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Still on the politics of election order



Politics can be defined as a game of intrigue in which the participant seeks to maximise his or her own advantage at the expense of his or her adversary. With this definition in mind, it should be clear to the discerning mind what motivates the politician in whatever he or she says or does. The politician would want to be seeing as the purveyor of the national interest, even when what is uppermost in his or her mind is the profit of personal or selfish interest. The ongoing controversy over the order of the putative 2019 elections in Nigeria is a classical example of how the politician can be too clever for his or her own good. The Nigerian electoral umpire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), had slated the 2019 elections to be conducted in two stages, starting with the presidential and national assembly elections and ending with those of the governorship and state assemblies. The National Assembly lawmakers thought otherwise, preferring the elections to start with their own and concluded with governorship cum state assembly and that of president in that order.

The lawmakers claimed their motive was to deepen democracy in the Nigerian nation. Of course, the leadership of mushroom political parties bought into the idea whose implication for the emerging two-party system can be anything but salutary. That implication is that the political parties might have no urge to transform into national organisations, content to remain as powerful regional political parties in a politics characterised by unstable alliances. The current major political parties, the All Progressives Congress and the Peoples Democratic Party, are products of diverse interest coalesced together by the centralising influence of the presidency. However, what would appear to be the selfishness of our lawmakers became evident in the suggestion that their own election should be the first to be conducted. Why not start with state and governorship elections followed by their own, if their suggestion that the presidential election should hold last were to be fault-free and justified? Critics of their approach argue that all they intended was to use the machinery of their political parties to win their own elections first, following which they would be free to support whoever they wish to support in subsequent elections. Specifically, lawmakers loyal to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari  believe the attempt to reverse the order presented by INEC was intended to prevent Buhari from successfully seeking reelection.

I have attempted to explain in a previous article, (The Politics of Election Order in Nigeria, The Guardian, March 12, 2018), illustrating with the elections of 1979 and 1983, the possible implications of the order of elections on the outcome of the coveted presidential election. It is an open secret that all is not well between President Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly. If there is anyone they do not want as the next President of Nigeria, it is Buhari. With the presidential election coming last in their preferred order, it would be possible to forge a coalition with other political parties to edge Buhari out at the final hurdle. President Buhari seems to be aware of this danger, and might have been the principal reason why he refused to assent to the Bill re-ordering the order of the 2019 elections. Moreover, why must the will of the National Assembly prevail over that of the electoral umpire in a matter in which they also have selfish interests?

I had a joke with a friend about the prospect of re-election for President Buhari in 2019. The honest truth is that his ambition seems to be irreconcilable with the aspiration of the corruption-friendly elite. Buhari and his Economic and Financial Crimes Commission are a much-dreaded prospect to contemplate once re-election has been achieved. Having imposed the task of fighting corruption upon himself, he can hardly be in the good books of those who have become accustomed to having suitcases filled with dollars ferried into their backyards, at election times, by previous corrupt leaders and their agents. There would not be a few traditional and religious leaders who would label him as a “stingy” fellow whose penny cannot drop .With the Obasanjo’s and the Babangidas arraigned against his re-election, Buhari would have to convince ordinary Nigerians on why his fight against corruption is in the future  interest of Nigeria and its diverse peoples.  If he indeed is fighting corruption, he must also convince the neutral that he can be trusted to preside over a peaceful and stable Nigerian nation in the next four years. Some arduous task in the face of current hostilities!

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