DESPITE the fact that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has not rolled out its time-table or blown its whistle, the race towards 2015 has begun. From all indications, effective governance in Nigeria has given way to desperate politicking. All over the country, the pre-occupation of most politicians is how to raise funds needed for whatever level of elections they have their eyes on or want to sponsor candidates. Apart from fund raising, the politicians are also mapping out various winning strategies for their elections. One of such strategies is the art of unsettling their real or perceived political opponents to keep them permanently on the defense. This strategy has invariably opened a floodgate for politics of blackmail which is the stock-in-trade of opposition political parties.
Consequently, politics of blackmail, otherwise known as ‘the blame game,’ has reached a new height in Nigeria since February 5, this year when the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, decided to merge to form a mega-party known as the All Peoples Congress, APC. The blame game started when two political associations claimed APC as their acronym which, incidentally, was also the acronym of the All Progressives Congress. Expectedly, its promoters laid the blame for the acronym crisis on the doorsteps of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. They insinuated that the two political associations claiming the same APC acronym as their own were actually fronts sponsored by the presidency and the PDP to create an ownership crisis in order to frustrate the registration of their party by INEC.
When that accusation failed to fly, the APC promoters changed gear and came up with a story alleging that there was a secret document from the presidency directing the security agencies to place some of their key members including Ahmed Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the ACN, and retired major-general Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state and national leader of the CPC, on close security watch. Hardly had this allegation died down when Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the ACN, threw his bombshell at a press conference he organized in Lagos on April 7. At that press conference, he insinuated that the PDP federal government was planning to plunge the country into a deep political crisis. He explained that the federal government planned to use the crisis as an excuse to impose an emergency rule in some parts of Nigeria. To actualize that plan, Mohammed said President Jonathan had already adopted a policy that was pitting the north against the south and the Christians against Muslims. In addition, he said, Jonathan was also pursuing a policy of divide and rule in order to create tension and confusion in the south-west. He cited as examples, the recent arrest of some suspected members of Boko Haram in a building believed to be owned by the government of Bayelsa State in Lagos and the recent award of a contract for the protection of oil pipelines in the geopolitical zone.
The ACN spokesman said the PDP had an ulterior motive with all these developments because information at the disposal of his party has revealed that Jonathan was working on two strategies for 2015. The first, which he called Plan A, was to push towards tenure elongation by creating a situation which would make it impossible to hold elections in that year. Perhaps, this allegation was triggered by an earlier warning by the INEC that it would not hesitate to cancel or postpone the conduct of elections in some parts of the north affected by the Boko Haram insurgency if the security situations in those states did not improve by 2015. Mohammed said non-conduct of general elections by INEC in some parts of the country would fit into the PDP plan of tenure elongation. In the event of Plan A not working, Mohammed said the PDP has a plan B which is to hold elections in a chaotic environment to enable it impose a curfew which it would use as a cover to rig elections.
On the basis of Mohammed’s allegations, Abdulkadir Balarabe Musa, first executive governor of old Kaduna State and chairman, Conference of Nigerian Political Parties, CNPP, recently called on Nigerians to start a revolution in 2015 if the PDP wins the general elections. Musa’s sweeping statement is unfortunate and irresponsible. He has already concluded that the 2015 general elections would never be free and fair if they are not won by the opposition groups. Such twisted reasoning is unbecoming of an elder statesman of his caliber. It is also an indication that the opposition political parties believe that only blackmail and not hard work can bring them electoral victory in 2015. That was the reasoning of Buhari in 2011 when he refused to work hard for his electoral victory and instead jumped to the conclusion that the PDP had rigged the presidential election even before the actual voting started. That sweeping allegation prompted the post-election crisis which the country is still battling today. Has the opposition groups run out of creative ideas which will entice Nigerians to vote for their candidates in 2015? If the promoters of the All Progressives Congress believe that blackmail is their winning formula, they better forget about it. As far as many Nigerian voters are concerned, the APC and the PDP are birds of the same feather. There is nothing that separates them in terms of ideology, philosophy and style of governance, tolerance of opposing political views, internal party democracy, transparency and accountability in public office, conduct of local government elections among other issues. What they need to do now is to break away from that similarity and offer Nigerians something new and fresh. Besides, they have to work closely with the INEC to ensure that the 2015 general elections are free and fair so that the results would be generally acceptable.
Nigerian politicians must admit the fact that the voters are more enlightened these days than what they were some years back. They know what they expect from any political party that canvasses for their votes. Their votes will not go to the political party that is the loudest in blackmail or the best in the blame game. So, rather than dissipate their energies on run-down campaigns, Mohammed and Musa should advise their political parties to tell Nigerians what they have in stock for them that is different from what the PDP is offering them. These should include how they would handle the economy, fight corruption, unemployment, ensure food and national security, improve power supply and protect the environment among other issues if they get the mandate to rule in 2015.
— May 20, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT