By Douglas Anele
In spite of efforts to clean up the electoral process, rigging, violence and electoral manipulation of all kinds were rampant during the 2007 elections to the extent that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua frankly acknowledged the glaring flaws in the election that brought him to power that year, which was why he established the Mohammed Uwais Committee to address the issue.
A plausible case can be made that the modest achievements of the PDP in different areas of our national life after Yar’Adua’s death neither degenerated nor were consolidated, expanded and taken to a much higher level by the next administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
Accordingly, it was not surprising that the avoidable mistakes he made were hyperbolised and exploited by a vicious coalition of anti-Jonathan forces in the PDP and opposition parties, notably the Yoruba dominated Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), its northern counterpart, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), and factions of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) to form the APC on February 6, 2013.
The plot against Jonathan moved into high gear when, in the months leading to the 2015 presidential elections, a group led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Rotimi Amaechi, Buba Galadima, Tom Ikimi and others dredged up the retired Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari to contest the presidency for the fourth time under the banner of the new party.
It gained momentum after former Vice President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, several governors, leading federal and state legislators, as well as a handful of other prominent fair-weather PDP members decamped to the APC. It must be pointed out that PDP stalwarts including President Jonathan were overconfident that the party’s preeminent position would ensure electoral victory in the elections.
Jonathan and his loyal supporters from the south underrated the new party hoping that it would collapse just like the failed attempt in 2011 by certain elements from the south-west and core north to forge an alliance against the PDP. Meanwhile, several key players in the northern military-civilian establishment and their southern lackeys had already committed themselves to returning power to the north at all cost.
Several commentators who have tried to explain why Jonathan lost to Buhari in 2015 tend to ignore an essential piece in the puzzle, namely, the negative impact of the self-serving truncation in 2011 of the gentleman’s agreement of the PDP to rotate power between the north and south on prominent emirs and northern politicians.
The zoning arrangement, though not enshrined in the 1999 constitution, was a sensible and expedient pragmatic move to prevent one section of the country (the north or south) from dominating the post of president. So, when Yar’Adua died leaders of the PDP should have, in keeping with the principle of zoning or rotation, allowed a northerner to emerge as its presidential candidate in 2011 after Jonathan completed Yar’Adua’s term.
But they allowed him to contest again, as if the matter was purely a constitutional issue. Of course, Dr. Jonathan had the right to contest but by doing so and winning, he and agbata ekee politicians that supported him actually laid the foundation for Buhari’s undeserved victory in 2015 notwithstanding the exaggerated failures attributed to his administration by the APC and swallowed completely by gullible Nigerians.
Make no mistake about it: the moment zoning was jettisoned to pave way for Jonathan, it motivated northerners across board to come together and ensure that power returned to the north through Buhari.
Dr. Reuben Abati’s article, in 2016, headlined, ‘Rituals, blood and death: the spiritual side of Aso Rock,’ drew attention to what he sees as ritualised and polluted evil ambience surrounding key centres of political power in the country, especially Aso Rock. Analysing in details the intractable issue of supernaturalism and the quest for political power in Nigeria will derail us from the major theme of this analysis.
Suffice it to say, however, that despite the impressive accomplishments of science and technology which have steadily whittled down superstitious mentality across the globe, Nigeria remains predominantly a traditional society in which millions of people, irrespective of their educational qualifications, professional achievements and socio-economic status still operate with the mind-set or mentality of primitive men who lived tens of thousands of years ago.
When it comes to dogmatic belief in the causal efficacy of supernaturalism and superstition, there is no real difference between a professor in any of the sciences or engineering disciplines, a general in the army, the chief executive officer of a large firm, prominent members of the clergy, artisans and beggars in the street.
Indeed, some of the worst instances of ritualised supernaturalism take place in the high stakes politics of winner takes all where shameless desperate politicians aspiring for public office employ diabolical means in order to achieve their ambitions.
To be clear, it is very shameful that once someone is elected into high public office or gets there through a military coup, the fellow soon metamorphoses into a small tin-god to be worshipped and praised even when he or she has a tendency of making stupid or inappropriate decisions that adversely affect the lives of the citizens they are supposed to serve in the first place.
Having been deified, the president, governor or local government chairman begins to really think and act like a small deity. Shameless sycophants seize the opportunity to bombard the person with outlandish stories about enemies both visible and invisible, which generate feelings of insecurity and paranoia.
From this point onwards, the poor fellow develops the psychology of dependence on external power in the form of invisible spiritual forces that would protect him from the evil machinations of enemies, and principalities and powers allegedly working against him.
It can be said, with a lot of plausibility, that overarching superstitious thinking among members of the ruling elite in Nigeria is a principal cause of the blizzard of recurrent leadership failure in the country: it makes otherwise intelligent and reasonable people in high places to take very stupid rash decisions and act irrationally most times while in office.
That Buhari’s electoral victory in 2015 was made possible by shameless self-styled progressives, human rights activists and those who previously scathingly criticised his military dictatorship is the clearest indication of the ideological and moral barrenness of Nigeria’s political class and the elite in general.