President Jonathan and 2015 Elections By Sabella Abidde
Because there is a lot going on in the world, it is difficult to avoid political conversations. And for many of us, our vocation and/or avocation demand that we keep abreast of domestic, regional and global events. For instance, we wonder: what’s going on in North Korea, India, Russia, China and Ukraine? What are the ramifications of the recent plane crashes in Mali and elsewhere? How do we resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis? What’s the role of the World Health Organisation and what are governments and nongovernmental organisations doing to contain the spread and consequences of the Ebola virus?
Domestically, one cannot but wonder about the 2015 elections – especially the presidential election. Senatorial and governorship elections matters; but really, much of the attention is focused on President Goodluck Jonathan and who his main challenger is going to be. Barring any last minute upset and or surprises, conventional wisdom indicates that the Peoples Democratic Party will field Jonathan. But who will the All Peoples Congress field? It is difficult to tell. And no one I know seems to know, with any degree of certainty, what the answer is. This is a question I have asked deep and broad minds like fellow PUNCH columnists, Prof. Niyi Akinnaso and Uche Igwe. And whatever both men don’t know, insofar as Nigerian politics is concerned, I leave to the heavens.
I however do know who will emerge victorious after the Independent National Electoral Commission finish counting the votes. Do not think that I telepathically contacted Nostradamus or T.B. Joshua. Oh no; I did not. And neither did I conduct any systematic research or rely on data sets. However, based on casual conversations I had with Nigerians, I came to the conclusion that if Jonathan wins the PDP primary, he definitely will win the 2015 presidential election. It is immaterial whether or not the election is rigged, the outcome is certain. Head, he wins; tail, he wins!
The ruling party may not command a majority in terms of legislative seats and governorship contests, Jonathan will nonetheless maintain his position as the President of the Republic – unless of course very funny and grave things happen before, during and after the polls.
Let me be clear: I did not conduct any kind of scientific survey. All I did was speak to an eclectic group of every Nigerians about the chances of President Jonathan in the next presidential election. No one I spoke with agreed to be identified by name. And no one agreed to have his or her picture taken. And the few who proved they are associated with the Police or security services were so reluctant to voice their opinion; some looked over their shoulders even as they whispered their thought.
Taxi drivers and motorcycle riders, hotel and restaurant workers, street hawkers – those at the bottom of the social and economic ladder – seem to be the most vociferous. They were not shy at all! And they seem to understand politics in ways many in the ivory towers do not and cannot comprehend. In Lagos and in Abuja, a common expression amongst those I spoke with was: “Buhari is the poor man’s president, but the rich and the powerful will never allow him into Aso Rock…” And when I reminded a few that, “the poor are more than the rich”, in terms of votes, they laughed and said, “Oga, you are either not a Nigerian or you don’t live in this country.”
Over two weeks and some 38 voices later, Nigerians are resolute in their belief that Jonathan will retain his position as the nation’s numero uno citizen.May I also at this junction admit that, in addition to speaking to those on the streets, I also spoke with a dozen or so “well-placed” Nigerians – and these included journalists, bankers, university professors and a retired military officer.
Everyone I spoke with seems to understand the Power of Incumbency. This is an inbuilt advantage office holders the world over have over their opponents. Incumbents rarely lose elections. Rarely! Even so, it happened, for instance, to Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Arap Moi (Kenya). The second reason has to do with his effective use of Survival Strategies to best internal and external rivals. And thus far he has been able to silence many potential and prospective rivals – especially within his own party. That he has so far succeeded is a testament to his political sagacity.
The President’s ability to employ various survival strategies speaks volumes to the type of man he is. Throughout his political career, many have underestimated him. Outwardly, they see this quiet and gentle man who seems incapable of hurting a housefly. Wrong! This President is as political as they come; as fierce and fiery as anyone out there; and as cunny as the very best within the Nigerian political space. He is not a push-over. Many who thought he was have regretted it. The nature and measure of the man set him apart.
In Abuja, I was pointedly told by more than three cab drivers that “Jonathan would have been a better and more effective President but for what the Northern elite are doing to him…Boko Haram is one of their tools to make governance impossible.” In essence, what the military officer termed “northern hubris” and the “deployment of Boko Haram to hurt” Jonathan seem to have, in unexpected ways, helped the Jonathan government and his candidacy. Nigerians, it seems, are blaming “the North and Boko Haram” for Jonathan’s real and perceived shortcomings.
A journalist asked me: “When the President shows up at Churches and palaces, and pays homage to the clergy and traditional leaders and or when they show up at the Villa, what do you suppose he’s after…Votes!” In the north, south, east and west, “Jonathan will garner 80 per cent or more of the Christian votes.” It seems, therefore, that this President is very good with politicisation of religion and cultural institutions.
And of course, the opposition parties have been a gift to the President. Granted there are first-rate individuals and classy and sagacious politicians therein; collectively, the opposition – especially the All Progressives Congress – has been nothing but a disappointment. The party has been unable to differentiate itself from the PDP; it has not been able to convince Nigerians in terms of its agenda and ideology; it allows the PDP to infiltrate its rank and file; and most often, its members sound and walk around like a collection of grumblers and lamenters.
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