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NASS Election: Transition Train Out with Caution Optimism

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published April 17th, 2011

ďPolls: Donít celebrate yet, Labour tells Nigerians

The NASS election has come and gone, and the political gladiators have temporarily quit the stage for political analysts and pundits to reconstruct, deconstruct, or otherwise demolish the entire exercise as the case may be, as a great leap forward in the nationís electoral odyssey, or as utterly unmeritorious in the sense that everyone has a point of view to push into the public space.

And that is the case notwithstanding the aftershocks and reverberations that continue to hit the nation as though it were a Japanese magnitude 9.7 monster earthquake. Nigeria, indeed the whole of the African continent, appears immune to physical seismic tremors alright, and we have the Almighty God to thank for that because we just canít handle it, periodónot even ordinary flash floods that could expose our poor, rickety emergency response system. But considering the magnitude of the political tremors that hit certain parts of the country, particularly the South/West that swept away several political heavyweights from power, and redrew literarily overnight the political map of the nation, the above metaphor may seem altogether not entirely inappropriate. 

And here we are at the beginnings of what could pass for a two-part series the first part of which is devoted to a thorough general review of the exercise, and the second, on the performances of the political parties and related matters. The second part is pretty involved as it delves extensively into historical issues that have direct bearing on the present. Both parts are however self-sufficient and the reader in a hurry could skip either, but advisedly not both.

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Now, the first line in this piece is an important message worthy of consideration in my opinion, being the headline of a report by the Vanguard Newspaper Online edition of April 12, 2011, quoting the Kaduna-based leadership of organized labor in the Textile industry, which many of the readers may or may not have seen and read. And, as the headline clearly indicates, it enjoins Nigerians to wait for the remaining elections before popping the champagnes and hitting the beer parlors, palm wine and ďburukutuĒ joints, and start drinking them-selves into a state of stupor for seemingly breaking the jinx of Nigeriaís transition blues at last. Not so fast, folks, the quote seems to be screaming out.

That line of thought found amplification in the statement credited to the Lagos State Governor, Tunde Fashola, himself a candidate in these elections, whose fate has yet to be decided, as reported in the Nigerian Tribune of the same date, appearing with the headline ďItís early to applaud INECóFashola,Ē in which he averred that ďsubsequent elections will determine if the electoral body has, indeed, done well.Ē That sounds more like it.

Why these cautionary statements from some leaders of thought? Itís because 2011 is still pregnant with unborn babies though it has delivered one that is fast turning problematic after what appeared to be a smooth birth at first. There is no question that INEC has received a lot of commendation from several quarters but there have also been lots of knocks for INEC too about the conduct of the state RECs in several states, who apparently had colluded with desperate politicians to doctor results of the election leading to widespread complaints as symbolized by the Anambra Central Senatorial election debacle, indicating that we are not out of the woods yet and at best a mixed grill of successes and failures the precise ratio of which is still up in the air.

I would therefore hasten to associate myself with those cautionary sentiments that it is too early to celebrate. While the winners and their supporters have a right to celebrate their victories, it is rather too early to pass any hasty judgment on the 2011 transition as a whole and Mr. President was rather too quick in beating his chest about delivering on his promise of free, fair and credible elections even though he understandably did so as a politician and presidential candidate to further his own campaign before the electorate passes its own verdict on his leadership and candidacy next Saturday. Such undue haste does not reflect the reality on the ground that all was not well with the NASS election, that need to be fixed.

The nation needs assurance that the lapses discovered in the NASS elections will be adequately addressed in the remaining elections. On a cautionary note therefore, and for the sake of prudence and modesty, the president needs to be advised that he has not yet delivered on the 2011 transition as a whole, but has only just gotten started in a test drive, more or less, with the NASS election that was clearly marred in several places as the whole picture starts to emerge. It would be a big mistake, therefore, to allow himself get carried away now and let his guards down in anticipatory success in the remaining elections. And the nation as a whole should not allow itself to be lulled into a false sense of accomplishment just because of some improvements recorded in the last election that are entirely reversible given our notorious election history. 

That is not to say, however, that the government itself does not deserve some praise or acknowledgement for all that it has done and continues to do to ensure free, fair and credible elections, but to underline the fact that the job is not yet done. The Jonathan administration has done a great deal in its efforts at getting it right this time around under its watch by being upfront and responsive to emerging exigencies and other scenarios as they develop.

And short of physically holding Jega by hand to do the job for which he was hired, President Jonathan and the National Assembly had given the man more than he had requested for, but seemingly to no avail, well until now. The government should therefore justifiably breathe a sigh of relief that the malfunctioning and broken transition train had been patched-up somewhat and literarily forced at gun point to leave the Abuja station where it had been lumbering for months, at long last. And the fact that it was able to do so might appear to be success enough in its own right. But it is not nearly enough to close the deal.

Itís like a student taking and passing one paper out of three or four in an examination and then starts beating his chest and bragging about passing the entire examination. In this case it is not even a full paper as such but 85% of the questions since election did not hold in more areas than the officially announced15% of the constituencies.

In other words, our hypothetical student had skipped 15% of the questions because he was not prepared for them and would therefore be graded on the remaining 85% he answered, correctly or incorrectly. Therefore, heís bound to come short in his overall grade in that paper no matter what even if he passed all the 85 questions he answered, which is highly unlikely. It is clear that INEC as the student in this metaphor did not get a lot of the questions it attempted right, which is bound to further reduce its grade.

That is the case with both Jega and Jonathan but more with Jega. Both are being graded on a partial examination paper not the whole paper. I believe that is fair enough since they didnít complete the whole paper. No examiner would award full grades to a candidate for incomplete paper and that is the position the world over. There is no reason to treat INEC differently in grading its performance.

Therefore, reasonable people would be quick to advise such an overly celebratory student to chill for a while and spend his time to prepare for the rest of the examination rather than celebrating his success for an examination that is not yet completed. There will be time for celebration. There will be time for handing out national honors to those who deserve them. But that time is not now. It was not last week. It is not this week and not the week after. It is after April 26, 2011, when the entire landscape will be thrown open to be thoroughly scanned and surveyed for proper analysis and evaluation of the rather fuzzy processes that are taking place now still enveloped in the fog of electoral warfare. 

Please do me a favor then. Donít ask me about the grading because I might disappoint you since I donít see myself awarding the government more than a B+ and INEC a B- and the security agencies a B- as well for the reasons adduced above and other reasons which will be mentioned below in the course of these proceedings. Even so, I believe I have been quite generous to all, and many would agree. Skipping 15% of an exam paper would not fetch any candidate anything more than a B+ even if he succeeded in answering all of the rest correctly. Would it?

Do we really need to thank these officials for doing their jobs for which they were hired at great cost to the nation? It seems to me that the people who truly deserve all the accolades are the Nigerian people themselves who braved the odds and still showed up in their millions to cast their votes long denied them. There are those who might therefore question the rather generous grading given the unprecedented resources, time and support extended to INEC by the nation and the trauma visited on them by INEC, and would wonder if Jega deserved a B- in the circumstances.

However, since we are in celebratory mode we might as well dole out some prizes to those who appear to have improved over time I will stick to that grade knowing as we all do that Jega is new on the job and thus has a rather steep learning curve to contend with. Besides, much of his failures, though foreseeable and should have been better prepared for, were nonetheless externally induced by implacable saboteurs who are determined to rubbish his good works just as they did to his predecessor. And with respect to the actions of the state RECs he cannot take the blame for the actions of others, including politicians and that was reason why I had cause to defend his predecessor in office. Jega knows better now with what he has seen so far about what the political class has been doing to our elections that was callously and thoughtlessly blamed on Maurice Iwu before him by those who had axes to grind.

And thirdly, Jega himself has displayed remarkable resilience, humility and sobriety enough in failure, and has so far refrained from celebrating like a victorious champion knowing that this is only the beginning of the marathon test, not the end and anything could go wrong again.

And, what is more, since the man had climbed down from his high horse to acknowledge his failures and taken responsibility for them, and has, in fact, begun the process, he does not deserve to be flogged anymore as he was prior to the polls but given every encouragement he can get to get the job done right and on time this time around. And what better way to tell him heís doing well than to give him a passing grade to spur him on to even greater heights. For these additional reasons, he deserves a passing grade of B- to his credit. And the same goes for the government and the security agencies respectively. Theyíre not particularly high grades and not failing grades either, but weak passes.     

And these passing grades awarded to all three, though weak, are in recognition of the fact that the NASS election represents a successful electoral outing and significant improvements over similar previous elections, almost comparable to those held in 1993 that were unfortunately annulled by IBB, the self-styled ďEvil GeniusĒ. When things go right credit must be given as and when due just as condemnation follows swiftly when things go wrong.

That things went pretty well at least substantially in most places in the NASS election is not my verdict but the general verdict delivered both by Nigerians and the international election monitoring groups, including the Commonwealth Election Monitoring Group, which nevertheless found reasons enough to have called on INEC to improve on its performance in subsequent elections. There is always room for improvements even in best organized elections. Everything is relative and success and failure are matters of degrees not absolute categories. So that advice is very much in order.  

It would appear though that the serious tongue lashing of the leadership of INEC and the surveillance action taken by the presidency to deal with the saboteurs operating within INEC itself and from the outside, who were hell bent on derailing the transition, had paid off somewhat. But Jega himself had a duty to redeem his battered image. Itís remarkable that the man who had come to redeem the battered image of a maligned agency had allowed himself to be boxed into a corner where he had to first redeem his own battered image before that of his agency. To a large extent he has succeeded in doing that in the NASS election and the nation can now move forward with renewed hope and confidence in the ability of INEC to deliver in the remaining elections. And I, a noted critic of the INEC chairman, am prepared to cut him some slack.  

Even so the NASS election was nowhere close to being ideal if the several reports coming out from different parts of the country are anything to go by as hinted earlier. On the contrary, it would seem to have offered only marginal improvements over previous elections in many areas, which in our peculiar circumstances though could be termed as significant all the same.

We have become so used to the atrocities of rigged elections that any slight or marginal improvements recorded are bound to command instantaneous credit and applause. And that would be the case still even where there were several cases of late arrival of materials and accreditation of voters in several polling stations across the nation; ballot snatching, doctoring of results by INEC officials, and extreme violence never before witnessed before and during elections in the history of this country.

In point of fact, all the terrible electoral malpractices that marred previous elections have reared their ugly heads again even with all the security measures taken. INEC has just acknowledged that some 117 ballot boxes were stolen during the NASS election just as it was during the voter registration exercise. And more and more complaints of electoral irregularities are tumbling in fast and furious from many states; including Anambra, Oyo, Abia, Rivers, Kwara, Ebonyi, and Gombe, just to mention but a few. This goes to show that old habits die hard indeed and both INEC and the security agencies would have to redouble their efforts at checkmating the activities of desperate politicians and saboteurs. Thatís right. We seem to have set the bar so low that we are quick to discountenance these troubling occurrences that may yet doom the transition if not handled with the seriousness they deserve. 

However, the bombing of INECís own office in Suleja, Niger State, under INECís nose claiming more than a dozen lives of its Youth Corp ad hoc staffers and those in Borno and Kaduna states have cast a huge dent on the NASS election and has gone down in history as the bloodiest in Nigeria. There is no question that saboteurs were at work to derail the election and both INEC and the government should have been sufficiently upfront to frustrate the execution of their evil plots. Am I being too hard on the government and INEC here? I donít think so.

It is true no one has absolute control over violence, but how could INEC not protect its own offices given the security conditions on the ground before the elections with bombs going off during the campaigns and exposing its innocent staffers who obeyed its call to serve their country to untimely deaths in such a callous manner? We are talking about INECís offices here being seemingly left open to attacks. It calls to question how much premium both the government and INEC place on security of lives and properties.

Securing INEC offices and polling stations nationwide shouldnít be such an impossible task at all even from would be suicide bombers since Nigeria has become such a dangerous neighborhood to be policed maximally. But then who knows how many of such plots were foiled or deterred? What should we expect going forward in the remaining elections which will be even more competitive and contentious and, therefore, even more tempting to the terrorists and saboteurs to want to derail? The government should make example of those arrested so far in electoral malpractices showing no mercy at all, because democracy can never be used as an opportunity to commit crimes.

One could understand the desperation of politicians who want to get to power in order to enable them access the public treasury. That seems to be the only plausible reason why a candidate would be so desperate as to steal or hijack ballot boxes armed with private militia. The solution to that is to make public office attractive only to those who truly want to serve their fatherland by reducing the bloated financial incentives and making governance more open to public accountability as envisaged in the access to government information act otherwise known as the Freedom of information Act. Openness and access to information is much better, much less expensive and effective than a thousand EFCCs and ICPCs put together.

But what is the point saboteurs are out to make, anyway? Is it that they donít want democracy to take roots in Nigeria or that they are against certain candidates running for certain offices? Either case they are bound to fail because nothing can prevent a determined nation from going forward with its scheduled elections save a calamitous natural disaster like the type that hit Japan.

However, such a calamity is beyond the capacity of human beings to visit on any nation. As Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, not even suicide bombs and mass killings could prevent a nation from holding elections. The large turnouts in the NASS election have demonstrated beyond any shadow of doubts that Nigerians are dying for democracy and are determined to have it no matter what, bombs or no bombs. The only option left for the saboteurs is to join their compatriots to process their grievances through the democratic process. With that said, nothing in the nature of saboteurs inclines me to believe that they have given up their deadly plots, more so as these acts seem to have certain religious undertones particularly in the northern parts of the country.

Performance Score Cards

By and large the parties and their candidates appear to have conducted themselves well and so were the electorates in the various constituencies across the states. As earlier indicated, the Nigerian electorates deserve the biggest commendation for their determination not to allow the events of the previous week to dampen their enthusiasm. Though turnouts were low in certain places they were above average in most places compared to elections in other parts of the world. As Jega himself enthused, the people have put the saboteurs to shame. Itís conclusive proof that democracy is alive and well in Nigeria the isolated violence notwithstanding.

In truth the problem had never been with the electorates all along but with the do-or-die politicians and their INEC collaborators who worked hand-in-gloves to undo the nationís elections. But the nation appears to be turning a new page if this newfound spirit holds well in the coming elections.

And in terms of party performances at the polls the ACN has cemented its regional image by not only winning Lagos state handily as predicted but also dislodging the PDP from its backyard in the South/West by cleaning out Ogun and Osun states as well cutting deep into Oyo state. The PDP rout is almost total in the South/West with ACN forces advancing from the western front and the Labor Partyís from the southern flank to encircle the PDP caught as it was in between in the middle with no escape routes whatsoever. Both are intent on squeezing out the PDP from the South/West before turning on each otherís throat.

But the ACN will have to deal with the tenant next door, i.e., Labor Party in Ondo state, which the ACN had similarly served quit notice together with the PDP, but has refused to leave the premises of which the ACN considers itself the rightful landlord. On the contrary, it has renewed its four-year leasehold with the people of the state and there is nothing the ACN can do about it. Oops! I forgot Salamiís Court of Appeal. The man is still there doing his own thing and has in fact constituted the Appeal Tribunals. Trust ACN to go back there to claim Ondo State. Donít put anything past the Lagos Emperor on the move.

Poor Governor Olusegun Mimiko! Heís lucky his seat is not in contention this time around, but God save Governor Alao Akala of Oyo state. He must be peeing in his pants by now and consulting the babalawos as Tinubu sets his sights at his throne. To be sure Tinubu has become an emperor in his little domain to the extent that he not only has the press in his Babaringa pockets but also the upper crust of the judiciary, and to the extent also that Buhari had to send two former heads of state from the North to plead for his support and for the president himself to send a presidential jet to ferry him to Abuja for special consultation as reported. Hmm! Interesting! Isnít it?

That is how important he has grown since OBJ left office, so much so that he could now look the feared generalissimo from Ogun and his erstwhile conqueror in the eyes without blinking anymore. All because Jonathan does not possess the conquering military instincts and strategic manipulations associated with OBJ. Remember OBJ got all the AD governors to endorse him in 2003 in return for his support for their re-election and proceeded to fix both the presidential and gubernatorial election on the same date thereby ensuring that the people would vote for the PDP ticket en-bloc. And the rest is history. That was not rigging but strategic manipulation and the AD had only itself to blame not OBJ or Iwu for losing out to the PDP in the South/West in 2003 and 2007. It went into a self-serving arrangement it had no means of enforcing at the polls.

With that said Ondo state is a hard nut for the ACN to crack as the less ethno-centric Labor Party than the ACN would not easily or at all relinquish its only prized trophy to the conquering forces of Emperor Tinubu who is bent on expanding the frontiers of his budding empire westward and use that to stake his claim nationally and for the presidency someday down the road.

Itís a tall dream though for a regionally or ethnically based party to attain, and Tinubu, who is an Awoist ought to have known better the fate that is reserved for regional parties nationally like the AG, UPN, AD and now the ACN. If they start regional, they remain regional and their growth potentials are severely limited to their regions. Check out APGA, ANPP and CPCís images and perceptions in the minds of the public. Like the ACN, they suffer from this ethnic/regional image which was the very thing that prevented Chief Obafemi Awolowo from being accepted nationally. Tinubu has fallen into the same trap. If he wants to become a regional bridegroom for other suitors, fine. He is already either by design or default, but not more than that.     

Anyway, it was easy to take Ogun state from the PDP just as it was easy for the NPN to take Lagos state from the UPN during the Shagari era with NPNís Governor Tunde Otedola leading the charge owing to unresolved intra-party squabbles within the UPN. The same thing has happened in Ogun state. Lagos state could escape that fate this time around since both Tinubu and Fashola who were daggers-drawn at one point appeared to have learnt some lessons from the Otedola era which the gladiators in Ogun state failed to do. The result is that it easily fell to advancing enemy forces.

It would appear that the Awolowo/Akintola political battles of yesteryears are being re-enacted in the South/West with General Bola Tinubu now taking the baton from the Chief Awolowo and Field Marshal OBJ stepping into the shoes of Chief Akintola. Recall the constant refrain by OBJ that the South/West must be integrated in the mainstream of the nationís political system rather than remaining perpetually in opposition as was the case in both the First and Second Republics. That was the same theme pursued by Chief Atintola that pitched him against Chief Awolowo.

And by voting out the PDP and embracing the ethno-regional tendencies of the ACN the people of the South/West have demonstrated their proclivities for regionalism and ethno-centric politicking which have set them apart from their compatriots in other parts of the union that have moved toward the center and remained there. I donít know if this is a blessing or a reproach. However, the good people of the South/West have got to set aside sentiments and look at the bigger picture and then decide whether they want to belong to the union and sit at the national table with others or remain parochial and marooned to their ethnic island to be ruled over by its Jean Bedel Bokassa-type Emperor from his capital in Lagos. The Yorubas do not need an Emperor to rule over them but democratically elected leaders who are servants of the people.

For all their attachment to their beloved ethnic enclave the people of the South/West need to be fully seated at the national table and the only viable means of doing so is to break out of their ethnic cocoon and integrate the region into the mainstream of national politics.

This would appear to be a no-brainer for such highly educated people but for some reasons has consistently been resisted by the people even to this day. Tinubu owes his political supremacy in the South/West to this prevailing regional sentiment of politics of exclusion. However, this reality was not lost on many of her illustrious sons such as the former Premier of the old Western region mentioned earlier, the late Chief Akintola, Chiefs Richard Akinjide, Bola Ige, Meredith Akinloye, Babatope, Omoboriowo, Dr. Olunloyo, not to mention the so-called Ibadan Garrison commanders and many other heavyweights in their own rights, including of course the granddaddy of them all, OBJ, all of whom could be regarded as nationalists and anti-regionalists who want the South/West sharing the table at the national level just like other geo-ethnic groups in the union. Is there a reason the people of that region seemingly do not want to be associated politically with others at the national level but prefer to go it alone?

We can blame election rigging all we want but there is a reason why no Yorubaman other than OBJ has come near the Nigerian throne discounting Shonekanís stint. Though eminently qualified and was described by the Nkemba Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu as the ďpresident Nigeria never had,Ē Chief Obafemi Awolowo tried it about half a dozen times but failed that much times. Chief Olu Falae tried it but failed. And I know Bola Tinubu could be hallucinating about it when he is not throwing mud at OBJ but his boat will not sail beyond the Lagos Lagoon and the Ikpoba River in Edo state at best. That is the farthest he could go.

Why so, the reader might want to know. It is because of excessive ethnic attachment. No Nigerian who prides himself as an ethnic hero or champion will smell the Nigerian presidency because such ethnic attachment will undo him nationally as others are watching. Tinubu must therefore retrace his steps if he wants to make it nationally otherwise even the position of a vice-president will elude him. I do not write these things to disparage or cast aspersion on the good people of the South/West whom I have the highest respect for due to their progressive disposition and fight for justice. And of course the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, whom I had voted for time and again when he was alive was and remains my hero even in death. But it is past time for South/West to believe in our shared identity as Nigerians and take its place at the center because more than any other region it has benefitted the most from the Nigerian union. Politics of exclusion that it now seems to have relapsed into is an unwanted anachronism in the 21st century. 

There is much to write about the ACN which time will not permit me. Suffice it to state however that when we really get right down to examining the genesis of the PPD dominance in the polity, we shall find that it is directly traceable to the AD which is the forerunner of the present ACN. PDP emerged as the Goliath that it has become due to the ethnically inspired breakup of the then APP brought about by Yoruba elements in the party to form the purely ethnic party, the AD, and then proceeded to field one of their own, Chief Olu Falae, as its presidential candidate only for the same AD to purport to enter into an alliance with the APP that it had just broken away from on the spurious pretext of ideological incompatibility for the presidential election to face the PDP!

Of course this sudden development deprived the APP of the massive South/West votes that it could have used to match the PDP in the 1999 general elections. And today the nation would have had two formidable national parties as it obtains in the western democracies and as it was with the NRC and SDP in the botch third Republic under IBB. But today, it is the same ACN that is crying the loudest about PDPís domination of the nation when it was the one that destroyed the opposition in Nigeria and rendered it totally fractured and impotent. It makes me laugh when the ACN pretends to be entering into ďmerger talksĒ with the CPC and other opposition parties. Mark my words ACN under its present clannish leadership is incapable of consummating any merger talks with any other political party because that would make it to lose its most cherished regional identity! Any talk of merger by the ACN is so much hot air quickly rising up to the roof that would sooner come back to the floor. Too bad it cannot eat its cake and have it back.  

But the war for the soul of the Yoruba race is not yet over as many more battles lie ahead. Itís true that Osun state had already fallen in the hands of ACN together with Ekiti state before the elections courtesy of the judiciary, and so its victory in that state was not altogether surprising. The real test is Oyo state and the results of NASS election in that state indicate that Oyo state is where the PDP might make its final stand in the South/West and Governor Alao Akala could be the last man standing for the PDP in that zone.

That is not to say that the PDP has lost out completely in the other states because the gubernatorial election is still ahead in at least Ogun state in addition to Oyo, and the presidential election is due in all states. Who knows the routing of the party in Ogun and Osun states could provide the wake-up call for the combatants to shield their swords and close their ranks to confront the ACN frontally in the remaining elections. As the Bible says a divided house cannot stand even the slightest attack from the enemy.

ACN does not care much about its performance in other parts of the North so long as it grabs the South/West for keeps. Anything else that comes its way in the South/East and South/South or for that matter in the north, is merely icing on the cake and it couldnít be bothered. Chris Ngige will soon find out that his ACN is not all that interested in his battle with Dora Akinyuli in Anambra Central Senatorial seat which results were cancelled and rescheduled for fresh election.

All the noise being made by the party regarding that seat is merely to fulfill all righteousness. Were it in any of the states in the South/West ACN would have called for Jegaís head and condemned the entire election as a shambolic and unleashed its propaganda machine on the nation. But Anambra is not Ogun, Lagos, or Osun state and so Ngige should expect to bear his cross alone pretty much with minimal support from the party headquarters as happened previously during the Anambra gubernatorial re-run. 

As was severally forecast by this author, Buhariís CPC has emerged the biggest loser throughout the federation discounting for a moment the ANPP which I had described as a ďwalking corpseĒ in my previous piece so much so that its former Chairman, Chief Umeh Ezeoke, has ruled it out of contention in the presidential election. Many undiscerning analysts had mistakenly thought that the North was Buhariís CPC for keeps but the results have proved them as armchair analysts and bookmakers who do not delve beneath superficialities to make their calls.

If Buhariís CPC could not sweep the North/West except for Katsina state it is all but dead meat for the vultures. No wonder it is rushing to dust up its so-called alliance talk with the ACN. But it is too little too late. What has it got to offer ACN anyway that has delivered its region to use as bargaining chip? Itís just Katsina state and one or two additional seats, here and there.

Would Buhari now agree to step down for ACNís Ribadu for the presidential election that is already at the door knocking hard since Ribadu has reportedly refused to do so for him? If not then there is nothing to talk about in a merger. And if yes, sure there is something to talk about. But what exactly it is? Is it for Buhari to become Ribuduís running mate? Preposterous! Right? Or would it be for Buhari to loan his running mate clergyman Pastor Tunde Bakare who is sick and tired of talking about the kingdom of heaven and wants it right now right here on earth, to Ribadu as his running mate? If so what if Ribadu does not like him as his running mate? Should a church pastor who knew next to nothing in politics like himself be imposed on him and wind up having two political neophytes facing up with team Jonathan/Sambo? That would be suicidal indeed. If on the other hand Buhari is offered the ticket over Ribadu all that I has been written about the South/West will spell doom for the Buhari ticket. He has not business with the South/West and even Tinubu cannot help him.

What other options are available then to these two strange bedfellows seeking to enter into a marriage of convenience against their better judgments? Bring in other political parties into the equation this late in the day? These folks are desperately running out of any viable options. If, however, Ribadu agreed to trade his running mate for Buhariís that would be fine but of what electoral value is Ribaduís ACN in the North? In particular of what electoral value is church pastor from the south to Buhariís sharia law infested North? Religious bigotry is Buhariís biggest undoing even to his northern brethren. He would be a perfect candidate in Iran ruled by Mullahs not Nigeria. Anyway, the so-called merger talk kite flown has failed to get off the ground and be airborne. It was a dummy from the get go. 

This is what happens when parties decide to go it alone deluding themselves that they have what it takes to win the elections nationally. A smart and savvy politician should understand his strengths and weaknesses and strategize accordingly. Thank goodness there is no Maurice Iwu for General Muhammadu Buhari to blame his disastrous performance on this time around. He has, in fact, rushed out to hail the conduct of the elections and that means his party was defeated fair and square in a free, fair and credible election. This should be humbling enough to his overrated northern grassroots support.

That said the greatest surprise to some analysts, not yours truly, is the performance of the PDP in the election. Contrary to what naysayers had wished and predicted would befall the party it has held strong though shedding some excess weight in the South/West, which is not altogether unexpected as indicated earlier. Elsewhere it has maintained its supremacy in near absolute terms across the board in the North/Central, North/East and even North/West not to mention South/East and South/South and itís on track to dominate the National Assembly yet again even though with reduced majority. As more results are declared the party continues to widen its margin of victory against the competition such that its control of the National Assembly is a foregone conclusion. This shows that the PDP is in fact capable of winning the votes in a free, fair and credible election as it had always claimed, and the proof of the pudding is now in the eating.

The fear hitherto expressed in certain quarters that the PDP could lose the northern votes due to the zoning war has not panned out as this writer has always maintained. And the reason for this is that the north has nowhere else to turn to but stick with the PDP because it is the only national platform that is present on the field of play. It would be idiotic, indeed scandalous to expect the north to go with regional champion like the ACN or the walking corpse called the ANPP or the one-man show called the CPC. That would be insulting. APGA is in the same category but politically savvy Ndigbo has refused to go nuclear like its Oduduwa counterpart staying put with the PDP where it is bound to reap its reward bountifully in due course. The nation  as a whole is taking notice of that.

Of more significance however is the failure of both AREWA and the so-called NLPF that had counted on religion and ethnicity to tilt the northern votes toward Buhari. As it was with the PDP primaries, northerners have proved that their bigoted and selfish leaders are living in the past and on their own and this was not lost on the Governor of Jigawa state Sule Lamido who hailed his people for voting against religious and ethnic bigotry. Those who correctly understand the north would readily testify to the fact that ordinary northerners do not share in the ethnic and religious bigotry of their political elites and this was evident in Abiolaís victory in the 1993 presidential election over their own son, Alhaji Ibrahim Tofa, who hails from the heart of the north in Kano state. That is how much detribalized the average northerner is in comparison to his counterpart in the South/West, for example, which was in the same detribalized mode when it voted Zik into the Western Regional Parliament until he was kicked out by Awo thereby setting the stage for ethno-centric politicking that has bedeviled the South/West till today. Itís unfortunate that Bola Tinubu has not outgrown this ethnic anachronism but rather working his tail off to concretize it.  

All in all the road seems pretty clear and a little smoother now too for candidate Jonathan over Buhari and Ribadu in the presidential election as the opposition is completely in disarray at the moment as always, unable to get its act together when it matters most. The handwriting on the wall is too bold to be missed even by the daftest of opposition politician. Itís a shame we might end up with a one sided presidential election despite all the nonsensical hollow noises from the camp of the opposition.

All of these would tend to suggest to me and I so hold that the PDP is here to stay after all, and itís in no danger of quitting the stage anytime soon. To put it in late Owelle of Onitsha, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiweís words, the PDP is ďnot in a hurry to leave this planet earthĒ and its well on its way to forming the next government for the nation that is untainted with the veneer of illegitimacy as with previous governments. Whether in a presidential or parliamentary system the party with the majority seats forms the next government, at least in the parliament. The presidency is a different kettle of fish in the presidential system, but there is no reason to imagine a different outcome on Saturday.

All things being equal Iím sticking out my neck once again to predict total bloodbath for Ribadu and Buhari in the hands of Jonathan on Saturday. And I have been pretty darn consistent in my electoral forecast since the beginning of this election cycle including but not limited to the outcomes of the PDP primaries and the inability of the opposition to mount any meaning, effective and sustainable opposition to the ruling party at the center but simply nipping at its huge feet from the edges.

They fret and run around like chickens planning not to win but to fail hoping to turn around and blame it on Maurice Iwu, sorry Jega, this time. But hey, that strategy has backfired with no Iwu to blame no more and the elections reasonably free, fair and credible thus far. So nothing has changed the objective conditions on the ground to warrant a revision of my forecasts for the political parties and their candidates at the presidential level. And that is where I stake out my stand.

Without being unnecessarily presumptive and pre-emptive, it is probably fair enough for Nigerians to look forward to the presidential Inaugural on May 29, 2011. But for that to come to fruition, however, Jonathan has to keep his binoculars firmly focused on Jega and the security forces not to relapse into their familiar territories, for that would be suicidal.

Letís keep the flag flying ever higher and higher in the next elections and thereafter we all can proudly shout, ďHurrah! Itís done! Itís done!! The transition jinx has been broken at last!!!Ē And the wine could start flowing for real. Until then it is not over yet until it is all over!

And this is wishing Nigeria Godís speed in her electoral odyssey. 

Live from the stable of ĖCutting-Edge Analytics--More than a Blog, Itís a Learning Experience!

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst.


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