Countdown to March 28th, The momentum has shifted to Jonathan
Contribution by Emeka Okoroji
By Two days to the general elections in Nigeria, the big question is: which of the two main presidential candidates has the momentum and support at the moment? If the election had held six weeks ago as originally scheduled, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate would almost definitely have carried the day. But with six weeks of intense campaigning gone, is Buhari still the frontrunner? Objectively, the answer is NO. From the moment Buhari stepped foot out of Nigeria to the United Kingdom he lost his momentum and never recovered it.
Buhari's London Trip and the Bad Lies
His campaign told a bad lie when it claimed that an interview conducted in Abuja actually took place in London, making Nigerians see that the stories about his health were not tales but pure fact. He tried to regain the edge when he delivered a well received speech at Chatham House but then he went silent again and stayed too long abroad. Unfortunately for Buhari and the APC, while they were snoozing, President Goodluck Jonathan was actively building bridges from Yola to Lagos to Kano to Ogun. The impact was immediate.
South West Power Blocs
Take the South West for instance where several traditional rulers, including the Ooni of Ife, openly endorsed the President and prayed for him; where all shades of interest groups from Clerics to Igbos in Lagos to Traders and Market Women have voiced their support. Even a group like the OPC threw it's weight behind Jonathan's second term ambitions. All these took place after the postponement.
Rivers Shocker and Mega Defections
Anyone who's watched the news in the last few weeks will agree that even by Nigeria's political standards, the number of defections from the APC into the PDP is unprecedented. Cabinet members in Kano, Deputy Governorship candidate in Abia, Deputy Governor in Rivers state. These are big fishes whose defection alongside thousands of their supporters, took away some steam from the APC campaign in their states.
APC's Panic Attack, South West under the Umbrella
The South West which is the region that will ultimately decide this election felt like a tight affair just six weeks ago. But anyone who is honest will agree that Pres. Jonathan has jumped into the clear lead. Just yesterday 500 APC members dumped the party in Lagos, enough to make APC leader, Bola Tinubu, hold a late night meeting to take stock.
Musiliu Obanikoro 's confirmation as a minister is one of the worst things that happened to the opposition party. No wonder they fought against it with all they had. It didn't work and now Obanikoro has a massive platform through which he has been organising for the President's victory as head of the PDP presidential campaign in Lagos. Ekiti and Ondo are both PDP states and their governors whose governor will not be running in the elections have been leaving no stone unturned to prop Pres. Jonathan to victory in the zone.
Problems in APC controlled Oyo, Osun and Ogun States
The APC is also having problems in other states like Oyo where several strong names are running in different parties against the Oyo governor Abiola Ajimobi. The sad thing for the APC is that all those strong men – Adebayo Alao-Akala, Teslim Folarin, Rashidi Ladoja – and many more have all thrown their weight 100 per cent behind Jonathan even though they remain in different parties. In Ogun the break up of the APC and the rise of the SDP which is backing Jonathan, together with stalwarts like Gbenga Daniel, Buruji Kashamu, amongst others is an added assurance for Jonathan. It is also a known fact that workers in these states especially in Osun where workers have been owed salaries for over 5 Months are threatening a showdown and will give protest votes to President Jonathan
Benin Royal Family
The President's momentum continues to rise even as the royal family in Benin has lined up behind him. All the Oba of Benin's sons have defected from the APC to PDP and the Chief Priest of the Kingdom has publicly assured Benin people that the president will emerge winner. President Jonathan was going to win Edo state irregardless but this endorsements mean that Buhari won't be able to get anywhere near the golden 25 per cent of votes in that state.
Atiku for Jonathan and APC Cash Shortage
In states like Adamawa where one would think that the APC would have the edge, tragedy has befallen the chapter culminating in the defection of party exco members this week. PDP momentum started with the picking of the credible and loved Nuhu Ribadu to fly the party's flag, and then sadly for the APC, it's major financier, Atiku Abubakar, is refusing to pump money into the state chapter of the party. He has refused to Take part in the campaigns of the party In the state and has been holding one meeting or the other with men like Ibrahim Babangida and even Pres. Goodluck Jonathan. Despite his denials, Presidency sources say that for certain reasons, Atiku is now firmly in the president's corner. Practically, working for Buhari's victory does not favour Atiku politically in any way hence his switch.
This shortage of cash in Adamawa is the same in most APC chapters. APC was unfortunate to have spent most of their cash before the poll was postponed. Financiers of the party like Bola Tinubu and Rotimi Amaechi have been stretched thin, and as the President's men pumped resources into Lagos and Rivers, the two men had to defend in their states leaving them with little cash to spare for the National Campaign. APC simply ran out of cash and on election day when lots of cash change hands in our peculiar Nigeria politics, it would be a miracle if the APC is able to match the PDP.
Anti-Tinubu sentiment and Documentary
Bola Tinubu is the heart of the APC, so when that powerful documentary detailing how he has held the state by the jugular surfaced, it turned out to be one of the greatest demarketting for the party. Lagosians and Nigerians began to ask themselves: do we really want this man close to the seat of power at the centre? As the tide turned, the PDP made the brilliant move of translating the documentary into Yoruba, making copies in video CDs and distributing for free on the streets and in rallies. The more people watched it from Lagos to Osun to Ondo, the more their animosity towards Tinubu. Don't forget that this was the strategy that worked for Gov. Mimiko of Ondo during the governorship election in that state.
Victory over Boko Haram
Finally, the biggest reason for the president's momentum is that Nigerian's can see At last that he has got the security issue covered. Our soldiers have been making us proud in the North East, unleashing deadly blows against the terrorist group, Boko Haram and have withered the group's ability to hold onto our territories or inflict fatal losses to Nigerians. As our soldiers continued to win, Nigerians began to realise that we have a Commander-in-Chief who has now provided the resources and the winning formula to ensure that victory is ours. Nobody wants to change that. Nobody wants to start all over from square one if Buhari wins. In terms of lives lost, starting over afresh may be in hundreds of body bags. God forbid! It is that thinking which has metamorphosed into a groundswell of support for Pres. Goodluck Jonathan and placed APC in a bind. If insecurity is taken away from the APC talking point, if they have no choice but to be happy for the victory of our soldiers, then what is left for the APC to campaign with? Nothing. And therein lies the victory of Pres. Goodluck Jonathan.
Emeka Okoroji, A Political Analyst tweets via @iamtenseven
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