By Dipo Alaje
Since 1999 when democratic rule staged a come-back to Nigeria, many Nigerians have increasingly become politically enlightened. They are more conscious of the power of the voter card and they seem to know how to use such power when it matters or so it seemed.
The truth also is that the power of the Nigerian voter has been made more potent with the use of the card reader and other innovations being put in place by INEC.
The voting population first demonstrated their power of choice in Osun State. The first was at the by-election conducted to replace Late Senator Isiaka. Adeleke’s younger brother, Ademola Adeleke won 10 out of the 11 local government councils that made up that Senatorial District to emerge winner of the election, defeating the candidate of APC that was being sponsored by the Osun State government.
In September Osun State gubernatorial election Senator Ademola Adeleke of PDP was also ahead of APC Gboyega Oyetola in the first ballot election that was conducted. This was a clear indication by the electorate that they have the power of choice through their PVC.
It took the conduct of a re-run election for Gboyega Oyetola to emerge winner… But then that election was condemned by both local and international observers as being fraudulent and lacking in transparency. Though the Ekiti election was allegedly manipulated it was clear that the politicians could no longer toy with the power of the electorate at the polls.
The recent development is clearly a fallout of the 2015 Presidential election which was described as historic. For the first time in the democratic history of Nigeria the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan was voted out of office. This was quite unprecedented despite the humongous amount of money allegedly deployed for that election by Jonathan and the last minute maneuverings.
The question many political analysts are asking is that considering the similarities in events that happened prior to the 2015 president election within the PDP and what is currently playing out with the APC as we approach the 2019 election is: would President Mohammad Buhari be voted out of office like former President Jonathan?
The first thing to consider is the similarity between the emergence of President Buhari and then President Jonathan as their Parties’ candidates. APC manipulated the process of the party’s presidential primary and presented President Muhammad Buhari as a sole candidate of the party. In 2019. PDP did the same thing in another way by only printing one Presidential form which was handed over to the then President Goodluck Jonathan, with a follow up endorsement by party delegates.
The mass defection of Major stakeholders of APC like Atiku Abubakar, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representative, Rt. Honourable Yakubu Dogara, former Governor of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and a host of other APC members at both National and State level is similar to the mass defection that hit PDP in 2014. Ironically, most of the people that decamped to PDP from APC recently are the same set of people involved in the 2014 decampment
Another similarity is that in 2014, a number of disgruntled elements that were not happy with was happening within the PDP did not leave the party but decided to stay playing the role of a fifth columnist and saliently worked against the party from within. In APC today, we have people that seem to be playing this type of role in Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State and Rochas Okorocha of IMO State, who having lost out in a game of power, have resorted to playing the role of spoilers.
There are also a group of retired army generals being referred to as OWNERS of NIGERIA. The members of this group include General Olusegun Obasajo, General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubarkar, General T. Y Danjuma and General Aliyu Gusau. These Generals played a pivotal role in the emergence of President Muhammad Buhari in the 2015 election. Today, they have transferred their loyalty to Atiku Abubakar. But then, can Atiku sway the tide?
As we ponder on that its important to bring to remembrance that In 2014, security challenges in the country was at its peak with the insurgents hoisting their flags in a number of local governments in Borno State. Today, the security challenges seems to be worsening with increasing casualties amongst the ranks of our military men. This has also become a campaign weapon for the opposition.
The CHURCH did not also support Jonathan enough in 2014 despite the money allegedly being given to Church leaders. The emergence of Professor Yemi Osinbajo, a very Senior Pastor in Redeemed Christian Church of God RCCG as Buhari’s running mate was believed to be the game changer in the 2015 election. Former President Jonathan was reported to have confessed then that he was not scared of challenging Buhari at the polls but that his major headache was Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
Osinbajo’s reputation indeed did the magic for APC. The church saw in him a worthy representative and voted for Buhari because of him. In retrospect, the Body of Christ seems to be exercising caution in supporting Buhari as the election date draws near. They believe he was subtly in support of the massive killings of Christians in the last three years by not being hard on the Fulani Herdsmen who have been perpetuating terror in the land. The refusal of the government to designate the killer herdsmen as terrorist group does not go down well with many. The fact that there had not been arrest and prosecution of the leaders of the group that have allegedly claimed responsibility for the massacre being witnessed in some parts of the North have also been a source of worry for many.
Majority of the Christian leaders have openly said they would not vote for Buhari and would also mobilize that Christians should vote against him.
Like in 2015, when the Maxim seem to be ‘Anybody But Jonathan’ Nigerians seems to be singing a similar tune in view of a perceived unprecedented increase in unemployment rate, unbearable high cost of living, massive job loss, increasing number of people committing suicide due to depression, herdsmen crisis that seem to have gone out of control and the problem of insecurity that has become persistent
As we approach the 2019 election, Nigerians seem to have remembered the old tune again……. The song has become anybody but Buhari. But the issue sticking out like a sore thumb is the challenge of getting a worthy alternative to Buhari. Many are wondering who among the alternative presidential candidates would be able to beat Buhari at the polls.
For one, many of Buhari’s supporters have played up his integrity capital to a deafening proportion. Buhari seems also to have a cult followership and it seems it may well be difficult to upstage him given the fact that he is an incumbent who knows how to use the power of incumbency unlike former President Jonathan who quietly surrendered even before the election results were announced.
As it is, of all the candidates who are contesting with him in the election, it seems only PDP candidates Atiku Abubabar and Peter Obi have the capacity to upstage him. Since Abubakar declared his intention however, the opposition have rubbed shit on his face, demonizing him and casting on him the corruption toga. Though he was instrumental to the success of Buhari at the 2015 polls, he is being painted as a corrupt individual who has the capacity to sell major Nigerian enterprises if given the opportunity to rule. Though Obi, his running mate is reputed to have some high level integrity given the way he ran Anambra state when he was governor, his representation in the social media is that of a liar. He is said to have lied about figures and reputed to have made bogus claims in the live debate on national television.
But Atiku’s stigma got so bad that he was taunted for not being able to visit the United States. It was alleged that he had a corruption case hanging on his neck and that any attempt to visit the US would mark the end of his political career as he would be arrested and docked.
Many Nigerians were beginning to fall for the story and had believed Atiku could not travel to the US. When he eventually got the US visa the coast became clear that he could travel to the country. But even at that, the inability of Atiku to travel immediately strengthened the claim of the opposition.
But the whole narrative changed on January 8 when he traveled to the US in company of Senator Bukola Saraki and a few others. It was celebration galore in the PDP camp and to some extent the trip shored up his credibility despite efforts at whittling the move by the opposition.
While the credibility of Atiku seems to have been enhanced by the US visit, President Buhari suffered some setback with his appearance at the National Television Authority when he appeared seemingly uncoordinated. It is being alleged in some circles that a vote for Buhari would mean a vote for the cabal ruling him. Some analysts have insinuated that his failing health has put him in a position that makes him incapable of overseeing Nigeria in the next four years. His wife, Aisha has not helped either. She had raised the alarm a few months ago that her husband is being controlled by some individuals in the presidency. The last of the onslaught on Buhari however is the open letter of former President Olusegun Obasanjo warning Buhari against rigging the elections.
Despite all the seeming gaffe of the ruling party, there are no signs the opposition PDP is prepared to wrest power from it. The campaign of the opposition has suffered a great deal from lack of funds. Despite the alleged failing health of Buhari, the campaign train of the APC has been moving from state to state. The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo has been holding meetings with all kinds of groups and have embarked on open market campaign using the trademoni scheme instrument.
While the nation and indeed the church is divided on whether to give Buhari another four years, it is not safe to draw a conclusion on how the elections would go. A coterie of prophets have predicted victory for either sides, making one wonder if God is a double-speak God. The church may not agree on who to vote for because of the various interest it is certain that they would have to make a choice come February 16. As it is both sides of the gladiators in this contest have capacity to win in the coming elections. As Nigerians warm up for the February 16 elections the questions remains: Will they vote out Buhari?