And the winner is…
BY the time you are reading this, the likelihood is that the results of the presidential and National Assembly election of yesterday (Saturday, February 16th, 2019) would have been out partially or in full. Whether our democracy has matured or taken a bashing would also have become obvious in the way INEC, the security agencies, and the politicians themselves would have conducted the elections as well as comported themselves. This year’s presidential election resembles 1999’s in some significant respects. A nation reeling from the self-inflicted dislocation imposed by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election was desperately searching for a way to exit the logjam called “political impasse” to placate the South-West whose son, MKO Abiola, handsomely won the election but was denied the fruits, the 1999 return to democratic rule was so contrived that the two major candidates who stood a chance of winning came from Abiola’s Yoruba stock.
Just like there were a plethora of fringe candidates in 1999, we have them even more in numbers today but only two, incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari (APC) and his PDP challenger, Atiku Abubakar, stand any chance of winning on Saturday. The others are engaged in dress rehearsals for 2023 or are running to make up the number, improve on their curriculum vitae, or become visible and attractive enough for political largesse from the eventual winner. If the election is hung, as the INEC alleged in the last governorship election in Osun (whose outcome is being challenged in court), then, one or two of the “also ran” may become beautiful brides to be courted by APC/PDP.
In 1999, the two leading candidates, Olusegun Obasanjo and Oluyemisi Falae, were from the South. They were Yoruba/Christian; the only marginal difference being that while Obasanjo was from Ogun, Falae was from Ondo; both in the South-West. In Saturday’s presidential election, the two leading contenders, Buhari (APC) and Atiku (PDP) are from the North/Fulani/Muslim. The marginal difference this time is that Buhari is from the North-west while Atiku is from the North-east. In 1999, head or tail, Yoruba/Christian won. This time around, head or tail, North/Muslim/Fulani will win.
The cabal that run Buhari’s government have been overbearing, rapacious, vicious, and clueless; nothing suggests they will be less so if they win a second term. Conversely, Atiku, if he wins, will no less come on board with his own cabal. Their colour we may not be able to determine a priori. Institutions all over are run by cabal. As power theorists know too well and students of organisations posit, who says organisation says oligarchy.
In all human organisations there is always what is called the pyramid of power at the top of which perches a tiny minority called rulers or leaders. Even in a revolution where the existing political, social, and economic order is upturned, another quickly takes the place of the old, discredited order. The only difference – and this can be substantial, though – is the purpose of the new blokes in town, to quote the loquacious Alexander Haig, ex-US President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State.
The entire nation gained something from the 1999 “arrange” election in that the political impasse was somehow resolved, even though at a great cost. The 1999 election was not free and fair. Its lack of credibility dogged Obasanjo’s feet throughout his tenure. He did not help matters with the brazenly-flawed 2003 and 2007 elections he proceeded to superintend; including his ill-advised and ill-fated “Third Term Agenda.” Credible elections are the fulcrum of democracy. A free people of a free country must freely choose those who bear rule over them; otherwise, they are not better than slaves and conquered people. Umaru Yar’Adua’s admission that the election that brought him to power was fraudulently procured was catharsis of sorts for a traumatised nation. Though short-lived, his government took the commendable step of making glaring efforts to clean up the electoral process and make our votes count. As “clueless and incompetent” as former President Goodluck Jonathan was, to quote APC’s Lai Mohammed, his conceding defeat in 2015 and handing over peacefully set him on same pedestal as then military Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, who voluntarily handed over power in 1979.
If today they are celebrated – together with Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami who handed over power voluntarily in 1999 – that is why, not minding their obvious shortcomings. Since 2015, our elections have, however, returned to the Iwuruwuru days of blatant rigging and subversion of the popular will. This has been a regrettable APC legacy that gives neither cause for cheers nor hope for a bright future. The apprehension of many, therefore, is not who is elected on Saturday but whether the people will be allowed to elect their leader.
Therein lies the significance of the election; it is the parameter that will define its failure or success. If Buhari retains his seat in a free and fair election, Atiku must concede defeat. Whatever reservations anyone may have about Buhari and his cabal, we must then stoically bear our fate for the next four years. But should Atiku win, Buhari must imitate Jonathan and concede defeat. We will have none of his shenanigans of 2011 which led to the slaughtering of innocent souls, many of them NYSC members who were the shining light, diligent investment, and hope of their families. The recalcitrant or trouble-maker must note that the International Criminal Court beckons! If in doubt, ask ex-Liberian warlord and president, Charles Taylor. The unguarded statements of Kaduna’s irritable Lilliputian governor, Nasir el-Rufai, and the patently undiplomatic language the Buhari handlers employed against world powers in the rundown to Saturday’s election will, in the end, serve them no good.
All said and done, the first bridge to cross is free, fair, and credible election. On that rests every other decision and permutation, including whether or not we shall move forward orderly and assuredly to governorship and State assembly elections on March 2nd.
Gov. Amosun’s Ogun State of trouble…
Even the blind saw it coming – and this also resembled events in 2014 leading to the defeat of PDP/Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. At first, seven PDP state governors were at loggerheads with their party and presidential candidate Jonathan; in the end five of them defected to the opposition APC together with an avalanche of legislators, other political heavyweights and their supporters. At least three APC governors have defected to PDP – Sokoto, Benue and Kwara – together with the leadership of the National Assembly – Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara – other top-wig politicians and their supporters.
That had not been all: In states where the governors have come short of open defection, they have played one-leg-in, one-leg-out. Such states include Ogun, Imo, and Ondo. In two other states of Zamfara and Rivers, intra-party squabbles have so far denied APC the opportunity of presenting governorship and or other candidates for the looming election. We have sitting APC governors straddling the political divide – sending their loyalists who were denied tickets in APC to another party to contest but asking their supporters to nonetheless vote the same APC or, better still, Buhari, in the presidential election.
Two quick observations: Such shenanigans cost PDP/Jonathan the presidency in 2015. Will it deliver a different result this time around? In 2007 where then Gov. Gbenga Daniel (aka OGD) tried what the Imo, Ogun and Ondo governors are alleged to be toying with now, it did not work and OGD only burned his fingers. Will it work this time around? Incidentally, Gboyaga Nasir Isiaka (GNI), OGD’s godson who lost out in that political gambling, is a frontrunner in the Ogun debacle one more time but under a different political setting. A fractured APC should have been blessing to PDP; unfortunately, PDP’s own problems in Ogun appear even more intractable than APC’s that its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, avoided the state like a plague, unable to find a political solution to the problem of who is the PDP governorship flag bearer between Ladi Adebutu (Lado) favoured by the party and Kashamu Buruji, imposed by the courts and INEC. I leave my readers to determine which is better: The disgrace suffered by APC in Abeokuta or PDP chickening out of the fray.
Who is in the dock: Fayose or Obanikoro?
Peter Ayodele Fayose – remember him? He is the immediate past governor of Ekiti State who was always in Buhari’s throat, right from the time he became APC’s candidate for the 2015 presidential election. Even after Buhari’s election and other opposition figures went silent, Fayose remained the last man standing. It was, therefore, no surprise that State coercive power was massed on Ekiti last July to overawe Fayose and snatch the election from his anointed godson. Talking of “snatching” – Amosun pele o! What goes around comes around or is it the Law of Karma grinding fast and inexorably this time around! Before the expiration of his tenure and while still enjoying immunity, the EFCC was all over Fayose, eager to begin to exact the “exemplary punishment” the enfant terrible had been promised by the powers-that-be.
But trust Fayose! He took the wind off EFCC’s sail by announcing the date, time, and place he would turn himself over to the EFCC, which was quite unusual. Here, politicians under EFCC’s trail sneak out of the country into safety while they still had immunity. Not so, Fayose. At the appointed date, time, and place, he showed up at the EFCC’s and in characteristic gusto. Bag packed with the T-shirt “EFCC, I am here”, he must have dazed the Buhari attack-dog. After a couple of weeks in detention, he was charged to court for money-laundering. But there is something queer about Fayose’s ongoing trial: Former senator and Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro, is supposed to be the star witness against Fayose but except you were told this, you will mistake him for the man on trial – and not Fayose.
A visit to the Federal High Court, Ikoyi where Justice Mojisola Olatoregun presides will first confuse before it convinces you. Not only has Obanikoro described himself as a reluctant, uncomfortable, and sad witness against Fayose, even a lay man will wonder why it is Fayose that is answering to charges and not Obanikoro, his sons, and associates allegedly connected with the NSA largesse. Just visit the court and hear from Obanikoro’s mouth how he gave verbal instructions to a bank MD to release N1.2 billion to himself (Obanikoro) from an account he does not own and to which he is not signatory. The MD who complied without a whimper is running to be governor in the March election in one of the South-east states while the (mismanaged?) bank concerned has been acquired by another bank. Like many others, Obanikoro is reportedly off EFCC’s hook after decamping from PDP to APC; his son, hitherto on EFCC’s wanted list, is Lagos APC’s House of Representatives candidate. Wonders, they say, will never end! Visit the court and cry for our beloved country. Next adjourned date: March 18th.