by Femi Aribisala
Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria entitles the president to run for a term of four years renewable for another four. This means, barring death or impeachment, the president of Nigeria can serve for a maximum period of eight years. Anyone who expects a sitting president of Nigeria to lose re-election and serve only one term in this day and age is fooling himself. If, as many believe, Goodluck Jonathan is going to run for re-election in 2015, then the next president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria will be Goodluck Jonathan.
Foregone conclusion: It really makes no difference if my bluntness offends some people, especially those who have put their broken eggs in the APC basket. I am not a Goodluck Jonathan supporter and have never been and will never be a card-carrying member of the PDP. All I do is call it as I see it; and this is what I see quite clearly: the result of the 2015 presidential election will be declared the day Goodluck Jonathan finally declares his candidacy. That is the reality of Nigerian politics today.
Once Jonathan declares his candidacy, all those currently seeing visions of an APC victory will quickly wake up from their slumber. Those currently sitting on the fence will be constrained to fall in line behind him. Many of those already signing marriage contracts with the APC will soon start filing for divorce. There will be a scramble to identify with Jonathan so as not to be without good luck come 2015, when it will be payback time. People like the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal, who have one foot in PDP and another in APC, will have hell to pay. One thing is for certain; Tambuwal will no longer be Speaker come 2015.
Nigerian politicians are not suicidal. They are limited liability companies. They are only interested in “number one.” They know there are no cigars for losers. The governors that left PDP left because they had no future in the PDP. All but one of them cannot stand again for re-election. Those PDP governors standing for re-election are acutely aware that INEC has strategically scheduled the presidential election before the gubernatorial elections in 2015. That means sitting governors that don’t play a prominent part in Jonathan’s magical re-election can look forward to disaster in their own primaries or elections. Those who have jumped ship to the APC can expect an invitation to dinner by the EFCC sooner than later, in the tradition of Femi Fani-Kayode.
We were not told Rabiu Kwankwaso was fraudulent while he was still a PDP governor. However, now that he has moved over to the opposition, the president has been quick to blow his cover concerning campaign contributions and local government funds. If you don’t think that is telling, think again. Once the president finally declares his candidature, the prodigal sons of the PDP will quickly return home in repentance, their tails hanging between their legs.
Harsh reality: We can be as idealistic as we want. But we need to face realities. We have not reached the age where a sitting president loses re-election in Nigeria. It has never happened before and it is not going to happen in 2015. When we finally reach the stage for that “abnormal” departure, the sitting president will not be dethroned by an opponent from a ragtag coalition of yesterday’s men, belonging to parties with over-weight political baggage and without effective foothold in major parts of the country. Nigerian politicians know Jonathan cannot lose the next election, which is why the contention has not been about the election itself, but about the fact that Jonathan should not run for re-election.
Those who have been shouting themselves hoarse that Jonathan should not run know that all hope of defeating him will be lost should he declare his candidacy. People like Junaid Mohammed and Ango Abdullahi are not putting their hopes on Jonathan’s defeat at the polls. They know that is just not going to happen. They are relying on defeating him by dissuading him from running with threats and intimidation. Some, like Murtala Nyako, even go as far as declare that there will be civil war should Jonathan decide to run. That is not the position of democrats. That is the position of pretender bull-dog revolutionaries. Unfortunately for them, Jonathan has refused to be intimidated by vain threats of mayhem.
Northern agenda: The Northern cabal made a song and dance about dethroning Jonathan in the PDP primaries of 2011. After so much drama, they came up with the perfect challenger: Atiku Abubakar; a former vice-president with widespread political connections and ubiquitous political machinery. However, politically-experienced Atiku lost the PDP primaries by a landslide to “inexperienced” Jonathan. If favourite-son Atiku could lose so woefully to Jonathan in 2011 when the president was a political neophyte, Northern strategists know they don’t have any hope against Jonathan in 2015, after he would have been in power for six years.
These people know what many Nigerians don’t seem to know. Elections in Nigeria are not televised. The more you see, the less you see. Nobody has been able to explain to me the basis of the miracle whereby a PDP presidential candidate gets over 2 million votes in riverine Rivers State. By all accounts, no election takes place in many places in Nigeria, nevertheless, “fantabulous” results are declared.
Supporters of Buhari should read the tea-leaves. How long will it take before they realise a Buhari presidency is a pie-in-the-sky? With every election Buhari has run, he has lost more woefully than the last one. With every election he has lost, he has gone in protest all the way to the Supreme Court, but to no avail. There is nothing like fourth time lucky for Buhari. The “luck” is on the side of this man called Goodluck.
That is why we have this frivolous talk about dogs and baboons soaking in blood come 2015. Bola Tinubu should watch his back. He is now an aspiring national politician, but he needs to secure his home-base. The PDP can orchestrate his dethronement in the South-West. That has happened before and it can happen again. The more resources Tinubu devotes to fighting at the centre, the less he has for fighting at home. The PDP took over in Kano. They can also take over in Lagos especially now that the popular Fashola is going to be out of the way.
Check the statistics: the PDP has never for once conceded Lagos to Tinubu. They have given him a run for his money in every election. In 2007, the South-West did not vote for Tinubu’s Atiku. They voted instead for PDP’s Yar’Adua. In 2011, they did not vote for Tinubu’s Ribadu. Neither did they endorse his late-night romance with Buhari. They voted instead for PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan. This should tell the political astute that, even in the best of times, Tinubu has no coat-tails in the South-West at the presidential level.
Northerners are very wily and astute politicians. In spite of the noise coming from some of their ranks, they know that an election that fails yet again on the platform of “power must return to the North” will be inimical to future Northern presidential ambitions. For this reason, I predict that even the North will be voting for Jonathan come 2015. Indeed, there will be no Northern opposition to Jonathan’s candidature in the PDP this year. Any Northerner who dares to run against Jonathan in the PDP primaries will mortgage his foreseeable future in the party. That person will forfeit Jonathan’s possible anointing as his successor in 2019.
What this means is that the pivotal election in Nigeria will not be the 2015 presidential election, as many currently anticipate. The result of the 2015 election is already a foregone conclusion. The pivotal election will be the 2019 presidential election when a sitting president will be out of the way. Even then, that election will only be exciting if the APC survives defeat in 2015. All the indications suggest that the APC may end up as a one-election coalition. The APC is a collection of sworn enemies who don’t see eye-to-eye but are tolerating one another in the meantime just for the sake of capturing the presidency.
Recently, I saw a photograph of Tinubu making a speech, with Buhari looking at him. I felt like giving a penny for Buhari’s thoughts. Does anybody really believe Buhari likes Tinubu beyond the next election? Does anybody really believe that, as a result of some overnight metamorphosis, Atiku Abubakar is now suddenly enamoured of Tinubu? Atiku was Tinubu’s ACN presidential candidate in 2007, but ACN voters ditched him and supported Yar’Adua. What of Tinubu, does anybody really think Tinubu likes Ribadu? Ribadu was Tinubu’s ACN presidential candidate in 2011, but Tinubu ditched him at the last minute first for Buhari and then for Jonathan.
What makes anybody believe Tinubu will not ditch the APC presidential candidate in 2015, if that is the price he has to pay to hold on to his base in the South-West? Let’s not forget this for one single minute: these guys are politicians. Politicians are unscrupulous. They make friends of convenience today that become enemies tomorrow once the friendship becomes inconvenient.
All this is without apology to those wishful-thinkers who would like the 2015 election to be decided by the voters. They would like the election to be based on the issues. They would like to think religious affiliation would not be a determinant in the election. They would not like regional or ethnic affiliation to be a factor. They would like to believe presidential incumbency will not be the deciding factor. Well, I have news for them.
If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride. The 2015 presidential election in Nigeria will not be held in a foreign country. It will be held in Nigeria. Therefore, the election will go as usual according to plan. Goodluck Jonathan will not only win in 2015, he will do so by a “moonslide.”
Femi Aribisala is a pastor and popular social commentator. He wrote this piece for Vanguard Newspapers.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.