The March 28, 2015, presidential vote has all along been presented in both local and foreign media as a battle of titans, a tough war. This is in keeping with media’s penchant for histrionics and drama. It also enables the media to be seen as balanced, and not partisan. We live in a world where objectivity and balance are often confused with inability to call a spade by its true name. Consequently, long after the Nigerian presidential election has for all practical purposes been lost and won, the media continues with the prevarication that the result is too close to call. But perceptive journalists know better. They, like diplomats, tell you the truth in private.
The way the shark smells blood far away is the way politicians see electoral victory even before votes are cast. They consequently move in the direction of victory in very large numbers, all the more so in a typical developing environment where ideology is of little relevance; strange bedfellows are not left out in the unidirectional movement. A fundamental shift has all but been completed in Nigerian politics. For the first time in our national history, prominent members of a ruling party have been moving to the major opposition party in droves. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has since Wednesday, January 15, become the majority in the House of Representatives; it has 179 members while the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has 162. The situation would probably have been the same in the Senate but for a well-calculated court action since February, 2014, designed to stop PDP senators from moving en masse to the APC. Among the nine PDP senators who joined the APC on January 14 is Barnabas Gemade, PDP’s erstwhile national chairman. Why haven’t APC members been joining the government party since this year? Why has practically every party defector been moving from the PDP to the opposition APC?
Twenty-four hours to President Goodluck Jonathan’s launch of his campaign in Ondo State on January 15, five commissioners in the state’s PDP administration resigned and joined the APC, alongside all former State House of Assembly speakers and a former chief of staff. The president was thus compelled to postpone the visit to the state. The next day, Governor Segun Mimiko’s ex-chief press secretary, Kolawole Olabisi, and many others from his hometown joined the exodus train. Olabisi is from the same place as Gov Mimiko, who is the Southwest coordinator of the Jonathan Campaign. Each defector claimed that his or her action arose out of the national need to get Muhammadu Buhari elected Nigeria’s president on March 28. In Niger State, deputy governor Musa Ibeto left the PDP for APC on Monday, January 19. In Kaduna State, a former secretary to the state government, Samaila Lawal, and 434 others in Makarfi Local Government Area left the PDP for the APC on January 21. Four PDP members of the Akwa Ibom state legislature have just joined the APC. Is the APC fast cutting the image of a national movement?
Even in the Southeast, which has been rather fanatical about Jonathan, there is a considerable change. Ejike Mbaka, an immensely popular priest who runs about the biggest religious ministry in the country, came out against the president in his New Year message. The PDP and its media agents made the fatal error of not just attacking this charismatic priest in an area which prides itself on being the bastion of Catholicism in Nigeria but also accusing him of unsuccessfully applying for an oil block! The attacks have made Mbaka more popular, elevating him to the pantheon of prophets always prosecuted by the political authorities of their time for speaking truth to power! The person representing my humble self in the National Assembly, Fort Dike, has now joined the APC from the PDP. So has my old friend and colleague, Victor Ogene, a member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who represents the Ogbaru Federal Constituency. Emeka Nwogbo, my secondary schoolmate who represents the Awka North and South Federal Constituency, has also quit APGA for the APC. This was almost unthinkable four months ago.
The PDP gives the impression that it is going into the election unprepared. Edwin Clark, a member of the party’s board of trustees who is particularly close to President Jonathan, is angry. The elder statesman has been venting his frustration in public. Clark accuses the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission of working against Jonathan for ethnic and religious reasons. He also accuses the PDP national chairman of being a bad influence on the president, citing the instance of Nuhu Ribadu, founding chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and now the party’s gubernatorial candidate in Adamawa State, who was sold to the president as hugely popular. A few days ago he accused the leadership of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of laxity in prosecuting the war against corruption, which has aided the popular perception that Jonathan is not keen on fighting graft. Clark is not the only frustrated BoT member. Ex President Olusegun Obasanjo has been mobilizing against Jonathan. Ex Vice President Alex Ekwueme, the first BoT chairman who may well be called the party’s founder, granted a rare press interview, which was anything but flattering about Jonathan. Tony Anenih, the current BoT chairman widely known as Mr Fix It, has been involved in the campaign rather perfunctorily.
Not even on the home front is there cohesion. First Lady Patience Jonathan and Bayelsa State governor Seriake Dickson have been fighting dirty in public. Interestingly, the fight is not over public policy but over personal greed and aggrandizement. In neighbouring Rivers State where Jonathan won the highest vote of some two million in 2011, Governor Chibuike Amaechi alleges the first lady is a principal cause of his ongoing fight to a finish with the president. Even in far away Anambra, the home state of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nwafor Orizu, Alex Ekwueme and some other great Nigerians, the first lady insists on deciding senatorial candidates. Is our president, our commander in chief, a wimp, a hen-pecked husband unable to rein in his rampaging wife? Chadian president told Reuters a few days ago that he mobilized his troops into the Nigerian territory to rout Boko Haram terrorists because Jonathan was not ready to do the right thing even after six years of the terrorists’ sustained attacks.
Vice President Namadi Sambo’s attendance of the 40th anniversary of the enthronement of the Emir of Zaria, his hometown, earlier this month was disastrous. The crowd energetically and ceaselessly booed him and the president who was not even there. In Jos, Plateau State, a campaign bus with Jonathan’s posters was burnt on Saturday, January 10, and the next day another campaign bus was set ablaze, with the driver killed, in the city which pundits had all along regarded as safely Jonathan’s. All Nigerians seem united by mass hunger, massive unemployment, plummeting living standards and a bleak future against the government party. Therefore, the postponement of the presidential vote by six weeks from February has been unable to change the electoral permutations. The humongous amounts of money in foreign currencies thrown to all manner of people by Jonathan have failed to perform any magic, just like the relentless propaganda to demonise both the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, and the APC national leader, Bola Tinubu.
The country’s demography is not too charitable to Jonathan. Lagos, with 5.8m, has the highest number of registered voters out of the country’s 68.8m, followed by Kano which has 4.9m. Both are APC controlled. The president’s home state of Bayelsa has the lowest figure of 610,000.
The international community is likely to be pleased with the election outcome. The consul general of a major country spoke to me rather uncharacteristically at a recent dinner at Eko Hotel in Lagos. As I tried, out of national pride, to defend the government, he queried: “In what area, in your honest opinion, can this administration be given a pass mark—education, health, internal security, infrastructure, petroleum, foreign policy, national cohesion, defence or fighting graft?” I was, for once, lost for words. It is self evident that neither the United States nor the European Union thinks highly of the outgoing administration, a situation exacerbated by the scandal of the Nigerian government surreptitiously flying over $15m in raw cash to South Africa under the pretext of procuring arms to fight Boko Haram terrorists. Worse, African countries like Morocco, Chad, Niger and Zimbabwe have been deriding Nigeria under Jonathan’s leadership, reminding us of ex Ghana President Kwame Nkrumah’s description of our nation as “a big for nothing country”.
Nigeria has in the last few years been lying on its belly, severely challenged in all ramifications. The incoming administration has a tough task ahead. In the meantime, the election is all over.