Nigerians will decide who will lead the nation for the next four years as they cast their ballots in a hotly contested presidential election between President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, the two leading candidates among 14 others
| By Olu Ojewale | Apr. 6, 2015 @ 01:00 GMT |
FINALLY, the election-day is here! As scheduled, Nigerian electorate are expected to file out to their respective polling booths and exercise their franchise by electing the presidential candidate of their choice, this Saturday, March 28. The bouquet is very rich and arguably, big enough to pick from. But of all the 14 candidates on the ballot, the contest appears to have been narrowed down to a duel between two leading candidates. Will Nigerians re-elect President Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for a second term in office or accept the call for change and give the baton of leadership to General Muhammadu Buhari of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC? That is the question Nigerians are expected to answer with their votes on this all-important presidential election.
But if elections can be won on the basis of the number of advertisements placed in the media, President Jonathan would win the contest hands-down with numerous advertisements in several strategic media. Fortunately and unfortunately, elections are not won on the basis of number of advertisements placed by the candidate in any given election that is why the likes of Buhari and 12 other contestants can still claim to have hopes. To sell themselves to the electorate, all the candidates in the election have been crisscrossing the length and breadth of the country. As the electorate go to the polls, the onus would now be on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the umpire, to give Nigeria a free, fair, credible and acceptable election.
Even so, the electorates themselves have been making their own calculation on who is likely to emerge as the winner of the presidential race. Anyone, who has been listening to armchair analysts, free-readers unregistered association groups on newsstands, or all manners of talks on the streets, markets places and motor parks, must have his ears filled with all shades of opinions on which way the election would go.
The usual rants are: “The PDP will use power of incumbency to win this election!” “Jonathan is the popular choice” “You cannot defeat an incumbent president in Africa and Jonathan is not going to be an exception.” “He not just lose the election like that, it will do something!”
On the other hands some say: “APC will not accept defeat; Amaechi said they will form a parallel government if Jonathan wins!” “It is time for Change and Buhari is the symbol of the change we are asking for; the whole North and the whole South-West are for Buhari and so, Buhari will win!” “No; not every northerner or South-westerner will vote for Buhari or Jonathan.”
That notwithstanding, both candidates have their own support bases. For instance, in Plateau State, although a good number of people in the state may not like Jonathan, they are not likely to vote Buhari either. The reasons are very clear. The state has always been a traditional PDP enclave and the people voted overwhelmingly for the party in the 2011 presidential elections. In fact, the PDP got more than one million votes from Plateau State at the time. But time is changing and with in-fighting among the party leaders, it is believed that the president would be lucky to get more than 25 percent required in the state.
Another hot spot for the two gladiators is Rivers State. Both candidates are believed to be very popular in the state and would likely share the votes. Analysts said any of them who wins in the state would have a narrow margin, unlike in 2011 when President Jonathan received more than two million of the votes cast.
The projection in this election was that President Jonathan might win in Rivers as a result of the sentiment that the president is from the Niger Delta. Beyond that, analysts said voting along ethnic and religious lines would be a factor in the presidential poll.
Besides, the Patience Jonathan factor would also come into play. The first lady who has been at loggerheads with Governor Chibuike Amaechi is reputed to have a large following in the state. But which way the pendulum would swing is very difficult to predict, especially with the recent defection of Tele Ikuru, deputy governor of Rivers State, back to the PDP fold.
Another tough spot is Taraba State, where the majority is predominantly Christian. Although, analysts said the Christian factor should work for Jonathan and the fact that Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma, a retired lieutenant general and former minister of defence, comes from. Although Danjuma is a close associate of the president, it is believed that the northern factor would work in favour of Buhari even though Jonathan won the state in 2011. The PDP is said to be no longer as strong as it used to be in the state.
The same was said of Adamawa and Akwa Ibom State. Analysts’ forecast was the two states would be evenly divided among the two gladiators. For instance, Adamawa State has political bigwigs such as former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the APC; Aisha, Buhari’s wife, Bamanga Tukur, former chairman of the PDP, Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, among others. It would have been easy ride for the PDP to win the state, but for the Boko Haram menace that has claimed many lives and rendered thousands of people homeless.
The same scenario is not the case in Akwa Ibom. But both the PDP and the APC are said to be popular in the state. Each of these two political parties exercises dominance in some sections of the state. This has been attributed to defection to the APC of some strong PDP leaders in the state following the governorship primaries held in the state. Some areas with strong support APC base are Uruan; Ibeno; Ikot Abasi; Esit Eket; Abak Federal Constituency otherwise known as Abak Five; Itu; Ini; Ikono. The party has also encroached into areas like Ikot Ekpene; Essien Udim, where the PDP has strongholds.
However, Governor Godswill Akpabio who is an ardent loyalist of Jonathan, is expected to deliver the state to PDP coupled with the South-East support for Jonathan.
In Anambra State, President Jonathan polled 1,145,169 million votes or 98.8 per cent of the total votes cast in 2011. According to the statistics, Anambra gave Jonathan the highest proportion of votes in the country. Buhari, his closest rival then, polled 4,223 votes.
Ahead of this year election, the situation on the ground showed that Jonathan still had an edge over Buhari to win the presidential election in the state. But analysts said the situation would be different this time around with Buhari probably gaining more followership in the state.
Apart from the incumbency factor, another reason for Jonathan’s success in the state is that the ruling All Progressives Grand Alliance in the state, has also adopted Jonathan as its presidential candidate.
Indeed, with the numerous advertisements in the media, both social and regular, supporters of Jonathan’s bid for second term have confidence in the PDP’s campaign of continuity to silence the cry of the APC’s chant of change.
According to a projection by the PDP supporters, more than 80 percent of voters in the South-East and the South-South would vote Jonathan; at least 40 percent voters in the South-West states would vote for the president, with at least 50 percent in Ekiti, Ondo and Lagos. They claimed that five out of six North-Central states, except Niger, where he lost in 2011, would still vote for the president.
In the North-East, it was being speculated that the president would get more than 35 percent of votes cast in Adamawa, Taraba and Gombe states as well as at least 25 percent votes in North-West states of Kaduna, Kano and Sokoto.
Based on the analysis, while Jonathan, might not get the kind of spread he enjoyed in 2011 (one-quarter of total votes of 25 percent) 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. Therefore, they concluded that Jonathan would beat Buhari in the election.”
On the other hand, from the available analysis by the media, it is difficult to pinpoint who among the two leading candidates would emerge as the possible winner of the election. But that notwithstanding, there are certain catchments that both leading candidates are going to slug it out.
South-West is certainly one of the geo-political zone to watch, especially in the presidential election. Some analysts have reasoned that the way the zone votes would not only determine who among the two candidates, takes the presidency. It is believed that it could also determine the fate of the APC in the zone. If all indicators available are anything to go by, it is believed that APC would not have an easy ride as it did in 2011 when on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria now dissolved into the APC, would enjoy the same level of followership. This is because the Yoruba, which largely populate the South-West, are grossly divided over Buhari and Jonathan.
In the meantime, there are the Yoruba leaders under the platform of Afenifere, a Yoruba social cultural group, who want Jonathan to continue in office for a simple fact that he is best suited to implement the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. Besides, Jonathan has had series of meetings with the Yoruba leaders which culminated into his endorsement by the Afenifere leaders. The bulk of those who endorsed him for the second term in office were mostly those participated in the conference. They resolved that the president showed courage in convoking the 492-member conference and that because the leadership of the APC did not believe in the conference, hence, it would be difficult to expect Buhari, if elected, to implement its decisions.
But there is another school of thought which is vehemently opposed to the endorsement. However, in rejecting Afenifere’s endorsement of Jonathan, the group did not directly endorse Buhari, his main opponent. Instead, the group led by Alani Akinrinade, a retired lieutenant general, was said to have distanced itself from partisan endorsement, by arguing that the Yoruba electorate were free to vote for a candidate of their choice.
Even though it is not a clear cut for either Buhari or Jonathan to lay claim to victory in the South-West, the APC supporters in the region would want everyone to believe that Buhari would sweep the South-West region. Analysts claimed at least 60 percent of five South-West states except Ekiti and Ondo where the government is of the PDP, would vote for him. The Buharists hope that he may still get at least 25 percent of total votes cast in Ondo and Ekiti States.
In the North-West and North-East, they claimed that Buhari would win with a margin of more than 80 percent and that at least 60 percent of four, out of six states of North Central, except Plateau and Benue, where he may get up to 35 percent of total votes. They also projected that Buhari would secure at least 25 percent of South-South states votes, especially in Rivers and Edo. And in the South-East, the projection was that Buhari would get at least 50 percent in Imo State and 25 percent in Ebonyi State.
The conclusion was that Buhari would win in at least 24 or more states of the federation.
Nonetheless, a fair assessment of both sides would suggest a very close race. But polls are not reliable in the country because certain factors such as rigging methods by various parties are not factored into the analysis. For instance, there are allegations that some politicians would go to the extent of sowing or acquiring police uniform for their supporters and deploy same to certain sensitive areas where regular police are supposed to man in order to perfect their nefarious activities. There have also been many reports of intimidation and harassment of opposition in many quarters all in order to rig election.
In any case, what is incontrovertible is that the contest promises to be interesting, perhaps, with element of surprises here and there. But what has been largely missing in the electioneering campaigns was perhaps, the in-depth analysis by both parties on their election promises. For instance, when the APC unveiled its manifesto in Abuja, in March last year, it promised to make the country a welfare state. It said it had developed strategies for creation of job, fight against corruption, rescuing of poor and falling standards of living, social and infrastructural development, stop widespread state of insecurity, creation of state police and constant electricity, among others were promised.
But throughout the campaign period, there was virtually no solid enunciation of how, or what the party would do to raise funds for its laudable projects if elected, especially in view of dwindling oil revenue, which is the mainstay of the nation’s economy.
For example, in the midst of falling oil prices, the APC promised to pay the poorest 25 million people in the country a monthly allowance of N5, 000. Similarly, it promised to pay a whole year of former National Youth Corps members, who were unable to find jobs. When put together, this would cost the nation at least N2 trillion annually. How it plans to raise funds for such laudable projects was largely unarticulated.
On his part, President Jonathan used the campaign to enumerate all his achievements in agriculture, aviation, privatisation of electricity, roads, transport, among as well to commission new projects that would make life more meaningful to the masses.
On anti-corruption campaign, which has been a major issue against his government, Jonathan said during a presidential debate held on Sunday, March 22, that the solution should be more of preventive than punitive. Explaining why punitive measures in curbing corruption had been ineffective, President Jonathan cited the age-long futility in using capital punishment to discourage armed robbery in Nigeria.
He also listed other measures such as giving people a fresh orientation on virtues of honesty and hard work as well as pointing out the evils of the get-rich-quick syndrome, which, he noted, had permeated all strata of the Nigerian society. He said the introduction of the electronic payroll system now being adopted in the private sector, was one of such preventive measures that had stopped corruption in the civil service.
That notwithstanding, Gani Adams, national coordinator of the Odua Peoples Congress, OPC, a Yoruba militant group, said President Jonathan deserved praise from members of the APC for approving a contract for the OPC to protect pipelines across the South-West. Adams said the contract would provide at least 5,000 jobs for his boys and 10,000 jobs for other youths in the South-West.
Reacting to the allegation by the APC that Jonathan bribed ethnic militias with N9billion to scuttle the elections. Adams, who came under fire for leading thousands of youths to protest against Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, on Monday, March 16, said supporting Jonathan was in the interest of the Yoruba nation.
He said: “The allegation is that the federal Government gave us a contract: Pipeline security. What is the security of pipeline to the OPC? We have been running this organisation without getting a dime from any government but most of the security agencies saddled with the responsibility of protecting the pipelines have failed; people were dying every day.
“Nigeria was losing more than N3billion everyday to the activities of the vandals and the agitation of that contract started from Dr. Fredrick Fasehun one and a half years ago and you know the bureaucracy of Nigerian ministries. It was a long process and it was just granted and it will empower nothing less than 5,000 youths from my side. Altogether, that is about 15,000 jobs for Yoruba land. Will you deny Yoruba youths the opportunity of getting 15,000 jobs because of politics?”
Adams said the APC was only being hypocritical because most of its leaders had oil licences. He said the major reason they were against Jonathan was because their licences were due to expire in September and they feared he would not renew the contracts.
But Japheth Omojuwa, a social media expert and columnist, does not believe the president has done enough to deserve a second term in office. He blamed the president’s failure on his inability to address the insurgency in the North, the abduction of Chibok girls and the belated response to the killing of 59 Buni Yadi boys in Yobe, as part of his undoing.
Apart from the issue of security, he said it had become obvious that the Jonathan administration had failed on the issue of economy. “The Nigerian economy is walking on tightropes. The government likes to claim it has made Nigeria Africa’s No.1 economy. The economy was rebased in 2014. All the government did with the “rebasing” was to account for the inclusion of new sectors like the entertainment industry and telecoms into the calculation of the country’s GDP. This was accumulated over the previous 20 years or so, but the government has sold this as one of its achievements,” Omojuwa said. According to him, this election is a direct Yes/No referendum on President Jonathan and that the president should not be returned to the office. “Another four years with Goodluck Jonathan would be a disaster for Nigeria. It is time for Buhari,” he said.
In any case, Sam Olisa, an economist and public analyst, wants Nigerians to be mindful of how they would vote on Saturday. “We need a leader who can tackle economy, who can stop corruption… Electorate should look at issues and not sentiments and vote for a candidate that will create employment, revive the economy, give us light and generally make life better for us,” Olisa said.
Onyekachi Ubani, a lawyer and former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association of Nigeria, said the onus is now on the INEC to give Nigeria free, fair and credible elections. “What I would like to say here is that INEC should not fail us. This is a very decisive time in the history of the country and INEC must not truncate our collective will to elect our leaders,” Ubani said.
Whichever way the pendulum swings, it is an open secret that the whole world is now focused on Nigeria to do the needful by maintaining peace during and after the general elections. In his message to Nigeria, President Barack Obama of United States, said: “I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence. And when elections are free and fair, it is the responsibility of all citizens to help keep the peace, no matter who wins.
”Successful elections and democratic progress will help Nigeria meet the urgent challenges you face today… Boko Haram wants to destroy Nigeria and all that you have worked to build. By casting your ballot, you can help secure your nation’s progress.
“Nigeria is a great nation and you can be proud of the progress you’ve made. Together, you won your independence, emerged from military rule, and strengthened democratic institutions. You’ve strived to overcome division and to turn Nigeria’s diversity into a source of strength. You’ve worked hard to improve the lives of your families and to build the largest economy in Africa.
”Now you have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria’s progress—by voting in the upcoming elections. For elections to be credible, they must be free, fair and peaceful. All Nigerians must be able to cast their votes without intimidation or fear.”
In the same vein, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, similarly stressed that only fair and transparent elections would guarantee a true democratic process in the country. President John Mahama of Ghana and ECOWAS chairman, who was in Abuja recently met with both President Jonathan and Buhari on the need to have a free, fair and violent-free election. Mahama told Nigerian journalists after the meeting: “This is a critical election for Nigeria and it will be one more indication for the world that Nigeria is a democratic country and is ruled by tenets of good governance and rule of law. And so, we want to wish you all the best.
“We expect that there will be no post-election violence and that all the parties involved in the elections would accept the results in good faith when the INEC has announced the results of the elections. As you know, Nigeria is a very important member of ECOWAS. The largest economy, the largest nation in the ECOWAS region and so Nigeria’s safety and security is the safety of and security of the whole of ECOWAS region and so I stand on behalf of all the presidents of ECOWAS and wish that all Nigerians will come out and express their votes and their votes would count towards electing who becomes the next leader of this country.”
Well said, but whether the gladiators in this election would accept the result in good faith is another issue altogether. As it is, the world is waiting with baited breath. The onus is now on the two contestants to be good sportsmen and not allow their supporters to truncate the process for the sake of Nigeria, themselves and posterity.