2015 General Elections: Most odious presidential campaign ever!
SIX days to go from today! The presidential campaigns have been awful. That is, perhaps, how best to sum it all up.
The governorship election (April 11) is no better. Governors, owing months of workers’ salaries, are promising pay rises if re-elected. They are using their campaigns to reduce school fees and announce free education. The electorate is to absorb it all.
Already once-postponed, the presidential election rescheduled for this Saturday (March 28) is mired in, perhaps, the biggest allegation yet: that the Jonathan administration had hatched a plot to institute an Interim or Unity Government in place of the election.
Last Thursday, at a summit of some Yoruba leaders at Ibadan (Oyo State), the allegation got a notch with the leaders saying No to it. They did not endorse any of the two main candidates.
In addition to saying, let the elections be held as rescheduled, the overall import of their formal statement was: the Southwest electorate are free to vote any candidate of their choice.
However, down in the streets, some of the unanswered questions following are: “Will this election truly hold?” “Will INEC announce results?” “All the Dollars and Naira that politicians have been throwing around, are they all for nothing?” Etc.
Obasanjo and the presidential election
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo may well retire from active politicking and political punditry after this election.
Once in 2002, at a media chat during his first term, he claimed that Chief Bola Ige, the “Cicero of Esa Oke”, as the late lawyer, politician, and Attorney General and Justice Minister was popularly called, drafted the constitution and manifesto of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
It was about three months after Ige had been murdered at his Ibadan residence on December 23, 2001.
Obasanjo’s claim on NTA infuriated some of the party elders and founding fathers, so much that the late Chief Sunday Bolorunduro (S.B) Awoniyi, who was chairman of the drafting committee, promptly responded thus:
“As chairman of the PDP manifesto committee, I owe it as a duty to the members of that committee to correct the erroneous statement President Obasanjo sold to the nation in his media chat on Sunday, 3 February 2002.
“In the course of his answer to a question about the aversion of the PDP caucus to the registration of new political parties, President Obasanjo introduced the name of Chief Bola Ige. He said that Ige was responsible for writing the constitution and manifesto of the PDP and those of other political parties as well. Nothing can be farther from the truth.”
Awoniyi said although he was not out to disregard “the fecundity of Uncle Bola’s pen,” he “intended to aid transparency about which President Obasanjo is an untiring canvasser.”
That was then. Although the former president had bestrode the party at that time like a colossus and embarked on appointing the party chairmen without reverting to the party National Convention, as recognised by the party constitution, some of the elders, who were already then at the receiving end of his big sticks, could still decently caution him.
In the run-up to this presidential election, there is virtually no elder now to talk decently in the PDP. Obasanjo has himself quit the party in a haze of theatre, ordering his membership card to be torn to the glare of TV cameras.
He has published another controversial personal memoirs. He has written angry and explosive letters. He has made scores of media appearances, nationally and internationally.
Voters have virtually only his word with which to look at the two leading presidential candidates on the major issue of public corruption.
INEC introduces anti-rigging measures for the first time
Despite the window offered by a six-weeks postponement during which the election umpire, Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), demonstrated the use of Card Readers in selected states and centres, the new system, along with the novel accreditation of voters by presentation of Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) is viewed with a mixture of excitement and apprehension.
Some fear that it might delay voting and cause trouble in some places.
“It is one thing for INEC to demonstrate Card Readers with a hand-full of voters,” said one prospective voter at a Primary School collection centre in Ojodu Lagos. “It is another for polls officers to attend to the crowd of voters on Election Day with this thing (Card Reader); there will be problem.”
Leaders of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), managed to appropriate to the party, and by sheer propaganda, “chief supporters” of INEC and its innovative PVC and Card Readers.
They are not on record to large-heartedly acknowledge that this is happening for the first time; only that it is designed to check rigging by the “rigging party.”
That it happened under the Jonathan administration, which provided the INEC with the funds and the free hand to come through with them, where past administration never tolerated that kind of innovation, can never be said until maybe after the election has been conducted and the system works to everyone’s satisfaction.
However, beginning with another innovative move — introduction of 30,000 new polling units — which had to be dropped after Southern states vehemently protested their gross lopsidedness in favour of Northern states, leaders of the ruling party, who have also labelled the APC as “association of propagandists and complainers,” have been alleging that the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led electoral body has a hidden agenda.
Initially, PVCs had been distributed 80 per cent and above in some Northern states’ cities, including those of Boko Haram insurgency — torn Northeast, despite huge numbers of displaced persons, while allocation and collection in Southern states’ cities, including high-density commercial nerve-centre of Lagos, ranked mostly between 35 and 50 per cent.
Currently, while INEC officials claim to have distributed PVCs 80 per cent and above nationwide, PDP’s supporters staged protest march in Abuja and some cities to demonstrate their rejection of the use of Card Readers for the election.
Supporters of the two parties staged million-man march, multi-million-man march and so forth.
Allegations, counter-allegations, and muck, counter-muck have been used to block healthy debate of issues, policies, and strategies. Electioneering propaganda has never been this vile, especially with the entry of the social media.
And so, only days now separating the electorate from voting, the streets are still suffused with rumour that the election could again be postponed. There are all shades of talk in the streets, markets and motor parks:
“PDP will not just lose the election like that, it will do something!” “They are saying an Interim Government or something like that is coming!” “I can’t see Buhari defeating Jonathan just like that!”
“APC will not accept defeat; Amaechi said they will form a parallel government!” “Jonathan can’t defeat Buhari in this election; the whole North and the whole Southwest will vote for Buhari and Buhari has already won!”
“No; not every northerner or South-westerner will vote for Buhari or Jonathan, and this election can only lead to trouble!” And so forth.
APC/PDP: The fight to finish
THE APC cry of “change” has appeared to sound louder than the PDP “continuity” cry. Change, as a term or concept, ordinarily is not so much as political, economic or social, as it is scientific. Basically as a scientific expression, it implies paradigm shift.
Last March, the main opposition APC, kicked off by unveiling a manifesto in Abuja, promising a welfare vision for Nigeria.
Job creation strategies, fight against public corruption, poor and falling social and physical infrastructure, widespread insecurity, creation of state police, greater transparency in government were promised.
But practically all through the campaigns, there is virtually no solid defence of how, or what and what the party will do to get funds to implement or execute some of the promises.
For example, in the midst of falling oil prices, the APC plans to pay the poorest 25 million people in the country a monthly allowance of N5, 000. It also plans to pay a whole year of ex-Youth Corps members, who are unable to find jobs.
Put together, this will cost at least N2 trillion or nearly half of the federal budget for 2014.
Some of these could have formed a basis for the party candidate, retired Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, to engage the incumbent and one he wants to unseat, President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in a televised debate — indeed, a presidential debate — complete with a return match (round two), as has become the international practice, to enable voters understand issues better and make up their mind who to vote for.
Yesterday, the Nigerian Election Debate Group (NEDG) staged a televised presidential debate for ten hopefuls, including President Jonathan.
It was more of a Town Hall Meeting for the ten than a close-up wrap on the two main contestants, one of who is likely to win the election.
But Buhari did not participate. He had said that the ruling PDP has failed the country for the past 16 years (which unfortunately, is largely true).
Jonathan, he also said, has messed up everything (an exaggeration, although there are obvious, clear points of the president performing below the radar).
So, there is no point to engage them in a debate and nothing to debate them for, said the APC presidential candidate.
Imagine Papa Awo shying away or shunning an opportunity to explain the “Action Plan” or “Four-Cardinal Points” of his party’s vision of change and progress for the nation in the 1950s and early 1980s!
Imagine Abiola saying there was no point debating Tofa because, being a mogul, and philanthropist, well-known nationally and internationally, and towering far higher above his opponent, there was no point debating him — in 1993!
Now, in the 2015 of the 21st Century, the PDP and the president’s campaign team, smarting from the APC and Buhari campaign team’s blistering hanging of the tag of “clueless” have both declared “total war.”
It is a measure of the degeneration of the campaign war — an anti-climax — that the spouses of the two leading candidates are the ones rounding off the campaign tours: the one telling the other that she is not ready to feed her husband in prison, and the other replying that there is no need to worry, as her husband won’t bother about that.
Battleground Southwest: The electoral showdown ahead
The Southwest is certainly the geo-political zone to watch, especially in the presidential election. Clearly, the way it votes will not only determine who, out of Jonathan and Buhari, takes the Presidency. It might as well determine the fate of the APC.
And the latter (APC’s fate), which can also be termed “battle for the soul” of the Southwest, seems the crux of the matter, as indicated by the novelty of the parallel meetings on the same day, in the two biggest historical cities of the zone by Yoruba leaders.
Whatever “political capital” Afenifere Yoruba leaders, and in effect, Jonathan, had gained from the series of meetings they had held, had to be countered or watered down.
The leaders had had three parleys previously. First, was in Ondo (Ondo State) where they formally stated their stand in support of implementation of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference.
Most of the leaders, such as Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Senator Femi Okurounmu and Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin, were at the Conference. Okurounmu chaired the Committee that produced the blueprint for the Conference.
They had also formally endorsed Jonathan’s bid for second term: they resolved that the president showed courage in convoking the 492-member talks and that he is the one suited to implement the decisions.
Other meetings — in Lagos, Ibadan (Oyo State) and back in Lagos last Thursday (the last of the series), were to sensitise primarily the zone and the rest of the country to their stand that the implementation of the Conference decisions was the change that Nigeria needed, not Jonathan’s replacement.
Then, the definitely pro-APC or Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu-powered meeting of Yoruba leaders in Ibadan (Oyo State) stepped into the fray last Thursday.
Incidentally, retired Lt. Gen Alani Akirinade, one of the many prominent faces at the 2014 National Conference, convened the meeting.
Speeches at the summit, while being strong and anger-laced (as in description of Yoruba as “hewer of wood and drawers of water” and “devastating existence”) did not necessarily distance the zone from the 2014 National Conference decisions:
The Yoruba had been at the forefront of the protracted struggle for some of the key decisions, like restructuring of the federation, fiscal federalism, devolution of powers between the centre and federating units (Yoruba had canvassed revert to regions but the Conference stuck to states), state police (the Conference recommended community policing to back-up regular policing).
However, in rejecting Afenifere’s endorsement of Jonathan, the group did not directly endorse his main opponent, Buhari, although a spokesman for the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Samuel Odulana (Chief Eddy Oyewole), announced support for the APC presidential candidate.
The Akirinade group can thus be said to have essentially set out to distance the Yoruba from partisan endorsement and more or less seek to look at the bigger picture by registering that the Yoruba electorate were free to vote for a candidate of their choice.
The point of departure is, while Jonathan has expressed willingness to implement the report, Buhari has not. Chances are that he will not even consider it.
Also, leaders at the Conference, who are hostile to its report and won’t support its implementation, represented the segment of the North — Buhari’s primary support base, which is passionate about Buhari and has endorsed him.
The Conference hadn’t APC’s backing as a party. Some of the party adherents in the Southwest went as nominees from their states. Pronouncements from leaders of the party are decidedly antithetical to implementation of the Conference decisions.
Who wins this election, and why?
Shrill “change” propaganda portrays Buhari as the candidate to beat — or as his party, the APC and its supporters would often put it — stands the best chance to clinch it.
Pro-APC regular and social media readily give the Presidency to Buhari. They claim that he will pocket over 80 per cent of Northwest and Northeast votes; at least 60 per cent of five Southwest states except Ekiti, where he will, however make his 25 per cent of total votes cast, and at least 60 per cent of four, out of six states of North Central, except Plateau and Benue where he may rake up to 35 per cent of total votes.
They also project that Buhari will secure at least 25 per cent of South-South states votes, especially in Rivers and Edo.
For the Southeast, their projection is at least 50 per cent to Buhari in Imo state and 25 per cent in Ebonyi.
Their conclusion: “It is straight forward: Buhari will win in at least 24 or more states.” And, as they can be readily seen telling voters: “vote PDP out!”
On the other hand, supporters of Jonathan’s bid for second term and his party, the PDP “continuity” campaign seem to “wait to use the election to teach (their opponent) a lasting lesson” or “we shall meet at the field” — the way they like to describe, with disguised confidence, how PDP will overcome APC in the presidential election.
They, too, eagerly give over 80 per cent of Southeast and South-South votes to Jonathan; at least 40 per cent votes of Southwest states (at least 50 per cent in Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos) and five, out of six North Central states’ votes to Jonathan (except Niger, the only state Jonathan lost in 2011).
Moreover, they project more than 35 per cent votes in Northeast states of Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and at least 25 per cent votes in Northwest states of Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto.
To them, while Jonathan, this time, may not make the kind of spread he had in 2011 (one-quarter of total votes (25 per cent) cast in at two-thirds of the 36 states (that is, in 24 states), he still would achieve the required spread in at least 24 states.
Their conclusion: “Jonathan will defeat Buhari.”
In the end, a fair assessment of both sides would suggest the closest race in ages. For the electorate, it is a decisive moment: this presidential race is looking “a ground war.” It requires motivating the troops. Whoever mobilises more on ground and can protect his votes has the advantage.
Who wins it? Wait for the election!-