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Monday, 29 July 2013

Monday Discourse- 2015: The Gathering Storm

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Ademola Adeyemo and Shola Oyeyipo paint a likely picture of the 2015 general election and its frightening dimensions
A few weeks ago, Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, declared that the 2015 general election will be remarkable and a huge improvement on the 2011 polls. Jega, according to media reports, disclosed that INEC had put in place strategies to ensure that the 2015 elections turn out a sharp deviation from previous exercises, adding that the commission had already done the biometrics of at least 73.5 million Nigerians in order to establish a new register of voters.

“By the time we conduct the 2015 elections, there will be such a remarkable improvement over what we had in 2011 for a general appreciation of our commitment to ensuring that we are indeed one of the best election management bodies in the world,” he had said.
He also informed that his commission had established an independent assessment committee to analyse what the commission did wrongly and what it did rightly during other elections, 2011 especially.

Jega said the commission had gone far with the recommendations of the independent assessment committee to restructure and re-strategise on how INEC could improve on its performance.
But not many observers of the recent political developments in the country are convinced by Jega’s postulations. Away from Jega’s optimism, the unfolding events within the political circle in the build-up to the 2015 general election are frightening.

These range from desperate moves by the politicians to grab power at all cost in 2015 to making reckless and inciting statements capable of dividing the country along ethnic and religious lines. These do not exclude executive recklessness, political impunity and growing state of insecurity in the country and recently, the lawlessness displayed by members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.
The current political crisis and the reign of impunity in Rivers State are one apt example of a Nigerian politician and his warped sense of disrespect for democracy. Rather than concentrate on service delivery to the people, political actors are concerned now with whose turn it is to get what within the emerging political equation.

In their quest for power, the political gladiators have spared no rational thought for the people in whose trust power is being held. Despite the public outrage at the political crisis in Rivers, pitting the state Governor, Chibuike Amaechi, against loyalists of President Goodluck Jonathan, the situation worsens by the day and seems to be stretching the fragile peace in the land.

What started like mere disagreement on policies such as excess payment on fuel subsidy, the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the battle over oil wells between Bayelsa and Rivers State has now become an ego battle between the presidency and the Rivers State Government. And quite expectedly, the federal government-backed forces have continued to pummel Amaechi.
But it is public knowledge that the crux of the crisis is Amaechi’s rumoured ambition to be running mate to another Northern governor in 2015. The ambition, which Amaechi has denied, is considered a threat to the second term bid of Jonathan, who is from the South-south geo-political zone as Amaechi.

Against the mindset, the anti-Amaechi forces  further alleged that the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), which Amaechi chairs, was being run like a trade union as it continues to oppose the federal government regardless that he is a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Drawing strength from the federal government, Amaechi’s opponents went a step further to enlist the support of the PDP leadership in a bid to exact a pound of flesh from the embattled governor who has now being suspended from the party. Although Jonathan claims not to be involved in the crisis, he is pronounced as guilty by many for looking the other way while Rivers boiled.
Another huge threat to the success of the next general election is the issue of insecurity in the country. The menace of the Boko Haram insurgency is so disturbing that the president once described it as “a declaration of war and a deliberate attempt to undermine the authority of the Nigerian state.”

He said this when he declared state of emergency in three North-east states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the stronghold of the Jama’atul Ahlus Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, which has waged a deadly war against the Nigerian state since 2009.

While Boko Haram is apparently the biggest security headache to Nigeria beyond the elections because of its terrorism dimension, it is certainly not the only security challenge.
Pockets of violence in the oil-rich Niger-Delta, the rise of other militias in the Middle-Belt, alarming incidents of kidnapping in the South-east, frequent eruptions of communal violence in Jos, Nasarawa, Benue and other forms of violent crimes also abound.

Crucially, the increase in militant activities has been situated within the larger context of the 2015 general election, on which most of the political elite and their allies are now fixated. Indeed, there are several ways through which militia groups might exercise their influence in the polity. While some may rally around a particular candidate, allowing them to benefit from the mix of legitimacy and fear that such groups bring, others will certainly stand as opposition tools.

And given a country where there is said to be a pool of political thugs from which politicians can draw from to do their dirty job, violent clashes are most likely features of the next elections. Boko Haram in particular, many fear, may attempt to stall elections in the North-east.

Ironically, since many have also condemned a law and order response to terrorism, whether they are co-opted or crushed, there may be further rise of other cells, thus compounding the present insecurity.
Whichever way this is considered, the outcome of the 2015 elections will certainly hold grave implications for political stability and security of the country. Unfortunately, the South has begun to see the menace of Boko Haram as part of the Northern agenda to return to power at all cost in 2015.

The narrative is that Boko Haram is a tool used by disgruntled northern politicians, in the fallout of the PDP power-sharing agreement, to destabilise Jonathan’s government. Though the federal government has taken several steps to containing the Boko Haram insurgency, the stake remains high.

Whilst it is not clear yet whether or not the president will seek reelection in 2015 as Jonathan has persistently maintained that the time is not ripe for such declaration, his body language and those of his supporters point to the contrary.

Much as the president's men have insisted that there is no constitutional barrier against his running, some pundits have taken the discussion further, talking about honest leadership and the moral question regarding his promise in 2011 to serve for just one term. More likely are the many indications that Jonathan is most likely to run, the result of which may change the 2015 permutations.

Sectional Agitation for Presidency

Since the sad demise of President Umar Musa Yar' Adua, the north has not backed down on its clamour to produce the president. The argument is that in view of the power rotation policy of the ruling PDP, the north should be allowed to finish its two-term tenure truncated by Yar'Adua's death.

Yar'Adua's death has made possible the Jonathan presidency and deferred the North's hope to reclaim the presidency.  The north is yet to reverse its agitation for power afterwards. At a point, northern governors categorically stated that they would not support any other person except a northerner in the next election. And that has not changed.

While the north has categorically made its position known, there are fears that the South-west which is currently dominated by the main opposition party, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), might move against the president’s re-election. This is as the party enters into a historic merger with four other political parties. And its biggest mission is to oust the PDP in 2015.

This calculation, however, makes the South-west a major factor in the emerging equation. Ironically, the South-south where President Jonathan comes from has maintained that it is either Jonathan in 2015 or nobody.  In fact, militants are already threatening to unleash more attacks on oil installations should Jonathan be forced out of power in 2015. They have also threatened to return to the trenches and stop the nation from accessing the major revenue which is oil.

Ex-militant, Alhaji Asari Dokubo, is unequivocal about this and has continued to threaten the country, saying Nigeria will become history if Jonathan did not secure second term. On the same page with Dokubo is elder statesman and Niger Delta leader, Chief Edwin Clark, who has boasted severally that Jonathan must secure a second term as president. Notwithstanding, they have both come under attacks too.
Possibility of a Third Force
It is common knowledge that the PDP prides itself as Africa's largest political party, boasting the ability to rule Nigeria continuously for 50 years. That pride of place may have been challenged by the birth of the APC and the ongoing machinations as well as the ill-feelings within the PDP. The calculation, therefore, is that if President Jonathan gets the PDP ticket at all cost, some aggrieved PDP members will move en mass to the APC and give their former party a big fight.
The APC is a merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a substantial part of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA). The prospect of the APC however lies in the fact that the PDP itself is engulfed in unending crisis. From the North to South, East and West, the party is bufetted by crisis on all fronts.
For instance, the party's National Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, is at loggerheads with Adamawa State Governor Murtala Nyako. In Rivers State, the party is in disarray and up in arms against Amaechi. The situation is the same in the South-west, where leaders of the party are locked in a war of attrition for the soul of the PDP.

The Fears, the Anger…

Sule Lamido
The Jigawa State Governor, Alhaji Sule Lamido, in an interview with THISDAY, expressed his disgust for the way the president's men are going about their call for a second term for Jonathan.

"This country is applying democracy with idiosyncrasies and our own peculiarities. That it is not the turn of the person yet. It is the Nigerian chemistry, which has been hijacked by people who manipulate it with differences that you have to look into. Today, if you go to somebody in South-south he would say 'my son is there, he must be there.' It would not matter whether that man is killing him.

“If you fall into our compartment like South-south, South-east, Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani; when before election somebody was saying 'our son must serve a second term' and second term comes after election. It is when you win election but, Edwin Clark would say 'our son must have a second term.' If he said he must get the PDP ticket, you can say so but second term is a factor of election.
“When you say 'he is our son, he must have it,' what you are saying is a factor of election. If you are saying his party must give the ticket, it is okay. They can say so. But it doesn't mean he is going to win the election. But when you say he must win the election, then, what are you talking about? Why then is democracy?  As Nigeria prepares for the 2011 general election, doubts pervaded the atmosphere on whether Nigeria would get it right.”

Tam David-West
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Professor Tam David-West, while reacting to the seeming deliberate political attacks on Amaechi, said it’s an indication that "2015 will be dangerous". According to him, events that trailed the NGF election and the eventual suspension of Amaechi by the PDP are clear signs that the 2015 elections portend dangers. To that extent, David-West advised Jonathan to be wary of those advising him politically because they were not giving him the best advice.

“The way President Jonathan is handling Governor Amaechi’s issue is exposing him to a lot of ridicule. It cheapens the presidency and brings a great dishonour to him. Jonathan is fighting Amaechi who is his own party man and not an opposition party member. What is even more annoying to me is that Amaechi is Jonathan’s strongest supporter. Jonathan got his highest votes in 2011 from Rivers State and would not have happened if Amaechi had not supported him. Jonathan has got very bad advisers.

“Though I’m a great critic of Jonathan and anytime I met with Amaechi and the issue of Jonathan came up, he always took sides with Jonathan and was always quick to tell me to mellow down,” David-West said, adding that the Rivers crisis was engineered to undermine Amaechi.

"They first destroyed Rivers State PDP executive by bringing people loyal to Wike. They also grounded the aircraft of the state. Amaechi has handled this issue honourably. The reason for which Amaechi was suspended doesn’t even fall under him. The state House of Assembly is the body that can suspend local government chairmen.
“Jonathan believes that PDP governors should be his kitchen boys. Amaechi is intelligent and focused. If he were licking Jonathan’s boots, things would have been different,” he noted.

Adams Oshiomole
Last Tuesday, the national executive of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), led by its General-Secretary, Reverend Musa Asake, paid a courtesy call on Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State in Benin City. The governor who could not hide his feelings seized the opportunity of the visit to express his fears about the 2015 presidency
“For me, Nigeria is treading the ground that might threaten the foundation of our existence. So I want CAN, having shown courage; having spoken out even in the days of military dictatorship, now in a democracy, we need more of that courage, to speak out.

“Things happening around, for me, represent very dangerous signals. There are people who do not wish the country well and unfortunately, these are men and women who cannot claim to have a future and are messing up the future for everybody else. It is the lot of the Christian community to speak out where it matters, so that those who are deaf can hear and those who are blind may have their sight restored, so that together, we will build a country that is God-fearing and where the people will benefit from the resources that God so generously endowed us with.
“We need a lot of activism as we approach 2015 because a country is not like a private enterprise as only the people are permanent, while leaders will necessary come and go and that is the promise of democracy. We need you to help all of us. Right now, many of us are worried about the goings on in the country. I cannot carry out protest now because I will be misunderstood but my heart is in the mood for a protest, so that my children do not inherit the iniquities of the evil we see everyday.”
He therefore appealed to CAN to “speak out against the ills of the society, stand on the path of truth and pray for the country as it approaches 2015."

Kayode Fayemi
For the Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, the fear for the coming 2015 general election emanates from the threat of insecurity facing the country. Fayemi, who expressed his concerns at an event in Lagos, was of the opinion that the spate of insecurity in the country is not being tackled adequately and therefore expressed worry that the country’s leadership has failed to come up with a lasting solution to the lingering crisis.

“The crisis continued to linger because we have not paid attention to intelligence as much as we should. Up till now, the Police Intelligence Unit is still virtually zero, while the military intelligence is not as impressive as it should be.”
While contending that only the State Security Service (SSS) seems to have what could be seen as intelligence gathering, Fayemi noted the situation is a big challenge to the nation, especially with the alleged United States National Intelligence Agency prediction of impending crisis in 2015. He said the prediction might become a reality, if something urgent is not done to avert it.

“So, we need to make a clarion call to the leadership and to all of us to begin to respond to the situation. It is marshal plan that we need, even if it will mean that we should put half of our resources that we have in the country at the disposal of the afflicted states. We cannot have 10.5 million children out of school and not see the correlation between violence and poverty.

“Poverty and violence are related.  And we must do certain things to break them. But right now, the bulk of what is happening is that, the state of emergency is being paid for by those affected states. And you cannot have development without security just as we cannot have security without development. I think we need human security response to the situation rather than the law and order response. We have to do or work a little bit more in dealing with irrational beings.”
Fayemi also lamented the fact that nobody has been convicted for Boko Haram related offence, saying, “You begin to have the impression that some people are encouraging them by subterfuge.”

Rotimi Amaechi
A central character in the crisis in Rivers State, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, spoke on BBC Hardtalk anchored by Shaun Ley last week where he addressed some of the issues inherent in the Rivers crisis.

“Nobody has a right to bring down a state just because an ambition exists.  First and foremost, it is important to state clearly that it is a bit too early for 2015. Mr. President was elected to preside over the country and I support that. So, let everybody allow Mr. President to preside over the country for the interest of the country. Everybody should allow 2015 to be what it is- 2015.

“The point is that a transition is around the corner and politics is the greatest thing in Nigeria and so, a lot of people whose interest appears to be threatened have come out now to pursue their private- very private interest and as governor of Rivers State, my focus is not on that,” he said.

On the allegation that he called the president a dictator, Amaechi who denied the claim, said the statement being referred to was made in Port Harcourt, when thugs were unleashed on some of the northern governors who had paid him a solidarity visit in the light of the crisis that engulfed the state House of Assembly a few days before the visit.

“I didn’t say the President; I said the people around him. There are people who are abusing power and there are those who have even compromised power. So, when the Financial Times reporter interviewed me in Port Harcourt, I made that clearly. That was the day some hoodlums were hired to stone some northern governors who visited me to show solidarity,” he told Ley.

Amaechi, who spoke extensively on the NGF crisis also denied reports that he was advised, both by the presidency and the PDP to let go of his ambition to re-contest the chairmanship of the NGF, insisting no such advice came from either of the quarters.

“A lot of assumptions are being made here and there by different persons about what they think or what they assume my ambitions are. Nobody advised me not to run; there is no law that requires me to tell him (Jonathan) that I was going to run. I didn’t need to run to the president to say Mr. President I need to run for the chairmanship of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum. I didn’t need to do that and I didn’t do that.

“And he in turn did not call me to say don’t run, I heard you’re going to run. So I ran and I didn’t see the president on the ballot. The person I saw on the ballot was Jonah Jang,” he stated even as he reaffirmed that he defeated Jang 19 to 16 votes in the NGF chairmanship election.

He also seized the opportunity to dispel speculations about his ambition, saying it begs logic to leave the PDP if indeed he has an ambition, especially that the president is assumed to be nursing a re-election bid, saying his continued stay in the party means he nurses no such ambition and that he would not allow any one frustrate him out of the PDP.

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