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Simon Kolawole: Jonathan And The 2015 Calculations

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I have been listening to comments and reading analyses on the 2015 presidential election with rapt attention. There is nothing unanimous in the predictions and projections, but I am sensing a trend in the analyses: that if the All Progressives Congress (APC) fields Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) against President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), then it will be a piece of cake for the former head of state. A Buhari supporter, in a recent newspaper interview, said Buhari’s votes in the North plus Bola Tinubu’s votes in the south-west equal automatic victory for APC.

Slow down a bit, guys. I have no intention of raining on anyone’s parade or pouring cold water on exciting calculations, but analyses do not have to be this simplistic. If the history and politics of elections in Nigeria are to be of any use in these postulations, the safest bet will be to say there are still many rivers to cross. My intention today is to draw attention to several facts and factors that will be at play during the elections. Many things are still taking shape; opportunities and threats still exist for the PDP and the APC. It is too early in the day to arrive at definite conclusions.

Let us look into some of the assumptions one by one. The first is that Buhari will clear the votes in the core North and Tinubu will deliver the South-west votes in one basket. That Buhari will win in the core North has never been in dispute ─ he has done so consistently since 2003. It is unthinkable that he will not win there. However, I’m not sure Tinubu can clear the South-west the same way Buhari could do in the core North. It appears many commentators have not been monitoring recent developments in the South-west. To start with, two of the six states ─ Ekiti and Ondo ─ are now in the hands of PDP. That is important to note.

Meanwhile, the APC is getting weaker in Oyo state. The three APC senators have left the party; the death of Alhaji Alao Arisekola has dealt some body blow on Governor Abiola Ajimobi; former Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala (PDP) is on a rebound; former Governor Rashidi Ladoja, who controls large portions of Ibadan, is complicating things for APC. In Ogun, Governor Ibikunle Amosun is under fire from within and without. Chief Olusegun Osoba, in whose camp the Ogun APC senators and house members are, is playing hard ball with Amosun. The PDP, meanwhile, is bringing back its break-up groups and rebuilding in the state.

In simple words, Oyo and Ogun have become very shaky and it is a bit tenuous to assume the South-west will vote en bloc for APC in 2015. I may well be wrong, but I am seeing a split of the zone’s 13.5 million votes. The South-west, in my opinion, is neither here nor there yet. No assumptions should be made and no conclusions should be reached yet, certainly not in October 2014. Of course, the APC is not sleeping and is also hoping to gain from the fall-outs from PDP’s possible slips in the coming weeks. But South-west does not look like one-way traffic as at today.

Meanwhile, there is also this assumption that Buhari ─ or APC ─ does not need the South-east and South-south (SESS). That is ridiculous. First, it is not good for Buhari’s CV that he has never won in any Southern state since he launched his presidential bid in 2003. Not one state. And it is also not good political strategy to downplay SESS. There are 11 states in these two geo-political zones. The APC calculation may be that the South-south would rather have a “son of the soil” as president. The South-east, it seems, is fully joined in matrimony to South-south under Jonathan’s presidency. But does that mean giving up without a fight?

Let us now reverse the case. Jonathan, despite knowing that the core North will be a difficult hunting ground for him, is putting up a decent fight. He is working to secure as many votes as possible in Buhari’s territory. The president has gathered many strong politicians to his side. Now let us do some basic calculations. SESS has 17 million votes combined. Buhari’s home zone, North-west, has 18.7 million registered voters. If Jonathan bites off as much as 30-40% of the votes in the North-west (which he did in 2011) while Buhari does poorly in SESS (like before), Jonathan would clearly gain more than Buhari in the candidates’ home zones.

Jonathan’s chances, in the meantime, are also bright among the Northern minorities. It could be minority solidarity, I can’t say. The North-central has 11 million names on the voter register. Jonathan’s reconciliation with former military, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, and the governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, could help him in Niger state. Kogi, Plateau, Nasarawa and Benue would ordinarily back Jonathan. But Kwara, which supported him in 2011, is now uncertain, with the godfather, Bukola Saraki, relocating to APC. Buhari will fancy his chances in Kwara, that is if Saraki can ward off his PDP foes, who look very formidable. In truth, Kwara now looks more like a tight corner for both parties.

The North-east, boasting of 11 million registered voters, could be a mixed bag. Gombe, Bauchi, Yobe and Borno have always gone to Buhari, while Taraba and Adamawa seem to have a thing for Jonathan. But something significant has changed in Borno: Ali Modu Sheriff is now in PDP. Since 1999, Borno has always faced any direction Sheriff pointed to, and his defection must be considered a loss to APC. I was not surprised at APC’s reaction when Sheriff left: Borno’s 2.5 million votes are the nation’s fifth largest after Lagos (5.4m), Kano (4.7m), Kaduna (3.7m) and Katsina (2.9m). Being Buhari’s familiar hunting ground, however, Borno could still be game for him.

Before I shut down my computer, I would like to maintain that unlike many observers and analysts, I foresee a very competitive election. And, I think, four months to the polls, we should avoid jumping into certain conclusions. One of the major failings of the opposition is that they underrated Jonathan’s ability to respond to the momentum they gained last year. Before they could settle down to savour the heavyweight defections from PDP to APC, the Jonathan camp had launched a counter offensive, in addition to benefitting from crises arising from the consolidation process of APC.

Therefore, dear readers, with what I have seen in Nigeria in the last few months, and what I understand about the dynamics of our electoral politics, I would conclude that the day is still young. For the two leading parties, there are still many hurdles to clear. Let the game begin!

And Four Other Things…

EBOLA-FREE INDEED
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has certified Nigeria Ebola-free and this is fantastic news. But so were we before Patrick Sawyer sneaked in from Liberia with the agent of death. It takes just one case to get us back in it, so vigilance is key. A two-year-old Guinean girl has just infected Mali, having been taken by road transport abroad after the death of her mother from Ebola. I think we’re doing well checking body temperatures at the airports, but for as long as we maintain road links with the rest of West Africa, we remain at high risk. Caution.
CEASEFIRE BY FORCE
With the state of my mind now, I don’t want to hear anything but ceasefire in the North-east ─ and the release of the Chibok girls. Claims that the Nigerian government is holding talks with genuine representatives of Boko Haram had better be true. The continuous attacks on Borno villages and the fresh abduction of 60 women and girls are so depressing that any form of positive news is welcome at this time. I eagerly await the sect’s “promise” to release the girls again this week. It just has to be true. Hope deferred maketh the heart sick. Anxiety.
BBOG AND APC
A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Audu Ogbeh, recently spoke of his party’s political links with the Bring Back Our Girls movement. “We commend the Bring Back Our Girls movement led by members of our party for their commitment,” he said. To supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan, this was the final confirmation of their allegation all the while that BBOG was an APC political gathering. Ogbeh clearly committed a Freudian slip, but we should not allow that to becloud the fact that BBOG is a worthy cause. I think we should just keep politics out of this traumatic experience. Decency.
GOWON AT 80
I am always happy when someone is making the 70th birthday and beyond. That is a sign of long life in this age of all kinds of illnesses and diseases killing people. I therefore celebrate with former head of state, General Yakubu Gowon, on his 80th birthday. I was expecting a birthday present to Nigerians from Gowon ─ his memoirs on the Nigerian civil war ─ but we may have to wait in vain. Dim Emeka Ojukwu died with his memoirs unwritten, denying us a first-hand account of his experience. Gowon is following the same path. Unfair.

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Article written By Simon Kolawole, and Culled from Thisday Newspaper.. Email: simon.kolawole@thisdaylive.com

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