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Countdown to Presidential Slugfest 2011


---Cutting-Edge Analytics—Where the News Meets the Intellect—
By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published December 28th, 2010

Let’s go down memory lane to recap the events that defined 2010 and to a large extent 2011 in the countdown to Presidential Slugfest 2011:

Continued reverberations of Abdul-Muttalab’s terrorist adventure with American Airline into the New Year from December, 2009, and so also were late President Musa Yar’Adua’s refusal to hand-over power to his deputy from his sick bed in far away Saudi Arabia; National Assembly’s bold and timely investiture of vice President Goodluck Jonathan as acting president on the Doctrine of Necessity; Comatose Yar’Adua’s Gestapo-style smuggling into the country in the dead of night in an Air Ambulance and its attendant security breach; Carefully packaged nocturnal visits of sympathetic clergymen to the ailing president in Aso Rock as part of a grandiose web of deceit spun around the dying president by his so-called Kitchen Cabinet; Yar’Adua’s death and acting President Jonathan’s inauguration as substantive President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; INEC Chairman, Maurice Iwu’s early retirement by the Federal Government and his replacement by Attahiru Jega; A slew of declarations of intent to contest the next 2011 presidential elections by a battery of aspirants mainly from the PDP stable; Jega’s abrupt call for the postponement of the 2011 general elections to accommodate new electronic Voter Register; National obsession with PDP’s zoning debacle; Nigeria’s 50th Birthday Anniversary multiple car bombings in Abuja, the arrests and trials, and their political fallouts; Seizure of imported containerized cache of sophisticated arms at the Lagos ports; Consensus candidate of four in the name of the North; A slew of endorsements of President
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Goodluck Jonathan across the land; Desperation running wild turning to threats of violent change from certain quarters; Charges of treason flying in the air and their rebuttals; Alignments and realignments of political forces; Betrayals and backstabbing; Judicial overthrow and coronation of state governors; Missing and found INEC DDC machines; Militant “Gen” Togo security challenge in Niger Delta and leveling of his camps and village by advancing soldiers of the Joint Task Force on his trail; Kidnap kingpin, Osisikwanu violent end in the hands of the military Task Force; Public outcry and revolt against lawmakers’ jumbo salaries and the humbling of the National Assembly; A slew of tit-for-tat court actions to disqualify PDP presidential aspirants; Sudden passage of the last (?) of Nigeria’s political titans (Chief Otobo former deputy premier of old Midwestern region is still alive and kicking); Sudden resignations of ministers from the Federal cabinet: Hospitalization of comatose ex-Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, at UNTH and his air ambulation to the United Kingdom for further medical treatment.

Let’s pause here for a moment for the Nkemba of Nnewi. This is serious stuff that calls for serious intercessory prayers by both traditional and orthodox religious prayer warriors. I’m not exactly one, but my prayers are with him and hopefully yours, the reader too. We need him around here more than ever before to balance the emerging political equation in the country at this critical juncture of the nation’s political history. Make no mistake about it: Nigeria without the Nkemba is like a tripod without its third leg. But that will not happen. Not so fast, Nkemba! Wake up and lead, for your work is not yet done on earth. Convalescing beloved Enahoro pulled a fast one on us and left us all stunned and devastated. Don’t go that route, Nkemba. It would be a double whammy the nation cannot afford to bear at this time. May the good Lord take charge of your healing and have His angel nurse you back to good health in 2011 and beyond to witness the opening of yet another glorious chapter in the history of this beleaguered nation.

Oops! Now I’m done with the recap. Or am I not? That’s a pretty lengthy laundry list of intrigues I pulled out up there. What did I leave out? Somebody help me here please. Just can’t catch them all!

While by no means exhaustive as the list keeps growing by the hour even as I write this, these are some of the main ingredients pouring into the Nigerian political soup still cooking on fire-stead waiting to be served hot in real time in the forthcoming make or mar general elections. And depending on your taste buds, some of these ingredients may be bitter or sweet or something in-between both extremes. And others may be spicy or rather too hot for your tongue to handle, or again, something in-between. But make no mistakes about it: Nigerians are lapping it all up and savoring the aroma of politics. There are no dull moments in Nigeria. Nigeria is one huge rolling theatrical stage of which her very own Nollywood is but a microcosm of poor imitation. And as the economic conditions bite even harder, the catharsis of political theatrics is providing the much needed therapy for the mental health of the Nigerian public even if only temporarily; which is not altogether a bad thing for a nation that is perpetually on edge due to a surfeit of ethno/religious, criminal and political overreach by mischief makers.

At the center of it all is the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Not surprisingly, the ruling party has hijacked the political show and dominated the stage to the consternation of the smaller opposition parties. Whether for good or ill, the more PDP dominates the airwaves through its internal activities the more it is etched in the consciousness of Nigerians as the main game in town. The party is getting massive and seemingly endless free publicity in both print and electronic media that would have otherwise cost it millions of naira. Publicity is the life-blood of politics and politicians and their parties invest millions of naira in marketing themselves and their programs. Whether the free publicity the PDP is getting is positive or negative matters little at this time provided it has some entertainment value to political watchers. What matters most is that it is currently dominating the political stage with its contrived crisis. And, although political crisis is the common staple of all political parties in Nigeria that of the PDP attracts far greater attention for obvious reasons, continually dominating the airwaves all year round.

And that shouldn’t be good news for opposition parties that are shamelessly and timidly waiting on the PDP to end its show of shame before they begin their own, and that is if they have one at all in the first place. They might find though that by the time the PDP ends its show the entire show could be over and the audience will be heading home. Anyone who wants to be the leader of a group must be prepared to lead when opportunity presents itself and not to follow the lead of others. Nigerian opposition parties have demonstrated that they have not apprised themselves of this simple truth and are therefore not prepared to lead.

When, for example, a major opposition party like the ANPP publicly declared that it had amended its constitution and reserved its prime slot for the presidency for IBB, a rejected material from the PDP to come and fill, it shows conclusively that the ANPP is not prepared to lead and in fact has no presidential materials of its own to present to the nation. What a shame! If opposition parties are now looking to fill their ranks with rejected materials from the PDP, who have been considered unworthy to fly its flag, then the opposition has a serious problem indeed in its hands. If ANPP has no presidential materials of its own and must wait on the PDP to loan it its rejected presidential material like IBB that has been considered unfit to lead a democratic nation even by the North, it has lost all moral authority to criticize the PDP as a party. Not only is the ANPP not prepared to lead but it is prepared to be led. It would appear that the party has not learnt its lessons from what happened to AC in 2007 when the PDP loaned its rejected Atiku to it to contest the election with PDP’s Yar’Adua and lost his electoral deposits.

There’s a reason Atiku backpedaled and went back to the PDP, where he’s slugging it out, first with IBB, Gusau and Saraki, and now with President Goodluck Jonathan. If the ANPP is so challenged and denuded of presidential materials as to wait for IBB it might as well wait for Atiku whose crushing defeat in the hands of Jonathan is only one primary away since IBB’s moral obligation to Atiku by virtue of the consensus arrangement seems to be pointing him in a different direction from the ANPP. It is equally plausible though that IBB’s rather cold reception of ANPP’s gratuitous lifeline is borne out of a genuine relief for crashing out of the presidential contest with Jonathan where he was certain to suffer even greater humiliation in the hands of Jonathan than that meted out to him by friendly Ciroma and his group, who in fact voted for him in the consensus misadventure. It’s looking like Ciroma offered IBB an opportunity for a less painful exit from the contest as was indeed speculated in the past. If that is in fact the case, IBB would be right to consider ANPP’s gratuitous offer as no more than a Trojan horse meant for Jonathan to thoroughly humiliate him at the polls as the PDP did to its former presidential candidate, Buhari, only for the party to turn around and hobnob with the PDP at the expense of its defeated candidate still hurting and licking the wounds of defeat.

In the alternative, the party should quit the presidential race altogether like Labor Party (LP) and the PPA. It is not obliged to contest the presidential election. Must every party go for the big league just to make noise and calling press conferences to attack election results when they couldn’t even win a single local council in their own backyards? Presidential election is not for every Tom, Dick and Harry and only serious and credible contenders need show up and that includes political parties too. It makes absolutely no sense to have a crowded field of Lilliputian noisemakers just for the heck of it. No wonder, the very serious Buhari called it quits with the ANPP. And if ANPP could not keep Buhari it its fold, what makes it think it could keep IBB or any other ambitious presidential aspirant for that matter?

ANPP has demonstrated beyond every shadow of doubt that it is not a serious party for any serious presidential contender and only interested in sharing the spoils of office with the victorious party at the center—in other words, an opportunistic organization. This being the case, it is entirely predictable that the ANPP will kiss the dust in no distant future. And that would be a sad end indeed for a party which was at the beginning PDP’s equal in every sense of the word and the hope of the opposition. The same way it went into an opportunistic alliance with OBJ’s government with its very own Chairman, Alhaji Mahmud Waziri, landing a plum ministerial position, it went into a so-called Government of National Unity (GNU) with Yar’Adua’s government under the chairmanship of Umeh Ezeoke. Opportunism seems to be the party’s motto. And you can count on the party again to do the same thing with Jonathan in 2011.

And here I’m getting ahead of myself and deliberately presumptive of Jonathan’s victory at the polls. I make no apologies for that because even the blind see the bold handwriting on the walls as the inevitable and inexorable outcome of the next presidential election. The point here is that ANPP will be there at the table to share the spoils of office with the PDP when it’s all said and done. And you can also count on PPA and other mushroom parties too hustling to cut deals with the PDP while the sun shines even though they have little or no electoral values of their own.

For the avoidance of doubt, however, I make bold to state that if the fractious opposition parties find themselves unable to coalesce into a grand opposition mega-party by whatever name called (Option A), or otherwise fail to work together to present a common candidate for the presidential election (Option B), they might as well forget about the presidency and remain municipal concerns at the states and local levels except of course they’re only out to play supporting roles, not the main acts in Nigeria’s political theater. The Nigerian opposition parties must be prepared to subsume their individual municipal identities under a supra-national flagship party to effectively take on the monstrous beast called the PDP for good or fade out; not as PDP copy cats as they are presently, but as innovative key drivers of the democratic process as they ought to be in order to provide credible alternative to the PDP.

A recent poll in Nigeria showed that 61% of Nigerians favored a robust opposition to challenge the PDP’s dominance. But that is not happening at the moment with a preponderance of family parties that currently populate the Nigerian political landscape other than the PDP. You name them: ACN, APGA, PPA, LP, CPC, DPP and now ANPP in tow of the over 40 micro parties. As a PDP chieftain derogatorily referred to them, most of them are “husband and wife” parties that have no intentions of working to win elections on their own, but only interested in cutting deals with others and getting undeserved grants from INEC. Therefore, unless the Nigerian opposition is counting on miracles to attain the presidency; unless it is counting on the implosion of the PDP to attain power at the center, the auguries are pretty dire and certain too that it will continue to remain at the periphery of political power in Nigeria for a long while if it continues to present a fractious image and structure to challenge the PDP.

At this moment in time with just four months to the election, the battle for the presidency is located within the PDP itself rather than between the PDP and the opposition parties. That is what must have informed the dismissive statement credited to the PDP chairman Dr. Okwesilieze Nwodo, that whoever emerges the PDP candidate for the presidential election is already the President of Nigerian, in waiting, so to speak. Such dismissive attitude on the part of the PDP chief regarding the opposition could only have been informed by the present pathetic state of the opposition on the ground that simply cannot be counted on by the electorate to make any headway against the PDP in 2011 by going it alone on individual basis even if the PDP implodes. Such ill-informed death wish for the PDP is not going to happen any time soon for the simple fact that it is in control at the center and has all the political and economic leverages to make herself sufficiently attractive as the bride of political suitors. There is no question that notwithstanding its internal intrigues which have more to do with managing success than inherent weakness, the PDP is by far the most stable political party in the nation with no splinter groups forming a different party as has happened to virtually all the major opposition parties since the return of democracy in 1999.

Experience has shown that the more the PDP fights within itself the stronger it becomes at the end of the day. The reason for this is not entirely farfetched. Its total control of the federal power and huge party structure makes it infinitely attractive to ambitious politicians. Every presidential aspirant needs national structures to get a good shot at the presidency. A presidential aspirant hitched on to only one regional structure is doomed to failure ab-initio. PDP’s overwhelming national structure makes it infinitely attractive and places it a huge advantage over other parties. The opposition parties should duplicate the PDP structure or forget about the presidency altogether, rigging or no rigging.

It is absolutely certain as night follows the day that none of them can get near the presidency on its own by its own devices except in a grand coalition that duplicates the PDP political structure on the ground. This is the bitter truth that the opposition parties are either unwilling or simply too daft to grasp. It is delusional to pretend that they can contend with the PDP on individual basis in a one-on-one electoral battle and prevail at the level of the presidency. State and local elections are of course different kettles of fish altogether. Suffice it state however that the presidency is the ultimate price in political tournament and that’s where the opposition wants to be, not at the state and local levels. But in order to get there it must be willing and able to invest in national not regional or state structures alone.

And for those in the opposition parties waiting for PDP’s implosion to pick up the carcasses, they have some real waiting to do and they could be waiting for the Christian Armageddon that just won’t come to pass. In point of fact, rather than the PDP imploding, it is the opposition that has been imploding since 1999. First it was the NPP that got splintered with the AC emerging from it and going its separate way although both still managed to present Chief Olu Falae as their common presidential candidate to face PDP’s OBJ who thereafter proceeded to dismantle the AC and eventually dislodged it from the South/West. But that marriage of convenience did not survive the 1999 general elections as ANPP quickly went into an alliance with the PDP, leaving AC in the lurch of bitter politics of opposition that has continued to define it this day.

And NPP changed its name to become ANPP. However, it has since imploded with DPP emerging from it and further imploded with CPC emerging from it. On its part, APGA has been embroiled in suicidal wrangling to this day. PPA has all but fizzled out and has lost all of its governors to the PDP in the South/East that has weakened its claim to a regional party. Courtesy of the judiciary (Court of Appeal to be specific), ACN has managed to increase its state holdings to three. That, no doubt has bolstered its regional profile to think of itself as the natural successor to the PDP at the center, which was until now the prerogative of the ANPP. But don’t count on that to get it to the presidency or even to retain those states in future because the judiciary that has been generous to the ACN does not conduct elections in Nigeria.

That said, ACN is currently at par with the ANPP in state holdings. And to its credit, it has taken on the role of opposition more than the ANPP. That said, controlling three states cannot get it any closer to the presidency than the six states did for it in 2003 before it was routed. For the CAN to make any head way nationally it has to shed its regional image and go national for real not tokenistic gestures. Perhaps that’s reason why it is negotiating an alliance with Buhari’s CPC. But that is not nearly enough either. It should go beyond Buhar’s one-man CPC and get some other regional party like the PPA or APGA on board to make it truly national because Buhari’s CPC has no state holding at this moment and for now has only Buhari’s name to offer for good or ill.

Not that it matters much to me personally, but it perhaps bears mention that a potential Buhari/Tinubu ticket is out and out a moslem/moslem ticket and that could be troubling for many down south in a sensitive multi-religious nation like Nigeria. And if for nothing else, it will surely evoke bitter memories of the Buhari/Idiagbon moslem/moslem military ticket that terrorized Nigerians in the mid eighties in the name of War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Questions will definitely be raised as to why Buhari’s ticket must always be moslem/moslem and whether or not he has a problem working with a Christian deputy? People would want to know whether or not Buhari has a secret agenda of turning Nigeria into a Sharia state by hook or crook. Unfortunately for him his antecedents would not afford him the luxury of the benefit of the doubt that he might ordinarily be entitled to. Buhari’s image problem is his undoing and he’s well advised not to ossify his weaknesses in the minds of Nigerians especially those down south.

Already Buhari’s alleged religious fundamentalism has been his Achilles Heel. A moslem/moslem ticket for the second time will seal his fate at the polls so far as it is within the powers of the Christian south to stop him. If he is serious and sensitive to the religious sensibilities of Nigerians, he shouldn’t touch Bola Tinubu with a long pole. He should scout for a credible Christian running mate from the south within the ACN pool if he must work with that party. Tinubu should be out of the question. I make no recommendations as to possible candidates in the ACN.

For now though, the ACN is gratuitously playing the role of a referee in the PDP dog fights between Jonathan and Atiku rather than putting its own house in Lagos State in order and work with other like minded opposition parties to confront the PDP at the center. And I don’t see that party shedding its regional toga that fast. That appears to be its comfort zone. However, if ACN leaves the only state it won without the help of the judiciary to a tin god like Tinubu to manipulate as he pleases, that is an open invitation for a PDP takeover; a desire publicly expressed by no less a person than the president himself. The example of NPN’s Otedola who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat from the UPN in 1983 is still fresh in our minds. And history is not too shy to repeat itself in 2011 if the Tinubu/Fashola dog fight is not tamed.

Like the denuded PPA and LP, APGA is not even in contention for the presidential elections and that’s alright. I don’t need to waste time on the other mushroom outfits.

What the above process of elimination does is leave us with the PDP as the locus of the presidential slugfest 2011, no thanks to the nation’s anemic opposition. And here events are still unfolding in Africa’s largest political party at breathtaking pace.

What will be the outcomes of the court fights for disqualification of one or the other of PDP’s presidential aspirants? No one can divine the outcomes but my gut feeling and educated guess is that neither President Jonathan nor Atiku will be disqualified by the courts from contesting either the PDP primaries or the presidential election. While PDP zoning has been declared by a Federal High Court in Abuja as “not justiciable” to which I would readily concur, and that the PDP has unfettered discretion to field whichever candidate it wants for the presidential election, Atiku’s allies have gone to the same Federal High Court to canvass the same failed arguments.

Sensing devastating rout at the PDP primaries, Atiku seems to have resorted to desperate tactics to stop Jonathan in his track rather than facing him at the primaries to test his popularity. He was once confronted by the press whether he couldn’t face Jonathan and defeat him at the primaries without shouting zoning, and he boasted that he could. Well, he should do just that and stop relying on zoning as his crutch. Trying to use the courts to disqualify anyone is despicable. But his desperate tactics have backfired and led to a counter action by some PDP chieftains obviously sympathetic to Jonathan asking the court to disqualify him from contesting any elections whatsoever on grounds of corruption, citing alleged US congressional indictment of Atiku in addition to his alleged illegal readmission to the PDP through the back door in flagrant abuse of the PDP’s constitutional provisions.

As indicated earlier, both cases will not be successful thus compelling a nervous and unwilling Atiku to face Jonathan at the PDP primaries. And as they say, the rest will be history. But what history will it be? One only needs to juxtapose the cascading avalanche of Jonathan’s national endorsements that have broadsided Atiku’s candidacy with Atiku’s struggling profile to write the history of the PDP primaries ahead of time. If Atiku’s only remaining hope of getting the PDP nomination is the delusional court disqualification of Jonathan from contesting the PDP primaries then the outcomes of the PDP primaries are already known because his hope will never materialize even in another life. In which case Atiku may be forced to quit the PDP again and pitch his tent somewhere else as this author had in fact predicted in an earlier write up. I want to repeat it here and now: Atiku may wind up getting expelled once again from the PDP.

It is amazing how a man who has branded himself a “democrat” and has suffered an attempt to disqualify him in the past would be the one scheming for the disqualification of a fellow presidential aspirant not on the basis of legal and constitutional reasons under the nation’s electoral law and the constitution, but on the basis of his place of birth. Since when has place of birth become a reason or ground to disqualify aspirants and candidates from contesting elections in Nigeria? It shows just how low and undemocratic Abubakar Atiku and his Ciroma gang have sunk. But one thing is sure though: All of this will come back to bite Atiku because he has totally destroyed his democratic credentials. There is always the next time around.

With Atiku out of the way, Jonathan will have to contend with the opposition. And if the opposition still cannot get its acts together in the fullness of time to face Jonathan at the polls, Presidential Slugfest 2011 may turn out to be complete mismatch between a Goliathan Jonathan and some Lilliputian opponents from a multitude of wretched “husband and wife” outfits that will afterward hit town with shrill cries of “massive rigging” and a sanctimonious chorus of “deeply flawed election”. I would like to remind the Nigerian opposition that it takes more than cries of rigging to get to the Nigerian presidency. For once, just this once, it should get its entire house in order and stop blaming the ruling party for its woes. Politics is not a charitable business and the presidency is not given out to parties gratis. It should be worked for.

Four months to the general elections, the opposition is still in disarray and waiting on the PDP to move first before it finds its own path rather than charting its own course on its own terms. Why is it so hard for all or some of them to come together under one roof in critical mass to confront the PDP? Why must it take so long (twelve years and still counting), for the Nigerian opposition to find its path to victory at the polls? Why must Nigerian presidential elections be always reduced to a mismatch between one party juggernaut and an anthill of mushroom parties?

I would want to see a real presidential slugfest 2011 in all its beauty and grandeur; and in all its grits, rough or smooth tackles and sweat as I have had the privilege of witnessing in the country of my domicile. A three-way Jonathan-Atiku-Buhari presidential slugfest could bring some drama, thrills and frills and perhaps some testy and tense moments too into the presidential theater. And I’m still counting on that possibility, if not probability, while at the same time .summarily discounting all pretenders to the throne milling around like a colony of ants as “presidential aspirants” in this match-up.

But even so, I’m sticking out my neck to tell the end from the beginning. And that is the result and real meaning of Cutting-Edge Analytics---Where the News Meets the Intellect—My Staple!

What a year!

And this is wishing all my readers Merry Xmas and Grand Entry in a Happy New Year!

And to the Nkemba of Nnewi: Get Well!

And the nation in general: A successful electoral outing in the Presidential Slugfest 2011!

Bon Voyage!

Franklin Otorofani is an Attorney and Public Affairs Analyst. Contacts:

mudiagaone@yahoo.com, http://franklinotorofani.wordpress.com/


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