JONATHAN'S VICTORY: LIKE JUNE 12, LIKE APRIL 16
Barely a week after Goodluck Jonathan was declared winner of this year's presidential election, the echo over his emergence continues to reverberate across the country. And in what appears to have become a tradition among the nation's political class, the taste of his victory is both sweet and sour, depending on which side of the divide one belongs.
For the teeming population of those who voted for Jonathan, the election came as a good omen. And having aggressively campaigned across the nation, members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the platform on which Jonathan won the election, must be beating their chest for a job well done. It is one victory that is well deserved.
But for the opposition parties, especially members of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the PDP's main rival in the presidential poll, Jonathan's feat on April 16 has a sour taste. To them, the outcome of the poll leaves much to be desired. And characteristic of elections in the country, many controversies are building up around the presidential poll with members of the opposition alleging that the process was rigged. Already, post-election violence is sweeping through some northern states following the poll, and thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes, while we have reports of over 100 bodies recovered. States affected include Kano, Kaduna, Adamawa, Katsina, Plateau, Yobe, Bauchi, Borno, Katsina and Sokoto.
In states like Kano, Bauchi and Kaduna, authorities imposed curfews after some people were killed and houses belonging to some prominent persons burnt by protesting youths.
Among those who lost property to the mayhem are Vice-President Namadi Sambo, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Na'Abba; a former presidential candidate of the defunct National Republican Convention, Alhaji Bashir Tofa and the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero.
Many lives have been lost just as many churches were razed. But since the post-election crisis started, the question that keeps agitating the minds of critical observers is: why is there always violence in the northern part of the country? Many are constrained to put several issues with regards to President Jonathan's victory in perspective.
Another question is: among the presidential candidates, who indeed is more popular across the length and breadth of the country?
According to Section 134 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, for a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential election, he must score the highest number of votes and not less than one-quarter of the votes in each of at least two-thirds of all the states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
It says: 'A candidate for an election into the office of President shall be deemed to have been duly elected to such office, where there being more than two candidates for the election – (a) he has the highest number of votes cast at the election; and (b) he has not less than one-quarter of the votes cast at the election in each of at least two-thirds of all the states in the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.'
Political observers argue that based on Section 134 (2) of the 1999 Constitution, Jonathan unarguably emerged the indisputable winner of the presidential election. Breakdown of the result showed that the PDP made remarkable achievements in all the six geo-political zones of the federation. By that feat, he is the first nationally accepted President whose appeal cuts across all sections of Nigeria. The figures show that he got the constitutionally required minimum of 25 per cent votes in 33 states and Abuja. He beat Buhari, his closest rival, by more than 10 million votes. Political observers recall that prior to the election, a renowned Kano Islamic scholar, Sheik Hassan Al-Babi Malanbita Bakin Zuwo, had called on fellow Muslims to embark on a three-week prayer and Qur'anic recitation ostensibly to draw more support for the victory of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian.
Sheik Hassan also urged all the Imams and his fellow scholars to always preach peace for the country so that President Jonathan will secure the vote of Nigerians. He was reported in the media as saying in Kano that after extensive deliberations and consultations among fellow Muslims, 'we concluded that President Jonathan is the best person that should steer the affairs of the country in the next dispensation, because he's a progressive-minded person who does not discriminate against tribe or religion.'
Without sounding patronizing, the former Bayelsa State governor has carved a niche for himself in the nation's political landscape. Many see him as a perennial survivor of political battles and one who enjoys an unusual political favour from God. The thinking is that because of the unique way Jonathan climbed to the ultimate political height in the country, there seems to be a growing emotional attachment of people of all divides to him. Political observers argue that Jonathan also comes as one that is very humble and ready to accommodate all shades of opinion. But even at that, the road to his emergence was strewn with thorns and challenges.
President Jonathan became governor of Bayelsa State after the impeachment of its elected governor, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha, and later became vice president under the late Umaru Yar'Adua after a widely criticized 2007 election. After barely two years in office, Yar'Adua left Nigeria for a medical check-up in Saudi Arabia in late 2009 and a power vacuum stalled the country for months until the National Assembly gave Jonathan presidential powers in February 2010. Jonathan fully became president in May 2010 after Yar'Adua's death.
But after assuming the mantle of leadership, the question was: Was it morally right for Jonathan to contest in the presidential election when his party had a gentleman's agreement on zoning? It was not then surprising that in the build-up to the primaries of the political parties, the issue of zoning posed a major threat to the ambition of President Jonathan.
It was after much controversy over zoning that he eventually picked his party's ticket from a heap of thorns. But to stop him, the North, including non-PDP members, had come together to pick a single candidate out of the four prominent ones to face him. That was how former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, emerged the Northern consensus candidate through the nod of the Malam Adamu Ciroma-led Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF). The idea was for the North to contest for the PDP ticket with a united force, but the arrangement could not stop Jonathan.
But when it became obvious that the North could not use the zoning card to stop him, many of the power brokers from the extraction had no choice than to accept him. His case was quite unlike his rival, Buhari, who, despite his efforts to shed himself of being perceived as an ethnic champion and an Islamic fundamentalist, eventually carved a niche for himself as a politician only good enough for the North. Though, there were other candidates like the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Malam Nuhu Ribadu, who ran on the ticket of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and his counterpart from the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Ibrahim Shekarau, there was no doubt that it was a straight fight between Jonathan and Buhari.
Even among critics of the PDP, there is no gainsaying the fact that no other party has its kind of structure. In the estimation of the majority, the reality is that across the nation, the PDP is more on ground than any of the opposition parties. Of course, for a party that has been in power since the re-introduction of democracy in 1999, it is not surprising that it has the widest spread in terms of political structure. Such structures are found in all the nooks and crannies of the nation, unlike some opposition parties.
Many argue that the CPC even had a good outing in the last presidential election, considering that it is hardly found in some parts of the country, especially in the southern zone. There are unconfirmed reports that the CPC does not have offices even in some state capitals. The same also goes for the ACN, which has its strength mainly in the South West zone of the country. For the ANPP, it is the case of a party whose fortune is dwindling by the day. Records show that its best outing during elections was in 1999 when it secured about seven states and automatically became the main opposition party to the PDP.
Money and energy
It is not contestable that as the party in power, it has more money at its disposal to prosecute an election than its opponents. The presidential campaign organization went to every state of the federation and penetrated all strata of the society. Many who followed Jonathan's presidential campaigns would appreciate that he consulted widely without ignoring even the minutest details.
And for those who understand the peculiarities of the nation's election, a lot of money is required to engage in the type of campaigns the PDP organised.
None of the opposition parties had the wherewithal to dare the reach of PDP; hence the election of President Jonathan did not come to many as a surprise.
For some, it was not entirely a bad outing for the opposition parties. While the presidential candidate of the CPC scored the mandatory 25 per cent in 17 states, his colleague of the ACN, Nuhu Ribadu, achieved that in four states only.
But, even with the result, not many were surprised at the outcome of the presidential election, as the opposition parties obviously lacked the muscle to challenge the PDP independently or collectively. Followers of political events believe that the opposition parties' predicament climaxed few days to the election when attempts to form an alliance against Jonathan could not pull through. Many had felt that if the opposition parties had not worked as a divided house, they would have given the PDP a real challenge. So, many permutations trailed the collapse of the alliance talks with some attributing it to lack of cohesion and personality conflicts among bigwigs in the parties.
Like June 12 1993, like April 16, 2011
Despite the initial hitches that preceded the general election, many heaved a sigh of relief that the nation had finally found its footing in the conduct of elections. Many argue that so many odds favoured President Jonathan ahead of the election. The impression among a greater percentage of the people is that the election of President Jonathan reminds one of the emergence of the late M.K.O. Abiola in the June 12, 1993, election. In that election, millions of Nigerians voted in a poll considered the best ever in the history of the country. Many still recall Option A4, a popular electoral process that ensured votes were counted and results announced at the polling booths.
Before the last presidential poll, there were fears over whether Africa's most populous nation, with about 150 million people, can hold a credible exercise. But in response to the situation, security was tightened across the country with the hope that Nigeria would finally put a stop to the violence and fraud that plagued its democratic elections since the end of military rule in 1999. So, like the June 12, 1993 poll, majority of Nigerians came out believing their votes would count. They voted in the poll considered the most credible presidential election for decades.
Many argue that the position of some opposition parties that the election was compromised does not hold water, as the results were all declared at the polling booths before being taken to the collation centres. The calculation among people in this school of thought is that it was pretty difficult, if not impossible for INEC officials to favour a particular candidate in the election.