By Clifford Ndujihe
WHEN on February 19, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was running for his first term, said his “political ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian” that nobody should rig for him as every vote would be made to count, many observers, especially the opposition did not take him seriously.
Many did not believe that an incumbent president would not rig his election. They were yet to forget the ‘do-or-die affair’ comment of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who said the 2007 election was a do-or-die affair for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). And indeed, the 2007 polls were one of the worst in the history of elections in the country with the main beneficiary of that exercise, late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, admitting that the election that brought him to power was flawed and set up the Justice Mohammed Uwais’ Electoral Reforms Committee, to proffer solutions.
Upon Yar’ Adua’s death, Dr Jonathan, who surmounted several hurdles before he was sworn-in as acting president and president and later winning the PDP presidential ticket, declared that he was out for peaceful, free and fair election.
Leaders of the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), which have now merged to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) took Jonathan’s comments with a pinch of salt. At every juncture, they enumerated Jonathan and PDP’s plans to rig elections.
Arguably, President Jonathan has managed to keep his promises. The 2011 presidential election was adjudged by local and international observers as free and fair and peaceful.
Thereafter, a series of violence-free and credible governorship elections have been held in five states out of which opposition parties won four and the ruling PDP won one. It started with Edo, where Governor Adams Oshiomhole of the ACN now APC retained his seat. The baton went to Ondo where Governor Olusegun Mimiko of the Labour Party prevailed. Thereafter, it was the turn of Anambra State where Willie Obiano of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) triumphed. The only place the PDP had the upper hand was in Ekiti State, where Ayo Fayose defeated incumbent Kayode Fayemi of the APC. The last on the series was Osun and the contest was won by APC’s Rauf Aregbesola amid avalanche of mudslinging and bitter exchanges between the APC and PDP.
The Campaign of calumny was so deep-seated that it over-shadowed the real manifestoes of the candidates to the detriment of development-thirsty Osun electorate.
Learning from the Ekiti episode, a wary APC leadership took its allegations to new heights as the Osun polls approached. It repeatedly accused the PDP, Independent National Electoral Commission, the police and security agencies of perfecting plans to manipulate the election in favour of the PDP. It deplored the deployment of heavily armed security agents to maintain peace. It had earlier decried the deployment of such forces for the Edo and Ekiti elections.
Among the polls, the only ones the APC commended INEC for a job well-done are those of Edo and Osun, which incidentally, the party won. The party came third in Anambra and Ondo, behind the winning parties and the PDP. Leaders of the APC alleged foul play in the Ekiti election even though Fayemi , few hours after the polls, accepted defeat and congratulated Fayose on his victory.
Before each of the five elections, the Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi, organised sensitisation workers for the candidates, INEC, party leaders and other stakeholders. At each of the workshops, the stakeholders promised to play by the rules and ensure peaceful and credible elections, a promise they have kept as the outcome of the various elections show.
In spite of the peaceful and credible nature of these elections, APC leaders are insisting that the presidency and PDP are perfecting plans to rig the 2015 election. Warning against such moves and militarisation of election, they have threatened to form a parallel government if the 2015 polls were rigged.
Our democracy still endangered – Aregbesola
Savouring his victory after the election, Governor Aregbesola, however said: “Ordinarily, this should be a moment of joy and celebration consequent upon the hard earned triumph of the people’s will. However, this election shows that democracy is still gravely endangered in Nigeria. We witnessed gross abuse of power and, of due process before, during and even after the actual voting process. It is so sad and unfortunate that what should be a normal, routine process was maliciously allowed to snowball into a needless virtual war by the Federal Government and the PDP.
“Osun State was unduly militarised in an unprecedented manner through criminal intimidation and psychological assault on our people. This election witnessed an abuse of our security agencies and amounted to a corruption of their professional ethics and integrity. The security agencies were unprofessionally utilised in Osun State to harass, intimidate and oppress the people whose taxes are used to pay their salaries and provide their arms. Hundreds of leaders, supporters, sympathisers and agents of our party were arrested and detained. Also, hundreds of other innocent citizens, including women and the aged, were harassed, brutalized and traumatised. In spite of this condemnable repression and abuse of human rights, the unflagging spirit of our people triumphed.”
APC out to scuttle 2015 polls –PDP
Responding, the National leadership of the PDP urged the opposition to learn from the Osun gubernatorial election and desist from actions and utterances that were capable of overheating the system and creating room for violence.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, the party hailed President Jonathan for creating a peaceful environment for the Osun election, it described as “a clear testimony to President Goodluck Jonathan’s unparalleled commitment to peaceful elections in Nigeria.”
The party said, “the lesson from this election is that the opposition party should stop crying wolf where there is none. They must desist from actions and statements that cause confusion and create unnecessary tension, capable of igniting violence and blood-letting in elections.”
Ahead the 2015 general elections, the PDP accused the leadership of the APC of plans to truncate the elections through its attack on the Presidency, the Judiciary, security agencies and other organs of government.
Claiming that the APC and its leadership were on the destructive march again the PDP stressed that in 2010 and 2011, they made similar statements which allegedly culminated in the crises and violence which erupted in some parts of the country.
The stance of the APC is raising question among observers on whether or not the Jonathan’s administration will maintain the track record of violence-free and credible election on account of caustic controversies trailing his second term ambition.
I’ll always ensure bloodless polls –Jonathan
Speaking on this issue, at an inter-denominational church service organized as part of activities to commemorate the 2014 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, Jonathan said: “I have always said it that any ambition I have at any time is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. I will never ever expect a Nigerian to spill a drop of his blood because Goodluck Jonathan must fulfil his ambition.”
There’s no reason to doubt Jonathan –Mbadinuju
Commenting on the matter, former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chinwoke Mbadinuju, said so far, there is no reason to doubt the president.
“In the case of President Jonathan his clarion call is adherence to Nigeria’s constitution, rule of law, equity and fairness. This form of rulership is very often seen as weakness on the part of the president whom many people expect to perform in a military fashion. President Jonathan’s mantra of one-man, one-vote single him out as a real democrat, and he did not allow wuru-wuru as part of elections in Edo, Ondo, Anambra and Ekiti. He still maintained his stand on Osun election. So one can safely conclude that rather than being weak, President Jonathan will be remembered as the best active and action-packed President Nigeria has had.”