– By The Dream Daily Team
Against the train of thoughts of sceptics who see nothing but doom in their crystal balls for Nigeria every now and then, the country is moving on and on all fronts. This statement of fact, rather than of value judgment, is self-evident in several spheres of the body-politic, especially the race for all political offices open for grabs in the 2015 General Elections.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) might not have set the ball rolling for the polls yet as you read this. Still, only the politically naïve would miss the politics already in the air across the country, including in states ravaged by terrorism where some say elections would be impossible to hold. For good or bad, most Nigerians want their elections come next year and you can wager that there will not be a shortage of candidates running for elective offices in 2015.
Parts of the dress rehearsals for the General Elections have already taken place in Ekiti and Osun states where governorship elections were held recently, seizing the imagination of millions of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, including major and minor powers in the global community interested in the fate of the “Giant of Africa.”
According to one school of thought, that fate is mono-cellular – the crumbling of the country along ethno-religious cum regional divides that even these naysayers cannot put a vague geographic marker on.
These worry warts often cite the well flown, albeit worn, “prediction,” which reportedly surfaced from some foggy official conclaves in the United States (U.S.) which immovably fixed Nigeria’s demise date at 2015, to validate their position. The dark foreboding to Nigeria’s death, they insist, is the 2015 Presidential Poll, which, they say again, would be so well acrimoniously fought along political, religious, regional and ethnic fault lines as to asphyxiate the country beyond resuscitation.
“This would just not happen,” says Malam Mohammed Audu, a civil servant. “It is only those with a poor grasp of the dynamics involved in the making and keeping Nigeria together for more than 100 years now that are saying this. Nigeria will survive (the) 2015 (elections),” Audu tells The Dream Daily.
“Na lie. Nothing go happen for 2015 wey we never see for this country. Since we no break up for civil war, nothing they happen again. Me I no de go anywhere for 2015. Na this Abuja me and my family go stay for the election. Nothing go happen wey never happen before for this country,” Chima Nwabueze, a middle age taxi driver insists.
“With what me I can see in Ekiti and Osun, I think the 2015 elections will be peaceful o. I think Nigerians now know better than to fight ourselves or kill ourselves because of politics, so I expect a peaceful 2015,” Mrs. Dora Ehi, a full-time homemaker, proffers to The Dream Daily.
PoliticalCampaigns: Any Change In The Offing?
Going by the content analysis of the Ekiti and Osun gubernatorial campaigns, experts observe that electioneering in Nigeria still “lacks the given substance and sophistication you gets during campaigns in older democracies like in the United States or Britain.” “Fifteen years of democracy have not moved our politicians to issues-based campaigns. They only sing and dance at rallies, and you can hardly hear them address policies in details at these rallies. They only sing and dance and abuse their opponents everywhere,” says Mr. Ahmed Salako, a development worker.
Are we to expect something new in this regard for the 2015 polls?
“No, not really,” answers a university professor of political science who does not want his name in print. “Desirable as it might seem, I don’t envisage a seismic shift in the way candidates would campaign or woo the electorate. This is because for that to happen, first, there must be a fundamental change in the way the average voter thinks. That change, to me, is predicated on two or three issues – the level of formal education and political sophistication of the average voter and his economic status. For the most part, those who actually come out to vote on polling day tend to be the poor, who are usually illiterate or the barely literate. These variables are strong factors in elections anywhere in the world. The more educated and prosperous the voting population is, the more sophisticated the campaign approach adopted by the politician. You don’t want to speak above the head of the voter and, specifically in Nigeria’s case, you don’t also want to feed rhetoric of how you have performed or intend to perform to the obviously impoverished voting masses. It is the basis of the so-called ‘stomach infrastructure’ saga we saw in Ekiti. Mark you it has always been there. It is the same thing as the “Amala politics” infamy; this is only a new lingo from the formidable propaganda machinery of those who lost in that election and opted to jab at the voters in a more sophisticated language, a turn of phrase that quickly caught on because it aptly describes the deep-rooted vote buying culture in Nigerian politics,” the varsity teacher explains.
“You don’t need to be a professor of political science to know these things. It is not the preserve of one part of the country and certainly it is not peculiar to a political party or politician. No political party in the country has a monopoly on vote rigging, voters’ inducement or even empty pledges. These are longstanding complaints about our politics that has, perhaps, hardened into a truism. This is so self-evident that you could say there is no point in complaining about it anymore. It is still acceptable to the average voter who expects a form of inducement to cast his vote one way or the other. Politicians are not stupid. They know what to do in these elections in order to succeed and I don’t see that changing in 2015,” he adds.
Presidential Polls: A GEJ/PDP Vs GEJ/PDP Affair?
Although there are some Nigerians who say President Goodluck Jonathan has not delivered on promise and should therefore not seek re-election, it appears that things are shaping up toward a single reality – that the presidential election is for President Jonathan and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to lose. Those who spoke with The Dream Daily on this monochromic hue of the 2015 presidential race premised their argument on a number of factors, namely the late merger of the country’s leading opposition parties to form the All Progressives Congress (APC), “the state of health of the APC since formation vis-à-vis the clear presidential ambitions of the big names in the APC” and the perceived source of the insurgency that has, in no small way, raised suspicion and poisoned the water of public discourse along less ideal courses.
“By the time the presidential election holds, the APC would be less than two years old, having received its formal approval of registration in July last year from INEC. Although the political credentials of the party leaders are unimpeachable, especially in their localised strongholds, still I don’t see them able to disable the PDP’s well-horned political machinery that has been purring to victory at the federal level and most states since 1999. These things need time and I don’t think the APC can dislodge (President) Jonathan from the saddle next year. They will put up a good showing winning the gubernatorial race in some states, they will have senators and Reps, yes, but the Presidency? No, the APC cannot win that for now,” says the university don, still pleading anonymity.
“I’m not sure the APC can survive the crisis of choosing their presidential candidate, based on the calibre of those seeking the ticket, their desire to get it now or never and the fanatical following these ‘presidential materials’ enjoy. Barring a last-minute miraculous consensus, something close to an implosion looms in the party over the presidential ticket. I would like to think that there are at least two presidential candidates in the APC who would run in 2015 on other political parties’ platform. I really want to see (the) APC succeed so that (the) PDP does not take us for granted, but then let’s wait and see how they would untie this big knot of choosing their presidential candidate. If they do this without rancour and survive intact, then we should see a very interesting presidential election next year,” says Mr. Sunday John, a businessman.
A public affairs analyst who pleaded anonymity observes: “I think the APC has a lot to do in shaking off the strong perception of the party as ‘a Janjaweed party,’ which I think the PDP foisted on it. It does not help that some in the APC today have made damaging statements that seemed to treatise that violence is a legitimate tool in the power game, prior to the birth of the APC. Situate that with the daily dose of terrorism and the failure of the APC to form any kind of non-partisan cooperation with the government on this serious national issue and its penchant for portraying the Goodluck Jonathan administration as inept in the face of terror through endless press releases, then you will begin to understand why voters could sympathise with President Jonathan.
“The scenario playing out in the minds of many Nigerians of a particular religion and regions is that some in the opposition have not come clean on the Boko Haram insurgency, that what we have as Boko Haram now is no longer purely a religious uprising but an ethno-political struggle by another means. The aim is to make the country ungovernable for the President, portray him in a bad light, leading to a mass flight of voters from him and his party next year. I would say it is having the opposite effect. Many in the country today see the resurgence in terror attacks, as we move closer to 2015, as the political ploy of a tiny section of a region against the rest of the country. I think their reaction would be to go in larger numbers to the President, who, in their reckoning, is also a victim of terror. There is something attractive and magnetic about the underdog, the vulnerable or the wronged in any contest, however fair, and President Jonathan is increasingly being perceived as all of these towards 2015. It could yield bountiful votes next year, even more than he garnered the last time.”