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It is appropriate that I begin this piece with a confession so that my non-Yoruba readers would understand why I always intersperse my writings with words that convey meanings only in my ethnic (the late Chief Bola Ige said we should avoid the word ‘native’) language: I started my primary education with Yoruba as the instructional language for learning. That explains why the first novels I read (and interesting ones at that) were written by D. O. Fagunwa: Igbo Olodumare, Ogboju Ode Ninu Igbo Irunmale, Ireke Onibudo, Aditu Olodumare…
However, the subject of today’s headline is not literature but mathematics, or more appropriately, arithmetic. Just as we learnt English not with the imagery of “A for Apple” but rather with rhymes about Bade and a tree, written by J.F. Odunjo, the arithmetic of addition and subtraction was taught with songs and the most memorable of them was “Igo mewa lori tabili, to kan ba rebo la lai ro tele, aku go mesan lori tabili; igo mesan lori tabili…” In this political season, it is a song that will serve the All Progressives Party (APC) as it makes its projections for the 2015 general elections.
I am sure Yoruba people of my generation and those belonging to the generation before me are well acquainted with the song but it is simple common sense: If you put ten bottles on a table and one falls down unexpectedly, you are left with only nine bottles. And if one of the nine falls down, how many remains? It is eight. On and on the song goes until all the imaginary bottles are off the table and you are left with zero. The song teaches subtraction in a way that compelled us to reason and that is what I think the APC needs to do today.
When the party was formed last year, many Nigerians were excited not necessarily because the promoters were markedly different from other politicians but rather for two reasons. One, some who voted “a breadth of fresh air” in 2011 have discovered that they gambled on what the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti would call “same, same, same” or even worse. Two, there are also those who believe that the current administration may not have done badly but nonetheless feel that the consolidation of our democracy will not begin until we have alternation of political parties at the centre. So with such predisposition, they were looking at the possibility of whoever emerges the APC presidential candidate successfully challenging and perhaps even defeating the incumbent next year. Unfortunately for many of these critical stakeholders, the excitement is gradually wearing off.
The problem is not only that APC has become the other side of PDP in many ways (they are peopled mostly by former PDP members anyway!) but rather that the party is losing steam even before the real contest begins. It started with Ekiti State gubernatorial election where, against most expectations, the incumbent APC governor was defeated by his PDP challenger. And then, we have the Adamawa State debacle where another of their men who knows how to abuse President Goodluck Jonathan does not know how to secure his seat, and is alleged by his own assembly members as having looted the state blind.
What the foregoing means is that since Ekiti State is already minus one for APC, if Adamawa State eventually goes, it becomes minus two. And then there is the yet-to-be-resolved matter of Borno State. With the way the state’s candidate for the office of National Secretary, Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, was schemed out at their recent national convention in Abuja, there has been disquiet on that front. Should the Borno State Governor decide to follow his erstwhile godfather who has given indication that he could go “the Ahmed Shekarau way”, then it would be minus three for APC! Yet Osun State where the gubernatorial election holds next month is now also at play!
I am quite aware that two plus two do not always approximate to four in politics and that what has been happening of recent may not determine the way the presidential election will go next year. However, they nonetheless give the APC some food for thought, assuming the party is serious about its aspiration to dislodge the PDP from power next year. The point is that I have not seen any evidence of that given the way the fall-out of the party’s first national convention was (mis)managed. Rather than pacify aggrieved party leaders like Chief Tom Ikimi and make efforts to bring them back on board, the party resorted to its usual pastime of name-calling.
As a supporter of Governor Kayode Fayemi, and one who believes he did well in Ekiti State, I feel pained about his electoral defeat. However, APC leaders and their analysts must come to terms with the reality that they lost the votes of the people of Ekiti State. Coming to such realization will compel asking themselves the hard questions. That they are not doing so means that they want to continue to live in denial without any substantial “takeaway” from the loss. All the theories of some “stomach infrastructure” are not only demeaning (and indeed disrespectful) of the people of Ekiti State, they are fallacies even within the realm of academic explanations of what actually transpired before, during and after the election.
Most readers of this page already know that in the 2010/2011 academic session when I was away from the country, I conducted a research on the factors that impinge incumbent elections in Africa (http://programs.wcfia.harvard.edu/fellows/publications/divided-opposition-boon-african-incumbents). What readers may not know is that before I narrowed my topic to Africa, I had actually examined the pattern of incumbent elections across the globe. In the course of doing that, I came across several instances of when incumbents generally regarded as having performed well in office lost their re-election bids. In the same token, instances abound of incumbents who were generally adjudged as failure yet won their re-election bids, sometimes by wide margins. As I studied each case, I found interesting insights about the psychology of voters which Nigerian politicians often take for granted.
What that says in essence is that nobody can predict the way voters would exercise their franchise and the factors that would shape their choices at any point in time. That then explains why political parties that are serious about winning elections do not make assumptions; they go out to woo voters with their programmes while ensuring that they leave nothing to chance in their preparations. That include the process by which their candidates emerge and mobilizing the requisite “logistics” to match the opponents.
Therefore, since the 2015 election is just about seven months away, it is important for APC to understand that as much as Nigerians are looking forward to a competitive presidential contest, the odds are still very much in favour of the incumbent. The implication is that the process by which APC chooses its candidates for the various offices, from the presidential to gubernatorial and legislative candidates matter a great deal.
In case they are not already aware, APC leaders must know that Nigerians are much wiser today than when some of their overlords would sit down to pick their spouses, in-laws, barbers and all sorts to run for offices. Such candidates (products of arrogant imposition) are going to lose big time in 2015. And I hope that the APC people know that the idea of a Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket in the Nigeria of today will fail most woefully if the party ever tries it.
I am one of millions of Nigerians who look forward to a proper presidential contest next year and for that reason, I have considerable interest in the APC. Yet, if the truth must be told, but for the serial bungling of the ruling party and those who preside over our nation’s affairs today, the opposition party would have since been out of business. At a time you expect APC to begin to approximate the image and essence of a sustainable opposition party that is ready with an alternative narrative to our current malaise as a nation, all you get are mere reactions to what the PDP says or does.
That the prospect of a strong opposition party challenging the PDP in next year’s general elections holds so much promise for Nigerians is not in doubt. But for the APC to turn that promise into votes, it must first put its house in order. And there is no better time to start than now!
Giving to Great Ife
I have always believed that the first generation Nigerian Universities that have produced prominent people in the society should lean on their alumni as similar institutions do abroad. Unfortunately, when I made an attempt to help nurture such idea for the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (or University of Ife, as most people would prefer to call it) about two years ago, I was misunderstood (and media attack dogs were unleashed against me) by the school authorities. I took it in my strides because I love the university and my life ambition has always been to teach there one day.
However, I am happy that the institution has finally decided that it has enormous goodwill it can lean on. In fact, what their recent mail (sent to as many alumni members whose email they could get) suggests is the enormous potentials of the school. All they request of an alumni member is just N1,000 per annum whereas many of us can conveniently give more, and we will give more. I commend the short mail to other members of the Great Ife community at home and abroad who may not have received it:
“Do you know that Great Ife has over one hundred thousand (100,000) graduates? Imagine if every one of us gave at least N1000 a year, there would be N100 million available annually for the development of our alma mater. Just imagine the ease with which we would build a 500-seater lecture theatre which costs N75 million (approximately). We are therefore happy to announce to you, our alumnus, friend and supporter that you can now redeem your pledges or make new donations to ‘Great Ife’ even from the comfort of your office or home, through our recently launched safe online donation platform on the homepage of the university’s website (http://www.oauife.edu.ng/)tagged GIVING, or the Advancement Office’s website (http://oauadvancement.org/donation/) tagged MAKE A DONATION.”
MY ERROR: In my piece last week on “Abacha’s Loot & Mohammed’s Deal”, I mistakenly wrote that the late General Sani Abacha took over power as Head of State on November 17, 1994 rather than on November 17, 1993. The error is regretted.
The Verdict Written By Olusegun Adeniyi and Culled from Thisday; [email protected]
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