Evaristus Bassey: Atiku’s errors

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Written by Evaristus Bassey

All the indices that led to the sack of Jonathan were still on ground but Buhari still became president. At that time it was Boko Haram in the North East, this time it was still a metamorphosed Boko Haram plus herdsmen in the North Central, made worse by the economic crisis which led to a recession, the loss of jobs, a great hardship and sense of deprivation in the land; there was even a religious angle to the tune that the federal government of the day was perceived by some as systematically strengthening the dominance of one faith over the rest of the country. Like Jonathan’s time people assumed a lot about INEC, about its independence and its willingness to consistently build on the gains that had been recorded as part of institutional heritage. And so there was an undue faith in the PVC and a frenzy about collecting them. For some people, just as it was a done deal concerning Jonathan, they had already written Buhari off and were prepared to celebrate his return to Daura. I actually had a one hundred thousand naira bet with a colleague who offered to take it up to one million naira and I refused because I wouldn’t have that kind of money for a bet. Well he lost but I asked him to keep his money.

One factor that people did not take into account was that Jonathan belonged to PDP and his party had ruled for 16 years already but Buhari was of the APC and APC was having its first shot at the presidency. It amazes me how seasoned politicians could not see the common sense fact that APC would not hand over power to PDP after only four years under any circumstances! Which party would undergo such ridicule in a winner take it all political environment like ours? Previously I myself had believed and written that Buhari would lose the election, and I pointed out why. But when I saw that he reconciled with Tinubu, I sensed that something deep was at stake and reviewed my analysis. Also when I saw that Nnamdi Kanu surfaced somewhere in Israel, quelling fears that he had been murdered, I knew that the game was over. There is the side factor too that, whereas we in the South are quick to criticize our leaders, northerners, even surprisingly their intelligentsia, are pro establishment. What we saw as Jonathan’s failures and crucified him, northerners just see them as challenges of government. I am part of a group made mostly of civil society actors in the north east, and the unwritten code is never to criticize the activities of government. People also forget the fact that Buhari had been governor of the old Borno which comprised several states of the North East, and the way people reminisce about Ogbemudia in old Bendel, Esuene in South Eastern State(Cross River and Akwa Ibom) etc, is the way they reminisce about Buhari, such that even when their own son, Atiku Abubakar contested, they saw him as an outsider. They saw Atiku’s bridges as crisscrossing areas too far from the north.

Atiku would be making a mistake to ask for a rerun in the states of the North East. He should rather ask to be declared winner, that is if there is any court left in the land with such temerity. Already many of the elites in the north east are unhappy with him for the Reno Omokri’s statement which he adopted, talking about the ‘statistical impossibility’ of a war ravaged people having more votes than peaceful areas. The expression sounds quite nice but not surprisingly the people are unhappy that he refers to them as mere statistics and that he has failed to acknowledge the changes that have taken place there, with virtually all local government areas being able to conduct elections than in 2015 when some areas were under Boko Haram. The people believe that the relative peace they have enjoyed is attributable to Buhari and they therefore owe him a reelection. They believe that Atiku has not deployed his tremendous wealth to improve the situation of the IDPs in the North East unlike people like Dangote. So if there is a rerun today in the North East, I am afraid that it is most likely, based on the sentiment he has unleashed, that he would lose the actual votes even further.

From the moment President Buhari refused to sign the revised electoral bill into an act, PDP should have known that it would be a free for all contest almost without rules and they should have prepared for it. But then they should not have put in all their hopes in this election and truly expect to be declared winners even if they thought they won 90% of the votes. How could they have expected that President Buhari would only do one term and leave the seat for PDP again after they had governed for 16 years! How could they have forgotten that Nigeria is not any of those countries where conventions are respected and principles are as laid down? It does not matter who would have contested with Mr. President, whether Tambuwal or Saraki, the result would have been the same, and I am referring to the naivety of anyone expecting President Buhari to rule for only one term!

This was the election for PDP to win, all things being equal. But now they are going to suffer mass defections, as beginning to happen in some states where a governorship aspirant is leading about 30,000 members to quit the party. There might also be some bandwagon effect in the states, as some states may not want to play differently from the central government. This is going to weaken PDP further as Wike may not continue funding the party and Atiku wouldn’t do so again because he would be 76 during the next election and the ticket might go down south where Tinubu would become president. It would even be tough for any other party in 2023 because by the time APC completes another term of four years, the opposition will whittle down on its own. Also many people who can’t afford to leave the country are going to join APC for fear of being tagged as looters and hounded. We are going to see a swell in the ranks of ‘former looters’ in APC. Seeing no more people out of the fold to hound, the party would then turn on its membership as a sign that they are transparent in their fight against corruption, and this would be the time the poorer cousins would be afflicted. A class of blue blooded members and the disposables may then emerge.

Having achieved the ambition of a second term, a humble appeal to Mr. President would be to focus some of his energies on electoral reforms based on technology. Technology works. We did cash programs for the so called uneducated people of the north east using technology and it worked. Technology can promote transparency and prevent bad blood if we allow it. But this would demand a resolve to be strictly servants of the common good, and that is a tough call on any Nigerian politician.

Fr. Evaristus Bassey wrote from Oxford.

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