BY CHARLES KUMOLU
ALL things being equal, Nigerians would in seven days go to the polls to choose the next president of the country with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen Mohammadu Buhari, rtd, of the All Progressives Congress,APC as the major candidates With Election Day only one week away, indications are that some key factors would sway many voters on how they vote next Saturday.
Not even the current unusual overwhelming interest in the political process, is likely to dwarf the possible roles of these determinant factors. Specifically, decisions on how the electorate would participate, whom they would vote for, what political party to vote for, are expected to be shaped by these variables. In past elections since 1999, the voting pattern had been remarkably characterised by voter apathy, occasioned by a dysfunctional political culture that has progressively nurtured apathy.
The challenges nonetheless, the forthcoming polls are, however, stirring emotion among many who have taken strong positions mainly on account of the personalities of the two major candidates, Jonathan and Buhari. Among the major issues that would affect voting pattern are incumbency factor, corruption, unemployment, insecurity, sympathy votes, President Jonathan’s performance record, fallout of party primaries, protest votes among others.
The history of elections in Nigeria is replete with remarkable roles that incumbency factor, had played for incumbents running for re-election. Since Nigeria gained independence all incumbent administrations that have organised election have almost always prevailed. There has been no record of a smooth transfer of civilian transfer of power from a ruling party to another at the federal level.
However, those who say that there is always a first time say that there has been no incumbent government that has been as troubled or touched by emotions of the citizenry as this one as such diminishing the influence of the incumbency factor. The incumbent president is nevertheless carrying the advantages of control of several apparatuses of state into the election.
Like the global pattern where performance on key areas, constitute the prerequisite for electoral victory, most Nigerians are already evaluating the performance of the present administration. This is being done in line with the President’s campaign promises four years ago. The key imprint of the transformation agenda heralded at the outset of the 2011 presidential election campaign was that Nigeria would be transformed into a new nation in various aspects of human endeavour.
Jonathan, it would be recalled, had during his whistle-stop campaign across the 36 states of the federation , pledged to fix the following sectors; power, economy, energy & gas, education security, agriculture, water resources among others. He also promised a better deal on the Niger Delta issue, women empowerment, and reforms where necessary. Infrastructural development
An analysis of the specific pledges of transformation shows the administration succeeding in some sectors and also struggling to attain key indicators of success in some strategic sectors. The administration and its supporters have pointed at achievements in the area of rail transportation, road construction, revolution in agriculture, power, health and education. Though some of the claims of performance have been pooh-poohed by critics, who maintain that the citizenry are worse off on account of the ruling PDP’s alleged misrule.
Remarkably, the administration is also challenged by the claim that it had underperformed given the amount of resources available to it. Those who view Jonathan as having underperformed would be tempted to consider Buhari who also has a record in office with which he can be assessed with, albeit even if 30 years ago.
Certainly, concerns over the widespread insecurity in the northern part of Nigeria, would largely define how many would vote. The administration would be put to task to defend its capacity in maintaining the territorial integrity of the nation. With many believing that the government has failed in its primary responsibility of providing the security and welfare of the people, it is believed that performance in this key area, would decide the voting pattern for many voters across the country.
However, those who would be lured by Buhari’s past performance as a military ruler would be challenged by the fact that he ruled as a military dictator
The import of the need to address the alarming unemployment rate in Nigeria, was not lost on the PDP and APC candidates during their various campaign stumps. Notably, the pledge to tackle the unemployment crisis was prioritized in the campaign speeches of the presidential hopefuls. Unlike in the past when issues like this never mattered, there are indications that voters would participate in the polls bearing in mind the country’s 53 percent unemployment rate.
Even though the present administration had at different fora, scored itself high on anti-corruption, reports accusing the government of condoning graft, abound. For instance, the United States based New York Times last year, accused the President of leading a corrupt government. This sentiment has also been severally re-echoed in the country, specifically by the opposition.
In one of its numerous tirades against the PDP, the national leadership of the APC, accused the party of condoning and permeating corruption in the land. In the campaigns President Jonathan has promised not to address corruption by plugging loopholes that allow corruption to thrive and has insinuated that Buhari would be too draconian in fighting corruption. He has railed that he would not build prisons insinuating that Buhari would build prisons to incarcerate corrupt persons.