By Ochereome Nnanna
Among the four major presidential tickets, who do you think has run the cleanest and most effective campaign so far? I will like you to write in and disclose your opinion. In my own view President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (GEJ) is clearly ahead of the pack.
Doubtless, the advantages of incumbency and the reach of his ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which controls 27 out of the 36 states of the federation, are helping him.
But in terms of personal comportment and passing cogent messages across in a manner that protects the polity from the collateral damage of soapbox politicking, GEJ has my number one rating.
However, his political party – the PDP – is quite a different kettle of fish. We will return to this shortly. Some may argue that a sitting president on a campaign trail has no choice but to behave himself, since no sane leader could afford to say or do things that could create an ungovernable atmosphere. Those who say this have memory lapses.
As an outgoing president seeking to impose his handpicked successor, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo had the entire political space on fire, declaring the task for PDP winning the presidency in 2007 as a “do-or-die” affair and using every dirty trick to block some of his political enemies, especially Vice President Atiku Abubakar, from contesting the presidential poll.
This time it is others trying to stop GEJ with everything they have, including (allegedly) attempted poisoning!
Jonathan has committed only one known gaffe. His declaration in Ibadan on Thursday, February 10, 2011 that the South West was too important to be left in the hands of “rascals” was a bit out of sync with the mild-mannered GEJ that we all know.
Perhaps, he was under the temporary influence of the Obasanjo bug. That statement earned him a bite-back from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) who called him a “drunken fisherman”.
Again, Tinubu should have done better than that as the leader of a political party that claims to be better than PDP.
Aside this minor exchange, the ACN ranks second in terms of comprehensive coverage of the Nigerian political space in its presidential campaigns. It has also fared well in the delivery of its campaign messages as well as permitting other political parties to campaign freely in its current areas of control.
Of the big four, the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) has grossly under-performed. After its courageous flag-off at Abakaliki in spite of Governor Martin Elechi’s ill-advised move to stop them, the ANPP presidential candidate, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau and his running mate, Chief John Oyegun, have not managed to make themselves household names as GEJ, the presidential candidate of the ACN, Malam Nuhu Ribadu and the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Muhammadu Buhari have done.
The CPC presidential ticket has had a very exciting – but the most controversial – campaign run so far. Buhari is on record as the only presidential candidate who has called on his followers to lynch “election riggers”. He seems to command a lot of following among the masses, especially in the Muslim North.
Since Buhari made that “call to arms” his followers have turned unruly, pelting the president with stones in parts of the North, especially Gombe, Sokoto, Kaduna , Kano and Nasarawa states.
It is important for leaders to be very careful not to overcharge the psycho-kinesis of their supporters. The dangers are many. A super-charged mob will turn violent even when their leader genuinely loses an election. Buhari does not have much support base outside the Muslim North, which is just a fraction of the country.
He does not even seem to be bothered by his self-imposed lack of national appeal. Information has it that Buhari’s campaign posters in the far Muslim North do not even carry the photos of his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare because a pastor could be a disincentive to Buhari’s supporters!
Now, if a man who rides on the crest of such a narrow, volatile political base should lose the presidential election, how is one to explain to his supporters that their candidate did not sell himself enough to other parts of the country?
Another problem with the Buhari’s poor handling of his supporters is that the security agencies are put in a difficult situation to do their job because any move will be tagged a political persecution and hence fuel for more violence.
We should always be mindful of the old saying that violence is not a preserve of anyone. If you hit me in the North and I hit you in the South, what will be left of Nigeria for you or me to preside over?
This is the question Buhari and his cohorts should always ask themselves as they move from one section of the country to sell their candidacies to the other.
This same question should be on the lips of the PDP governors, who have made it their stock in trade to deprive other political parties their constitutional right to campaign, move and associate freely.
The governors of Abia, Akwa Ibom, and Oyo states tried – unsuccessfully – to prevent opposing political parties from staging campaigns in theirs states.
The situation in Bauchi state was taken to a near-tragic level when rams and livestock were allowed to invade the runway of the Bauchi airstrip after the plane carrying Chief Fola Adeola, the presidential running mate of the ACN was cleared to land!
Nigerians appreciated President Jonathan’s charges on his supporters not to shed blood or rig election for him as no politician is worth it. But he should go further to dissuade governors in his party not to block other political parties from campaigning for votes.
Jonathan is clean but his party is not.