The five years of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan holding sway as President of Nigeria have destroyed the basis of the country’s development – economically, politically and socially. The economy has collapsed as poverty and depravation have ravaged the whole populace. People are dying of hunger in multitudes. Nigerians are worse off today than they were in 2011. We have moved from the state of poverty to the state of deprivation. Most of our people, especially in the war-ravaged Northeast, have become destitutes. The monumental corruption perpetrated by the regime and the seeming condoning, and even protecting and defending, of such by the president have lowered his bar of leadership to the floor that people are no longer willing to allow him continue.
Also, the president has demonstrated little democratic credentials. Having destroyed internal democracy as evidenced by the non-election of party executives and collapse of party primaries resulting from his endorsement, the ruling PDP has become an unjust and unfair political party, with no truth in its mouth, no compassion in its heart and no sincerity in its purpose. With actions always intrinsically self-serving and deceitful, PDP and its leaders have become like the biblical harlots whose lips, in the beginning, spit forth words as sweet as dripping honeycomb, with voices as soft as olive oil, but in the end turn out to be as bitter as crocodile bile, and as poisonous. The promises and words of the PDP to Nigerians in the past six years and the bitter result we have on the ground today attest to this analogy. Also, the President’s lack of respect for constitutionalism and rule of law has not recommend him, in the least, to the people either. He knows he is not eligible to contest another term of office, but he turn a blind eye to this. He removed, midway, the President of the Court of Appeal presiding over a Presidential Election Tribunal in which his case was being tried, dissolved the panel and reconstituted it in the most brazen manner. This has irreversibly compromised the integrity of the Nigerian judiciary.
Over the years, Nigerians have also realised that the president’s words are not his bond. He signed an agreement on his party’s rotational leadership, but when he became its leader, he repudiated the agreement. He said he would not contest 2015, but later reneged on this. He destroyed the basis of majority rule as he sanctioned 16 over 19 in the election of the Nigerian Governors Forum. When his National Security Adviser forced the postponement of the February general elections on security grounds, as the Chief Security Officer of the country, he claimed ignorance of it. Add the total collapse of security in the entire North, where people are killed, maimed and communities destroyed on daily basis by insurgents and suicide bombers; the thought of re-electing Jonathan has become frightening to most Northerners. Whether or not President Jonathan is responsible for this national calamity we cannot tell, but the fact that he is unable to avert or halt it is enough for the people to say “NO!” to his continuous leadership
All these have combined to make President Jonathan unpopular in the country, among both the political class and the generality of the masses, especially in the northern states. So with this reality on the ground, what options are there left for the incumbent and his political party to emerge victorious in the forth coming presidential election? Since it is virtually too late for the president to turn over a new leaf and run a good government, in my view the following are the options left to which they are now operating – i.e. – lying to the electorates, scapegoating the opposition, bribing stakeholders, intimidating voters, excluding strong opponents, rigging the elections and falsifying the results. I believe it is on these that the PDP is banking as it prepares for the March/April general elections.
Because the government in Nigeria has direct and indirect control of the mass media, lying to the public is very easy. What is more, since ignorance and illiteracy are widespread in our communities, electorates usually cannot tell the difference between truth and lies, especially when related officially. But the good thing is that officials of the regime have been lying for years, and since these lies have never bore fruitful results, most Nigerians today discount everything the government says. Besides, with a strong opposition decoding these lies to the electorates, this strategy has actually become a minus to the PDP’s campaign. So, for the regime to count on this is to count on nothing. Nothing, therefore, Olisa Metu, Fani Kayode, Reuben Abati, Douyin Okupe, Adamu Muazu or President Jonathan himself would say will make a difference and make the people believe.
Similarly, over the years, the PDP-led government made much scapegoats of the opposition on virtually all its nationwide failures. The failure on security and insurgency is blamed on the so-called northern opposition who ‘vowed to make the country ungovernable’ for President Jonathan; corruption is being blamed on the opposition and fifth columnists within, who ‘are determined to discredit the regime because corruption did not start with Jonathan’; fuel scarcity is been put on the opposition because ‘they want to sabotage the government to score cheap political points’; etc. For a time it worked for the regime, but over time people have come to realise that it is the government which is actually ineffective since it failed to bring its saboteurs to book or bring forth any concrete evidence of their sabotage. So as the elections days draw close, scapegoating the opposition cannot help the incumbent – Nigerians now know better!
As President Jonathan’s PDP-led government delivered nothing in its six years in power, and as elections approached, it has been depending heavily on using bribery to buy votes. This option worked for it in 2011 as it played a key advantage over the opposition in the presidential election of that year. As research has shown, there are two modes of bribery being used and depended upon by the regime – wholesale and retail. The former is being done now, as evidenced by the widely reported tour of the President in the Southwest and Southsouth, and the Vice President in the North, where large amounts of money are reportedly being doled to traditional rulers, religious leaders, labour unions, organisations, local political big shots, etc. who are counted upon to give the lead and directive as to the voting pattern in their communities. The latter mode is awaited until the election days. Having impoverished the populace to a state of destitution, the regime is banking on people to rather prefer the collection of hard cash during the elections than electoral promises. Although PDP has sufficient stolen money to carry out the bribes, but both modes cannot work now as the presence of a strong opposition is primed to neutralise these and render them ineffective, unlike during the 2011 elections. Besides, as the voting will be through secret ballot and there has been the campaign of the opposition encouraging voters to collect the PDP stolen money but vote against it, nothing stops voters from doing so. And, in the constituencies where I have direct knowledge of voters’ intentions, I know for a fact that that is exactly what they intend to do; after all, they argue, it is their stolen money.
Another option the PDP has been plotting is to intimidate the electorate. Hence, the vexatious issue of deploying the military during the elections in the guise of providing security. Apart from the fact that this is clearly an illegal venture, given the judgments of the Federal High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court all pronouncing the act as unconstitutional, the lesson of the current Ekitigate crisis is that nothing will guarantee the pliability of the military to the will of the ruling PDP. Also, other than the military leadership, majority of the rank and file foot soldiers would have no good cause to obey unlawful orders for a regime that has been so insensitive to their plight. Besides, most officers of the Armed Forces are sensible, and thus would not only be sensitive to their retired seniors such as Generals Alani Akinrinade, Paul Tarfa, Martin Agwai, and a host of others who are calling on the military to stay clear of politics, but also to the fact that the opposition can turn violent in the face of intimidation. With the advantage of numbers on the side of the opposition, the military could find itself on the receiving end of the fight which they will be deployed to face. These, along with very strong and fearless campaigns against intimidation by the opposition, will mitigate any attempt to intimidate the electorate by the regime.
The current myriad of courts cases against Gen. Mohammadu Buhari aimed at disqualifying him from contesting the presidential election is an attempt by the regime to restrict the political landscape to exclude the incumbent’s strongest opponent. Since Buhari’s personal and professional integrity remains intact, such flimsy issues as lack of requisite school certificate, perjury on oath, etc. were cooked up to see if they can be used to disqualify him. The major problem with these is that Buhari’s candidacy, as of now, has become too politically sensitive, and there is nothing any court of law can do to disqualify him without upturning the entire national political applecart. Is our judiciary so pliable that it can go the whole hog and pronounce Buhari disqualified? I think not. Besides, taking into account that the same Nigerian judiciary has so far failed to disqualify President Jonathan as ineligible to contest another term of four years against the clear and unambiguous provisions of the constitution and the Supreme Court judgment in Marwa Vs Nyako, it is politically inconceivable for the courts to disqualify Buhari on the basis of the allegations currently put forth.
Finally, the last option left for the regime is rigging the elections and declaring false results. This option, as far as I am concerned, is what has informed the current hullabaloo on the vehement opposition by the PDP to the usage of the PVC and Card Readers. With the PVCs and Card Readers, three basic elements of election rigging are eliminated – multiple voting, irregular voting, and votes allocation. Multiple voting is where a political party gets hold of ballot papers and gets a few people to thumbprint as many as they can for a favoured party and count them as valid votes cast. Irregular voting is to register in one unit and then go and cast votes in another unit. While vote allocation is where agents and electoral officials simply allocate agreed number of votes to political parties without necessarily having to cast any votes at all. With the new system all these malpractices are eliminated and therefore there shall be no miscounting the votes and no falsification of results. Thus, not only registered and accredited electorates will be the voters but also the votes will count.
Barring any other option overlooked, I believe the opposition can heave a long, deep sigh of relief that the PDP has reached its wit ends as to how to manipulate the presidential elections but to no avail.
Note: This Article is a paraphrase of Paul Collier’s book, Wars, Guns & Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.