Presidential Election Gives Nigerians No Choice

By Bunmi Makinwa

Related image

President M. Buhari (Getty Images/P. Ekpei)

If President Muhammadu Buhari figuratively rode on a horseback to assume office in 2015, as at today, he barely rides a three-legged donkey. A wobbling government has frittered away the goodwill of the expectant millions who brought him to office.

However, his main opponent, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, does not have a donkey to ride on. His questionable past and close embrace of proven and perceived corrupt political actors and ruinous leaders do not make him attractive. Despite the weakness of Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party or PDP is not the shining star.

Yet one of the two is most likely to emerge as president come the election of February 16, in a few days.

The PDP governed Nigeria from 1999 to 2015. Its three successive presidents, and with control over most of the states, reinforced a faulty political system where massive looting of government coffers became the norm. Provision of services and improvement of peoples’ well-being receded and disappeared in most of the 36 states and at the federal government level.  Politics was the quickest gateway to wealth, riches and power.

Under PDP rule, when political leaders have taken their large share of the official budget, the little that was left could not maintain Nigeria’s elaborate political and administrative systems. Infrastructures became dilapidated. Salaries remained little and unpaid in many states. Social tension heightened.

Nigeria’s political system is problematic too. The “investment” needed to win votes or buy oneself an elected position has kept rising. The demand presses elected persons, in turn, to hustle to recover their wealth, equip themselves and their acolytes for future political positions. Many elected officials aggressively privatize official funds to their pockets for use as future powerful political kingmakers.

Amongst the citizenry, high and low, a culture of primitive self-preservation and material aggrandizement developed. Reliance on system and order gave way to brazen self-reliance, hopelessness in hard work, and spiritual solutions to routine life issues.

People scramble for “money by all means”, especially through political favours, in a situation where material well-being is a primary determinant of people’s self-worth. Absent the government, all basic needs are met by each person according to whatever access is possible to any resources, state or privately-owned.

Image result for nigeria voting elections

Nigeria Votes (guardian.ng)

On February 16, 2019, Nigeria will pick either Atiku or Buhari to rule the country for another four years. It is not because there are no qualified, capable and exemplary candidates among the more than 40 other presidential aspirants. It is mainly because the political system is cast in stone, and only the candidates of a few major political parties can have the resources and means to meet the demands stipulated by the constitution, political tradition, and corrupt processes that produce candidates for political offices.

Several of the other aspirants have qualifications, experience and drive that will make any country proud of its possible leaders.

The political system is dominated by political parties that can afford enormous resources to set up structures, reach out to a sprawling, federated country of 36 states and one federal territory, use mass and social media that communicate with some 180 million population, and provide reliable security for themselves and supporters.

Candidates for elections must dole out monies to members of their own parties and voters who have given up on what elected leaders do when they are in office. Rather, party officials and voters want immediate gratification – whatever materials, food and money that they can get from candidates during the election campaign. Elections are costly, not only for the official organizers but also for candidates who must deploy huge amounts of money for every step of the election process, from seeking the nomination of political parties to seeking votes of the electorate.

For the coming election, Nigeria faces yet again the sad choice of having to choose between two leading politicians neither of whom can take the country to its level of development and realization of its potentials.

The gargantuan victory of President Buhari in 2015 over then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan gave Buhari a powerful entry. But his three-pronged campaign on corruption, a stronger economy, and security with special focus on ending Boko Haram insurgency are nowhere near being successfully prosecuted.

Image result for nigeria atiku

Atiku (image via News24; File, AFP)

At the same time, Atiku will only be Atiku – focusing on further enriching himself, his cronies and beloved others.

Those who strongly support Atiku claim that he is different from Buhari and will perform better given the weaknesses of the current government. They say that Atiku will make the expected noise to discourage the rampage by herdsmen and organised attacks on certain people and religious groups. He will choose his lieutenants from various parts of the country. He will enable the South-eastern part of the country mainly the Igbo ethnic group to contest strongly for the presidency. He will make public money spread around through his customary largesse. He will unite the country that appears to be fragmenting. Yet, the claimants have only weak arguments to explain how the expectations will be met.

The strongest criticism of Atiku is that the popular demand to combat and at least reduce corruption will suffer greatly if he becomes president. But his supporters maintain that if corruption is the price to pay to have a more united country, a stronger economy and less structured federalism, it is time to let corruption continue under Atiku’s rule. It is a sad bargain to accept.

Whether 76-year old Buhari or 72-year old Atiku wins in the soon to be held election for the next president, Nigeria loses because neither of the two persons has the disposition, experience, appropriate mindset, nor determination to make Nigeria a better place for its people. The current political system presents only the rich and mighty, not the best that the country can offer.

Asked about February 16 election for the president, someone retorted: “Some people will vote for Atiku. Some will vote for Buhari. One of the two will win despite a large number of frustrated people who will spread their votes among the numerous other candidates. The status quo will remain because Atiku and Buhari are from PDP and APC which are two sides of the same coin.”

To buttress his point, the person explained that Atiku was in PDP before he joined APC, and then returned to PDP a few months ago to buy the political platform to aim for the presidency. The leadership of both parties boasts of the same persons who have led Nigeria’s politics for the past 30 plus inglorious years.

Bunmi Makinwa is the CEO of AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Nigeria 2015 Election, Issues and Lessons So Far

Several months of active and massive campaigns by political parties have shaken Nigeria to its roots and, either within or outside the country, all have felt the tremor of historic quakes that remind one of fragility of the nation state. There was so much uncertainty that outside interests, including the United Nations, African Union, ECOWAS, visited Abuja or made statements to canvass for holding the elections on schedule, in a free and fair manner. Nigerians in and out of the country wondered whether things would fall part.

What issues and lessons have emerged from the electioneering? Similar to my previous write-up, “Oshun State and Other Elections: Meanings and Lessons” (Saharareporters, August 14 2014), I shall distill some salient points that we may ponder, especially with a view to take advantage of the significant events to reappraise, reflect, re-strategize, re-tool and re-focus for the future. In the construction of its nascent democracy, a new tradition is emerging in the politics of Africa’s most populated country, of which these past months form a significant part.

Continue reading

Buhari: Beyond 2015 Elections – An End to Corrubration

About a month to the elections, already something hidden about Nigeria has emerged.

Is it a fact or fiction – that a certain Nigerian politician is not corrupt? Is it a fact or fiction that a presidential candidate for a political party in the current political system is not corrupt and cannot be identified with any instance of corruption? Is it fact or fiction – that General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the main opposition part, All Progressives Congress (APC), has served as governor, federal commissioner (minister) of petroleum resources, president of Nigeria, and chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, yet does not have the material acquisitions that have become characteristic of Nigerian leaders and political leaders especially?

Continue reading

Elections 2015: The World Speaks (part 2)

Many African countries are holding elections in 2015. Of some 14 scheduled elections a few are predictably fraught with problems and may not be held at all. The most doubtful ones are Central African Republic and Mali – countries that have had serious political and violent crisis preceding their current fragile peace. In that vein, that Nigeria’s election was postponed and its certainty is still in dispute may expectedly raise questions about the country’s stability and how peaceful it is.

The first part of the article, before announcement of the postponement of elections in Nigeria from Feb. 14 (presidential) to March 28, looked into what the world thinks of the elections through comments, advice and analysis from various reports and media sources outside Nigeria. The article characterized the information as: first major election that shakes the dominant political Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since 1999; the electoral contest is mainly between two major political parties – PDP and the All Progressives Congress (APC) key opposition; highly polarized electorate that has dug in its heels in the face of rising importance of faith and ethnicity, resulting in a divided nation; violence during electioneering and very likely potential for violence after results are known; questions on readiness, capacity, credibility of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC); democracy will shake the country to its roots but Nigeria will remain one; and huge presence of international observers and media.

In this second part, we shall review information and analysis that is available from announcement of postponement to date. The facts obtained can be sorted into: explanation of the reasons for postponement and speculations on unstated reasons; recurring violence and how it can deteriorate; deeper issues on nitty gritty of campaigns by leading contenders of the two dominant parties – General Muhammadu Buhari, who is a former President under military rule, and current President Goodluck Jonathan; visible importance of positions taken publicly by former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka; and speculations on degrading security and further possible postponement.

We shall take the issues one by one and delve into each briefly.

Immediately following the announcement of the postponement on February 7, reports stated that Boko Haram’s offensive and lack of readiness of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were the main offiCIAL reasons behind the postponement decision. There was obvious reluctance among several analysts to accept the official reasons stated and allusions were made to decreasing popularity of the ruling PDP and government’s intention to arrest the losses. Some reports wondered how Boko Haram’s conquest could be reversed within the six-week period of postponement.

There was near total agreement that violence was going to accompany the election campaigns. Overwhelmingly, any further postponement was seen as a lighter that would ignite violence, which, in any case, could be a preferred scenario for those who would rather not have elections held anyway. The calls made by governments, institutions and persons to hold the elections as scheduled were reaffirmed in the interest of Nigeria and the world at large.

Some reports, mainly from the USA, went deeper into the nuts and bolts of electioneering by the PDP and APC. In explicit details, two top consulting firms of US Democratic political party were cited to have worked for the two parties in Nigeria. AKPD Message and Media, owned by David Axelrod a confidante and close associate of President Obama, worked for the APC whilst Joseph Trippi of The Potomac Square Group worked for PDP. Trippi is reputed to have worked on campaigns of UK’s Tony Blair, George Papandreou of Greece, Italy’s Romano Prodi and President Jonathan’s last election. These advanced, expensive consulting firms claim capability to deliver results for their clients. The reports elaborated on the sharpness of messaging and use of multi-media outreach including the social media to canvass support of voters.

Jonathan’s public adverts featured students, new building projects, and generally a lot of Nigerians smiling and working and .Buhari’s campaign had an aggressive social media strategy that made “change” a persistent theme. The competing demand to get attention of voters is not likely to change voters’ inclination appreciably during the six-week postponement span.

Notably, a respected but usually conservative magazine, The Economist, has run series of reports on the elections, and their titles speak volumes – Nigerian politics: Bad luck for Nigeria; Nigeria’s election: The least awful; Nigeria’s postponed election: A powder keg; Why Nigeria has such poor election choices; Nigeria: Grim reading. In the “Least Awful” article, the weekly explained why “a former dictator is a better choice than a failed president”. In the same vein, the liberal-leaning newspaper, The New York Times, titled its strongly worded editorial, “Nigeria’s Miserable Choices”. According to NYT, “That Mr. Buhari, who helped launch a coup against a democratically elected government in 1983 and ruled until late 1985, has emerged as potential winner is more of an indictment of Mr. Jonathan’s dismal rule than a recognition of the former military chief’s appeal.”

Looming increasingly large over the elections are two different personalities – former President Obasanjo and Nobel Laureate Soyinka. Both of these well known figures have ceaselessly commented on the elections and their views and positions are reported worldwide. Criticisms have also trailed their views, especially those of President Obasanjo.

The national elections, presidential and national assembly, are to hold on March 28, 2015; governorship and state assembly elections are to hold on April 11, 2015. It does appear that skepticism continues over the postponement and whilst INEC’s state of preparedness is an important item, the security angle looms larger as the primary obstacle. INEC’s ill-preparedness may be overcome within the time. The non-readiness of the military to provide security for the voting exercise in February, twinned with declared intention of government and military to suppress Boko Haram is “the elephant in the room” – an obvious difficulty that cannot be resolved easily. What will happen if the security situation does not change for the better within the postponement time?

Least reported are several ongoing court cases which decision can halt the leading presidential candidates General Buhari and President Jonathan, rumours of possible interim government arrangement to further delay elections, and suggestions of military intervention – all unpopular choices. With so much at stake, and yet such darkened skies, it is correct to say that the world will watch closely the coming elections.

Makinwa is a communication for leadership entrepreneur based in South Africa and Nigeria. Twitter: @bunmimakinwa

This post first appeared on Sahara Reporters.

Elections 2015: The World Speaks (Part 1)

Africa is witnessing some 14 elections this year. Nigeria is one of the countries expected to have elections early in the year, after Zambia that voted in January to elect President Edgar Lungu to serve through two years only, being the unfinished mandate of President Michael Sata who died. Lesotho will vote on the last day of February to resolve its political turmoil that almost set the country on fire but for intervention by South Africa.

Of all African elections in 2015, a whole lot is at stake in Nigeria. USA Secretary of State John Kerry signaled this much with his visit and messages to President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari. When anything goes wrong in giant Nigeria, Africa rattles and the world quakes. Prevention of upheavals is best.

Nigeria attracts attention for many good and bad reasons. For the present, let us deal with the good reasons, many of them obvious – its enormous population, economic attraction including huge oil reserves, citizens who are present all over the world, many of whom are distinguished men and women, Nollywood, faith and religion tourism… In the past months, the well known Boko Haram insurgency and its seemingly unstoppable horrible acts, and elections have concentrated world’s attention on Nigeria.

Continue reading

Nigeria Elections: Letter To My Friends

Dear friends in many parts of the globe: You asked me for my thoughts on the recent Nigerian elections. Not what you have seen on the broadcast and television networks, nor what you read on the various online forums and websites. You wanted to know many things, and each of you has his/her priorities. It is difficult to answer all the questions individually and I have combined them into groups and responded accordingly. You have always been interested in Nigeria and we all agree that it is not just another country.

You asked for my views and that is what you will get. Some of them are joyful. Many are troubled and others are depressing. I do have profound views on my well endowed country, as you well know.

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

Electoral officers. Photo credit: Sahara Reporters Media

On the presidential elections of March, you wanted to know whether I agree with the uproar over President Goodluck Jonathan’s concession as an extraordinary issue. I do and I do not. It was a statesman-like decision that became a popular gesture. It was extraordinary for us in Nigeria. It was the first time that a sitting president was voted out of office. It was the first time that a presidential candidate who was losing accepted defeat and did not shout “robbery”. It doused tension and suppressed ill-intentions of agitators. That was important for us, and for the rest of the world. Forget about what we said here that it was the first in Africa, deserving of platinum medals. Like many large countries we pay little attention to what happens around us. We forgot that in several African countries elections take place regularly; fairly and peacefully organized to a large extent. Senegal, Botswana, Tanzania, many of the islands, and joined more recently by Ghana, Zambia, Lesotho, and post-apartheid. South Africa, to mention examples. In these countries and others, conceding defeat before winners are officially declared is usual. However, give it to us, we can now be counted among those countries where democracy is taking a foothold.

Continue reading