Why Jonathan May Win Re-Election By Niyi Akinaso
In this two-part series, I examine the strengths and weaknesses of the two major parties, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress, as they engage in interesting political gymnastics, preparatory to the 2015 presidential election, which is barely four months away. My focus is on the prospects of each party’s candidate at winning the election. Specifically, I highlight the factors in each candidate’s favour.
I begin with the PDP, not only because it is the party in power but also because it seems to have zeroed in on President Goodluck Jonathan as its candidate for the 2015 presidential election. Next week, I will examine the prospects of the APC at winning the same election. Right now, its choice of a presidential candidate remains unclear among former Head of State, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and the Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, although, going by media coverage, the contest seems to be between Buhari and Atiku.
Let me acknowledge at the outset that Jonathan has quite a task ahead in convincing an electorate that is sceptical about his performance in the last six years. His perceived non-performance in various sectors and the weak fights against Boko Haram and corruption led Bayo Olupohunda to conclude that Jonathan “may lose as an incumbent” (The PUNCH, October 9, 2014). My focus here is on the other side of the coin: No matter how much we may hate the PDP and abhor Jonathan’s record, neither the party nor Jonathan could be written off completely.
First, since electoral politics is about the strategies and manoeuvres employed to win votes, there are three things that Jonathan and the PDP have done that could be considered electorally smart. We may not like them at all, but they could eventually translate into victory. First, all perceived opponents of the party leadership were pushed out. This is particularly true of those who may compete with Jonathan within the same party for the 2015 presidential ticket. At the same time, those who would toe the President’s line were wooed into the party, even after they had left it.
Second, the erstwhile controversial Chairman of the party, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, was edged out in order to douse the tension that had developed within the party’s leadership, including the PDP governors. Even ministers whose loyalty was doubted were shown the door. Subsequently, a deal was sealed between Jonathan, on the one hand, and his cabinet and the party leadership at federal and state levels, on the other hand, leading to a unanimous endorsement of his candidacy.
Third, in a well-choreographed series of political ads, including TV commercials, billboards, and other promotional activities, including rallies, the public has been inundated with Jonathan’s endorsements. You may not agree with “Chief Zebrudiah Okoroigwe Nwogbo”’s portrayal of Jonathan’s achievements, but you cannot forget his memorable line, “Are you seeing what am saw”?
True, there are rumblings within state chapters of the PDP, as there are within those of the APC, it is clear that scores have been settled within the PDP leadership hierarchy, particularly the Board of Trustees and the National Working Committee of the party. Even more importantly, for purposes of the presidential election, all fingers now point to Jonathan’s anointment.
While these developments may not necessarily translate into votes among the educated elite, who may have made up their mind (but many of whom don’t even vote at all), there are independent voters who may be swayed, not to speak of bread-and-butter voters, who are in the millions.
This leads to the second major factor that may work in Jonathan’s favour in the election: When incumbency and the control of various electoral weapons are factored in, Jonathan may have the upper hand in taking advantage of many of the major variables to which voters often respond in presidential elections, namely, (1) toeing the party line; (2) responding to primordial identities of ethnicity, region, or religion; (3) following the money and (4) the candidate’s likability.
A third factor that may work in Jonathan’s favour is the APC’s poor electoral machinery to date. It remains unclear to many observers why the party’s readiness for an election that is only four months away appears doubtful. True, the party has yet to decide on its presidential candidate, but why not sell the party’s manifesto, including blueprints on security, education, health, agriculture, infrastructural development, the economy (including diversification plans), and so on? Moreover, what prevents the APC from engaging in sensitisation tours and running TV ads and jingles on its programmes, even when no candidate is mentioned? Why not counter the claims in Jonathan’s ads with facts and figures in its own ads?
The APC’s lacklustre preparations for the 2015 elections engendered Sabella Abidde’s public wailing in two aptly titled articles, namely, Is the APC taking a nap? (The PUNCH, August 13, 2014) and, What is the problem with the APC? (The PUNCH, September 24, 2014). For now, the APC’s failures are Jonathan’s gains, and the gains will multiply if the APC comes out bruised from its presidential primary.
Notice that I have not dwelled on the power of incumbency, which may be considered as the fourth major factor in Jonathan’s favour. This includes the control over the nation’s human and material resources, the security services, and the electoral empires. The deployment of various resources during the election period may translate into votes, especially from bread-and-butter voters.
This is not to say that the electoral coast is all clear for Jonathan. He still needs to campaign hard and showcase his record with facts, figures, and images. For example, how many federal roads has his administration really completed or repaved, and where exactly are they located? How many additional megawatts of electricity have been generated or will soon be generated under his watch? What gains in the education sector will he cite to counter the declining educational fortunes of our youths under his watch? What has he got to say about corruption, missing oil funds, and crude oil theft? Why does Nigeria’s rising economic profile fail to translate into improved standard of living for the average Nigerian?
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