Presidential Election: Fallacy Of The Eurasia Poll
ON Sunday, March 15, 2015, Nigerian newspapers were awash with an obviously syndicated news report of an opinion poll purportedly conducted by Eurasia Group, predicting victory for General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) over President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The publication, carried by the Nation Newspaper, two days after, attributed the report to one Philippe de Pontet, a spokesman of Eurasia Group, an outfit described by the paper as “the world’s largest political risk consultancy firm”. Reading through the publication, there can be no doubt that it fits more into the mould of an opinion article than the report of an election poll. An opinion poll, by definition, is a forecast of the future outcome of an event, using variable indices. It is supposed to be scientific in nature, to the extent that it must be rule-governed. In other words, given a cluster of existing facts, the poll points to a predictable outcome that is bound to follow. But, because polls are about social events, consequent upon human conditions, they tend to be adulterated by certain personal views and judgements.
The problem with the so-called Eurasia poll, as reported, is that it contains no evidence of any poll actually conducted. Apart from the figures of 60 per cent for Buhari and 40 per cent for Jonathan, and some phony statistics of survey attributed to the Centre for Public Policy Alternatives, Afrobarometer and 1PS0S/Eurasia Group, there is nothing to suggest the methodology applied, coverage, sample range, where or when the survey was conducted. Rather, the report, from top to bottom, is the expressed opinion of an individual.
More disastrous for the Eurasia Group, the report is a curious replication of the political manifesto of the APC, almost suggesting that Mr. Philippe de Pontet is a spokesman of the party, rather than of a research group. He betrayed the bogusness of the so-called survey, when he confessed at the beginning of the report that “we had long viewed Goodluck Jonathan as a favourite to win the re-election” until “a number of factors now lead us to believe the edge has swung in Buhari’s favour”. So, extraneous “factors”, rather than the results of a survey gave Buhari the victory! How did the factors give rise to a result of 60 per cent for Buhari and 40 per cent for Jonathan?
From the publication, the “factors” turn out to be the very campaign points of the APC. One of them, for instance, is President Jonathan’s incumbency and financial advantage which, according to the Eurasia Group, have been “blunted by the intensity of support for Buhari, lacklustre grassroots campaigning by the PDP and new anti-rigging measures by the Electoral Commission. New permanent voting cards and card readers will sharply reduce the level of rigging seen in 2011, when Jonathan beat Buhari in landslide.” These are points commonly made by APC chieftains, at campaign rallies, during television and radio talk shows, on social media and in drinking parlours.
The bias of the Eurasia Group was difficult to conceal in the publication. It conveniently referred to polls conducted by organizations such as the Centre for Public Policy Alternatives and Afrobarometer, which favoured Buhari. Not only did the Group find merit in what it described as the IPSOS/Eurasia model for predicting elections, according to which “incumbents have a hard time winning re-election when their approval ratings are below 40 per cent”, the Group confessed ignorance of Jonathan’s current rating but ingeniously reasoned that since it was 50 per cent at the end of last year, “he is below 40 per cent now”, in which case, he is bound to lose the election. Warped Logic!
A large part of the Eurasia report is a rehash of APC’s mantra of combating insecurity and corruption, if voted into power. Like the APC, the so-called poll was reported to have scored President Jonathan low in his efforts at confronting insurgency in the North East, despite the remarkable successes of the security forces. The poll also had it that the President “is not fighting corruption” and that Buhari was better equipped for this important task. Not surprisingly, the report of the poll also under-valued the various achievements of the Jonathan administration. Wait a minute! Are we discussing the report of an opinion poll or the campaign material of an arm of a political party? The last part of the report in question contains the manifesto of the APC and what General Buhari intends to do, if voted into power – his economic reforms, anti-corruption measures, ways of tackling insecurity in the North East and Niger Delta.
The report of the Eurasia poll follows a familiar pattern associated with the APC. The party has well-organised propaganda machinery that defies facts and reality. Its activities and successes are more in the social media, rumour mills and gossip circles than in the real world. The Eurasia Group is not alone; General Buhari and the APC have been declared winners by many other poll organisers, with or without the conduct of actual exercises. And, who cares as long as the party followers are happy! They are free to imagine, dream or hallucinate about an APC government that would be inaugurated on May 29, 2015.
The fact, which the APC propaganda machinery, including fabricated polls of the Eurasia types, cannot wipe out, is that President Jonathan’s scorecard will always speak for him. While the APC will continue its dream of “change”, Jonathan’s performance is there in concrete terms for all to see. He has in the past years transformed the lives of Nigerians, especially in the areas of infrastructure development, roads, transportation, education, youth and women empowerment, job creation, etc.
The phenomenon of self-deception is a dangerous malaise. It usually starts with a little dose of lies and grows, incrementally, until the victim begins to believe his or her own lies. A large number of APC members are beginning to believe in their own propaganda. Poll reports such as the one published by the Eurasia Group only worsen their predicament. The APC situation reminds one of the Yoruba proverb or adage of a farmer who planted five heaps of yam but kept lying that he planted ten heaps. At harvest time, when he had reaped the five heaps, he would have to look for a story to tell. As APC members celebrate their expected victory, all I can say is to remind them of the traditional caution that we must not count our chickens before they are hatched.
Sogolo, Professor of Philosophy, retired from the University of Ibadan.