Following the emergence of President Goodluck Jonathan as the candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, as the candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC), the battle for Nigeria’s presidency has begun. Deputy Editor, Olayinka Oyegbile and Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, report on the 2015 permutations and possible electoral routes to Aso Villa for the candidates.
There is no doubt that President Goodluck Jonathan that went into the 2011 Presidential contest with the catch phrase of “A breath of fresh air” is not the same that would contest the 2015 poll.
All the goodwill and the promise of “fresh air” which were the aura under which he coasted to victory in the 2011 elections seem to have fizzled out. The President Jonathan that would face the electorate (read Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC) in 2015 is a totally demystified and disrobed president who has been shorn of all toga expectations due to a lackluster performance; that has been far from stellar. The promised “breath of fresh air” has become jejune and poisoned. As William Shakespeare would perhaps have put it, the story of his performance is like “A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing…”
In 2011 President Jonathan led a united and solid Peoples Democratic Party to win the election despite early opposition by some members of the party that the slot should go back to the north. In fact, his victory in the 2011 election was seen as a pan Nigerian vote cast solely to reinforce him and his party for the bigger tasks ahead. When some skirmishes broke out in some parts of the country over his victory, this was largely viewed as a sectional thing and not big enough to cut a hole in his hat of victory. He was just too loved for anything to shake him.
Ahead of the election that brought him to victory he had the unalloyed support of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was his godfather and who almost did all his campaigns for him as he did for the late Umoru Yar’Adua. However, since his victory things have gone sour between the duo. This came to a head last week when the former president released a trilogy of his autobiography with the title ‘My Watch’. In the book the former president painted an unflattering picture of his hitherto godson.
Jonathan A Hard Sell
Unlike 2011, even President Jonathan’s greatest supporters know that he is a hard sell. There are so many forces ranged against him in the march to securing a second term in 2015. The first opposition to his candidature was from inside his party the PDP. At the initial stage seven governors, mainly from the north, were the arrowheads of the opposition against his second term. It was a solid movement against him and the seven governors (Babangida Aliyu (Niger), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Abdulfattah Ahmed, (Kwara), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko (Sokoto) and Murtala Nyako (Adamawa), who opposed him looked determined to carry out their plans.
Their opposition led to the formation of what later became the New PDP. The five governors were joined by former President Atiku Abubakar in the new party. However, two of the five governors later developed cold feet and retraced their steps back to PDP while the five others joined the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The challenge from the opposition apart, President Jonathan is going into the 2015 election with a fractured and divided party. The events that led to his emergence as the sole candidate of the party for the presidential contest is still very largely divisive and many fell in line mainly to save their skin and not because they are convinced he is the best foot forward for the party. His performance in all sectors of the economy and governance has been far from something to write home about.
The economy has been in a terrible tail spin. Price of crude has fallen in the international market leading to dwindling income and fresh load of hardship on the citizens. His ratings both at home and abroad have fallen to an all time low.
Perhaps the greatest drawback for the President is the unparalleled failure that has confronted his administration in the area of the Boko Haram menace and terrorism. Under his watch, the Boko Haram challenge has grown to a veritable insurgency that has led to the death of thousands of citizens without the government been able to stem the tide. The fate of the over 200 girls abducted from Chibok is still unknown.
In fact, the insurgents have grown so bold that they continue to launch attacks across the North East so much so that that section of the country seems to be like another country. The question many are asking is how a man who has failed to bring the insurgency under control and has refused to visit the states affected by this war could expect to be given another shot at the seat of power.
On the war against insurgency, former President Obasanjo in his recently released autobiography has been unsparing of President Jonathan, as ever. Writing about the handling of the menace he gave a big thumb down to the administration saying it does not seem to know what it is doing. For instance, he writes that the security agencies do not seem to know how to deal with the menace and are working without coordination with one another.
According to him, “The one incident that overtly and graphically exposed the ineptitude, ineffectiveness, inefficiency, carelessness, cluelessness, callousness, insensitivity and selfishness of Goodluck Jonathan was the abduction of about 276 school girls from Chibok in Borno State by Boko Haram. The reaction and attitude of our president and his household was non-belief, to the extent that 18 days passed before he grudgingly concede to accept the reality of the abduction. If serious action had been taken within 48 hours, the story could have been different.”
He also criticized the president for “dancing twenty-four hours after the Nyanya explosion that took seventy-five lives. I also found believable the statement allegedly credited to the president after both the Nyanya explosion and the Chibok school girls abduction to the effect that since some people in the North had said that they would make Nigerian ungovernable, they could keep on killing and abducting each other.”
Stunted Battle Against Corruption
Under the president’s watch, the fight against corruption has been fought only in words and not in action. Even in words, the war is tepid and bland. No visible acts have been taken against many who have been accused of corruption. A case that comes to mind is the aviation sector, despite all the hues and cries in that sector nothing has been done to punish all those perceived as perpetrating corruption in the sector, same for the power sector and various ministries.
Although, the administration has been crowing over the recent report of the Transparency International (TI) which rated the country 136th in 2014 from her 144th in 2013, and 139 in 2012 and 143 in 2011. This ‘improvement’ has not been visible at the home front. In fact, he has scored below average in the fight against graft as no one, high or low, has been punished on account of corruption since he assumed power six years ago.
Whatever any one might say against former President Obasanjo, he at least made some moves against corrupt officials even if they were sectional and tokenistic. In his new autobiography, the former president is of the opinion that “Under Jonathan we seem to have gone from frying pan to fire. If in the past corruption was in the corridors of power, it would seem now to be in the sitting room, dining room and bedroom of power.” What a damning verdict.
The former president in driving home his point alleged that incriminating corruption related documents against a former governor was ordered to be removed from the file because the accused is close to the president. Many Nigerians do not see the administration as ready to fight the hydra headed monster of corruption.
It is the believe that if there is a level playing field and the contest is held today, President Jonathan has lost the race to return to Aso Rock. However, the incumbency factor is considered as a plus for President Jonathan. But to a professor of political science who pleaded anonymity, this is over rated. According to him, “Incumbency can only work in a situation where the popularity rating of the government is not as bad as what we have today. The Jonathan presidency is at its weakest now. The fact that former President Obasanjo decided to release his book at this time should not be lost on us. You may argue that the former president perhaps has no electoral value, but he is an opinion leader and his body language is a sign and a call on Nigerians to reject the present arrangement. He has clearly shown that the presidency is weak and not able to carry out its duties to the electorate.”
The political science teacher added that the only thing that could help the present administration is the use of military to intimidate the electorate. This, he quickly added, may not work pointing out that it didn’t work in Osun State and he doesn’t see how it would work in 2015 across the country.
Substantiating his thesis, the professor said incumbency advantage is only possible where a candidate is popular. According to him, President Jonathan has frittered away all the goodwill and optimism that ushered him in 2011. To him, “President Jonathan is coming into 2015 as a bowed, diminished and demystified candidate. The only thing that can see him victorious is if there is electoral fraud.” He, however, warned that Nigerians are alert.
But is Jonathan’s reputation that ruptured? The answer is out there in the field in February 2015.
The Buhari Challenge
The results of the presidential primaries of the two leading political parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), show that their candidates enjoy full support of their parties across the board.
While President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan emerged PDP candidate unopposed at a National Convention held in Abuja, it was a landslide when the former Military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, garnered a whopping 3,430 votes to emerge the presidential candidate of APC in a keenly contested primary election held in Lagos the same day.
Today, the die is cast. The two have emerged as candidates and so stakeholders and observers, both locally and abroad, have already commenced careful assessment of their strengths and weaknesses and that of their platforms to determine the possible president of Nigeria in 2015.
The Man Buhari
Born on December 17, 1942, Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani from Daura in Katsina State, served in the Nigerian Army between 1962 and August 27, 1985 when he retired as a Major General. He was the head of the Third Armored Division of the Nigerian Army on December 31, 1983, when his colleagues, after a successful military coup d’etat that overthrew the civilian President Shehu Shagari, selected him to be the country’s Head of State and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.
Since then, Buhari has become a factor in Nigerian politics and leadership. His uncompromising attitude has placed him, precariously though, at a point where he is so avidly hated by his critics and so passionately loved and adored by his supporters who describe him as the country’s political messiah of some sort.
This is primarily because as soon as he took office as military Head of State in 1983, Buhari, and his second in command, the late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon, justified their seizure of power by reprimanding the civilian government of Shagari and describing it as exceedingly corrupt.
Their response was to launch a popular “War Against Indiscipline (WAI) campaign, through which they attempted to set a new road-map for the country’s politics, introducing strict economic and political policies that have been described by some intellectuals as ‘Buharism.” Like anything Buhari, the unique economic measure his short-lived government introduced was also passionately commended and criticized.
It would be recalled that in spite of the harsh economic realities of the time, Buhari rejected IMF loan and refused to adopt the IMF conditionality to devalue the Naira. While his critics blamed him then for resultant job losses, closure of some businesses and a decline in living standards, his admirers commended him for adopting unique economic measures that enabled his government to reduce inflation, curb imports of needless goods and curtail crude oil theft.
So, even though Buhari was overthrown on August 27, 1985 in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida, he has not ceased to be a factor in the country’s politics. This is even so as he has repeatedly sought to become a democratically elected President since 2003 when he first contested as the presidential candidate of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and was defeated by the Peoples Democratic Party’s candidate, General Olusegun Obasanjo.
Since then, the retired general has never failed to contest in any presidential election in the country. In the April 2007 election, he also flew the flag of ANPP. For the April 16, 2011, he was the candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and polled 12,214,853 votes in a presidential election that featured 20 contestants.
Today, as Buhari prepares to fly the flag of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2015 presidential election, many are keen to know whether it would be fourth time lucky for the general.
Generally accepted as a leader with strong character, Buhari is also described by his admirers as incorruptible. It would be recalled that he first came into national prominence when in 1976 he became the Federal Commissioner (Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources under the then military Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo. Those who worked under him at that point of his career and even before, when he was appointed Military Governor of the newly created North-East State, during the regime of the late General Murtala Mohammed, say he is consistently firm and determined.
As a presidential candidate, this image is considered a strong point for the APC, especially amongst the electorate who believe that most of the current problems President Goodluck Jonathan’s government are unable to handle promptly would require such a strong personality.
Some of the problems are insurgency in the North-East and epileptic electricity supply. “A strong personality like Buhari is what is required to solve the problem of insurgency. Even the problem of power generation and distribution, which had been hampered by deep rooted corruption would only be resolved by a candidate like Buhari,” said Alhaji Yusuf Hassan, a legal practitioner in Lagos.
Ironically, Buhari’s critics also consider his strong personality as a minus, as they say he would not be a listening president like Jonathan. “No matter what some of us may say, we cannot take it away from Jonathan that he is a true democrat. In his passionate desire to achieve success, it is doubtful if General Buhari would respect democratic principles. This may be a challenge,” said Goke Adelusi, a school teacher in Lagos.
It remains to be seen, what advantage Buhari’s personality, which most Nigerians consider a plus, will bring to the fortunes of APC.
ALL PROGRESSIVES CONGRESS (APC)
Since his retirement from the army in August 27, 1985, Buhari has remained active as a politician. Interestingly, he has chosen the path of the progressives and has remained in the opposition, first in ANPP, then CPC and now APC.
Both the ANPP and the CPC could not muster the kind of finance and spread the PDP had. So, the Buhari that PDP beat in the past elections will not be the same in 2015 as he is now contesting on the platform of APC, a mega party that can match the ruling PDP in all relevant ways.
It would be recalled that in 2011 election, when Buhari contested on the platform of CPC, he polled 12 million votes. With a relatively more solid platform that is likely to provide adequate funding, 2015 is considered his best bet to win the presidency.
These outlined factors above which would favour Buhari in the 2015 contest aside, it must be noted that he also has some weaknesses that may affect his fortunes.
He is a Hardliner
The first weakness is the fact that many still consider Buhari an unrepentant hardliner. But many supporters of the retired army general say this factor should be viewed as a plus instead of a minus, since, according to him, he must maintain that attitude in order to tackle with the most difficult problems a president with less hard-line disposition may never be able to tackle.
The Religion Question
His critics also dismiss him as a Muslim fundamentalist with fanatical following. Reference is always made of alleged comments suggesting his determination to turn Nigeria into an Islamic state. Defending him, a source close to the general said, “on religious ground, no one can deny that General Buhari is a devout Muslim, but I can assure you that he is not the type of person that would force others to adopt his religion. All through his career, he has always worked with Christians. Idiagbon was a Christian, most of his personal aides, including drivers are Christians; in fact, one of his daughters is married to an Igbo man,” the source said.
There are indications that to improve his performance in the Christian dominated South, Buhari will need to correct this impression of his being a religious fanatic.
He is not an orator
Another weakness some analysts have pointed out is that Buhari is not an orator. One of his associate, who waved the factor aside as being of little importance said, “Yes, the general is not an orator, but like the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was also not an orator, Buhari has what it takes to attract committed followers. That is more important to Nigerians and to Nigeria of today. Besides, President Jonathan, who is his major opponent in the 2015 contest, is also not an orator,” he said.
Buhari vs Jonathan-Electoral Route To Aso Villa
In most states across the North-West and North-East, the general is expected to sweep a majority of votes. As happened in 2011 when he won the presidential polls even in states controlled by the PDP, a repeat of that pattern is expected in 2015.
Emerging projections are that the APC flagbearer would win in Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Kano and Jigawa. He is expected to take his home state of Katsina handily – this notwithstanding the fact that the state government is in the hands of PDP.
A similar scenario is expected to play out in Kaduna which incidentally is the home turf of Vice President Namadi Sambo. But such is Buhari’s grassroots support that he’s expected to sweep aside whatever resistance the ruling party might put up here. A crucial factor is that although he’s from Katsina, the general has always made his home in Kaduna.
Other states expected to fall into his column are Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, and Bauchi. The fall of Adamawa into PDP hands could turn it into a battleground. But internal PDP squabbles strength Buhari’s hand.
In the North-Central he is expected to take Nassarawa as he did in 2011 and where Governor Tanko Al-Makura is a staunch ally. He’s also expected to prevail easily in Kwara and Adamawa. However, the picture might be a bit more unpredictable in Benue, Taraba, Kogi and Plateau. The effect of sectarian and communal clashes in some of these states is expected to influence voter behavior in ways that may not be easy to predict at this point. Benue, Taraba and Plateau are clearly in play for all sides.
In the South-West it is advantage Buhari because of the APC hold on the region. However, Ekiti and Ondo States present difficult to predict scenarios. The influence of incumbent PDP governors in both states cannot be underestimated, although APC also remain quite formidable.
The South-South presents an interesting prospect. For long it has been projected as a bastion for Jonathan. However, the fallout of the bitter PDP primaries have split the party in several states raising ethnic tensions in at least two: Delta and Akwa Ibom.
The Urhobos in Delta are so embittered by the loss of the PDP gubernatorial ticket that they could punish Jonathan for this. The umbrella organization of the ethnic group, the Urhobo Progressive Union (UPU) had vowed to mobilize its people to vote against any party that didn’t present an Urhobo candidate.
A similar situation is playing out in Akwa Ibom where Ibibio anger could be visited against the PDP – neutralizing what was once thought to be Jonathan’s redoubt. The president is still expected to do well in Bayelsa and Cross River but would face a battle in Rivers. In Edo a weakened PDP could see Buhari prevail.
Much of the South-East, with the exception of Imo, is expected to fall into Jonathan’s column. However, the bitter fallout from the Ebonyi PDP gubernatorial primaries leaves the picture a bit confused.