By Tonnie Iredia
The Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) who are clamouring for a second term for President Goodluck Jonathan may have excelled in their mobilization of many Nigerians to applaud their goal. Their South-South rally in Port Harcourt the other Saturday reportedly received the blessing of over four million citizens of the zone who demand that Jonathan should contest the 2015 Presidential elections. Their earlier shows in the South-East and South-West rallies were similarly impressive. They therefore appear to have put the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in a joyous mood ahead of 2015. In fairness to the party, no one can afford to despair considering the kind of figures that are being reeled out from the TAN rallies.
There is also the latest revelation that different groups supporting the President have soared from 3000 to 8000 according to Rufai Alkali Political Adviser to the President. It is probably in order that PDP members are already rejoicing over what they are seeing as the inevitable victory of President Jonathan at the coming polls. One of such optimistic members is my old classmate, Chike who tells me every other day that their party is set for victory. Every effort to draw his attention to the need for caution has been rebuffed. Interestingly, he came out the worse for it for ignoring a similar caution about being over confident concerning the recently concluded Female World Cup contest where Nigeria humiliated every opponent until the final match in which she failed to fly when it mattered most. Chike had confidently opined that Nigeria would win because her No. 4- Oshoala was unstoppable. Alas, Chike could not recover from the shock of Nigeria’s defeat in the final match against Germany.
Regrettably, Chike is again getting over confident about another contest- the Presidential election in Nigeria in 2015. Is his party, the PDP similarly over confident? If unfortunately she is, I just hope President Jonathan is not because there are what can be called election craters on the way to 2015 and they are many.
First, to count Jonathan’s support groups in thousands without a fraction is suspect. How come the groups are exactly 7000 while the number of groups awaiting recognition is also reported to be exactly 1000 or were the groups counted by the same people who always counted our people during our controversial census exercises? If so, who says the groups are not replicated and that some of the members are not also members of even opposition groups?
Second, the members of the groups as well as some of the people in the crowds put together by TAN may have been rented- a common feature in Nigeria. At the same time, some of the crowds could just be adventurers who are ever present at every rally to see what is in there for them making it dangerous for anyone to rely on the crowds. In earnest, several segments in the crowds including the transformation ambassadors themselves might not be registered voters or may not have succeeded in passing through the needles’ eye to secure the permanent voters card.
Again, the typical TAN rally does not in essence add to knowledge as what we hear there is neither new nor different from the daily television slogans and jingles. The rallies would probably be better if they are less predictable. What is more, that the speakers at the rallies are mostly ministers and top government officials as well as PDP stalwarts reduces the level of credibility of the events. Indeed, the rallies look like those television documentaries which depict how great a man is by featuring his children describing him as the best dad ever- whose father?
But none of the issues raised so far raised is as crucial as the fear of the referee- the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Recently, the commission announced thousands of additional polling stations in the country. How INEC has shared them should tell the PDP that they are probably rejoicing at the wrong time. Is the PDP familiar with “gerrymandering”- a term which refers to the manipulation of electoral constituencies/polling units in such a way as to influence the outcome of elections in favour of a political party? INEC says it has introduced more voting units to reduce large numbers of voters in some centres. That sounds good; but by which mathematical formula did it arrive at giving one zone in the country more additional units than six other zones put together? Is the favoured zone the place where several people are migrating to at this point in time, if not how can it deserve the chunk of additional units?
Assuming INEC means well, can it guarantee what its often compromised staff will do with this new device? After all, the nation is yet to get the details of the manipulation by 2 of its suspended electoral officers in Osogbo and Obokun local government areas in the just concluded Osun governorship election. In any case, while it is wise to ensure that no voting centre has more than 500 voters, why is INEC fantasizing to be doing something new? Was the pegging of voters population at a maximum of 500 per booth not achieved as far back as 1991 by the Humphrey Nwosu led electoral body? Perhaps we need to warn that attempting to change old familiar voting centre less than 6 months before a major election is risky. It was tried during the 1999 general elections and the result gathered by this writer as an election monitor in Gombe State, was heavy fighting between 2 villages-Galumari and Rilawa. The fight was in connection with the re-location of the voting centre. Three persons who were seriously wounded during
the fight were hospitalized at the Kumo General hospital.
The current contentious creation of new voting units and the resultant inequitable distribution of the units should tell our political parties that while rallies to mobilize voters are expedient it is futile not to pay attention to moves that could make the election a lost battle before it begins