Never Before

Events following the authorization of political parties to hold primaries and political campaigns have been quite interesting and intriguing. One would have thought that the electioneering process would be met with the usual apathy by voters but the electorate’s participation since the voters registration exercise has been overwhelming. Nigeria has not experienced this level of participation in recent times and it is a good development that the citizens are now getting involved in the process of choosing their leaders even though it is the opinion of this writer.

If you have been watching the events as they unfold right from the party primaries and have listened to different verbal attacks during the campaign, you would agree with me that it has been full of intrigues. Former vice-president Abubakar Atiku was disgraced in the PDP presidential primaries while the only female presidential aspirant in the 2011 elections had one vote at the end of the primaries leaving President Goodluck Jonathan as the party’s flag-bearer.

The different opposition parties too held their primaries with some members winning their bid to represent the party while others lost out with a number of cases in court challenging the process that culminated in emergence of different candidates. Never before at least to the best knowledge of the writer has the electioneering process been this interesting. This title came to mind as I watch and ponder on the different happenings since the last few months. The Nigerian youth have never been reached and carried along with the use of social media as a means of getting the votes of this group in the society.

President Obama of the United States of America used the same social media as a tool to win his election bid in November 2008 and since then; politicians around the world have adopted the use of social media. The Nigerian youth who are over 40 per cent of the population have been adding spice to the process with their involvement and level of interest in the run-up to the April elections.

Sometime last year, the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan had a book launch in Lagos where a large number of youths were present and they pledged their support for his ambition come April 2011. The presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu has also targeted the youth with his “stand-up” advertisement and political jingles featuring mostly this group of the society. Nigerian youth of voting age are no doubt instrumental to the success of any candidate at the polls.

The threats of arrest of the ACN leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu have been making the headlines for some time now. Reports have it that the president’s strategists are pressurizing him to clamp the wings of the former Lagos State governor who is fast rising as the leader of the opposition parties and seen as an obstacle to the success of the PDP across the federation in the next general elections. The ACN has gained a lot of grounds across the country in just a short space of time.

Still in a bid to win the elections, the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the different political parties offered to speak to Nigerians in a debate except the President and the Vice-President who were reported to have given conditions for their participation in the debate. Interestingly, the Vice-President, Architect Namadi Sambo failed to participate in the vice-presidential debate citing a clash of the debate with his official duties as the reason for not showing up.

Due to the vice-president’s inability to make the debate, the program involving other vice-presidential aspirants was not aired live but later, shown to the public after the allegation by the opposition that there was sabotage. The veracity of this claim is yet to be proved, a belief held by some members of the organizing committee of the debate and those who eventually watched the debate and are given the opportunity to hear the vice-presidential aspirants as they try to canvass for votes.

The court ruling extending the tenure of five state governor’s by the Abuja Federal High Court has made the electioneering process more interesting as INEC is currently appealing the judgment in order to ensure that election take place by April in those states with the governorship aspirants of opposition parties having to wait a little while for an opportunity to achieve their ambitions. These governorship aspirants have already gone through the hurdles of winning their party primaries and are gearing up for the elections proper before the judgment. No matter how much they disagree with the court ruling concerning tenure elongation for some governors, the governorship aspirants in the affected states have to accept the judgment.

There were different shades of opinion after the court delivered its judgment with some arguing in its favor while some kicked against the ruling on the grounds that it is dangerous for the growth and survival of democracy in Nigeria. The judiciary has recently been embroiled in one scandal or the other regarding election matters and the different judgment over election dispute by politicians.

All of these portend serious danger for the country’s democracy except the judiciary is able to redeem its image in no distant time as an incorruptible arm of government. The judiciary must be focused as the number of court cases before election keeps increasing besides many more cases still awaits the judiciary after the elections. Another interesting scenario was the governorship and senatorial tussle in Ogun State. A governoship candidate was declared by the two factions of the PDP while Mrs. Abiola-Edewor and the daughter of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello were at loggerheads over who will represent the party in Abuja.

Eventually both Gen. Adetunji Olurin (rtd) and Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello were declared winners of the primaries that were conducted in the state. Many sitting senators and House of representative members have also failed in their re-election bid. Those affected are key members of National Assembly such as Honourable Dimeji Bankole among others. The emergence of godsons and daughters in Ogun state as well as the fall of some politicians makes the whole process even more interesting as one cannot wait to see what happens at the end of the day. The mantra of one-man, one-vote and the clamour for free, fair and credible elections have been filling the air since last year. But with the outcomes of the party primaries in the PDP and other parties, it remains to be seen whether the elections would be free, fair and credible as expected by Nigerians and the international community. Only time will tell!

The caliber of people vying for elective positions in the country has also added glamour to the electioneering process. Names like Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Mr. Fola Adeola, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Chief Dele Momodu, Mr. Dele Belgore (SAN), Engr. Martin Onovo, Professor Pat Utomi etc have made the contest more fierce and tough for the ruling party. These men are matching the PDP candidates and are giving them a run for their money this time around. The large turnout of people as well as the funfair/jamboree at the opposition rallies says it all but the election results would show whether campaign crowds determine the success of a candidate in elections. We only have few more weeks to ascertain this.

The verbal attacks from one contestant to another; the rising profile of opposition parties and the level awareness of the electorate make the run-up to the 2011 elections a peculiar one. This is really an interesting time in the political history of Nigeria. The clamor for change by every Nigerian is no doubt responsible for the charged political atmosphere currently seen in Nigeria. Though I may be wrong!

Never before have we had a robust contest in all the six-geopolitical zone of the country since the l

ast twelve years. Nigerians are gradually waking up from their slumber after many years of non-chalance and passivity. It would be wonderful if they can open their eyes wide as they match to the polls next month to choose new set of leader that will take Nigeria out of the doldrums.

Written by
Bolaji Aregbeshola
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