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State of the Nation and a Credible 2011 Elections: Matters Arising

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Written by: Nigeria

While the recuperation of President Yar’Adua lasts, the obvious is that Goodluck Jonathan would continue to stand in for the fomer as the pilot of the Nigerian state. In this sense, President Yar’Adua may, if not impeached before he is medically certified fit to resume work, be the one who would conduct the 2011 elections. The other possibility however, is that, if Yar’Adua fails to make it back either due to medical reasons or impeachment, then, Jonathan would be the one who would conduct the 2011 elections. It is against this backdrop and other considerations that this article basis its analysis of the probable factors which may mar the conduct of a credible 2011 elections.

In a recent interview which Jonathan granted the Cable News Network, he confirmed the much speculated news that he might be heading for the running mate’s ticket of the presidential ticket bearer of the PDP. Although he downplayed the possibility of running for the presidential primary under the PDP, this option, Jonathan did not outrightly dismiss. While confirming the foresaid, in a response to Christiane Amanpour, a CNN correspondent’s question on whether he would be presenting himself as a presidential candidate during the 2011 elections, Jonathan proclaimed, “for now, I don't want to think about it. I came in as the vice president to run with President Yar'Adua. Of course, getting close to the period of election, he took ill, and I have to take over under somewhat controversial circumstances. Only last week, I reconstituted the cabinet. So let us see Nigeria move forward first. If the country is not moving, what -- what will I tell Nigerians I want to contest for? Yes, I'm a politician and I would be interested in politics, since I'm still relatively young.” (emphasis is mine) . He went further, “There are options for me if I want to contest election. I can recontest as a vice president to anybody. (emphasis is mine) I can contest as a president, because the laws allow me. But that is not my own priority now. ...: In a smart move to get Jonathan make a categorical statement on his intention, Amanpour enquired further, “But let me just get something straight. You say that you can contest and it's possible that you will contest, yes?.” “It is, of course,” Jonathan replied in the affirmative.

However as earlier suggested in my previous write up entitled, “Yar’Adua-Jonathan Political Muddle: What Lies Ahead?,” the second option would be used by Jonathan to negotiate the running mate’s ticket. Besides reliable insiders’ reports, reading meaning into Jonathan’s body language based on inner understanding of the politics of power and politicking, coupled with a good understanding of Jonathan’s political strength and weaknesses, the above quoted Jonathan’s statement extracts reinforce the correctness of the claim that Jonathan is interested in securing the vice-presidential ticket. By stating that, “I'm a politician and I would be interested in politics,” Jonathan has tacitly expressed his indefatigable willingness to stay put in politics for long and as a dominant game power. To achieve this aim, he considered as would Atiku, the national platform as the place where he should get himself firmly established. Probably, with this in mind, coupled with a personal assessment and realization of his political strength and weaknesses, Jonathan outlined his scaled priorities by first saying, “I can recontest as a vice president to anybody,” and latter adding that, “I can contest as a president, because the laws allow me.” Therefore, based on priority listing and expedient political realities, one of which Jonathan himself identified when he said, “you cannot just wake up and say you want to contest an election to be the president of the country,” Jonathan it can be authoritatively claimed, is jostling for the running mate’s ticket.

Another factor which Jonathan lacks the political capacity to challenge and rubbish is the existing PDP informal zoning arrangement. Aremu Obasanjo who has the Attila gut and possesses the Pharaohnic wit once nursed the idea of circumventing this in-party arrangement, but eventually, he resolved to settle for Yar’Adua in preference to other promising candidates who were from the South. Aremu played the regional political game which truly heated up the polity and made it unstable. However, he eventually backed out of this desperate political adventurism by reconciling with the reality. If this was the fate that befell the one time almighty Balogun of Owu who was then remote controlling the PDP at his will, then, Jonathan would dare not go this path as he is not ready to commit his young political to early death. His response to Amanpour’s question on this informal in-party zonal arrangement clearly suggests that it is a reality which he would never attempt to toy with.

Thus, premised on the preceding analysis, the option of a Jonathan contesting the presidency is merely a political tool needed to negotiate the prioritized, that is, the vice-president’s slot. Since for now securing the running mate’s ticket remains a political dream, one possibility is that it may be realized and the other being, losing out in achieving this political feat. Both options as further analysis would highlight may blur the possibility of conducting a free and fair elections in 2011.

However slim is the likelihood that Jonathan would also be offered the running mate’s ticket, it sounds more logical to first consider how this would stall the chances of conducting free and fair elections. The buildup leading to conduct of a free and fair election begins with the conduct of reasonable free and fair primaries at the political party’s level. Since the gubernatorial, state house and federal houses’ primaries would precede that of a party’s presidential primary, then, it is my contention that, in a way, if these earlier primaries are marred with large scale irregularities, then, it would affect the conduct of a free and fair party’s presidential primary.

Given the presence of a multiple lines of authority and increasing sphere of political godfathering operational space within the state and federal structures of the PDP, the primaries would on unprecedented scale be awashed with money politics. The sitting governors who would be seeking the party’s ticket to enable them stage a possible come back would be locked in a political game of survival against three opposing and powerful influences.
These are fellow political juggernauts that would be pursuing or sponsoring people with similar interest and the presidential flag bearer’s hopefuls, whose chances of emergence at the Party’s national primary would be affected by the outcome of the states’ primaries. The last stream of influence belongs to the class of those who would be seeking tickets into the state and federal house of assembly respectively. Therefore in the absence of the Aremu-like politically imposing and dictatorial central leadership, it would be difficult for the federal structure of the PDP to select or impose candidates at the level of states’ primaries. This should not be mistaken as being politically impossible as politics is the act of the impossible. Inner understanding of party politics would make one to make an informed and historically favoured guess that, money politics would be one of the ways that the federal agenda as well as those of the expectant presidential ticket seekers would be realized at the state level. It is part of the usual political game that, promising presidential ticket seekers would be involved as much as possible in the states’ primaries in order to guarantee their stakes at the federal level. The other option which the federal and those in control of the affairs in Aso-Villa may and often use, is to deploy institutions like the EFCC and ICPC to persecute and prosecute competing political foes. This was gainfully and repressively employed by Obasanjo.

With our assumption premised on Jonathan seeking a running mate’s ticket, then, efforts would be made by him to heavily influence the states’ primary elections. Bearing in mind that, in addendum to other factors earlier outlined, Jonathan does not have the political structure that is required to pursue his political dream at the state level, let alone strong enough to prosecute and sustain his political interest at the national stage, then, he would be banking on the EFCC as a make up. The situation of things on ground would surely favour Jonathan in using the EFCC to embark on such politically motivated persecution and prosecution of thieving governors, past and present, as the Yar’Adua-Jonathan’s administration, dissimilar that of Obasanjo, is not known to have been doing this. Also, the somehow inactive Waziri led EFCC, unlike the active but selective Ribadu manned EFCC, is yet to register its presence as a serious anti-corruption agency. Therefore, by re-activating EFFC’s perkiness through politically provoked persecution and prosecution, the body can easily hoodwink the masses. Jonathan’s body language clearly supports this informed political insight.

There are a number of personal remarks made by Jonathan which placed one on a good stead to make the above authoritative claim. The most categorical of these statements was made by Jonathan in a meeting which was held under the umbrella of the Centre for Global Development, with a diverse audience comprising diplomats and businessmen. He stated, “the perception and comments of the people is that the present EFCC after Ribadu is not performing up to expectation. I believe they are doing their best. Some have even called for the merging of the two anti-corruption bodies, the EFCC and the ICPC.” Hence, this shows that the basis upon which it was earlier founded, the projection that the EFCC can be smartly used to pursue ulterior political agendas, is well known to Jonathan and his group. This would play a significant role in Jonathan’s resilient attempt to grab the running mate’s ticket. It is for this reason that more energy would be directed at getting the EFCC running after some political targets in an effort that would be packaged as governmental zero tolerance to corruption. On an emphatic note Jonathan proclaimed, “I can assure you that we are going to review the EFCC to strengthen the body to make it perform. We are going to look into the organization, because for people to bring in their money into the country, they must be sure and be assured…. The next thing that Nigerians get worried about is the issue of corruption. You know we've been accused of people who have privilege position in government amassing wealth at the expense of society. So they expect us to take these two issues seriously.” What would be projected as a means of attracting foreign investors is in reality, a major part of Jonathan’s game plan of becoming. However, the consolation is that more exposures would be made about how the gangsters ruling over us have become obsessed with stealing our common wealth to build political empire and burry our hope of a better future. All of this would one day, be useful when a desirable hand eventually evolves as the leader of Nigeria.
In effect, the EFCC while embarking on its anti-corruption crusade whose ulterior motive would be to cage Jonathan’s political opponents, would land some big fishes in problems. Therefore, the EFCC would be sending signals that it meant real business, such which be reeled with the message, stay off Jonathan’s path of becoming. The EFCC would comb politicians at the state and federal levels, but, more effort would be concentrated on the former than the latter. Both past and serving governors and other state political officers may not be able to come out clean; therefore, efforts would be made by some of these endangered politicians to firstly seek the protection of Jonathan. This would make it possible for Jonathan to make some inroads into the states’ primary elections as concessions would be traded and granted based on factoring Jonathan’s stake into these elections. However, it would be expected that some well established light-fingered political lords would dare Jonathan by challenging their harassment and indictment in the court of law. Such individual would also leave no stone untouched in making sure that Jonathan’s agenda at the state level is frustrated. They could go as far as machinating the impeachment of Jonathan by exposing his dirty activities and those acts of omission and commission of his, which constitute impeachable offence. Since it would be impossible for Jonathan to have a smooth sailing with his agenda at the state’s level, money politics, coercive political gimmick would be used in completing the anticipated tsarist activities of the EFCC. In the consequence, the PDP’s state primary elections would be marred with irregularities.
At the national level, the primary of the PDP would witness a keen contest, and as it would have been with those of the state, money politics would occupy its centre stage. Those who might have been offended by Jonathan’s incursion into the waters of the state politics would seek revenge. In the light of this, the primary would also be symbolically reeled with irregularities. Owing to this development, two things are likely to happen to Jonathan’s political plans. It is possible that he would not be given the running mate’s ticket, and this is my take on this issue. The other probability is that he might be offered this ticket.

If he is denied the running mate’s ticket, it is possible that he would like to seek revenge by conducting a free and fair election. However, since Jonathan would not like to retire from politics at this younger age of his, then, seeking revenge by conducting a free and fair election may be done away with by Jonathan. If, eventually he gets the running mate’s ticket, the acceptance of the candidature of the PDP presidential flag bearers may also determine whether the election would be free and fair. The push to rig would also receive a high stake in the PDP’s political computation if, the proposed mega party’s presidential aspirant is a credible, and well-connected national political actor whose political machinery is oiled with sufficient cash. This would leave the PDP with the option of rigging as they would not want to lose the control of the centre.
There is the need to bear in mind that we are still working on the assumption that Jonathan is the one that would be in charge of the affairs of the country until the 2011 elections would be conducted. In deciding to walk the honourable path by not seeking elective post, it may be possible that Jonathan can supervise the conduct of a credible election. This would also require a merit based review of the electoral commissioners that should be retained or replaced. A good replacement for Maurice Iwu would therefore be necessary. However, the choice of Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as it is being proposed should be discarded in totality as I have no misgiving that this man is a diabolic character. Ribadu had no doubt made some positive contributions which I have highlighted in some of my previous articles. But given his antecedent as a game player that knows how to get his hand in the gloves with those that call the shot; his choice may further make the conduct of a free and fair 2011 elections a mirage. It may be necessary to at this stage digress into some past misgivings of Ribadu and the recent ones he has started embarking upon.

During the profligate Obasanjo’s regime, Ribadu submitted in February 2006, a report to the Federal Executive Council which indicted Chief Olabode George’s led Nigerian Port Authority, NPA. The report identified reckless financial abuse and brazen violations of the laws guiding the conduct of the activities of the NPA and public servants. While commenting on this report following its submission, Ribadu assertively claimed, “the committee has established that the board and management of the NPA during the period under review were responsible for the flagrant violation of the existing government rules and regulations of award of contracts.” In a twist of tongue and change of gear to offer protection to the sacred cow, Nuhu Ribadu latter made a 360 degree u-turn by shamelessly explaining why Olabode George would not be prosecuted. The double mouthed and diabolic Nuhu Ribadu now proclaimed, “Olabode George was never an executive officer of NPA. He was a part-time Chairman. It is the Executive Managing Director who runs the place; it was the MD’s name that appeared in all the contract papers of NPA. Olabode George was a part-time Chairman whose name was never on any contract paper.” It took the boldness of the not too serious-minded Waziri to make Bode George face the full wrath of the law.

This diabolic tendency I have also observed Ribadu displaying in his recent remarks, one of which I will cite to argue my case. Ribadu who was the brain behind the meeting which the Centre for Global Development held in honour of Jonathan during the latter’s visit to the United State proudly told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, “Of course, I am one of the several Nigerians who are celebrating his coming here and he is giving us a new opportunity of partnership with the US and I am happy to be part of it. We look forward to a wonderful relationship that will be fruitful and beneficial to our own people and the US.” This is the same Ribadu who, in 2006, caught Jonathan’s wife attempting to run away with, a sum of 104 million naira allegedly stolen from the Bayelsa state’s covers. It was the same man who again, in September 2006, discovered and seized from Jonathan’s wife, Patience, a whopping amount of 13.5 million dollars, allegedly looted from the same Bayelsa state’s treasury. We should forget all these, Ribadu seems to be suggesting since the man, Jonathan, has overlooked his own’s mess as well. If Ribadu is that man of a reliable character who should be respected for the values he claims to be defending, why would he love to work with a man whose wife he caught laundering the money that was stolen by her husband, Jonathan. I am least surprised as one good turn deserves another. Jonathan has for no tenable reason withdrawn the criminal charges against Ribadu. This sacred cow treatment was gratefully welcomed by Ribadu who would prefer an arranged acquaintance to a court decision which sanctions such pronouncement after a thorough investigation. A man of principle would have requested that the court be allowed to prosecute him without any interference and further request that Jonathan allows his wife’s pending case of money laundering be investigated before they can forge a working relationship. In refusing to do this, Ribadu has shown that he is not a man of integrity that we think of. Also, if Jonathan truly wants Nigerians to take him serious, he should firstly commence with the case of his wife and then, look for the likes of Col. Abubakar Dangiwa Umar (rtd) as the possible replacement for Maurice Iwu. On this note, it is my submission that Ribadu’s possible return to INEC may also mar the conduct of a free and fair election.

Besides the need to change the hands that manage the affairs of INEC, there is the need to reform our electoral laws. Yar’Adua had before his sickness, sent the edited version of the Uwais Electoral Reforms’ report to the House for necessary action. It is sad to note that Jonathan would make a deceitful and categorical claim that he was the one who sent to the National Assembly, in its unedited version, the report of the Uwais Committee on Electoral Reforms. Anthony Manzo, the Senate deputy spokesperson, was the one who first exposed this fraudulent claim as white lies by educating the public that Jonathan did not submit any Uwais committee’s report, let alone in its unedited form. In other words, Manzo made a claim that is yet to be refuted by Jonathan that it was the modified Uwais’s report submitted by the ailing President Yar'Adua that lays down the template of the house’s debate on a bill to amend the Act establishing the Independent National Electoral Commission. Again, this has exposed Jonathan as a man who cannot be trusted with the conduct of free and fair elections and as someone who is getting blinded by his ambition of clinging onto to power by laying claim to what he has not done and that which was not done by him. Since Jonathan has politicized the Uwais’s report and has fallen short of showing genuine commitment in allowing the report to be processed and passed into law, especially those aspects which guarantee the independence of INEC, then, it is obvious that the man is not ready for any credible elections. Anyway, Jonathan’s indifference and politicization of the Uwais’s report has again confirmed my earlier analysis that electoral irregularities is part of the means that has been accommodated in his game of staying put in national politics by securing the vice-presidency running mate’s mandate.

Having analyzed the likelihood of the conduct of a free and fair election by Jonathan in his capacity as the acting President, to address the second part of our projection, focus would now be on Yar’Adua. This is based on the assumption that Yar’Adua would resume office after recovering from his sickness and that he would not be impeached before he is certified fit to resume work. It may be necessary to highlight that Jonathan has given the good ahead for the National Interest Group (NIG) to initiate Yar’Adua’s impeachment proceeding. Indications have emerged that the Executive Council of the Federation (EXCOF) would pass to the National Assembly, a written document on the state of Yar’Adua’s health. This would leave room for ambiguous interpretations, therefore making it possible for it to be drawn, conclusion that Yar’Adua is incapacitated as to continue with his functions as the President of the country. The report which would include the outcome of Jonathan’s meeting with the pastors who had earlier met with the bedridden Yar’Adua, would be corroborated with the claim of some of the Imams who also met with Yar’Adua, that he could not speak. Other supporting facts would also be provided. Other sentiments that would be accommodated in the document to be transferred to the National Assembly can be drawn from Jonathan’s statement which reads, “Well, when somebody is seriously ill, either the president or a citizen of Nigeria, and by virtue of being a president is a public figure, but still when you are seriously ill, we would respect the opinion of the family. And, the thinking of the family is that, insulate him from most of the key actors in government. I have not seen him. The Senate president has not seen him, Speaker of the House of Representatives has not seen him, and other senior government officials.” Going by the calculation on ground, this effort would fail.
Still on the projection that Yar’Adua would be fit enough to stage a comeback, a development which would naturally qualify him to conduct the 2011 elections, one thing that is certain is that, he would not be seeking a second term in office. Also, he would use the EFCC for some sanitization moves as he would like to make this one of the feats that was attained during his reign in office. Above and beyond, there is a high possibility that he can conduct free and fair elections.

The opposition party could also go a long way to alter the look of things if some deft moves are made by them. The major deterrent that may make such role unattainable is the fact that the opposition cannot speak with one voice. However, to a reasonable extent, the mega party that I suggested in my first article on state of the nation (Yar’Adua-Jonathan Political Muddle: What Lies Ahead?,) may be able to play positive roles in this regards. Doing this would require that at all levels; the mega party must open up its political space for transparent and ideologically directed internal democracy. My fear, however, is that, Nigerian political parties are not ideologically structured and principled. If this could be done, then, candidates with grassroots presence, high public rating and with good antecedents should be allowed the opportunity to fly the party’s flagship in different elective positions. With this, the mega party would be able to mobilize the required vote and have a massive army that would be trained on how to make their vote counts. The concept of making the people’s vote count would be addressed in one of my forth coming articles. This would surely open new vistas that could be worked upon by fellow scenario and electoral experts.

The second way through which the mega party can contribute to the staging of a credible 2011 polls is to collaborate with some progressive layers in the country in sensitizing the masses to demand for option A4 as the balloting system that should be used in the conducting the next general elections. The Nigerian Labour Congress, and other trade unions, Human Rights Non-Governmental Organizations, Religious leaders, and other groups such as the SNG should be teamed up with, on the scheme of action which is being proposed in this piece. These groups should embark on a mass based sensitization drive which I am suggesting should be code named “Operation Make Your Vote Counts.” This would require three stages of operation. The first stage would require a consensus to be reached on what to do and how to achieve this aim. Regarding what to do, this, I have suggested. How to do this?, would now be addressed.

The first stage in “How to Do This?” is to identify some progressive grassroots persons that could be trained in coordinating and supervising massed based sensitization activities in different strata of the society. These individuals should be called “Make Your Vote Count Marshals.” These should be provided for, at the ward, local government, state, regional and national levels. They should be trained on how to coordinate the cells under their commandership. This would be serving two purposes, one, helping the mega party to mobilize people for the next elections and to use them as readymade hands that would foster the process leading to the conduct of a free and fair elections. After a stipulated time frame, the “Make Your Vote Count Marshals” should be given the mandate to conduct public shows and demonstrations on the concept of “Make Your Vote Counts.” They should penetrate the rank and file, the market women, students, professionals, craftmen, even, the area boys and the mekundurus. This is to set the stage for a state based rally that would be held on the same day in different states of the federation. This rally should be used in demanding for “Option A4 Balloting System.” A second series of regional based rally should be held simultaneously in six different selected places of the Nigerian six geopolitical zones. Also, this should be used in demanding for “Option A4 Balloting System.” The last in the series of the rally should be the one that would be held in Abuja and on this occasion, effort should be made to ground all the activities in the Federal Capital. The rally should be targeted at getting the Federal Government to approve the “Option A4 Balloting System.” Since the government would not concede to this demand at a go, then, the mindset of the people should be prepared that they won’t leave the barricade until the government meets with their demands. We can learn from the Bangkok experience. There is a high possibility that, if well implemented and adequately mobilized for, this would go a long way to change the look of things.

On a concluding note, it is therefore my humble estimation that more than a Jonathan with a vested political interest or the mere replacement of Maurice Iwu with another chameleon character is required to conduct free and fair elections in 2011. The right ambiance needs to be worked out by sensitizing the people and mobilizing them to compel the government in doing the right thing needed to bring about the desirable changes being desired by the suffering populace of Nigeria.

The writer, Mr. Adebiyi Jelili Abudugana, a former UNILAG student leader can be reached through

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