By Abba Mahmood
It was the late Senate president Dr Chuba Okadigbo who once said, “It takes political sagacity to know political arithmetic”. Okadigbo was in the best position to know this fact. He read politics, taught politics, played politics and practised politics till he breathed his last. He was one of the founders of the ruling party in the Second Republic, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He subsequently became political adviser to President Shagari, when advisers were real advisers. He got elected into the Senate under the platform of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Third Republic and got elected a senator again in 1999 in this Fourth Republic, eventually becoming the second Senate president in the dispensation. He was a great philosopher and an astute politician of his time, when politics was played by politicians.
Most candidates have emerged in the major political parties for the 2015 elections. And there are several fundamental features driving the political dynamics at this time. Thus, this is the most auspicious time to look critically at the opportunities and possibilities, that is, the chances of each of the major political parties in the coming elections. It is very obvious that three things will dominate the political discourse in the coming weeks leading to the elections. These are: the security challenges facing the country, the issue of the economy, and primordial sentiments for those contestants who have nothing to offer.
The ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party’s strategy is to have a strong showing in what has now become its primary constituency, the south-south and the southeast; get whatever votes it can get in the southwest; and deploy enormous resources for patronage and parochial considerations up north for necessary geographical spread to enable it clinch the presidency again. However, politics is not physics. To that extent, there is no single variable that is a constant in social science unlike the physical science. Let us therefore analyse this PDP game plan critically and more closely to see if it will go smoothly.
If the pronouncements of respected southwest establishment are anything to go by, the mainstream Yoruba are angry with this government. This is because despite the fact that they are one of the major ethnic groups in this country, they have no visibility in the current dispensation, perhaps for the first time in the history of Nigeria. Apart from being marginalized in both elective and appointive positions in the three arms of government, no tangible project was initiated and executed by this government in the zone. And they are the most educated group who have strong history of standing up for the common good. Moreover, most states in the zone are controlled by the main opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) currently.
The southeast is one zone that the PDP thinks it has in its pocket. And, yes, there are many sons and daughters of the zone in this government. But, objectively speaking, what has this government done for the ordinary people of the east? It was just recently, as an afterthought, that the government awarded the contract for the second Niger Bridge since Prime Minister Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa commissioned the first bridge there in the 1960s, one of his last public acts before he was assassinated. Even for ordinary ceremonies, the people of the southeast have to do them either in Lagos or Abuja for fear of being kidnapped. In any case, the state with the highest vote in this zone, Imo, is controlled by APC and all the votes of the remaining states can favourably be neutralized by Lagos State votes alone.
President Jonathan’s home region, the south-south, is seen by the ruling party as a walkover for the party during the next elections. But is it? First, apart from plans and hopes, there are no visible projects executed in this region since this government came to power. Even the amnesty programme by which thousands of youth from the region were sent for studies and skills acquisition, was initiated by the late President Yar’Adua. Secondly, many groups are complaining of being marginalized in this dispensation. Looking critically at the electoral chances and voting strength of this region, the state with the highest votes, Rivers, is controlled by the APC. Another significant state in this zone, Edo, is also controlled by the APC. The votes of all the other four states can be comfortably balanced by Kano State votes alone.
If one crosses up north, apart from media hype and propaganda, nothing tangible has been done for all these states. Poverty rate is very high; unemployment, especially among the youth, is at an alarming rate; the streets are getting meaner by the day with drug addiction and thugs; and there is cry of marginalization and relegation to the background by almost all the sections of the region. Yes, there are some who cling to sentiments but they themselves are coming to the realization that they are embarrassed by the visible lack of achievements, ineptitude and insensitivity going on. They know that the nation is moving in a circle with killings, destruction and corruption all over. It is very obvious that the people are yearning for positive change.
Respected former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan wrote in his book, Interventions, that: “while there are no statistical correlations between levels of poverty and the incidence of terrorist attacks in particular countries, failed development and poverty creates inequalities that underpin many of the grievances that drive terrorism. Furthermore, a lack of development undermines a country’s ability to sustain effective domestic security forces… It is not only corruption that can make aid money ineffective or wasteful. It is weak policies, poor leadership, and unaccountable institutions that produce dire results for the lives of the poor as well.”
With the security challenge not being effectively addressed; with a party leadership that derives pleasure from generating and sustaining crisis in most branches of the ruling party; and with the economy on a downward spiral, it is very clear that this government has already entered its lame-duck period. For even rigging to be efficiently done, it requires conducive atmosphere and some level of consensus of the elite. All these, for now, are not there and the military and other agencies are already very engaged in the counter-insurgency operations, have poor working and welfare conditions and therefore very low morale.
And it remains a puzzle why the PDP government’s policy seems to have been so uniformly short-sighted. The government is left not only looking evermore ridiculous but even terribly incompetent, with the president appearing not to be on top of the situation. The party apparatchiks have hopelessly failed to realize that its triumph over one crisis or adversity in itself contains the seeds of another. That is why a former national chairman of the party, Senator Gemade, can be deprived of his right to re-contest for his seat and another national chairman, Bamanga Tukur, can be so shabbily suspended. This is an unwisely narrow approach to a deep-rooted problem which embodies an illusion that money and incumbency can grant one victory. But is it true?
History is on the side of the oppressed.