Presidential Poll: Divisive Campaigns Like Never Before
EXACTLY a week to Nigeria’s Presidential and National Assembly elections, the electorates are sharply divided over which party should get their votes on March 28 — whether they should give the major opposition party in the country, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari a shot at the presidency or re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for another term of four years. To most observers, the 2015 election has become the most keenly contested in the country since the restoration of democracy in 1999. As things stand at the moment, no political pundit can rightly predict which political party will emerge victorious at the polls. The race is tight and really too close to call. This has left the candidates and their political parties with no choice than to continue to canvass for votes from the electorate through open rallies, town hall meetings with relevant groups and paid advertisements in the broadcast and print media.
However, one noticeable trait in the countdown to the election is the descent to ethnic sentiments in a bid to win the hearts of the voters. The streets are awash with posters of both President Jonathan and Buhari adorning the traditional attires of one ethnic block or the other in a bid to curry their votes. Apart from that, the campaigns have witnessed endorsements for either of the candidates by one ethnic body or the other, based on what they think they would benefit from them if voted into power.
The pan-Yoruba socio-cultural body, Afenifere, for instance endorsed President Jonathan for re-election. The endorsement was the outcome of the meeting the president had with the leaders of the group in Akure, Ondo State. The meeting was held at the residence of the Leader of the group, Chief Reuben Fasoranti and was attended by leaders from the South West geo-plitical zone of the country.
The publicity secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who announced the endorsement at the end of the meeting, said the decision of the group was due to the commitment of the president to the implementation of the National Conference report. He said Afenifere believed that the confab was the only thing that could liberate the nation.
Also giving reasons Yorubas would vote for President Jonathan, erstwhile secretary-general of Afenifere, Senator Femi Okurounmu, said that Yoruba people stand to gain more if the confab report is implemented, adding that virtually all agitations of the Yoruba nation were taken care of in the report.
He highlighted some of the gains for the South West to include creation of at least three new states, power by states to create local governments, state police and other measures of devolution that would reflect true federalism.
Okurounmu further stated that there is a provision for state boundary adjustment in the report that would ensure that Yoruba people who were cut off from their kith and kin in the South-West and forced to be permanent minorities in Kwara and Kogi states merge with neighbouring Yoruba states.
He said: “My fellow Yoruba people, the recommendations of 2014 National Conference if implemented will constitute a crowning glory on our collective efforts over the last several decades. If dumped, God forbid, it would mean several decades of labour lost.
“The choice is ours to make by voting for the right candidate in the coming presidential election. We have on one hand a man whose political party, APC, and whose ethnic nationality, the Fulani, are sworn opponents of the conference and its progressive recommendations.
“And we have on the other hand, a sitting president who defied all opposition to convene the conference and who has repeatedly vowed to implement its recommendations in full, if re-elected.”
Apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also endorsed President Jonathan for another term of four years. General Secretary of the group Mr. Joe Nworgu, while giving reasons for the action, reportedly said: “This time around, we endorsed him further because he was able to convoke a proper National Conference which no past president has done in the history of the country. Jonathan had the will power and forthrightness to convoke a proper Confab. That is one of the legacies his administration has left behind. We want that Confab report implemented.
“Ohanaeze stands on the implementation of that report. Jonathan in the firmament is the only person that can implement the report because his integrity is tied to it. That is the legacy he must leave as a man of history. He must implement that report.”
Nworgu added: “To us, between the APC candidate and that of PDP, we think Jonathan is more likely to implement it. At the Confab, all political parties had two slots; it was only APC that did not send a representative. Certain zones during the build up did not want the Confab to hold. Their position is nefarious and anti-other zones.
“They wanted the status quo to remain which is the cause of all the frictions in the country. The present structure breeds corruption and tension. The Confab addressed all these challenges and there was consensus, which is the first step towards building a formidable Nigeria. Based on that, Ndigbo believes in one Nigeria, fair play, and justice. Ndigbo think that Jonathan, having convoked the Confab, is conscience bound to implement the report.”
Although the self-acclaimed Caretaker Committee of Ohanaeze Ndigbo has reportedly faulted the endorsement of President Jonathan by the group, its opposition for the endorsement was also based on what the South East would gain from a Jonathan Presidency. Secretary to the Caretaker Committee, Mr. Zed Chukwujama, explained the position of the Caretaker Committee in a recent statement.
He said: “We have salt deposits in Ebonyi State, a broken down cement factory at Nkalagu, the Enugu Coal Mines closed down, the Oji-River Thermal Station not functioning, the river dock at Onitsha a mirage, the Enugu Onitsha Road as well as the Enugu-Port Harcourt roads as death traps. The Aba dry dock is a mirage. Why should the Igbo not discuss these problems with President Jonathan? He is our President.
“The Federal Government’s Mid-term Assessment of their development investment has these figures: total investment in North Central zone-N495 billion; North West zone-N297 billion; South-West zone-N215 billion; South-South zone-N114 billion; while in the South-East zone-N74 billion.”
The Northern Elders’ Forum, led by Ambassador Yusuf Maitama Sule and the Arewa Consultative Forum, on their part also threw their weight behind the APC presidential candidate, Buhari (rtd.), their kinsman.
In separate statements, the NEF and the ACF had said that they would implore northerners and all Nigerians to support Buhari because he is a better candidate than President Jonathan Goodluck.
According to a communique by the ACF National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Muhammad Ibrahim, the Forum noted that it was part of its policy to support northerners in any presidential election.
In the same vein, the NEF, led by a former Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, said the group would back Buhari/Osinbajo for the Presidency because “Buhari is a better candidate, compared with President Goodluck Jonathan in moving the nation forward.”
President Jonathan’s kinsmen have also been active in the game. Shortly before the election was moved from February 14 to March 28, former Niger Delta militants had issued a fresh threat to go to war except President Jonathan wins the election. The former warlords, who met at Government House, Yenagoa, insisted that it is Jonathan on March 28 or war.
They stated that defeat for him at the polls would amount to dethronement, which they described as unacceptable. They vowed to unleash violence on the country and take back Niger Delta oil should the outcome be unfavourable.
At the meeting were Mujahid Asari Dokubo, leader, Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force; Victor Ben Ebikabowei, aka, Boy Loaf and Government Ekpudomenowei, aka Tompolo. Also in attendance were the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and chairman of Amnesty Implementation Committee, Kingsley Kuku; host governor, Seriake Dickson and President General, Ijaw Youth Council, Udengs Eradiri, among others.
Also speaking, Boyloaf said that if the North succeeded in regaining power in the election, the people of the Niger Delta region would take their oil back. “Keep grudges and sentiments apart. We are ready to match them bumper to bumper,” Boyloaf said.From the foregoing, it is clear that the 2015 presidential election is not much about issues but about the protection of the interests of the ethnic nationalities that make up the country. As dangerous as this trend is to the future of the country, it remains to be seen how it would impact of the result of the March 28 presidential election.
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