2015 General Elections: Season of Good Intentions and Mammoth Promises in Preparation for yet Another National Farce?!
It is an open secret that Nigeria is barely a year away from the 2015 General Election. Recently, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will declare open the campaign season. I read a post on Facebook today which seem to indict President Goodluck Jonathan of breaching the rule of the game. He was accused of making statements in his tour of the country which was as good as campaigning. The post claimed Mr. President prophesied that Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) will win back states hitherto in the hands of the opposition or which have by defection of the governors in those states fallen into the hands of the opposition. The post cautioned Mr. President pointing out it was not yet time for campaigning.
The post went on to list the failings of the Jonathan Administration and what I believed will be the selling points of the opposition in the forthcoming election, namely the various scandals of the present administration among many other failed promises. I need not list them one by one. Readers, especially Nigerian readers are by now familiar with the unfortunate reality that the Jonathan Presidency is a catastrophe. I will spare them the trauma of having to read of the woeful performances once again.
No doubt, the post is most certainly from a concerned Nigerian (group), who is tired of a failed government. Really, I doubt if there is anyone who is still not tired of this present government. I will want to correct a particular impression very quickly though, which is that anyone who speaks against bad government is Anti-Jonathan or that this group of persons hates President Jonathan. Nobody hates Mr. President! What we dislike and cannot wait to have it done with is the failed administration President Jonathan stands for, leads, represents and seem to promote with his body language and many gaffes. Take for instance, if today President Jonathan commits to good governance in action (mark the emphasis: in action!), I will be the first person to say so. So far so good, Mr. President has done nothing good for the country. He has kept none of his promises.
I am yet to read the response of the opposition, that is from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the declaration of Mr. President. I can but already guess what they are likely to respond. The reaction of the opposition will be to counter with a sharply formulated press release pointing out that Mr. President must have be joking when he made those prophesies. If he thinks the opposition will sit still while PDP regain this state, then he had better woken up from his sleep. I can imagine the possibility of a counter counter-response from the presidency; this time around, not from President Jonathan himself, but from one of his attack-dogs, Dr. Abati or Doyin Okupe. The latter is always good at such counter counter-responses.
What exactly is the import of this short narrative? Here is it: A good watcher of election into political offices in Nigeria in the current republic will be clear about the unshakable fact that the tone for forthcoming general election in 2015 had already been set long before INEC even released timetables for the conduct of elections. This recent talk by President Jonathan is yet another confirmation of the kinds of words that will be traded in during the campaign season. I need warn the electorate they better gear up for yet another season of declarations and yet lots more declarations of the intentions, from the ruling party and equivalent counter responses from the opposition. The opposition too will make declarations upon declarations and the electorate can be sure the PDP will not be slack in counter-responding.
What exactly is wrong with making declaration(s) and promises? Absolutely nothing! I definitely have nothing against it(them) so long the declarant in truth meant to be taken by his word(s). And that is exactly where the problem lies. It will be stating the very obvious to say for instance that hardly could one get three of the present governments at the state level who has been working based on the templates of their declarations and promises prior to their elections. Due to a special form of political amnesia, they seem to forget almost instantly all the declarations and promises made once they get elected.
I decisively did not reference President Jonathan in this regard because nobody doubts that he has failed already even before his four year term ends. By the way, in order to comprehend how terribly hard Mr. President is hit with this kind of political amnesia, readers only need google series of articles by Mr. Sonala, which he wrote shortly before the last general election, which President Jonathan was declared to have won. Anyone who read the lists of promises and declarations made by President Jonathan on his many campaigns would certainly have given up on him as a credible candidate. He promised too much more than he himself could even believe. At a point, I was sure to conclude this candidate is a good joker, who understands quite well the art of his trade, especially in a country where the electorate forget too quickly and forgive too easily. He had his eye only on the presidency. He cared less about anything he said. He would have even promised his head as trophy only to get elected!
I will easily bet my shirt on the assertion that hardly can be found two governors in Nigeria who went into the election with any clear-cut programme of what (s)he intends to do if elected into office. They have at best blurred vision and carelessly tailored agenda, barely written down map of action on what they will do year after year for the four years of their administration if eventually elected. Same is applicable to President Jonathan. Beyond the promises and declarations of good intentions on campaign trips and trails, it is doubtful if there is a written-down programme detailing his plans for the country. I am not talking of party manifesto. Anyway, why talk of party manifesto when, even if available, can only be taken on face value. There simply is no reliable goal saving corruption.
That is why it is much more convenient for elected officials to spend most of their time looking for perceived political enemies to expose, fight and conquer. If they could get none, they create one. Phantoms saboteurs are sighted everywhere and these elected officials are quick to cry wolf even before a wolf is sighted! One wonders how credible it is for example when barely a week or two of being elected into office a governor comes out to declare that he and his new (wo-)men in office have uncovered mammoth scams and scandals left behind by former administration. They would simply cry foul claiming that the previous administration left the state in mountains of debt and that the former governor had robbed the state blind and beyond redemption. They met empty or bleeding treasuries. This is a common claim.
Clearly, I am not doubtful of the fact that the previous governor might be a thief. In fact, I believe he is a thief and treasury looter. But it still boils down to the question of credibility of claim from the newly elected governor: How could he have been able to uncover such scams and scandals and mammoth debt, and reliably so, within few days of being elected into office? Even well-established accounting firms would require far longer period of time to come out with a (un-)clean bill of health if employed to audit the financial activities of a small company, let alone a whole state government! No doubt, the newly ushered-in government sees it convenient to cry foul right from the on-set, discredit his/her predecessor, who is anyway a discredited rogue. This trend of bulk-passing continues however throughout the tenure of the newly elected governor. If unseated in the next general election, his/her replacement continues the same pattern!
An observer will recognise without much ado a government that has not only good intentions but a road-map on how to navigate the murky water of political deal-cutting, which is beneficial to the people without being reduced to a mere sit-out-your-term-of-office-government! To emphasize this point, I will cite the Lagos State Government under Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF). BRF is a governor, who had even commenced implementing his programme for Lagos state long before he was officially inaugurated. Think of the special Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) buses already ordered in their hundreds, if not thousands, and parked in various garages across the state! Think of the BRT special lanes cut-out on Lagos-roads! In fact, one could at the time notice there was a coming of some real good fresh air into the Lagos State Government House. The people were not disappointed. He came in to confirm what they had already sensed. He landed running like a aeroplane. Governor Fashola has since not stopped.
This is a man who would go as far as threatening to severe relationship with perceived political godfather if the latter would constitute a nuisance to the realisation of his goals. How else can it be interpreted when he was once quoted to have said only a failure will and must repeat. He cared less about being elected for a second term if that would mean he would be hindered from delivering on his election promises. He cared more about implementing his well-defined plans, which he promised during campaigns. He left his fate in hands of the electorate. It paid off.
The determination of a governor like him has only brought to the fore the failure of his counterparts in other parts of the country. It goes further to confirm my fear that these other men had before election nothing beyond good intentions for the state over which they govern. They laud the achievements of their Lagos State counterparts, wish they had comparable financial weight to Lagos State, then they clamour for more money in order to perform. On the one hand, BRF became a reference point for good governance in a corrupt environment bankrupt on good ideas. On the other hand, these money-hungry fellows find in BRT achievements a tool for blackmail; they wanted more money in order to (out-)perform this epitome and standard of planned and objective governance.
To understand how terrific and catastrophic the effect of planlessness can be on a large scale when one brings it to the national stage, one only needs change the context of application: Imagine this scenario of I-have-only-good-intentions in a bid to occupy the office of president of Nigeria. Within seconds of a successful imagination, it will be as glaring as day and night why good governance has thus far eluded Nigeria in every sense.
Not even a blind man would doubt by now that President Jonathan has so far not fulfill on his promise to deliver regular power supply in the country! He is barely a year to the end of his first term in office! In an interview with Christine Amanpour of CNN last year, he claimed the country was enjoying better electricity supply and that the people could confirm this claim is true! A man that can make this kind of claim about electricity supply in Nigeria, knowing fully well it was (and is still) a lie, undoubtedly needs his head checked. The question is: Why promise what you know you cannot deliver politically or realistically? The answer is not far-fetched: Say anything just to impress the electorate! President Jonathan had and presently has no plan for the power sector, neither in the short nor long term. The power sector is one of his failures!
Come to think of it: This man did not on his own intend or plan to be vice president when he was like a thunderstorm struck down on Nigerians by President Obasanjo. He eventually went ahead to become acting president and was later elected on his own ticket. Except we are in a different country, a man who was brought into office by pure chance, sheer good-luck and regional sentiments could not be expected to do anything good for Nigeria. Here we are still very much doubtful, and that rightly so, that even those who by their own choice contested, had no cut-out plans beyond good intentions for the office if elected! Does anyone need tell Nigeria that she is doomed for the next four (eventuall eight) years with the election of a man brought to national limelight by sheer good-luck, ill-fated political machinations of his benefactors and godfather?
Before I go on, I need point out another open secret: President Jonathan was a bad payback for Nigeria and Nigerians for not being grateful to a former president who thinks the country need be eternally grateful that Mother Nature bequeathed him on us. Since we did not give President Obasanjo a chance to run for a third term in office, we therefore need be punished. Nobody by now still doubts that President Jonathan is a best punishment anyone could imagine appropriate for Nigeria. Even the punisher, namely Chief Obasanjo himself could hardly believe his luck with the jackpot he won in the Jonathan candidacy! He wanted a disastrous replacement for himself. He got it. In fact, he got more than he bargained for! He must have been happy beyond words. His open letter confirms this.
A wise reader of that letter would be smart to read beyond the words of that letter in which Chief Obasanjo laments the failings of President Jonathan. Here is the irony: Chief Obasanjo cautions President Jonathan to be statesmanly in his approach and dealings. He should unite the ruling party instead of encouraging a drifting apart. He talked about accusations against President Jonathan’s financing the training of snipers in preparation for the forthcoming elections. He talked about and wished for many other things in that letter. Now, for crying out loud: This is a disaster, whose election as vice president Chief Obasanjo personally supervised and consequently installed. Chief Obasanjo was not in doubt Alhaji Yar’Adua, the president on whose ticket Goodluck Jonathan ran as vice president, would not survive his first term of office! Could it be then that he was so short-sighted to know that President Jonathan would be a good-for-nothing replacement of himself? No, he was not!
Let us return to the issue at hand, namely the forthcoming 2015 general elections. We need not be pretentious of the certainty of what awaits us during this season. The campaign season will be fully maximized by both the ruling party, namely PDP and many other parties in the country. The elections will be hotly contested. The season is a time in which the polity will be hotter than the preceding four years. Politicians will explore every tool available to them, ranging from outright blackmail to crudest forms of abuses and name-calling, from unnecessary bad-mouthing and physical battery to broad-day-light election-motivated assassination of intral- and inter-party opponents. In order to be nominated as candidates, there will be sharing of monies (actually peanuts!) and gifts to the selection committees. The real big monies will go to party chairmen and chairwomen. Perceived kingmakers like Chief Bode George and Chief Anenih of the PDP will surge in importance. They will be sighted on campaign platforms endorsing all forms, breeds and types of candidates. Prominent leaders of the opposition will gladly cut out deals for themselves without any show of shame or remorse at outrightly jumping at whatever alliances that offer them the best grab and gains; alliances they had earlier sworn never to enter will suddenly become the only alternative overnight. They will show muscle and heavyweight in the choice of nominated candidates for different levels of political offices in the country.
In short, money, and blood too, will flow in abundance in the country in the next one year. There shall be accusations of corruption and cheating. The PDP will deny any foul play and the opposition will counter with cries of alarmingly high rate of shameful and disgraceful rigging. We shall also not miss the mammoth promises which shall be made on campaign trails and trips. Many good intentions shall be made public by contestants. INEC will assure that it shall try its best to be an impartial commission. Names of candidates and voters shall be missing while INEC keeps promising to rectify these humanly unavoidable errors. Indeed, INEC will try its best. But we must be clear about one fact: Everything that will be done will be a repetition of what we already know and have gone through before. There could be a more perfection of the various rigging methods available to both the ruling party and the opposition.
Among all these things that shall happen, I must not forget to mention what will be the most unfortunate highlight, whatever eventually came to be in the 2015 general elections: The singular looser will be electorate! At the end of this national farcical show, the electorate will have at all levels successfully mortgaged the next four years willingly into the hands of known thieves, new incomers with higher corruptible characteristics than those they dis- or replaced, popular and potential national looters. The conglomeration of people who will end up holding mandates as the peoples’ representatives shall, with the exception of some handful, mirror the worst make-up the country can offer!
Let me zero in on the president. In the past months, close to a year now, the president, though officially yet to declare if he is running for president come 2015, has discovered a pot of gold which will probably be very strategic in his victory in the forthcoming elections, namely the pulpit. Like Rudolf Okonkwo of Sahara Reporters pointedly brought to the fore in one of his articles, the president’s visit to churches almost every Sunday is not a coincident. He is a religious man, no doubt, but the fact that he weekly adorns pulpit is very telling. In any circumstances, all the Nigerian electorate need be told is the possibility of the impossible in religious tones and metaphors.
Besides telling them that nothing is impossible in the name of God, by mounting the pulpit confirms that President Jonathan is not ashamed to be identified with the people’s sentiment, their emotion and most importantly their faith! He is a practical Christian and president! What is more, pastors and leaders of these congregations (will) hug, share jokes and spiritual food with him, they (will) pray for him among many other church rituals which are supposed to guarantee success.
In short, the name of God, the bible and the cross are three powerful elements on the president’s way to victory. Now, we should not forget, one thing that is as sure as day and night in Nigeria, if not even surer than this earthly reality, is to bet on the side of God and religion. Even self-declared moderates on both sides of the divide will not shy away from literarily wielding the clubs and swords in the name of religion to prove a point. A Christian Northerner will rather vote in a President Jonathan because he is Christian than a Northerner who is not! A Christian Southerner will not vote for President Jonathan because he is form the South, but because he is first Christian. He is identifiable with Christ and will promote the benefits of the Cross! These voters will not remember to ask what exactly he intends to do if elected. The voters, who probably vote for the other side of the divide, will unfortunately not vote because they know better to ask what their candidate will do. No! They will have been drawn (un-)willingly into election by religious identification. They would rather vote for a Muslim president or not vote at all!
Here is the point: Good intentions are all we are confronted with. We hear narratives, which are appellants of religious sentiments, potentially divisive and very dangerous recipes. These narratives are anything but clear-cut agenda on what these potential political office holders will do if elected. They are electioneering strategies, which if employed, will/can assuredly guarantee landslide victories in Nigeria. But are these enough? No, certainly not! Do I need to remind readers that the road to hell is full of and paved with good intentions!? It needs no repetitions that elections are not supposed to be based on, campaigned or contested for only on good intentions an mammoth promises without concrete presentation and road-map to their realisation! Unfortunately, this is what is currently obtainable in the country. Good intentions, lots and loads of them! Mammoth promises on what the future holds for Nigeria if the right persons are voted into political offices! Lots and loads of these mammoth promises are what we have! The Nigerian electorate are not unfamiliar with this kind of approach.
This submission brings me to the next crucial matter: I call it the W-questions. On this I will round up. The W-questions to ask are numerous, but here are some of them:
Why are Nigerians then so easily short-changed if they know so well the class of people who short-change them every four years?
Why would they return a government, who promised them regular power supply, only to generate still the same 4000 megawatts after nearly four years in office?
Why will they not stand up for their vote to be counted when they see their votes are not being counted or they are rigged/manipulated?
Why will they sit-down-look while looters, corrupt godfathers and even more thieves and looters are elected into political office?
Why will they not face-up to their oppressors, who live right among them?
Why will they be promised that a litre of petrol will sell for less than 100 Naira only to be sold on the black-market for over 180 Naira?
Why will they not even have petrol or other refined crude oil products to buy even when they are ready to buy even at exorbitant prices? Mind you, this product “grows” in their own backyard o!
Why will they know for sure that Chief Anenih, to mention just one popular corrupt face, is a thief, who stole billions of money meant for road construction and this man is still a highly respected chieftain in the ruling party and yet condole7accept this party as the ruling party?
Why will a country whose first set of leaders after independence are largely less than 40 years old, but today parade only old nonentities and people in their late youth while the majority of people below 40 years presently are mostly underemployed or barely surviving, and yet they do nothing beyond hope for a miraculous turnover in the nation’s politics?
Why will a political party allow a President Jonathan to (re-)contest election on any platform at all in the first place?
Why … (you fill in the gap) ?
Maybe later I might be able to answer these questions, but for now my best response is this: I don’t know!