2015 Presidency: Jonathan’s Incumbency, Buhari’s Appeal

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Monitors say the emergence of the APC has presented Nigeria with its first true and potent opposition since the country began the new civilian regime in 1999 and has broken the majority dominance of the ruling party. EDEGBE ODEMWINGIE reports on the chances of the two parties working to occupy Aso Rock next year.

I am Goodluck Jonathan. I never thought I would be where I am today. I had no shoes, no school bag; I carried my books in my hands to school. I have no enemies to fight. I was not born rich. If I can make it, you can make it.”

President Goodluck Jonathan, flagbearer of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), declared in what was perhaps, his most riveting campaign message in the lead-up to the 2011 presidential election in which he defeated his closest challenger, former head of state, General Muhammadu Buhari to occupy Aso Rock.

Fast forward 2014, clearly, that popular, frenzied and somewhat widespread acceptance has escaped Jonathan. The perception in some quarters is that the present administration and the PDP that has been in power since 1999 has run the country underground. The reasons are glaring. Brazen corruption; widespread insecurity and a worsening insurgency in the country’s north are problems Nigerians have been left to grapple with.

Jonathan is an incumbent and bookmakers will be placing their bets on him to succeed in his re-election bid, come 2015. No civilian president has lost a re-election bid in Nigeria’s history.

Officially, the race for who occupies Aso Rock after the 2015 presidential elections began with the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) – a merger of a cocktail of major Nigerian opposition political parties. Monitors say the emergence of the APC has presented Nigeria with its first true and potent opposition since the country began the new civilian regime in 1999.

 

Number games

On paper, there is a real possibility of President Jonathan being a one-term president. By political calculations, it will be difficult for any presidential candidate to win any election without polling 25 per cent of the votes in any two of Kano, Lagos and Rivers, the three states now safely in the pouch of the APC.

According to 2011 records of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the three states account for 13.7million votes, about 25 per cent of total number of registered voters in the country.

At the state level, even though the PDP is still in control of 18 out of the 36 states of the federation, the APC now controls a close 16 states. These calculations will prove a major decider when Nigerians go to the ballots in February 2015. With Nigerian governors in firm grip of their respective states, they determine the political direction of not just their respective states, but the country. They possess overwhelming powers to swing votes to candidates of their choice, as evident in past presidential elections.

Furthermore, the North-east and North-west geo-political zones are set to rally round APC since the ‘core north’ desperately wants to recapture power in 2015.

For the insurgency-wracked North east, INEC has severally expressed doubt about holding elections there if the insecurity persists. That situation will be a big blow to the APC.

On the other hand, Jonathan has continued to suffer heavy political setbacks in the lead-up to the elections. Many of his henchmen – lawmakers, ministers and political aides – failed in their bids to get crucial PDP tickets to contest several elective positions.

In results from PDP governorship primaries, Jonathan’s ministers, Emeka Wogu (Abia), Labaran Maku (Nasarawa), Onyebuchi Chukwu (Ebonyi), Musiliu Obanikoro (Lagos), Elder Peter Godsday Orubebe (Delta) and Samuel Ortom (Benue) all lost out.

Ten former ministers had, at various times, left the Jonathan cabinet to contest governorship positions in their state. Apart from the prior mentioned, they are Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate (Bauchi), Yerima Lawal Ngama (Yobe), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Darius Ishaku (Taraba).

The case is the same in the National Assembly. A combination of political machinations by state governors, rotational arrangements and sundry reasons accounted for the failed return bids of the lawmakers.

Not less than 30 lawmakers – many staunch Jonathan loyalists – failed in their respective bids to clinch PDP tickets to contest the 2015 Senate and House of Representatives elections.

Political developments in Jonathan’s home state were particularly dramatic.Bayelsa State governor Seriake Henry Dickson, in a brazen show of political muscle, blocked all (but one) the state’s incumbent lawmakers from returning to the National Assembly. They were Jonathan loyalists.

Governor Dickson, who was a member of the House before becoming governor, had earlier declared that none of the present lawmakers would return in 2015 on the platform of the party.

 

The challenge

General Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate has been described as the “masses’ friend, elite nemesis”. A former military head of state, Buhari (aged 71) arguably has the largest street support in northern Nigeria. He is widely regarded as honest and incorruptible, able to fight corruption headlong and having a strong political will. Recall that the former Head of State has failed in three previous presidential elections (2003, 2007 and 2011).

There are the downsides. Buhari is feared by the elite over his likely crackdown on corruption and waste in government. Again, he is perceived as a religious fundamentalist and northern irredentist, perceptions that have not been proved.

 

The incumbent

For Jonathan, many have described his ascent to power as accidental — or simply a matter of luck. Agence France-Presse in a November 11 report, “Goodluck Jonathan: Nigeria’s ‘fortunate’ leader” submitted that Jonathan has repeatedly defied expectations in his rise through the country’s ruthless political world.

The mild-mannered Jonathan, a southern Christian (aged 56) is the first head of state from the oil-producing Niger Delta. He was thrust into the presidency in 2010 following the death of his predecessor Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the north.

In August 2012, Jonathan claimed he was the world’s most criticised president. He vowed to become the most praised before he leaves office.

Within four years, Jonathan has built 125 Almajiri Schools in 13 states in the North. Jonathan went on to establish ten new federal universities. Again, the Jonathan administration has more than doubled the budgetary allocation to education in the country.

With the drastic reduction of the petroleum subsidy in 2012, the government created the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P). This is designed to invest the savings accruing from the subsidy reduction in critical infrastructure and human-resource empowerment projects across the length and breadth of the country.

SURE-P has engaged in a number of critical infrastructure and human-resource empowerment projects across the length and breadth of the country. The railway system in Nigeria had been comatose for over 30 years. However, the Jonathan administration has managed to revive this within two years.

Jonathan’s revolution of the agriculture and power sector has been reported extensively. This year, Nigeria under Jonathan overtook South Africa as the biggest economy in Africa.

 

Early warning

Meanwhile, there are fears of a heavily militarised elections come 2015. In July, federal lawmakers in the House of Representatives were sharply divided along political party lines on the powers of the president to deploy military troops for elections. The heavily militarised Ekiti governorship had just been conducted and the contentions were still fresh. The August 9 gubernatorial election in Osun also witnessed similar deployments.

The APC accuses the PDP administration of massively deploying armed security personnel in elections with the intention of intimidating the opposition and the voters as well.

For the records, the powers of the president to deploy troops is backed by Section 8 of the Armed Forces Act. The Armed Forces Act particularly gives the president proxy, powers to deploy troops for “operational use”.

The are opponents. Critics say the powers of the president to deploy troops is not absolute and such powers are subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly.

Well, the debate about the legality or otherwise of the deployment of thousands of soldiers and security apparatus in elections will remain contentious with the fast approaching 2015 elections. But what is yet to be established is whether or not the presence of the troops had any direct consequence on the way the Ekiti and Osun elections panned out.

CLEEN Foundation in the seventh edition of its 2015 Election Security Threat Assessment report submitted that vote rigging or perceived rigging will be the major trigger of violence in the region especially the gubernatorial and Presidential elections.

“It was perceived vote rigging that triggered the 2011 post-election violence. It appears certain that vote rigging or perceived manipulation of the electoral will trigger violence in Kano, Kaduna and Katsina State,” CLEEN’s report stated.

 

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