In spite of the weight of incumbency, Doris David explains why President Goodluck Jonathan may lose the February 14 presidential election to former Head of State, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari
For the fourth time, General Mohammadu Buhari will contest the presidency of Nigeria as a civilian. He was military Head of State between December 1983 and August 1985. He will be contesting against the sitting President Goodluck Jonathan for the second time. The last time was in 2011 elections.
They have chosen their running mates. President Jonathan is retaining Architect Namadi Sambo to run with him. General Buhari has dropped his running mate in the last elections and picked a Professor of Law and former Lagos State Attorney-General, Yemi Osinbajo for this race. Their parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP-Jonathan) and the All Progressive Congress (APC-Buhari) are all charged up and ready to go.
It is clear that Jonathan defeated Buhari in the last election. Buhari then stood on the platform of the relatively newly created Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), registered with the INEC just a year before the elections. It was virtually a personal party, based almost exclusively in the north of the country. President Jonathan, then as now, stood on the platform of the PDP, which prides itself as Africa’s largest political party.
The results of the 2011 elections reflected the strengths of the parties and not the candidates. While the PDP and Jonathan campaigned in every state of the federation and placed daily adverts on television, the CPC and Buhari could only campaign in northern Nigeria, leaving the whole of the south. They could also manage some posters and handbills, but could not carry the campaign to the electronic media.
As he did not campaign at all in the south, Buhari did not secure the required 25% of votes in southern Nigerian states, yet he won all the states in the north and secured 31.9% of the total votes. Jonathan secured the necessary 25% of votes in the northern states and secured 58.8% of the total votes nationwide.
Already it is clear that it would be different this time. Even if PDP were to win the national elections, it would be the narrowest of margins. But there is a fair chance that the APC would be the winner of the 2015 presidential election. If they do, it would be the fault of President Jonathan and Alhaji Adamu Mu’azu, mainly because of very poor party leadership, the total disregard for internal democracy and perfidy.
Nigerians have for a long time not trusted the PDP and Nigerians have for over six years bemoaned the dullness and indecisiveness of President Jonathan. Yet they submitted to the machinations of PDP because they had no choice. Now the APC presents a viable opposition. While some of the bigwigs in the APC defected from the PDP, there are a good number of their members that have for decades preached a different kind of politics, such that it is clear to Nigerians that there is a difference between both parties.
The PDP built on corruption and all its ways are corrupt. While President Jonathan has severally been accused publicly of presiding over a system of corruption and that he surrounds himself with the corrupt; his opponent, General Buhari’s name has never been associated with corruption in the Nigerian discourse.
Indeed, he is mentioned as the only person who was president of Nigeria that actually took genuine steps to fight corruption and the general social malaise. He is given as the only example of a former head of government that did not enrich himself. All the Nigerians who wish the evil of corruption in the country to end will gravitate towards him.
Buhari is regarded as a decisive leader, one who would make tough decisions, irrespective of whose ox is gored. Nigerians recall how his government stood up to the international community during his presidency, refusing to be dictated to by the Britain and the United States. They recall how despite Umaru Diko's status in Nigerian politics, the Buhari government crated to return him to Nigeria from self exile in Britain to face trial for corruption.
At this point in time, Nigerians are praying for a person of true leadership qualities to take the country out to the doldrums of corruption, crime, poverty and terrorism. On the other hand, President Jonathan is derided as a man who cannot bridle his wife from her rude intrusion into party and national affairs; he is seen as mentally lazy, indecisive and ineffective. He is talked of as totally lacking in leadership qualities, the kind of qualities that the country direly needs now.
As evidence of what they say about President Jonathan, people need only point to the disarray in the party that he leads, even at the threshold of national elections. Due to his weakness, governors have consistently usurped the powers that belong to the president; they make his appointments for him. Governors have reduced the office of the president to ridicle.
Governors under the leadership of Rotimi Amaechi were able to turn what was supposed to be their talk shop, the Governor's Forum, into a trade union, with the federal government as their target. And in one fell swoop, five governors defected from his party, formed an alliance with the opposition and eventually embedded themselves there. Now they present him a very formidable challenge within the APC.
Right now, there is crisis in at least 17 PDP states over who should be the governorship candidate. In Abia, Adamawa, Akwa-Ibom, Bauchi, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Kebbi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba and Yobe States there are acute disagreements about how the governorship primaries have been conducted. The powers that be within the PDP anoint aspirants behind the scenes, and then still pretend that they are conducting primaries.
In some cases, as in the case of Rivers State, the party allows a contender to actually make all the arrangements, chose the electoral committees, chose the screening committees, and produce a delegates list from non-existent delegate elections. The whole system is riddled with fraud when it should have been very simple to follow the provisions of the party’s constitution and the electoral guidelines.
On the other hand, we have seen the APC publicly conduct free and fair delegates elections and governorship primaries. The disaffected aspirants and their supporters will punish the party. In some cases, aspirants and their supporters have defected to APC. In any case, the general dislike by the populace for this kind of fraud, a finger-pointer to the kind of electoral fraud and rigging that the PDP is set for, will alienate many voters. Jonathan will certainly lose lots of votes in each of these states to Buhari.
Perhaps as a belated damage-control, the PDP has set up a presidential reconciliation committee to appeal to elders and party followers in Rivers State to forgive. Why should they? There is still time for the party to move to the right path. President Jonathan and the party cannot deliberately hand over the electoral process to the most unsuitable candidate in the state, insult the elders and elite of the state, denigrate that state by saying that it is only Chief Nyesome Wike that possesses the quality to win governorship elections in the state, ignore all petitions at every stage of the process by various concerned groups in the state, and then set up a reconciliation committee to go and share dollars to a few hand-picked in a state where over two million people have votes.
President Jonathan is right in keeping his vice-president as his running mate. Had he changed the running-mate as emeritus-president Olusegun Obasanjo had tried to force him to do, it would have complicated an already very bad situation for him. But even here, General Buhari has trumped him. By choosing Professor Osinbajo, General Buhari has burrowed both into the dedicated followership of the Obafemi Awolowo political dynasty as well as the teeming Christian evangelical followership all around the country.
Namely, Buhari’s chosen running-mate is a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church, which is one of the largest denominations in the country. Professor Osinbajo’s wife is a direct grand-daughter of Obafemi Awolowo and also an officer of the Mountain of Fire Christian denomination. While there is no concrete statistics as to what percentage of votes is dictated by religious affiliation, it is known that there is a great deal of religious influence in who people vote for at elections.
The Peoples Democratic Party may be thumping its chest as the largest party in Africa. Well, such a party with obvious lack of internal democracy is a shame. But what is more important is that its politics and electoral fortunes are confined only to the space that is Nigeria. During previous elections, when several small parties opposed it, it was always certain of itself. That self-assurance should cease.
In the previous election General Buhari contested on the platform of the CPC, a small party more or less confined to the north. Now the General is the standard-bearer of the APC to join former PDP governors, Speaker of House of Representatives, Ministers, Commissioners and several others.
Buhari will win the twelve states he won in the 2011 elections and secure maybe five states in the South-West. He will make gains in the South-South and South-East/, where he did not campaign at all in 2011. Jonathan will be losing votes where he was very secure in 2011. The total tally nationwide may favour General Buhari.
Culled from Thisday