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April 16 Elections: No Date With Destiny!

Last Saturday, Nigerians were finally able to go to the polls after the election was pushed back for a week. This was because Mallam Attahiru Jega the head of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), determined that it was perhaps the safest thing to do after there were massive reports that some necessary polling materials did not reach their required destinations. The election last Saturday was by Nigeria’s own unique standards a relative success. I say “relative” because as we know, there is scarcely an election held anywhere in Nigeria which is not characterized by shady underhand dealings, sometimes naked outright fraud and more importantly violence.

 If truth be told, the wanton loss of life and property is probably the most fearful thing about elections in Nigeria. This is hardly surprising because elective office is probably the quickest and dare I say, least taxing route to instant wealth in Nigeria—it is no surprise therefore that some people are literally prepared to kill so as to achieve their goals of being “elected” to some political office.

So Nigerians went to the polls last Saturday to elect the members of Nigeria’s National Assembly (the legislative wing of government comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives). I’ll say that for all the rumors and whisperings of wide scale violence, the election seemed to have been carried out with minimal violence.  I am gladdened by the relative success of the legislative elections even though there are still some wards in some states where the battle for either the Senate or the House of Reps are as of the moment, unresolved.

Open Ballot: An election security official watching over the process

Like I emphasized earlier, election rigging is a regrettable but near-constant feature of Nigerian elections. Therefore, the one critical insight that foreign observers of Nigeria’s election should keep close to their chests is that the rigging and electoral fraud that is often claimed or reported is practiced in some form or fashion, and to certain degrees by EVERY side or party to the election. It is a unique Nigerian malaise. So when there are reports of electoral irregularities, it would do foreigners good to realize that it just means that the victorious party had deeper human and material resources and simply out-rigged the rest of the rigging lot.

Did that sound like an uncharitable assessment on my part? Well, I’ll leave that verdict to Nigerians who are keenly following the elections. Click here to view a tabulation of the latest projections from the NASS elections.

Would this relative success be replicated this Saturday when Nigerians go to vote in the Presidential elections?

Granted, it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what might happen. But permit me the luxury of playing prophet. If you’ve been following the elections in Nigeria, you would doubtlessly have heard of the so-called “weakness” of Goodluck Jonathan. You might have even read trenchant analyses of his chances of being re-elected. You might have also read about or noticed the slight waning in the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) previously near-total stranglehold on elections.  You might also be familiar with the fact that the North has virtually rejected Jonathan’s candidacy—choosing to throw in with one of three prominent Northerners in the race namely:  former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari, erstwhile head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Nuhu Ribadu and the current governor of Kano state Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau. This has led many pundits to opine that Jonathan may not get re-elected.

President Goodluck Jonathan

Indeed, this view has an arresting force if you stop back to reflect on the negotiations between the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). From the reports I am getting, it appeared that there were intensive negotiations between these two parties to pool their resources and voting base together to counter or check the all-too-obvious preeminence of the PDP. Apparently, after ACN surprisingly garnished a significant number of votes and seats in last Saturday’s national elections, it now appears that they are no longer be considered a weak sectional party like All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) or a fringe and sectarian party created solely to parrot the dissatisfactions of random aggregates of Nigeria’s vast voting public like one of these newer parties that have now joined the scene. So not unpredictably, CPC felt like connecting with the Bola Tinubu-led ACN to hammer out a deal which would make them even harder to beat this Saturday.

It seemed that the proposition was for Nuhu Ribadu, the youngest of the presidential aspirants, and the flagbearer for the ACN, to subsume his political ambition under the wings of the CPC to allow Buhari emerge the combined choice of the ACN and the CPC. Given Ribadu’s youth and political inexperience, the CPC felt like they could offer Buhari (and his repetitive but unconvincing anti-corruption mantra) to this proposed merger and have Ribadu go along with it.  If it results in a higher visible national assignment or profile for Ribadu, and it secures the blessings and massive support of the North, what harm could there be in that move for Ribadu, someone must have thought.

CPC Presidential candidate, Gen. Muahammadu Buhari (Rtd) weeps

Apparently that offer has been rejected by Nuhu Ribadu and the ACN—so it appears that the much-sought co-operation by Nigeria’s surviving opposition to undercut and possibly whither the finger of the PDP in Nigeria has suffered an insurmountable setback. Perhaps, that is why it was not surprising to read recently that Buhari was seen weeping at the fact that this may be his last time contesting for office: and he could already see certain failure. Frankly, he has been seeking the presidency of Nigeria since Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) upstaged his government in a coup in 1985.It really looks like this might be his last time.

With all these developments, it seems to me that Jonathan is poised for victory in this presidential election. I am, as a matter of fact, declaring that he would ‘win’ this election. Now, before some crazed Jonathan fan runs off with this prediction, and starts talking in some messianic tones about how Goodluck Jonathan has been divinely selected and ordained by God to win the election and thus lead Nigeria triumphantly into an age of happiness, please consider this. From the very reliable SaharaReporters comes this revelation:

With some 72 hours to Saturday’s crucial presidential elections in Nigeria, presidential Goodluck Jonathan is deploying state resources far and wide in an unprecedented effort to buy every inch of support.  A Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) official told SaharaReporters today that in the extraordinary spending spree, the Goodluck Jonathan team had mopped up some N107 billion in funds from the Nigerian economy.

Much of the monies is going to the northern parts of Nigeria where the campaign has handed over N2 billion to each key state governors and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) officials to capture the north for Jonathan…..

SaharaReporters sources said the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, has also met secretly with President Goodluck Jonathan at a private house in Abuja .  The meeting was conducted under a heavy veil of secrecy and was known only to very few officials.
In the past few days, and bolstered by last Saturday’s largely successful legislative elections, President Jonathan has told top party officials and hawks in his government that Jega is “no longer a problem” and does not need to be removed from his post.

So there you have it—the power of incumbency. I guess one doesn’t need to be a soothsayer to tell what is in Nigeria’s immediate future as they head to the Presidential polls. Do you believe there is another realistic or possible scenario? I’ll be surprised indeed if an outcome different from the one I predicted ever came to pass.

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Counting Down to 2011 Elections

 

President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan

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…

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