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Presidential Election Showdown: Stalemate or Bloodbath?

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--

By: Franklin Otorofani
 Published April 17th, 2011

With the much hyped ďalliance talksĒ between Buhariís CPC and Ribaduís ACN that could have produced a joint ticket for both parties hitting the rocks and going the way of history like all such previous talks in the nationís electoral history, this Saturdayís presidential election has become pretty much a three-way slugfest among the leading candidates of the PDP, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, who doubles as the sitting president, retired General and former Military Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC, and retired AIG and former EFCC chairman, Mallam Nuhu Ribabu, of the ACN.

But wait a minute: somebody else is missing in this match-up who goes by the name Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau of the ANPP, and the only sitting governor in this election cycle to vie for the presidency. That is unique as it sets him apart from the others. Is it fair then to shunt him aside just like that without giving him the opportunity to prove his mettle in the presidential election calculus like others? I think it is not fair, because fair is square. However, readers would understand why I have deliberately omitted the Kano State Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau in the match-up, who is, at least technically, also in the race. I plead for forgiveness from his teaming (?) supporters up there in Kano state for deliberately omitting him, but others understand the reason perfectly well. It has to do with numbers at the NASS election. Has he got them? No, he hasnít got much numbers to flaunt around to warrant serious mention here. 

Having put that aside, therefore, the question that immediately comes to mind is about the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates, and by extension their respective parties going into this election. If we might ask then: how confident are the candidates and their parties in their abilities to deliver in the presidential poll this Saturday that is already taking place as I pen these lines?

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Going by their public utterances each of the candidate is sure of victory at the polls, yet only one of them will make it no matter how crowded the field may be. Yes, many may be called but only one will be chosen. What that means invariably is that two of the candidates (discounting Shekarau), who have assured themselves and their supporters of their victory at the polls are living in the world of grandiose illusion and delusion and are not being true to themselves and their supporters. Their bloated egos would not allow them to see their true electoral worth on the ground.

However, the only means to reflect their chances at the polls before them and their supporters is through some acceptable measurements of their popularity and public acceptability across the nation. In previous elections there were no ready metrics to gauge the popularity of the candidates prior to elections as obtains in other advanced democracies, and everything was pretty much based on guesswork with each candidate claiming to be the most acceptable and most popular amongst the electorates. Thus both the citizens and the candidates went to the polls in blindfolds without the slightest idea of how they stand in the public assessment of their chances relative to one another. But not so anymore as credible, scientifically verifiable public polling methods long employed in advanced democracies to gauge the electoral worth and status of individual candidates have since birthed in Nigeria in this election cycleóthanks to THISDAY Newspapers.

The management of the newspapers in its continued effort to making our electoral system more open and transparent, predictable, and less foggy, had teamed up with Ipsos, an internationally acclaimed public polling firm that had conducted election polling in virtually all corners of the globe in both advanced and emerging democracies, to produce presidential polling results that have consistently favored Jonathan, the PDP candidate. In its polling conducted between February 25 and March and March 16, 2011 nationwide, for instance, the PDP candidate grossed 60.3% of the popular votes to beat his closest rival, Buhari, who scored 22.4%, while Ribadu finished with 4.7 behind Ibrahim Shekarau of the ANPP, who grossed 5.9% of the popular votes, beating Ribadu in the number three spot. 

This meant that if the presidential election had been held at the time the polling was conducted the PDP candidate could have comfortably coasted home to victory leaving his closest rival trailing behind in the dusts. However, as would be expected, those who did poorly in the polls reacted with anger and hostility as usual, accusing the pollsters of padding up the numbers for the front runner and demanding an explanation of the methodology employed at arriving at such results. Anyway, that is to be expected in a society not used to public polling. Ipsos therefore felt compelled to respond to the hostility from the opposition camp, which the results clearly did not favor by laying out the procedure used and its accomplishments in other countries using the same methodology that produced the results. Ipsos must have been taken aback by such hostility. That was its baptism in Nigeria. Surely, it would have been lauded to high heavens if it had found either Ribadu or Buhari as the leading candidate in the polling results. But it did not and that was an unforgivable sin in Nigeria, at least in the opposition camp. THISDAY/Ipsos were indeed lucky not to have been dragged before the election tribunals with the accusation of ďdoctoringĒ the poll results. Suffice it to state however that the open hostility toward public opinion polling results does nothing to detract from the credibility of its methodology and therefore its results. As we can see clearly its results have been borne out by the results of the NASS elections. 

However, that was about a month ago and even a week is too long in politics for the dynamics to have changed.  But then there has been other more recent polling conducted by TNS-RMS, described by the Nigerian Tribune in its March 29, 2011 edition as ďthe largest research company in Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa,Ē which was said to have collected data from 15, 124 respondents from all the states across the nation and came with the same conclusions favouring Jonathan and Governor Fashola of Lagos state, amongst others. That would seem to have finally settled the issue as to who amongst the threesome is the true front runner in the lead up to this Saturdayís election. For me personally I believe in evidence and proofs and numbers not sentiments. Give me the numbers and Iíll be fine, not emotions.  

Therefore, if we were looking for some metrics to gauge the relative strengths and weaknesses of the candidates rather than through purely emotional and primordial prisms which may or may not hold up to the real facts on the ground, we now have something on our hands to work with. However, for those who do not believe in or have no faith in public opinion polls, the results of the NASS elections could provide reasonable alternative guide as to where matters stand at this moment in time going into the presidential election. And as for those who neither believe in opinion polls nor in the results of the NASS elections I do not have any more answers for them except to advise that they should produce the results of their own internal polling or other measures of the electoral status of the candidates, because there has got to be some measure of these things since politics is a game of numbers not just sentiments, and opinion poll is about the numbers, that is to say, the metrics. 

Yet it must be acknowledged that nothing is set in stone even with the results of the opinion polls and the NASS election in that politics is a notoriously uncertain game and anything can change in a twinkle of an eye, especially in an unstable nation like Nigeria as we saw this week with the last minute talk about the merger of the CPC and the ACN. Belated as it was even by Nigerian standards, had that merger or alliance been consummated, it would have surely changed the dynamics overnight. I donít know how far it would have gone it changing the facts on the ground but it would have had some impact no doubt even if minimally, which in elections could very well be the deciding factor. Didnít then Republican candidate, GW Bush, win the US 2000 presidential election by beating then VP and Democratic candidate, Al-Gore, with just about 500 votes in the state of Florida that triggered an endless recount to no avail? Elections have been known to have been won and lost with less than 100 votes in different countries. Therefore, no one should write off the effects of mergers on poll outcomes. They could be far reaching and decisive in the end.

Itís unfortunate that the parties went into it with only their individual interests to advance rather than the public interests, which should have been uppermost in their mindsó a reason for the constant failures of such merger plans in Nigeria. And come to think of it, isnít that an indication that these people are only after their individual interests rather than the public interests, which they profess to be their only goals in their political careers? That is some food for thought for Nigerians to chew on.

With that said however, the fact that the merger talk was mooted at all is an indication of the lack of faith in the parties concerned to go it alone and a belated realization of their individual weaknesses to face up to the PDP on their own. While that was a good thing such realization should have come much sooner and acted upon much sooner than now. It does not take rocket science for political parties to evaluate their chances before the polls and political parties do so routinely in advanced democracies through internal polling to gauge their strengths. Itís more reason why the opposition candidates should have taken the THISDAY/Ipsos polling results more seriously rather than casting aspersions and waiting till the eleventh hour to act on their weaknesses.

No political party that is super confident of its chances at the polls would rush out looking for political suitors in a marriage less than 72 hours to a presidential election. And no presidential candidate that is confident of his chances at the poll would agree to step down for another as Ribadu has himself confessed to doing in favour of Buhari, less than 72 hours to the poll. It is fair to conclude therefore from these last minute moves that both the ACN and the CPC have no faith in their abilities to pull it off on their own hence the merger talks that unfortunately blew up in their faces, thereby further weakening their individual positions. That is because they have by that move already portrayed themselves as weak going into the election. And what is more: the undue publicity given to the talks even before anything concrete had been agreed upon was uncalled for, and it shows those involved were a bunch of amateurs. They should have done the merger negotiation discretely and then spring a surprise on the PDP and the nation with an announcement of its successful outcome and not its failure which has done much to demoralize their supporters across the nation. It was the work of amateurs.

It must not be lost on the leaders of these two parties that the failure to consummate the merger plan has dealt a huge blow to the psyche of their party followers and the opposition in general, who had looked up to that arrangement to knock out the PDP from power at the centre. Not a few of their followers were hugely disappointed in the failure of the merger talks apparently for no tangible reasons. One only had to monitor the blogs to feel their pulse. Despondency is writ large on their blog postings. Their supporters are therefore approaching the presidential election with a certain sense of resignation to the fate that awaits them.

On the contrary, the failure of the talks has buoyed up the spirits of their greatest opponents, the PDP and its supporters, who are now jumping out of their skins literarily and already talking past the Saturday presidential election. This was captured in the statement credited to Jonathanís campaign that the failure of the merger talk had not ďsaddenedĒ the Jonathan campaign, which is an elegant way of putting it. The worst thing a political party could do to its supporters is to raise and dash their hopes at the eleventh hour. It doesnít take a soothsayer to tell that a seriously demoralized party base is a deadly prescription for a certain defeat at the poll.

Itís amazing how these people have consistently refused to learn from history and go for merger talks that they are not prepared to see through thus falsely and callously raising and dashing the hopes of their support bases. Once again both ACN and the CPC leaderships have demonstrated their political cluelessness and immaturity in handling electoral matters. And worst of all, they are engaged in press wars, calling each other names when the opposition should be working together. For example, Bola Tinubu went to Kano in a presidential rally only to descend on Buhari whom he described as ďexpiredĒ leader. And the failure of the merger talks has again provided another opportunity to resume their hostilities toward each other. Both parties are calling each other liars in regard to their respective public accounts of the reasons for the failure of the talks. Do they have to wash their dirty linens in the public over a failed marriage proposal? It further shows their immaturity and amateurish approach to these very important issues which deserve mature handling. One could imagine their supporters shaking their heads in disbelief and total embarrassment.

Now tell me who is the beneficiary of all this. It is the PDP and Jonathan, of course, as if the PDP had not benefitted enough for the lack of unity and fragmentation of the opposition parties since 1999. It appears that the gods have put the Nigerian opposition in perpetual state of disarray and confusion unable to do anything to counter the PDP dominance even in the face of imminent defeat.       

But donít get fooled by the word ďdefeatĒ appearing above. It has has been used in relative rather than in absolute term because it is not at all a dead certainty that the opposition will be defeated in absolute terms even with the results of the opinion polls and the success of the PDP at the NASS election. To be sure, opinion polls are not everything and things could change even in days. Thatís why even those favored to win by polls must never rest on their oars in the mistaken belief that they have victory in their pockets already. And that is reason why Jonathan is not resting on his oars either and still reaching out to critical groups across the nation to further pad up and concretize his numbers for a clear and decisive victory at the polls. Even as president no one has worked harder than candidate Jonathan in reaching out to the electorate and if and when the poll results start rolling in it would be acknowledged that he deserved victory that came his way because he worked his ass off for it more than any other candidate in the presidential contest. That is the fact of the matter.

However, although the PDP had routed the opposition in the NASS election, presidential election is a different ball game altogether, complete with its own peculiar dynamics. This is because those who voted for assembly members in the NASS election could easily change parties when it comes to the presidential election. And those who did not vote in the NASS election may come out to vote in the presidential election and vice versa. The presidential election is the ultimate prize and should bring all or nearly all the voters out to the polls. Thus while the results of the NASS do provide some guidance as to how the presidential election might go they still do not present the entire picture as to the shape of things to come for the reasons stated above. Yet they do provide the outlines of what is to be expected in the presidential election in broad terms.

What then do the NASS election results portend for the presidential candidates? An examination of the results showed that the ACN candidate could comfortably carry the South/West votes in nearly all the states in the region with the possible exception of Ondo state that may go the way of Jonathan due to his reported adoption by Governor Olusegun Mimiko and his Labor Party in the state. But thatís just about it. Ribadu will not make it anywhere in the North save a sprinkling of votes here and there that will amount to nothing in the end. Period! And I donít need to say more on that. Though having some adventitious roots in the South/East and South/South Ribadu can kiss those zones goodbye as well because such hanging roots cannot stand him in a strong enough pedestal. Those ACN candidates like Dr. Chris Ngige in Anambra state, for example, who either won their seats in the South/East or got some votes in the South/South did so on their own individual merits and has nothing to do with the party. Ribadu is not in a similar position in those zones and so cannot be expected to repeat the feat of those candidates in his own right. The reason is that he has not been a known politician all along and has no political capital of his own in the zone. He is a complete rookie. And it is not just in those zones but throughout the entire country. 

Ribadu might be a northerner trying to cash in on the northern votes, but his ACN platform has no roots in the North which is seen and treated as a Yoruba party and nothing is going to change that perception overnight. The fact that he was running around in the North with Tinubu holding his hand and doing all the talking during his campaigns only helped to cement that perception. And if ACN is being treated as a foreign entity in the North as it evidently is, where is Ribadu going to get the votes from in the North? It is next to impossible and the dynamics of the presidential election are definitely not in his favor even in the North. 

And to be honest with you it is not even entirely clear to me that Ribadu is capable of re-enacting the NASS election victory sweep of the South/West by the ACN. As indicated above, presidential elections have their own dynamics and the results of other previous elections are not necessarily a guarantee of similar results in the presidential election. This truism could particularly hold true in the South/West for Ribadu, notwithstanding the performance and seeming dominance of the ACN in the zone.  And as indicated in my previous write-ups, Iím not entirely sure either that the ACN is pulling all the stops as it should under normal circumstance to ensure victory for its presidential candidate or that matter confident of his ability to close the deal on his own. And that could help to explain why it was the ACN, which got more seats than the CPC in the NASS election that was going cap in hand to the CPC to not only form an alliance for the presidential election to face the PDP, but, get this, was only too eager to sacrifice its own presidential candidate, Ribadu, by asking him to step down for Buhari rather than the other way around. How could a supposedly stronger party in a proposed alliance be the one to have its candidate stepping down for the candidate of the weaker party? The body language of the ACN shows that it is only too eager to get rid of Ribadu at the slightest opportunity. The plot to have him step down for Buhari predated this new alliance talks.

And what is more: the fact that Tinubu himself is willing to be consulted by candidate Jonathan whom the party Chairman Bisi Akande confessed had discretely been reaching out to the ACN leadership in contrast to Buhariís hide and seek posture completes the picture of the type of game the leadership of the ACN is playing with its presidential candidate. Itís using him as a pawn in a chessboard and Ribadu knows it. Ribadu may come out of the poll with his face badly battered beyond recognition due largely to the fact that he has no real electoral base of his own and therefore absolutely at the mercy of his party lords particularly Tinubu who has completely overshadowed and eclipsed him in the entire campaign to the last minute. This reminds me of the warning given to Ribadu by Tinubu men during their disagreement over the presidential running mate debacle that going against Tinubuís advice as Ribadu was doing could come back to bite him down the road. That threat seems to be unfolding now. Tinubu is the enemy within for Ribadu and will be his nemesis at the polls. I therefore predict total and absolute bloodbath for Ribadu this Saturday. Itís dead certainty and pretty much cut in stone at this time.  

As for Buhari himself who is killing Ribadu in the north he can forget about the South/West altogether and he has the results of the NASS election to properly advise him on that not his party men who could dupe him with false picture of his chances in the region. With that said, Buhari should do quite well in the North/West, notwithstanding his poor showing in the NASS election. Here is another scenario where the results of the NASS election may not provide much guidance in Buhariís case except of course in the North/Central. Why? Itís because Buhari was not on the ballot in the NASS election as such but his party candidates, therefore his followers might not have seen the need to support the partyís candidates who do not answer the name ďBuhariĒ that excites them. That is the thing with cult figures, their supporters see and relate to them and them alone and not necessarily others associated with them or belonging to the same organizations. There is no question that Buhari has a cult followership in parts of the north and now that he is on the ballot that might change the dynamics in the north in his favor especially in the core north. But does his followership enjoy the critical mass necessary to turn the tables in the north in his favor compared to other segments of the northern publics? That is still up in the air as to whether his support base is huge enough to effortlessly roll over other northerners who do not support him or share in his brand of politics. But at the very least there is no question he will coast to victory in the North/Central zone. Iíll call that for him. And I cannot rule him out in the North/East either where he could spring some surprises to emerge as potentially the biggest beneficiary of the northern votes with the open support of AREWA that he seems to enjoy at the expense of Ribadu and Shekarau. Poor fellows! Their own north has abandoned them to their fate. Talk about level playing field in the north! Itís not there. However, he will meet his waterloo in the North/Central zone for sure.

Unfortunately for him that is the only part of the nation where Buhari is expected to make much headway. As earlier indicated, he will be no-show at all in the South/West. He can also forget about the South/East and South/South. He might get some tokenistic votes in the North/Central in addition to the North/West and North/East, but all of that put together will not be nearly enough to hand him the keys to Aso Rock. It would be nice therefore for the ANPP candidate to withdraw for Buhari so as not to waste the votes of his supporters who might not see or appreciate the big picture about whatís at stake since Ribadu has refused to do so.  Since AREWA and the Adama Ciroma led NPLF want the presidency for the north so bad they should have prevailed on both Ribadu and Shekarau to withdraw for Buhari. And their failure to do so could be fatal to their declared agenda. AREWA and the NPLF might have their trumpeted regional agenda of producing a president of northern extraction in 2011 in place but do not have the means of actualizing it. It sounds all too hollow and directionless as the NASS election results have conclusively demonstrated. 

But like I said earlier things could change this time around as the totally unexpected NASS results could have jolted them to action in mobilizing massively for Buhari in the north. The fact that the trio of Atiku, IBB, and Gusau could betray their own party and presidential candidate to broker a botched alliance talk between Buhariís CPC and the ACN in favor of Buhari is one indication of this desperation on the part of AREWA. But nothing is achieved in an atmosphere of acute desperation. However, even if AREWA and the army generals massively mobilized for Buhari, northern votes alone cannot get him anywhere near Aso Rock. He could shed tears all he wants to fill the Kaduna River as he did in Abuja during the round-up of his campaign, seemingly borrowing a page from Mrs. Rodham Clinton, who cried her way to victory in New Hampshire during the Democratic Primaries with Obama, but that will be to no avail for Buhari. The cold realities on the ground for him are just too stark for him to ignore or gloss over. My crystal balls see nothing but total bloodbath for Buhari in the presidential election.

As has been forecast pretty much by all the bookmakers including yours truly since the beginning of this campaign, the odds are hugely in favor of Jonathan. The PDP candidate could be expected to meet the 25% constitutional threshold in pretty much all the states in the South/West, including Lagos, of course with or without Tinubuís support. For all the name calling and insults on Jonathan, Tinubu may have sold out to Jonathan behind the scene at the expense of his own candidate, Ribadu, if for nothing else to get EFCC and ICPC off his back. He is an old horse who understands his terrain too well. The South/West is therefore a safe bet for Jonathan. And although by no means conclusive proofs, the results of the NASS elections give ample indication of that probability. He should have that region under his column. To cut a long story short Jonathan will run away with victory in all of the southern zones including Edo state where the ACN holds sway presently for the most part as the NASS election results indicate. The core north is where Jonathan might stumble somewhat notwithstanding the fact that he beat Buhari in the north even in his core North/Western zone. That means that Jonathan had four clear zones in his pocket already going inó three in the south and one in the north.

Now, ordinarily four out of six zones should give Jonathan victory, but that would be pulling victory out by the skin of the teeth of opposition. Jonathanís struggle now is not just winning but winning big and convincingly without the need for a presidential run-off. The fact that the southern zones are safe bets for him and he is in fact contesting the opponentsí own turfs with them is proof positive that it is not just a question of victory but the margin of it, for Jonathan. This being the realities on the ground as the polling rolls off, the idea of presidential runoff being banked upon by the opposition ACN and CPC may well be far-fetched and a pipe dream meant to deceive the public into believing that it is working for the victory of Ribadu or Buhari. There is nothing in the ACN game plan to bring about Buhariís or Ribaduís victory. On the contrary, I see the party working with Jonathan behind the scenes to be allowed a free hand to roll over the PDP in the South/West in return for its support for Jonathan in the presidential election. Do not say I told you this. Itís just my gut feeling, and who knows, it could be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Any evidence of that so far? Yes, that Tinubuís presidential flight to Abuja to consult with Jonathan provides a window if not the proof!   

So to the question as to whether it is going to be a stalemate or bloodbath, I would answer confidently without equivocation or hesitation that itís total bloodbath and complete annihilation of the opposition in the hands of Jonathan as it was written in the books. And if in doubt checkout the reported prophesy of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Jonathan may well be the fulfillment of it.

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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