that you think a Buhari would do better and why? Is it better to change the present administration in spite of its palpable shortcomings and go for Buhari? Do you not think age is a critical factor that must be taken into account? If it is, what has a younger Jonathan done with his agility to earn your vote?

On the international scene, which of these two do you think can earn back the country’s respect and integrity? How much of international damage do you think Jonathan has done in that area? Do you think a former dictator is any better? Will the West play along and respect better a Buhari than a Jonathan or will they prefer a Jonathan, despite his inadequacies in power?

The questions are legion and endless, but the ability to speak to yourself as an intending voter is key, bearing in mind that you are responsible for the consequences of your action and ready to live with it for another four years. You must, as a voter, prove that the time when votes don’t count is gone and that with your votes, you can determine your own future by electing leaders of your choice.

But before the impression is registered that the presidential election is all that matters, it is important to note that the National Assembly polls are running side-by-side. As a result, the need for political parties, their candidates and supporters to act responsibly is not negotiable. It is a democracy where choice is guaranteed even in the constitution. Therefore, everyone must learn to conduct themselves orderly, vote the candidates of your choice in peace and leave, and where you choose to stay behind to monitor what goes on at the poll, you must be at your best behavior, else you run into problem with the law enforcement agencies.

The security personnel deployed to maintain law and order are also not exempted from being professional at their beats. Needless harassment of civilians is not allowed, much as a court of competent jurisdiction has ruled that soldiers must not be deployed for the election. However, they could be seen on the streets, metres away from the polling booths securing the innocents going about their businesses peacefully. The police too know that being at the booths automatically deprives them the opportunity to bear arms. Everyone must be civil, peaceful and orderly.

Officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must realise that all eyes on them. Covert or overt attempt to collude with parties either through their agents or any other proxy avenue will boomerang, the implications of which are grave even for the entire exercise. Indeed, the INEC must be circumspect this period because of the allegations that had been peddled against its leadership hence those assigned to this national assignment must be patriotic enough to look beyond petty inducements against the choice of people.

In the final analysis, the fact that this year’s general election has been interpreted as a determinant of where the country heads from here makes it inescapably critical and everyone, with every sense of responsibility and patriotism, must see it as such. From the South to the North and East, there is no one person who has another country outside of this beautiful green land with amazing natural resource deposit. America has denied predicting a break-up of the country at any time, the political leadership, unfortunately is inching in that direction.

This is where the collective sense of responsibility comes to play – all hands must be on deck. Everyone must jointly say no to violence. The election of leaders is all the voter must seek and not the disruption of the exercise through perpetration of violence.

Tomorrow is a date with history and the story will be told some day by historians and from different angles. Be sure that while the historians might tell their versions from different angles, the truth will definitely assume a pattern, the yardstick of which will form the basis of further assessment of the roles of individuals.

Posterity isn’t a bitch as such but headstrong enough to assign in proportional contents, what everyone is entitled to according to the roles played. This is why you must ponder what role you are about to play as you may not be in position to rewrite history. Even where the opportunity avails itself, whatever has followed a pattern of truth may be unchangeable. Now, the grudge match can start…

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