Femi Aribisala: Time To recover From Trauma, By Olalekan Waheed Adigun
It is now over a year since Nigerians made history proving to the world again that peaceful transition was, in fact, possible in Africa. The election having been won and lost, it appears that some people still feels the scars of the pains of defeat as though it happened yesterday. One of such persons is a political commentator, Femi Aribisala.
Notice I used called him a political “commentator”, not an “analyst”, as he wants many of his readers to believe he is. In other to be seen as a being scientific in his write-ups, he sometimes taught us “How to Lose Presidential Elections Four Times” not minding the fact that he will later tell us “Why Buhari Will Never be President of Nigeria”. As funny as the premises on which some of his arguments were based, he had those who based their “analyses” on many of his unscientific conclusions.
At one point, in one of his articles, he paraded his “credentials” of been an authority in elections. He told his readers: He has been a student of elections for over 40 years. While studying for a degree in History and Politics at Warwick University (England), he obtained a scholarship to visit the United States to study the circumstances behind the 1973 election of Maynard Jackson as the first African-American Mayor of Atlanta. These reasons were just enough for his readers to believe whatever he tells them as gospels. Needless to say that it was in that same article that he gave a famous verdict: Goodluck Jonathan will win the 2015 presidential election by a landslide!
In parenthesis, this prediction reminds me of former Soviet’s leader (Nikita Khrushchev’s) famous statement, “We will bury you” speaking to Western diplomats about Soviet’s confidence of “burying” their rivals in the heat of the Cold War in 1956.
After winning a gold medal for his woeful predictions, Femi needs to save his face. To do this, someone or something has to be the scapegoat. Only recently did I read his, “How Jega Defeated Jonathan For Buhari”. As I finished reading this, I concluded that he, after searching all over for whom to blame for his wrong diagnoses (if he ever did any), chose Professor Attahiru Jega, the then INEC Chairman, as his perfect whip boy.
Like a typical public school pupil who failed his papers, he blames his dismal performance on anything and everything but himself-his teacher, his parents, his friends his foes, the test questions or anything that can easily justify his point!
Let us be quick to admit, writing from firsthand experience working as a psephologist, that the job of predicting the outcomes of elections could be mucky, complex and dangerous (requiring you sometimes to put your career on the line). Predicting elections requires some level of dispassion. When you get too involved and end up with a wrong prediction, one ends us frustrated like Femi because there are often too many variables waiting to alter your experiment and get you frustrated.
The lack of emphatic details led to the famous Literary Digest fiasco in 1936 which wrongly predicted a defeat for US President Franklin Roosevelt. Many will equally not forget the recent case of Gallup Poll which predicted a victory for the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney against President Obama in 2012.
I cited these cases to show how complicated predictive analyses can be sometimes. If these reputable institutions can err this much, Femi needs neither to rant nor look for scapegoats since no one is infallible. All that was expected of him was simply be professional by updating his system of analyses like Gallup and others have done!
This should not be a platform for reminding brother Femi what is and what is not political analyses. But, I will to say that every political analyst (except if so-called) should know that some experiments that cannot be performed for ethical and practical reasons in political analyses. We cannot, unfortunately, re-run the 2015 presidential election under another INEC chairman to test for differences in outcomes. If Jega were not the Electoral Commission boss and it was someone else, whether the outcome of the election would have been significantly different is to say the least, counter-factual or virtual history.
Because we consider it futile to engage in virtual history, let us go back in time to compare data that are real. To argue, like Uncle Femi did, that Jaga “rigged” the election for Buhari is to note that the 2007 elections would have had a different outcome had Professor Maurice Iwu not been the then INEC chair. Or that had Femi Aribisala been the chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) during the June 12, 1993 election, Chief MKO Abiola would have been sworn-in as President!
Let us still hold on to his postulation that Jega, not APC “defeated” Jonathan in the 2015 election. Perhaps, Femi needs to be consistent since he told us in another article that just immediately after the same Jega he now criticizes, announced the postponement of the election by six weeks, that the party was low on cash and therefore, in shambles and crumbling. Where is consistency? Where is coherence in your “analysEs”? Was it also Jega that “rigged in” Jonathan in 2011? Mr. Femi!
I am aware that some people will bring in the point that the APC appeared stronger now than the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) or the Action Congress of Nigeria(ACN) was in 2011 making it comfortable enough for it to be rigged into office in 2015. If we take this on its face value, then our firm conclusion will then be that the APC won the 2015 presidential election because it was stronger in all intent and purposes having grown massively over a period of four years as against its PDP counterpart!
Looking at the three-party game that played out in 2011, one will see that Jonathan won due some complications. I do not expect many people to agree with this, but had the ACN entered into any form of agreement with the CPC then, the election would have ended in a re-run whose outcome is highly unpredictable as the events in 2015 clearly show!
The same situation played out in 2015 the only difference being that the progressive forces achieved what many doubted as a possibility-the formation of APC. It should therefore not surprise objective political analysts why the party won.
The professional thing expected from Femi Aribisala after making such wrong prediction was simply to apologize to his readers and move on rather than look for scapegoats. His post-election rants against Buhari and the APC, including his recent display at an event in the University of Lagos, show that he is yet to recover from the trauma of 2015 electoral defeat of the “hero of democracy”.
Could this be why there was so much campaign from Jonathan’s supporters to sack Jega just weeks to the 2015 elections?
Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and independent political strategist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com. Follow me on twitter @adgorwell.