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You must set out early for 2019 victory

“The early bird catches the worm.” Old adage.

By Dele Sobowale

Most candidates for political office are not aware that the directives by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, have not completely closed the gates to campaigns. In fact, campaigns have already started. Those clever enough to read between the lines of INEC publications have taken advantage of the situation to start. The first decision to be made is that of office for which one is contesting. Perhaps what follows will help prospective candidates to plan their activities.

Buhari is not Mandela and may never be as noble as the Baba Africa.

“Be advised that all flatterers live at the expense of those who listen to them. Jean De La Fortaine, 1621-1695…..

Our President thinks he is God’s gift to Nigeria. That was why he ran four times for the office. Only God knows what he would have done to himself and Nigeria if he had failed in 2015. History never tells us the alternative to what happened. With his belief in himself as indispensable, he cannot now return home after the first term with the country – polity, economy, ethics, security, cohesiveness – in shambles. That would amount to a personal admission of failure and unthinkable for a person who takes no personal responsibility for disasters.

He has helpers in drilling into his head that he is indeed “god-sent”. Senator Shehu Sani said that: “I still see the President as the glue of APC. If we don’t have Buhari in the APC everyone will find his way to his home”. With that announcement, Sani was engaging in self-protection in his struggles with Governor El-Rufai. But, unknown to Sani, he had also exposed the vulnerability of the APC. A political association which depends on a 76 year-old man for its survival is not a safe bet for the long term. Everyone might as well “find his way to his house” NOW. After all, even if he is re-elected, he will go in 2023. Then what? APC will disintegrate? The sentiment is understandable given the desperation of the Senator from Kaduna State, but the logic is poor.

However, Nigerian politicians never allow logic to stand in the way of their reasoning. So, for obvious reasons, the prudent candidate for President in 2019 should accept Buhari as one of his opponents. Indeed, Buhari is the man to beat as in any competition where the current champion stakes his crown. That being the case, any other candidate is faced with a paradox – a mixture of good and bad news.

The first is clear. The All Progressives Congress is in a fix. Buhari is its only candidate – with all the liabilities he will bring into the contest. Failure to field Buhari amounts to removing the “glue” and “everyone will find his way to his home”. No other candidate in sight can rally round the party and lead it to victory in 2019. Pity APC – which is a victim of swallowing its own lies. There will be more on that later.

The second can be summarized simply this way. Most informed adults in Nigeria today, likely to vote in 2019, already have made up their minds whether or not to vote for Buhari – even in the absence of a known opponent. A survey conducted in eleven states – six North and five South – revealed that about fifty per cent of Nigerians will not vote for Buhari in 2019. Surprisingly, almost as many people who voted for Buhari in 2015 as those who voted for Jonathan are now registering disapproval of the President. The most extreme cases are in Lagos and Benue; where seventy-nine and eighty-three per cent respectively of prospective voters will vote against Buhari if the election is held now. Yet, these are APC controlled states. Even in Kaduna, Buhari’s approval is only thirty-two per cent – mostly for ethnicity and religion.

The meaning of that is clear. To vie for the Presidency, a candidate must go outside APC because there is no vacancy there. Nobody should be fooled that Buhari will not run. In fact, the longer he delays his announcement the more difficult it will be for the APC to find an alternative. They will be begging him by August to run again. Without him the house of cards, called APC, will collapse. It still might collapse.

That inevitable outcome has to some extent compounded and simplified the task ahead of any intending opponent. Buhari’s weaknesses are so well-advertised and his unfavourable rating across all zones now becoming known, campaigning against the President will be a repeat of the 2015 campaigns. Even without being candidate myself, I know that anybody wanting to challenge him can develop a dossier on Buhari which will be at least two hundred pages long – mostly demonstrating the man’s unfitness to rule a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country like Nigeria with its very complex economy. I have not done it because there is no reason to do so. His economic illiteracy is perhaps one of his most serious shortcomings. And he is not exactly charismatic; neither is he an orator. He would make a ten year-old corpse weep with boredom. Anyone who is reluctant to enter the ring with this combatant lacks the guts required to become a President in the first place. Why? You can carpet the President with a new and documented charge everyday between now and Election Day in 2019. The performance is dismal.

Third, APC is in disarray; and the President lacks the wherewithal – clout, energy, wisdom, knowledge – to bring everybody together between now and February next year. Nothing is more humiliating than for a leader to look back and discover that most of his followers are not behind him. Buhari has set up a reconciliation committee, headed by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, out of fear that the APC edifice is crumbling under him and, without it, even he “will find his way to his home” in Daura. The reconciliation committee is on a mission impossible for reasons too numerous to discuss here but which give hope to all potential challengers of Buhari.

The Chief Mediator, Tinubu, is himself involved in some of the disputes that are to be resolved. His disagreements with the leaders of the National Assembly, who staged a coup to elect Saraki and Dogara instead of the party leaders’ choices, remain intact. He will face adversaries in Kogi, Ondo, Kaduna, Kano and even Ogun states for various reasons. And, the National Executive Committee, NEC, of the party had just tossed petrol into a simmering inferno by the elongation of tenure of the National Working Committee, NWC. Chief Oyegun must be smiling like the cat which swallowed the gold fish. Yummy!

Obviously, prospective challengers of Buhari will confront an incumbent leading a party divided by internal rancor. Such an open division had in the early 1990s produced Governor Otedola of the National Republican Congress, NRC, in a Lagos State where the Social Democratic Party, SDP, controlled over eighty per cent of the voters. It can happen here. But, in order to benefit from the chaos within the APC, challengers need a broad strategy which cannot now be disclosed. In fact, the approach will also work in governorship elections as long as the schism in the APC continues. So, even Lagos is not safe for APC.

The first thing for any challenger for any office is to start early – bearing in mind that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has unwisely provided very little time for campaigns. With thirty six states and the FCT, 774 Local Governments to cover in three months, INEC has almost rigged the election in favour of the incumbents in office. Challengers must conduct political guerilla warfare to reduce the advantage handed to those seeking re-election.

The most important thing to bear in mind is the fact that no seat is safe from attack; no citadel is impregnable; especially Aso Rock. It might be of interest to those scared of getting into the Presidential race that having the Presidential election first will turn out to be worst thing that can happen to APC. The party will lose Lagos State, by a wide margin, in the presidential election and perhaps other elections as well…

WHEN THE PRESIDENT DIVIDES

“If gold rusts; what then will iron do?” Geoffrey Chaucer, 1342-1400

A President as leader is supposed to attempt to unite people in conflict. At the very least, he is expected not to worsen the situation. President Buhari visited Taraba station Monday, March 5, 2018 and left the state with the people more divided than ever. Buhari announced that the crisis in the Mambilla Plateau, where Fulanis now feel the heat of retaliation by other tribes, claimed more lives than those of the killings in Benue and Zamfara States. It was at best an unfortunate falsehood or a deliberate lie. The crisis in Taraba has not claimed up to one hundred lives. Agatu alone suffered over 300 killed in Benue state in 2016.

Then he also said: “Today even our worst enemy can attest to the fact that the APC-led Federal Government has done well in the area of security.” Pity a President who does not remember that Enugu, Agatu, Taraba, Nasarawa, Zamfara, Dapchi and national menace of herdsmen all occurred after May 29, 2015. The man is living in a fantasy world of his own. Like Don Quixote of fiction, our President is slaying windmills and imaginary monsters; while the real ones devour us.

 


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