It had been a dry and fair November morning and most Nigerians rose from bed to face their indifferent daily activities, children going to school, market women taking their merchandise to their shops and the news caster reading the headlines “Mr President visits Saudi Arabia for treatment”. Mr presidents trip abroad was nothing new as Nigerians had grown used to seeing government officials go abroad because they had a headache, President Musa Yaradua left the country on the 23rd of November 2009 and most Nigerians expected their president back to the country within a short period but that was not to be, not only did he not return to the country, he did not address the nation with the exception of the short interview he granted correspondents of the BBC. The absence of the number one citizen of the country for weeks created a dangerous power vacuum leaving top officials in a dilemma after it was clear Mr. President was receiving treatment for pericarditis with little improvement in his condition and finally on the 9th of February 2010, almost three months after the president left the country the senate invoked the “doctrine of necessity “transferring presidential power to the then vice president Goodluck Jonathan who was to serve as the acting president of the country till the bedridden president returned to full health. The expectant recovery of the president was not to be as words filtered out of Aso rock on the 5th of May of the president demise.
While the federal government declared a seven day mourning period, the inner bloc of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) concentrated their resources in taking the laws, both of the party and nation to the cleaners as different factions of the party had opposing ideas on who ought to be the next president of the country. The foundation of the party being rocked to its core exposed the regional and religious divide that had eaten deep into its fabrics. While the southern and Christian members of the party argued that it was only normal for the vice president to rise to the helm, the northern and Muslim faithful of the party thought it normal for another northerner to take the number one job based on the zoning agreement of the party. It was the brewing tension that led prominent PDP politician and statesman Alhaji Lawal Kaita to make the statement “the north is determined if it happens, to make Nigeria ungovernable, for president Jonathan or any other southerner who finds his way to the seat of power on the platform of the PDP against the principle of the party’s zoning policy”. If it were not for the pleas of former president and the current chairman of the party’s board of trustees (BOT) Olusegun Obasanjo the eminent disintegration of the party would have been inevitable.
“I, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the federal republic of Nigeria and that I will preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, so help me God”. After uttering those words with his hands placed on the bible and in the presence of chief justice Aloysius Katsina-Alu, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the third civilian president of the country since the end of the military rule in 1999. School children waved handkerchiefs as they danced round the Eagle square while soldiers raised the nation green and white flag in honour of the new president, with the tension in the house of the ruling party subsided, the erstwhile president made a gentleman’s agreement with the parties’ hierarchy to run for only a single term. During his inauguration, President Jonathan had stated what he intended to achieve for the nation within the next four years which included the continued fight against corruption, rebuilding of infrastructure, provision of quality education. He also reiterated his administrations resolve in giving special attention to the agricultural sector to which would play a role in ensuring food security and aid in substantial job creation for the teeming population. On his inauguration, Dr Jonathan made the famous remark “we fought for decolonization; we would now fight for democratization”.
In his four year tenure as the president, comparing the state of the nation to a rocking boat was an understatement as any positive achievement of the administration was almost always followed by a catastrophe which the media and the opposition pounced on, while most of the troubles were not orchestrated from his office, Mr president or his party could not hide under the umbrella of ignorance as that would spell certain political suicide. While the late president Musa Yaradua was hailed for ending the insurgence of the Niger delta militants, Dr Jonathan had been ostracised for his failure to curb the growing strength of the northern militant group Boko haram which cumulated in the kidnap of over 200 school girls from the Chibok community on the 14th of Aril 2014 and declaration of a caliphate on Nigerian territory by the same group on August 24th of the same year. The predicament of the presidency was heightened by the declaration made to the senate committee of finance by the central bank governor (now emir of Kano) that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had failed to remit over 20 billion dollars to the government coffers, a revelation that sparked outrage across the country and led to the suspension of the first central bank governor from an African country to win the central bank governor of the year award (2013) Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi. The dust raised by the missing 20 billion dollars had not settled and a month later (March 2014) Mrs Diezeni Alison-Madueke was accused of spending over 10billion naira in chartering and maintaining privet jets for her personal use, although the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) under her supervision staunchly denied the accusation, it had already left a dent on the presidency resolve to lead the campaign on corruption.
While the last five years had not been a smooth ride for the ruling PDP, the headache that had troubled the parties running was compounded by the formation of a new opposition party described by most political analyst as the strongest the nation had ever produced. The PDP had dominated the political landscape of the country for over two decades but the emergence of an opposition with such strength and vigour in its ranks was unprecedented leaving the ruling party unreeled. Formed in February 2013 by merging of the three biggest opposition parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) the opposition thought it wise to face the ruling party on a common front called the All Progressive Congress (APC). A party whose political aims read “To chart a new course for a better future, to be bound in honour in the resolute search for a new brand of politics that is idea driven and firmly anchored on the enduring principles of truth, honesty, service, justice, love for country and more importantly the pursuit of true democratic values. To be committed to the primary purpose of good governance which is the welfare of Nigerians and shall strive to eliminate poverty and create job opportunities for all” what more could an average Nigerian ask for? .The APC had presented themselves as the change which the human nature relentlessly crave especially after over two decades and with the seasoned politicians enlisted in their ranks it took the party only a few months to carve a niche for itself thereby keeping the ruling party on its toes, surveying powerlessly as the APC consolidated its foundations.
While the APC made headlines with their strong statement of intent, playing their role as an opposition by laying the rot that occurred within the government hierarchy in public glare a seed of disgruntlement was germinating at Wadata’s house. It could be recalled that when President Goodluck Jonathan came to office in 2011 he made a gentleman’s agreement of not running in the 2015 general elections which drew closer every passing day, yet there were no talks to choose a flag bearer leading members to fear the obvious. After months of shilly-shallying, president Jonathan finally declared his intention to run at the 2015 polls in an elaborate ceremony that took place at the Eagle’s square Abuja, the occasion also served as an avenue to verify the president as the parties sole presidential candidate, a decision that was cautiously proposed even before he announced his intention to contest. The president faced criticism from various quarters who believed he was being clingy to power after giving his words , among those where the Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu who claimed the president certified a pact with the governors to exit in 2015, former head of state and godfather of the president, General Olusegun Obasanjo whose power had been undermined at the parties secretariat by the presidents loyalist did little to calm the storm as he stirred the murky waters by insisting there was an agreement and by publicly criticizing the manner the president had handled national issues like the boko haram insurgency stating in a CNN interview that “to deal with a group like that, you need a carrot and a stick”.
Amid the APC’s meteorically rise, the political calculations for the forthcoming elections had become more complex than ever imagined, politicians had to either fit in or be sidelined and with the ruling party no longer able to guarantee its member’s success in the polls a new chapter began in the political history of the nation tagged ‘mass defection’. It began with the formation of the G7, a league of aggrieved state governors who felt the process for selection of a leader for the governor’s forum was infringed hence threatened to leave the party. Five of the seven governors made true their treats finding solitude on the wings of the opposition (APC), along with their supporters and cohorts. 37 members of the House of Representatives had already pitched their tents with the APC a year ago making the opposition the new majority in the lower house, threatening to block any bill that was not in line with their new parties principle. Among the members who defected was the house speaker, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, making history as the first speaker belonging to the opposition since the setting up of the fourth republic. Eleven senators soon followed suit, in a letter to the senate president David Mark, they cited the division and factionalism in the PDP as their reason for jumping ship, with the APC now having 33 seats of the available 109 in the upper legislative chamber they were now properly positioned to gun for the top job in the country.
“It is my pleasure to declare Muhammadu Buhari winner of the All progressive Congress (APC) primary”, the chief returning officer Feyemi Kayode announced to an elated crowd which had been singing the old generals praises at the Teslim Balogun stadium, Lagos. This would be his third attempt at the nations top job and although he was labelled a chronic looser when it comes to the polls by a few, his fan base had made a quantum leap since the previous election which reflected in his accumulation of over 3000 of the available 6000 votes at the parties primaries . The ruling party held its breath knowing that the final piece of the puzzle was the opposition picking a strong running mate to partner its candidate and their fears turned to reality as Professor Yemi Osinbajo was picked to be the general’s right hand man. Basing his campaign on three key issues, the security challenges the nation faced, high profile case of corruption and mouldering infrastructure. With a seasoned intellectual at his side the opposition had gotten their calculations right, their philosophy fitting perfectly with that of an average Nigerian who believed it would take only a man with military bearings to curb the problem of corruption that had been feasting on our nation and with proper guidance of an intellectual he would certainly not be short of ideas.
As the elections budge closer, there had been a number of allegations and counter allegations between the countries two main political parties. It all started with rumours making the round that the presidential candidate of the APC had insufficient qualifications, rumours which boiled into full blown court debates as a faction of the ruling party filed a law suit against general Buhari accusing him of lying under oath, forgery, and playing with the aptitude of Nigerians . No sooner had the debate taken over the social media did the APC teeming supporters accuse the presidency and the PDP of masterminding multi faceted campaigns in a bid to tarnish the image of their presidential candidate and prevent him from contesting the elections, stating that while the ruling party sponsored campaigns to tarnish the image of their presidential candidate (like that aired by AIT “the real Buhari”) they had failed to explain to Nigerians how 5 trillion naira from the oil and gas revenue had gone down the drain between 2011 and 2012.
As the two main parties in the country consolidating their territory, fixing any loop holes before heading to the polls, the role of two key players can simply not be ignored as their support was almost a guarantee of success. General Olusegun Obasanjo had previously stated his withdrawal from the PDP’s local, zonal and national activities, a decision which sparked talks of a deeper rift between the political godfather and his erstwhile godson. Ota farm had become a beehive for political activities with concerned members of the ruling party trooping in to rally the ex-president into showing his support to their course while the APC chieftains held talks trying to sell their ideas knowing that the cards to the entire south-west lay in Ota farm. The second major player that would surely affect the outcome of the elections would be the countries stronger ally the United States, with all the dollars they would be willing to cough out to guarantee favour in trade matters with Africa’s largest market. The U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry’s visit to the country a month to the polls labelled a trip to inspect the countries preparedness for the general election surely had a more political undertone as he held private talks with the major stakeholders, from the two major parties and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman, Attahiru Jega.
Nigerians are now placed in a position to choose between the jaws of a shark and the devil, between Jonathan who promised but failed to transform Nigeria and an opposition whose chief selling point is a direct assault on the presidents first term in office.
David Robin John Esu