In 2011, the rumour mill was agog with stories of President Jonathan agreeing with members of his party to rule for one term only. That was before he said so himself. I said to some friends of mine, “’In Nigeria, a leader doesn’t do two things – resign or refuse to run when he is eligible. If he does either, he is deemed to have been posted a “juju” from the village.
Asari Dokubo proved me right in his hilarious interview on TV when he said the president won’t come back home if he refused to run. “Him no fit, he can’t do that!” he said.
I even went further to say the moves I was anticipating before he declares for a second term bid. I expected his team to kick-start the whole process with the youths. Most likely a youth body with Niger Delta roots but with northerners holding most of the key positions – the north being where his most likely rivals and critics were going to come from. I expected Abati and Okupe to spend a lot of time warding off foes.
Things didn’t pan out exactly that way: the president and his think-tank proved to be smarter than I thought. The most vociferous critics were always going to come from the north but a lot of them have had to jump ship, though the president can’t take credit for that. They started a war they couldn’t win and it was inevitably going to boil down to two things: leave the party or stay and be treated as outcasts.
Governors Aliyu and Lamido know best the consequences of the latter option. Anyway, the entire “Operation Bring Jona Back” was always going to end with the following words: “I have decided to heed the call of my people and contest for a second term in office.”
I must congratulate the president on having such a fabulous set of campaign strategists. The TAN (Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria) initiative was a master stroke. They garnered the right amount of publicity and one can’t help getting overwhelmed by the calibre of personalities that have associated with the “cause”. The more they insisted, the more oga looked away. And then, finally, at a time programmed to portray to the public he had played enough “hard to get” and consulted widely, he declared his ambition on a date announced by the chairman of the presidential declaration committee who, in announcing, made sure to include these words: “…and announce his response to the various calls to come out and declare his interest in the presidential elections….It is our honest hope that he will come out and say yes to the demand of multitude of nigerians….we expect he will say yes”.
After his “yes”, what followed was a statement that over N98 million had been raised by well-meaning Nigerians for oga to buy the PDP presidential nomination and declaration of interest forms.
To start with, if you actually believe our president can’t afford a N22 million set of forms, then, you will believe my grandmother is the hottest model in Paris. I must admit I have been blown to bits by the sheer ingenuity in which the president’s strategists have operated so far. No one has ever done this. A couple of politicians have already followed the trend; people are now buying forms for them.
Now this is where it gets really interesting. We all know the whole “form donations” move was a strategy, but a careful look at the list, though not exhaustive, will reveal a lot of things. Aside the donees who were just there to prove the people back home loved oga (Bayelsans),other donations in totality seemed to want to pass a message across: if you buy the right calculator, it just might add up to a GEJ victory. No PDP presidential election victory has been devoid of controversy; there were always allegations of monumental fraud.
What better way to condition the mind of the people to expect an “inevitable” PDP victory than to force a re-think into their heads about GEJ’s popularity. The north with its voting power can decide an election if everyone toes the same path. Anybody who has tried justifying rigged results in the past has always given a split-votes theory that never makes sense.
So oga and his team have gone the extra mile to show us he has a huge fan base in northern Nigeria. The list of donors from Kaduna and Gombe are there to remind you they are in charge of some states in the region and are automatically expected to get a large chunk of the votes. After all, they have always said the APC are experts in noise-making; so expect PDP votes to spring up from even where you least expected. The governor of Kaduna State, Ramallan Yero, the vice-president’s home state, has under-performed and is gunning for a second term; so the “many” donors from Kaduna are there to serve a dual purpose. You will see the difference in the quality of donees from Bayelsa and Kaduna. The VP’s state is not a stronghold unlike the president’s state.
Basically, the list has tried to cater to their weaknesses in no small measure. The number of women bodies is to amplify the fact that the majority of their members are non-Muslims and mostly non-northerners who, in all sincerity, troop out in larger numbers to vote more than their Muslim counterparts. If you consider the fact that the PDP has a more vibrant women’s wing, you just have to concede to anyone who says oga is ahead as far as the women are concerned.
Plateau State’s contributions are there to remind you that, indeed, there are states where you wouldn’t bat an eyelid if he records a landslide. The opposition is almost non-existent in places like Taraba and Benue. They aren’t too strong in Kogi either. The APC might be the most popular party in the north but, please, don’t attribute anything to INEC “South African wonder” or anywhere we choose to import election materials or computer software from; they actually have a presence in Adamawa and even Yobe. They could even clinch it. Miyetti Allah Hautal Hore and Northern Youth Forum were the perfect icing. GEJ seems to be very much loved in the north. The number 11 is actually two number 1s; maybe numbers do lie after all.
The PDP does have a presence in the south-west, albeit not too formidable. In my opinion, the south-west has always been the most unpredictable region as far as Nigerian politics is concerned. It would have been catastrophic if a large number of donees were ascribed to them. It would have ruined the “good” work of master strategists who have set an unprecedented trend. A pro-Jonathan body from Ondo North senatorial district was the only donation from the south-west. Though the list was supposed to cater to his weaknesses, preaching the love for him in this region would have done more harm than good.
The south-east is a PDP zone. It has always been. If the APC doesn’t present Governor Rochas Okorocha as its presidential flag-bearer, I doubt if it will win Imo State – the only state in the region it has a chance of winning. APGA has always been known to be very good friends with PDP. Anambra is always theirs for the taking in any presidential election except the status quo is altered. Ebonyi State is the only south-east presence on the donors’ list, except of course if you choose to count the magnanimous gestures of Mr Kennedy Ikenna Odoeme and Mr Ezemagu Sunday Nnamdi. They contributed the sums of N5, 000 and N10,000 respectively. There was no need to waste time on the president’s stronghold — the south-south and south-east.
As I said earlier, his weaknesses were being worked on. Lest I forget, Rivers State PDP stakeholders donated N5million, just so the APC doesn’t forget to type the right figures into its calculator. Oga is very much loved here; a handful of people can hold the state legislature to ransom on his family’s behalf. Someone there actually once referred to “the Dame” as his Jesus Christ and the talk back then was what would that make the man who paid her dowry?
GEJ has a formidable presence there and, sentiments aside, you would want to hand them the Government House when Amaechi vacates it. They are better positioned. While Nyesom Wike,, the anointed one, has set his machinery in motion, Amaechi and his people are still struggling to fish out the right one in their midst. No matter what it may seem like, an outgoing Nigerian governor always has a candidate.
When the stakes are high, Nigerian politicians want to play saint and sinner, and no amount of laundry can purify the players in this dirty game especially when the purifying act itself is a filthy process. God help us.
— By Umar Sa’ad Hassan, a lawyer based in Kano.