Nigeria Matters

State of the Nation and a Credible 2011 Elections: Matters Arising

While the recuperation of President Yar’Adua lasts, the obvious is that Goodluck Jonathan would continue to stand in for the former as the pilot of the Nigerian state. In this sense, President Yar’Adua may, if not impeached before he is medically certified fit to resume work, be the one who would conduct the 2011 elections. The other possibility however, is that, if Yar’Adua fails to make it back either due to medical reasons or impeachment, then, Jonathan would be the one who would conduct the 2011 elections. It is against this backdrop and other considerations that this article basis its analysis of the probable factors which may mar the conduct of a credible 2011 elections.

In a recent interview which Jonathan granted the Cable News Network, he confirmed the much speculated news that he might be heading for the running mate’s ticket of the presidential ticket bearer of the PDP. Although he downplayed the possibility of running for the presidential primary under the PDP, this option, Jonathan did not outrightly dismiss. While confirming the foresaid, in a response to Christiane Amanpour, a CNN correspondent’s question on whether he would be presenting himself as a presidential candidate during the 2011 elections, Jonathan proclaimed, “for now, I don’t want to think about it. I came in as the vice president to run with President Yar’Adua. Of course, getting close to the period of election, he took ill, and I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. Only last week, I reconstituted the cabinet. So let us see Nigeria move forward first. If the country is not moving, what — what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest for? Yes, I’m a politician and I would be interested in politics, since I’m still relatively young.” (emphasis is mine) . He went further, “There are options for me if I want to contest election. I can recontest as a vice president to anybody. (emphasis is mine) I can contest as a president, because the laws allow me. But that is not my own priority now. …: In a smart move to get Jonathan make a categorical statement on his intention, Amanpour enquired further, “But let me just get something straight. You say that you can contest and it’s possible that you will contest, yes?.” “It is, of course,” Jonathan replied in the affirmative.??

However as earlier suggested in my previous write up entitled, “Yar’Adua-Jonathan Political Muddle: What Lies Ahead?,” the second option would be used by Jonathan to negotiate the running mate’s ticket. Besides reliable insiders’ reports, reading meaning into Jonathan’s body language based on inner understanding of the politics of power and politicking, coupled with a good understanding of Jonathan’s political strength and weaknesses, the above quoted Jonathan’s statement extracts reinforce the correctness of the claim that Jonathan is interested in securing the vice-presidential ticket. By stating that, “I’m a politician and I would be interested in politics,” Jonathan has tacitly expressed his indefatigable willingness to stay put in politics for long and as a dominant game power. To achieve this aim, he considered as would Atiku, the national platform as the place where he should get himself firmly established. Probably, with this in mind, coupled with a personal assessment and realization of his political strength and weaknesses, Jonathan outlined his scaled priorities by first saying, “I can recontest as a vice president to anybody,” and latter adding that, “I can contest as a president, because the laws allow me.” Therefore, based on priority listing and expedient political realities, one of which Jonathan himself identified when he said, “you cannot just wake up and say you want to contest an election to be the president of the country,” Jonathan it can be authoritatively claimed, is jostling for the running mate’s ticket.

Another factor which Jonathan lacks the political capacity to challenge and rubbish is the existing PDP informal zoning arrangement. Aremu Obasanjo who has the Attila gut and possesses the Pharaohnic wit once nursed the idea of circumventing this in-party arrangement, but eventually, he resolved to settle for Yar’Adua in preference to other promising candidates who were from the South. Aremu played the regional political game which truly heated up the polity and made it unstable. However, he eventually backed out of this desperate political adventurism by reconciling with the reality. If this was the fate that befell the one time almighty Balogun of Owu who was then remote controlling the PDP at his will, then, Jonathan would dare not go this path as he is not ready to commit his young political to early death. His response to Amanpour’s question on this informal in-party zonal arrangement clearly suggests that it is a reality which he would never attempt to toy with.

Thus, premised on the preceding analysis, the option of a Jonathan contesting the presidency is merely a political tool needed to negotiate the prioritized, that is, the vice-president’s slot. Since for now securing the running mate’s ticket remains a political dream, one possibility is that it may be realized and the other being, losing out in achieving this political feat. Both options as further analysis would highlight may blur the possibility of conducting a free and fair elections in 2011.

However slim is the likelihood that Jonathan would also be offered the running mate’s ticket, it sounds more logical to first consider how this would stall the chances of conducting free and fair elections. The buildup leading to conduct of a free and fair election begins with the conduct of reasonable free and fair primaries at the political party’s level. Since the gubernatorial, state house and federal houses’ primaries would precede that of a party’s presidential primary, then, it is my contention that, in a way, if these earlier primaries are marred with large scale irregularities, then, it would affect the conduct of a free and fair party’s presidential primary.

Given the presence of a multiple lines of authority and increasing sphere of political godfathering operational space within the state and federal structures of the PDP, the primaries would on unprecedented scale be awashed with money politics. The sitting governors who would be seeking the party’s ticket to enable them stage a possible come back would be locked in a political game of survival against three opposing and powerful influences.

These are fellow political juggernauts that would be pursuing or sponsoring people with similar interest and the presidential flag bearer’s hopefuls, whose chances of emergence at the Party’s national primary would be affected by the outcome of the states’ primaries. The last stream of influence belongs to the class of those who would be seeking tickets into the state and federal house of assembly respectively. Therefore in the absence of the Aremu-like politically imposing and dictatorial central leadership, it would be difficult for the federal structure of the PDP to select or impose candidates at the level of states’ primaries. This should not be mistaken as being politically impossible as politics is the act of the impossible. Inner understanding of party politics would make one to make an informed and historically favoured guess that, money politics would be one of the ways that the federal agenda as well as those of the expectant presidential ticket seekers would be realized at the state level. It is part of the usual political game that, promising presidential ticket seekers would be involved as mu

ch as possible in the states’ primaries in order to guarantee their stakes at the federal level. The other option which the federal and those in control of the affairs in Aso-Villa may and often use, is to deploy institutions like the EFCC and ICPC to persecute and prosecute competing political foes. This was gainfully and repressively employed by Obasanjo.

With our assumption premised on Jonathan seeking a running mate’s ticket, then, efforts would be made by him to heavily influence the states’ primary elections. Bearing in mind that, in addendum to other factors earlier outlined, Jonathan does not have the political structure that is required to pursue his political dream at the state level, let alone strong enough to prosecute and sustain his political interest at the national stage, then, he would be banking on the EFCC as a make up. The situation of things on ground would surely favour Jonathan in using the EFCC to embark on such politically motivated persecution and prosecution of thieving governors, past and present, as the Yar’Adua-Jonathan’s administration, dissimilar that of Obasanjo, is not known to have been doing this. Also, the somehow inactive Waziri led EFCC, unlike the active but selective Ribadu manned EFCC, is yet to register its presence as a serious anti-corruption agency. Therefore, by re-activating EFFC’s perkiness through politically provoked persecution and prosecution, the body can easily hoodwink the masses. Jonathan’s body language clearly supports this informed political insight.

There are a number of personal remarks made by Jonathan which placed one on a good stead to make the above authoritative claim. The most categorical of these statements was made by Jonathan in a meeting which was held under the umbrella of the Centre for Global Development, with a diverse audience comprising diplomats and businessmen. He stated, “the perception and comments of the people is that the present EFCC after Ribadu is not performing up to expectation. I believe they are doing their best. Some have even called for the merging of the two anti-corruption bodies, the EFCC and the ICPC.” Hence, this shows that the basis upon which it was earlier founded, the projection that the EFCC can be smartly used to pursue ulterior political agendas, is well known to Jonathan and his group. This would play a significant role in Jonathan’s resilient attempt to grab the running mate’s ticket. It is for this reason that more energy would be directed at getting the EFCC running after some political targets in an effort that would be packaged as governmental zero tolerance to corruption. On an emphatic note Jonathan proclaimed, “I can assure you that we are going to review the EFCC to strengthen the body to make it perform. We are going to look into the organization, because for people to bring in their money into the country, they must be sure and be assured…. The next thing that Nigerians get worried about is the issue of corruption. You know we’ve been accused of people who have privilege position in government amassing wealth at the expense of society. So they expect us to take these two issues seriously.” What would be projected as a means of attracting foreign investors is in reality, a major part of Jonathan’s game plan of becoming. However, the consolation is that more exposures would be made about how the gangsters ruling over us have become obsessed with stealing our common wealth to build political empire and burry our hope of a better future. All of this would one day, be useful when a desirable hand eventually evolves as the leader of Nigeria.

In effect, the EFCC while embarking on its anti-corruption crusade whose ulterior motive would be to cage Jonathan’s political opponents, would land some big fishes in problems. Therefore, the EFCC would be sending signals that it meant real business, such which be reeled with the message, stay off Jonathan’s path of becoming. The EFCC would comb politicians at the state and federal levels, but, more effort would be concentrated on the former than the latter. Both past and serving governors and other state political officers may not be able to come out clean; therefore, efforts would be made by some of these endangered politicians to firstly seek the protection of Jonathan. This would make it possible for Jonathan to make some inroads into the states’ primary elections as concessions would be traded and granted based on factoring Jonathan’s stake into these elections. However, it would be expected that some well established light-fingered political lords would dare Jonathan by challenging their harassment and indictment in the court of law. Such individual would also leave no stone untouched in making sure that Jonathan’s agenda at the state level is frustrated. They could go as far as machinating the impeachment of Jonathan by exposing his dirty activities and those acts of omission and commission of his, which constitute impeachable offence. Since it would be impossible for Jonathan to have a smooth sailing with his agenda at the state’s level, money politics, coercive political gimmick would be used in completing the anticipated tsarist activities of the EFCC. In the consequence, the PDP’s state primary elections would be marred with irregularities.

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