Several Reasons Why Jonathan will win again
The All Progressive Alliance (APC) has been very upbeat about its chances to win the 2015 elections scheduled for next month. The result of a fusion of two main parties and strong factions of some others, it is indeed the first time in Nigeria’s history that different political parties have merged successfully. It was able to take away five state governors from the ruling People’s Democratic Party.
The party has in its kitty some of the most accomplished media practitioners: using both the new media and the traditional media, it initially successfully put the ruling party on the defensive. So much so that in spite of all the colourful adverts of TAN, the APC rather successfully overshadowed all the considerable achievements of Dr Goodluck Jonathan, presenting him as a do-nothing president
Indeed most development projects of President Goodluck Jonathan hardly get any mention in the media. The massive rail line rehabilitation – the first in over 30 years- has been ignored. The construction of the modern standard gauge rail line from Kaduna to Abuja, which is over 80% completed, is not even recognised.
Few are aware of the massive power transmission lines being constructed from north to south, a very vital component of the electricity industry and which with ongoing power generation projects should transform the power provision capacity to unprecedented levels.
Even the efforts by security agencies to cope with the large scale and widespread insurgency of Boko Haram and the so-called Fulani herdsmen which have wreaked havoc across the country are unrecognised with the drumbeat being only about the military’s admittedly considerable failings.
One key demand of the Boko Haram has been the transfer of “political power” back to the north. In this context too, President Jonathan seemed to have lost the argument: He has been painted into a corner as being incapable of handling the security challenges of Nigeria.
In terms of public opinion therefore, General Muhammadu Buhari initially seemed to be miles ahead of President Goodluck Jonathan, a situation which has not changed substantially. No wonder the APC got a little cocky, affording itself the luxury of removing Dele Alake, the smooth and accomplished media operator and Tinubu man and replacing him with Garba Shehu,the Alhaji Abubakar Atiku loyalist in the first sign of infighting in the Buhari camp.
Secondly, in absolute terms, the “north” has more than half of the registered voters in Nigeria. Of the 40 million votes in the North, 18 million voters reside in the north western region of Nigeria. Except for Kaduna and Kebbi state, all the other states namelyJigawa, Kano,Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto are exclusively Hausa and Fulani,predominantly Muslims, who believe that President Jonathan should not have contested the 2011 elections in the first place. It was the turn of the North and Jonathan, according to them, breached the gentleman’s agreement on zoning by contesting and winning. To show their anger then, an orgy of violence was unleashed in the country after the 2011 elections. Boko Haram’s activities spiked and large territories of Borno and Yobe have since been taken over.
In the North East, with its 10 million votes, only Taraba and Adamawa states voted massively for President Jonathan in 2011 who scored only 16, 18 and 18 per cent in Bauchi, Yobe and Borno states respectively.
United Muslim North for Buhari
The Hausa and Fulani quest to take over power cuts across all parts of the North. Facebook comments, speeches by political and religious leaders of the “North” show that they are more determined than before to wrest power from Jonathan. With the massive dislocation of Christians from Yobe and Borno, it may well be assumed by the APC that President Jonathan would get less votes in the North East than in 2011.
Just before Christmas, members of a group led by one time ABU Vice Chancellor Ango Abdullahi who has sworn repeatedly that under no circumstances would Dr. Jonathan be allowed to remain in office met in Jos and threatened to spike the Boko Haram mayhem should Jonathan insist on contesting. Since then most Hausa and Fulani politicians have distanced themselves from Jonathan. Even PDP candidates in those areas are not displaying Jonathan’s photographs. His posters and billboards are conspicuously missing. Two drivers who attempted to take his branded vehicles to Kano could not pass through Zaria. They almost got themselves killed. As Kwankwaso did in 2011 PDP candidates are displaying their posters with Buhari’s pictures superimposed. In Katsina and Kebbi states PDP notables, including former national officials of the PDP have endorsed Buhari. The fanatical support for Buhari is showing up in the burning of PDP offices and campaign vehicles.
The reality however is that this situation is really not new. The Muslim North united against Jonathan in 2011. His votes came largely from Christians and minorities in the north. The consensus candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was defeated by Jonathan at the primaries and the northern consensus group adopted Buhari who then contested under the CPC. The northern alliance did nothing to stop Jonathan. Jonathan’s total votes in the North East (1,832,622) and North West (3,395,724) totaled 5,228,346. Subtracted from his score of 22,495,187, President Jonathan would have scored 17,266,841, without the votes of the North East and North West. Thus he would have scored 5,051,988 votes higher than Buhari whose score was 12,214,853 making Jonathan the winner in any case.
The support for President Jonathan was almost universal in the South-South in 2011. Now there are obvious cracks with Rivers state governor and head of the Buhari campaign an obvious Achilles heel.
Ambivalent South West
Obasanjo’s stance of 2011 has changed. He is now vigorous in campaigning against the PDP and while his electoral value remains dubious he adds to the bad atmospherics against Jonathan. Having lost out in the VP sweepstakes, Bola Tinubu is noticeably unenthusiastic about the Buhari campaign, adding to an air of ambivalence in the South West.
Dispirited Middle Belt
The insurgency and mayhem visited on the region by the so-called Fulani herdsmen have caused considerable disquiet in the Middle Belt. The people have been made to believe that President Goodluck Jonathan has been unable to defend them.
Alienation of the 2011 foot soldiers.
Jonathan was the change needed and longed for in 2011. Enthusiastic foot soldiers took his message everywhere. They hoped to be part of a government that would be working hard to transform Nigeria, fight corruption and rehabilitate infrastructures. They were left in the lurch after the elections. The Neighbour to Neighbour (N2N) group that had the structures and savvy to win that election was disbanded – almost ingloriously. Political appointees of the President who came from nowhere to jump on the gravy train largely treated the foot soldiers with disdain and contempt. The President worsened the situation by bringing into government those who had no connection with the foot soldiers and his message to the electorate.
In September 2011,Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assumed office as Minister of Finance and by January the government was almost crumbling: thousands of Nigerians took to the streets protesting the increase in the price of petrol. The president’s appeal took a nose dive from which it never really recovered.
Many of those who rejected Buhari four years ago now seem to think that he would have done a better job than Jonathan. The new media, especially the Facebook, is now looking like an APC playground.
However, the odds against Buhari are big and his chances of defeating Jonathan lie more in the toga he is desperate to de-emphasize: Northern Muslims, Hausa and Fulani, who generally believe that power has willy nilly to go back to the North.
The Boko Haram onslaught on Nigeria, which initially targeted Christian churches and communities, has also hardened Middle Belters against Buhari. The recent attacks on mosques and Muslims communities is seen by many Northern Christians as a ruse: an attempt by the political puppet masters of the Boko Haram to create the impression that Boko Haram is also against Muslims.
It is obvious therefore as we move closer to the elections that northern Nigeria will be divided as in 2011. The Muslims, especially Hausa and Fulani,will vote for Buhari without fail. Ethnic nationalities and Christians will largely vote for President Jonathan.
Buhari may likely win with the same margin in Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Niger states. President Goodluck Jonathan may likely win with the same margins as in 2011 in Taraba, Adamawa, Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Kogi. Kwara is now too close to call.
The endorsement of Buhari by the Ango Abdullahi group which, in the past, more or less endorsed Boko Haram and called its murderous hordes ‘ our children’ has not helped matters for Buhari with the Christian community in the north. Buhari’s recent clumsy attendance at a church service wearing his cap further offended Christians. Of the 70 million voters in the voters’ register (2010) 40 million live in the north. Of these, 23 million voters are believed to be of the Hausa and Fulani Muslim stock. At least 17 million voters are of the ethnic nationalities in the North.
The truth is that the massive Islamic support for Buhari has completely alienated Christians. Though still smarting from the post-election violence and bearing the brunt of the ravages of Boko Haram, angered by the seeming unfair distribution of spoils of office and the apparent inability of the government to protect churches and Christians, majority of northern Christians still strongly feel that supporting Buhari is tantamount to rewarding Boko Haram. Besides it is argued that the situation of the minorities would be worse under Buhari who is the life President of the Miyetti Cattler Breeders Association, given the havoc Fulani herdsmen have been causing in Kaduna, Taraba, Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa states.
South East and South East
All the efforts of Buhari and the APC to break the Ndigbo solidarity for President Jonathan may not bear fruit. Despite Adams Oshiomhole and Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, it is unlikely that the Niger Delta people will not do as would Buhari’s fanatical supporters: stick to their own. It is unlikely that Buhari will significantly improve his votes in 2015 in this region. Reality is already dawning on the Igbo who have been at the receiving end of the activities of the Islamists in the north. They are always targeted. The thinking among their political elite is that if the Islamists could be so daring under Jonathan what would they not do if Buhari who has in public comments literarily endorsed them comes to power. In any case since the creation of Nigeria, the Ndigbo have not been as well taken care of in terms of appointments as during Jonathan’s regime. They have held senior military positions, including the Chief of army staff, CGS of the Customs and Immigration, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Finance Minister who almost doubles as a prime minister and CBN Governor.
One of the keys to the 2015 elections is the South West. Its 14 million votes as well as the stance of the northern minorities will determine the outcome of the 2015 elections. In the 2011 South west vote for Goodluck Jonathan and Nuhu Ribadu, Jonathan got more votes. It is expected that Ribadu’s vote will revert to Buhari and Jonathan’s votes will increase in the South West. Notable opinion leaders such as Professor Wole Soyinka, Olu Falae, Richard Akinjide and a host of others would rather have Jonathan prevail.
Already Buhari’s “misdeeds” in the South West are being remembered and recounted. Thus the likelihood is that President Goodluck Jonathan will still beat Buhari in the South West region and get a majority of the 14 million votes of the South west.
A Rethink in the South
There seems to be a new thought in the north now which may change all the calculations: Buhari’s health. The alleged collapse of Buhari in Calabarand Owerri and the physical exhaustion that he is exhibiting is a mounting concern for political leaders of the north. What if Yar adua’s fate befalls Buhari? Where would that place the north?
Besides some northern PDP leaders fear the fate of the AD Governors under Obasanjo. They agreed to work for their kinsman, President Obasanjo of the PDP and got swept out of power to their chagrin after the momentum that they helped to generate. With Presidential election coming first, a victory for Buhari may actually obliterate the PDP from most of the northern states.
Such are the changing dynamics and cold calculations that those who are hoping to “smoke” (a la Ango Abdullahi and Murtala Nyako) Jonathan out of office will soon discover as we inch closer to elections that they are still living in cloud cuckooland.