BY CHUKWUDI NWOKOYE
A LOT have been said on the chances of President Goodluck Jonathan and the former Nigeria anti-corruption czar-cum-crime buster, Nuhu Ribadu. For this analysis, I paired these two candidates because both candidates currently receive the highest number of support online and in public arguments over who would lead the country.
Some people have thrown the former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari into the argument, but judging from the fact that Buhari has contested and lost the presidential election two times in the past; and for the fact that he represents the old generation puts him out of the equation.
The country is ready for generational change in leadership. Also people have more negative opinion of Buhari than Jonathan and Ribadu. A good number of Nigerians rightly or wrongly view Buhari not only as a fanatical Moslem, but also as divisive, sectional, withdrawn, cocky and condescending. Another negative Buhari has is the fact that he is a Fulani! Because of the fact that the North has ruled the country for long and could be seen as being responsible for the ruins the country is trying to free itself from puts Buhari in a more disadvantaged position than the other two candidates.
Even though no one has ever linked Buhari with corruption of any kind, but the fact that he comes from the area that ruled the country for many years since independence makes it difficult for him. In past elections, his votes came from the core North like Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, etc, and there is no sign that his political fortune would be better this time around.
So having removed Buhari from the equation, let me go ahead and discuss the chances of the two leading candidates. Nuhu Ribadu and Goodluck Jonathan share one thing in common: both are lucky people. They are both lucky in the sense that none of them has won any election in the past in any category as the main candidate. Jonathan was the Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State when his principal, former Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was in charge.
The latter was impeached before Jonathan became the substantive governor in line with the constitution. Jonathan also was picked up to be a vice presidential candidate in 2007, running with former Governor of Katsina State, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Jonathan later became Acting President after Ya’Ardua took ill and later became the president after the death of Yar’Adua. On the other hand, Ribadu has never won any elective office prior to being adopted by the ACN as their presidential candidate. Even Ribadu has never vied for anything or contested for anything. He always got
appointed to posts, be it as an EFCC director or in the police.
By any means, both candidates are eminently qualified to be president; not just because of the constitutional requirement of being a Nigerian citizen and being of the statutory age. If you talk about paper qualification, GEJ Jonathan holds a B.Sc. degree in Zoology in which he attained Second Class Honours, Upper Division. He also holds a M.Sc. degree in Hydrobiology and Fisheries biology, and a Ph.D. degree in Zoology from the University of Port Harcourt. On the other hand, Ribadu has both a Bachelor Degree in Law (LL.B) and a Masters Degree in law (LL.M) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; and a fellow at the reputable St Anthony’s College, Oxford University. Both candidates are young and were born exactly three years apart. GEJ was born in November 20, 1957 while Ribadu was born on November 21, 1960.
On his resume, Ribadu has been a public servant for 25 years, a lawyer, police officer, federal prosecutor and an Interpol Crime Officer. GEJ on the other hand has executive experience as a deputy governor and governor of a state as well as Vice President, Acting President and President of the country. I must add that both candidates have positive ratings but Ribadu has more international acclaim as a crime fighter and an incorruptible public official.
Coming to the election itself, the best ‘paper’ candidates never won in elections. A lot of things come into play. In 1979, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo was head and shoulders better than Alhaji Alihu Usman Shehu Shagari who later purportedly won the election. In 1999, Olu Falae was arguably more qualified than Chief Olusegun Obasanjo if you judge by his credentials as a technocrat. The problem with many so-called political analysts is that they do not look at the mood of the country before jumping into conclusion. The mood of the country is that Nigerians want a new generation leader. Having concluded that the country is better served with a generation of Nigerian leaders that are young and in line with the 21st century world, the ball is now in the court of both Ribadu and Jonathan. The odd favours Jonathan.
Ribadu is a good man by the standard of Nigerians; at least there is no accusation of corruption against him, a case of a good thing coming out of Nazareth. However, the fact that he is from the North is not a good attribute at this time. Most Nigerians are seriously kicking against that trend of most Nigerian president being from the North or being endorsed by the caliphate whether civilian or military rulers.
It is no longer ‘cool’ for the Hausa/Fulani or the North to control the destiny of the country while other tribes or sections of the country remain mere onlookers. Many people have argued that elections should not be about where you are from but rather about what you can offer and many with this opinion favor Ribadu. However, if nine out of the 13 Nigerian presidents come from a particular area or section, questions would be asked whether we are operating a democracy, a monarchy or theocracy.
In out of over 300 tribes or ethnic groups in Nigeria, we have presidents from one tribe; you need no ghost to tell you that it’s either other sections of the country are all foolish or they lack qualified people for president. Also because of the fact that past leaders ruined the country and that majority of the past leaders are from the North, the ruin of the country comes from a particular section. That is why Ribadu has a problem.
On the other hand, GEJ represents the hope of ethnic minorities and even Igbos that have never mounted the saddle as the president of the country. This is another issue that commentators have not paid a due attention to. Also in GEJ’s favor is that the country is ready to see a Niger Deltan become president.
This is the area that lays the golden egg. Because of the injustice suffered by the oil-producing areas of Nigeria, they have made a strong case that if oil that fuels Nigeria’s economy is discovered from their area, it is unjust and even wicked not only to alienate them from the wealth that comes from their backyard but also to deny them their lifetime opportunity of producing the president of the country.
In 2008, the United States was ready for a Black president. In fact, it would have been disastrous for the democrats to ditch Barack Obama for any other candidate since Blacks would see the Democratic Party as using them in every election, in spite of the fact that they have a candidate that is very qu
alified to be president.
Also Obama did not fit a profile or stereotype of ‘an angry black man’ unlike Rev. Jesse Jackson or Rev Al Sharpton. In fact it would have the end of black people support for the Democratic Party if they did not present Obama as the democratic candidate.
In 1999, the western Nigeria was volatile because of the June 12 election that was nullified after Chief MKO Abiola, who is from the southwest undoubtedly won the election. That was the main reason why the lot fell on Obasanjo to become president, so that the political tension would be doused in the southwest. Even though there were pockets of dissidents in the southwest after OBJ became president, the opposition was greatly watered down. It was for that same reason that GEJ was hand-picked for the Vice Presidential slot.
The Niger Delta was volatile and to douse the political tension over there, OBJ and his cabals had to settle for a non-confrontational candidate and the lot fell on GEJ. The cabals are not foolish. The corporate existence of Nigeria is paramount to the north since they stand to gain from a united Nigeria than a divided Nigeria. If the Niger Delta does not produce oil, I don’t think the area would be volatile in the first place and GEJ would not have been lucky to benefit from that.
nother problem Ribadu has as against the GEJ is that of perception. The popular perception of him is that he is a no-nonsense crime buster. However, this cuts both ways. Even though many Nigerians see him as what the country needs to clean up the mess, many are afraid that his youth and zeal may not be a positive political attribute. This is because many see him as combative and may be a disaster because he might have problem of not being a team player. He might get impeached by the National Assembly if he is so rigid and does not play ball with their quest to corruptly continue to enrich themselves.
This would lead to a politicalinstability. Moreover, morally righteous but combative politicians never made it in Nigeria; otherwise Chief Gani Fawehinmi of National Conscience Party (NCP) would have been president of Nigeria. Many have forgotten that one of the reasons while Chief Awolowo was not the president of Nigeria was because he vowed to probe past presidents and to fight corruption. That didn’t seat well with the status quo.
The Head of State, General Obasanjo would not have in good faith handed over to Awolowo knowing full well that the latter would probe him; even though Awolowo was by far a better qualified candidate and had a better blue-print for the country than Shagari. Also the smartest people do not actually translate to leadership of their country otherwise Albert Einsten would have been the president of the world or even the president of the United States or his native Israel. Many could mistake Ribadu’s confidence for Hausa/Fulani arrogance, sense of entitlement and royalty. This is unlike GEJ that is viewed as more calm or even docile and has a friendlier disposition.
Also, the corrupt politicians would do anything to make sure that Ribadu does not win. Majority of Nigerian politicians; and even politicians all over the world fight for their own selfish political interests irrespective of what that interest is. Even Ribadu’s northern politicians know that their political interests are not well served with a President Ribadu. They believe that he would be out to prosecute many of them that helped impoverish Nigerians; so they would work against him.
Even though most northern politicians want a northerner to be president in keeping with the often talked about PDP’s zoning formula, however, if that choice of Ribadu would send the likes of IBB, Adamu Ciroma, or Atiku to jail, I don’t think that they are ready to compromise their ill-gotten wealth or freedom for a President Ribadu. They would throw Ribadu overboard (if they have not done so already) in other to protect their selfish economic and political interests. Moreover, Ribadu and Buhari would divide the core north between themselves. On the other hand GEJ does not seem like someone that could ruffle feathers, rock the boat or dislodge the status quo. The corrupt politicians see him as a lesser evil.
Also Ribadu has no political experience. Political experience in Nigeria is a code word to denote people that have squandered Nigeria’s money or having been friends or allies with people that have done so in the past. The only thing working for Ribadu is the goodwill of Nigerians especially the youth that see him as the face of change. That alone would not land him to Aso Rock.
The youths of Nigeria might like to vote for Ribadu but cannot help him in campaign contribution. Majority of Nigerians youths are unemployed and cannot contribute money. Also to mobilize the youths is difficult in our clime since you cannot mobilize people with empty stomachs. Moreover, the economy is so bad that youth could be enticed with money to follow the highest bidder. This could work in other climes but not in Nigeria. GEJ and Ribadu share almost same youth enthusiasm if the internet furor is anything to go by. But GEJ looks more of a mainstream politician.
Another very important factor against Ribadu is the incumbency factor. No Nigerian president had ever lost a second term. Shagari won second term in 1983 and Obasanjo won his own re-election is 2003. Even though GEJ did not stand an election in 2007 as the main candidate, but now he is the incumbent. In Nigeria, incumbents have many advantages over their political adversaries. First of all, incumbents have access to unlimited and unregulated campaign funds. The country’s unlimited resources are there for GEJ to spend as much as he wants during campaigns. He also can auction Nigeria out to the highest bidder.
By this I mean that he has unlimited power to share oil blocks and contracts to win political support even from his arch-rivals. He can also use the trappings of office and the ‘bully pulpit’ to stifle all oppositions. The state-owned radio and television media would sing his praise all days. Also the army of sycophants would buy up spaces in both the print and electronic media to drop support for GEJ. On top of that, many politicians that want to curry favor from GEJ would contribute immensely to support his campaign.
Even corporate organizations are not left out. Many of them would bundle money for GEJ. In politics, that quid pro quo or ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ is always there. This was manifested in the just concluded PDP presidential primaries where the state governors and National Assembly members negotiated for GEJ support their quest for 2nd term in exchange for their support and that of their states and constituency delegates. Politicians also see politics as investments. The question you ask yourself is whether they can bet their money with GEJ or with Ribadu?
A business man puts his money where he expects an instant dividend and not where he is unsure of a good turnover. Ribadu can only use his reputation or goodwill for whatever it is worth to appeal to mostly Nigerians living abroad who cannot constitutionally register to vote or vote in any election. He also enjoys immense support of idealist and that of the youth. Mostly Nigerians living abroad and the youths are even divided between GEJ and Ribadu. Also most state governor in the PDP controlled states and even in the ones in some non-PDP controlled states are ready to back GEJ so long as he does not interfere with their own affairs as did OBJ.
Another important factor militating against Ribadu is the fact that the opposition is not united. Buhari would not step down for Ribadu for them to present a common front, even though Buhari cannot win any national election outside his northern comfort zone. In politics, you cannot win against the ruling party if you cannot maintain the discipline and teamwork that oppositions are known for all over the world.
It was reported that the PDP prevailed on Prof. Maurice Iwu’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to register legion of political parties in order to water down opposition to the PDP. The adage ‘divided we fall’ is still relevant as the opposition are so divided that they cannot even muster a common strategy to win even local elections let alone the general election and cannot even present a common developmental program should they win the election.
Finally as the adage would say “I rather be lucky than right”, many write off the issue of luck in the affairs of men. Former Vice President Al Gore spent his whole life preparing to be president of the United States. He did everything right, kept himself out of scandal or trouble to the extent of be a “Mr Clean”, however, a bumbling but lucky George W. Bush came and defeated him, and that was at the time that the US economy was great under President Clinton and Al Gore.
People took for granted the economic stability of the United States and were ready to gamble with George Bush. So you don’t wish away the element of luck and the special grace of God in human affairs. God would have chosen the bigger and more mature brothers of King David, but he rejected all of them and chose David who was not even in the radar of the kingmaker, Samuel.
GEJ is the luckiest person to be president of Nigeria and I dare say that barring unforeseen circumstances, he would not just defeat Ribadu but defeat him convincingly. GEJ is the most under-estimated politician in the country. People should go and ask Alhaji Atiku Abubakar about his experience. If GEJ could beat Atiku in his own game, I dare say that Ribadu is a lesser adversary. But as they say, in politics anything is possible.
*Chukwudi Nwokoye writes from Maryland, USA.