Politics, we have often been cynically reminded, is a dirty game. It is a game that participants have to employ whatever means necessary to win; sometimes politicians have to do incredible somersaults or reverse their principles for short term electoral gains. However, politics can also be an interesting game. When one dispassionately analyzes the actions taken by the key figures especially towards an election, one can’t help but smile at the intricate maneuverings going on. Yes, I am talking about the backroom deals; the bonds forged in secret places; a ‘convenient’ marriage of self-interests by sometimes radically different people for the purpose of securing a victory at the polls. Such scheming, wheeling and dealing is certainly familiar to Nigerian politicians—at least one expects such rather than the all-too-familiar bloodletting that happens whenever there are elections in Nigeria.
It is that time again in Nigeria: 2011 is a presidential election year.
For the uninitiated, elections are a particularly difficult enterprise in this 150 million-strong nation of disparate faiths, political views and ethnic nationalities. Routinely marred by violence and gross electoral misconduct, many Nigerians have gradually grown cynical and distrustful of the whole process. And they are not to blame—several times, the clear mandate and choice of the people are scuttled by dirty and compromised election officials, choosing instead to impose on the people a pre-selected favorite of the hegemon in Aso Rock.
There is also the issue of the superabundance of political party platforms, each one seemingly regional in design. For the country to make any meaningful progress past the familiar tribal or ethnic politics which has retarded the country’s expected exponential development, it is necessary to have stable political institutions and parties which are not only national in scope but truly perceived to be so. That has not been the case in Nigeria. Thus, what one observes is a hodgepodge of small and unviable political arrangements, usually on a regional or geographical scale, vying to win local elections, but at the same time pretending to have the capacity to compete on a national scale. On the national scale it would appear, there is only one party that truly exists and that is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Having no credible or evenly matched opposition, the PDP has evolved into a vicious monster with ever-increasing taste for unchecked power. This, unsurprisingly, came with disastrous consequences.
After 16 years of military rule, President Obasanjo was sworn into power in 1999. When he left in 2007, he masterminded the ascension to office of one Alhaji Umaru Yaradua, then governor of Katsina state. I do not want to bother you at this point with the intricate political maneuverings that occurred when Obasanjo decided that he wanted to amend the constitution to allow him to run for the third time. He almost won that exercise were it not for principled opposition. Ironically, his own vice-president was counted amongst the ranks of a massive public outcry against Obasanjo’s self-succession plans. I suppose that ‘betrayal’ was never forgiven by Obasanjo; we can see from his actions that he swore that since his own VP was bold enough to kick against his political machinations, he would also go out of his way to prevent erstwhile Vice President Atiku Abubakar from ever becoming the president of Nigeria.
Fast forward to 2010…