After Nigeria’s parliamentary elections and the Jonathan effect, is the country ready for a new future? By Nkem Ekeopara

After success of Nigeria’s parliamentary elections and the Jonathan effect, is the country ready for a new future?

By Nkem Ekeopara, contributing editor and columnist for USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com

 

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USAfrica, April 10, 2011: The results of Nigeria’s National Assembly elections held on Saturday, April 9, 2011 continue to come, at the time of this commentary. Although beclouded  by bomb blasts in Suleja, Niger State (near Nigeria’s federal capital) and Kaduna, Kaduna State both in North Central Nigeria, the elections into the Senate and the House of Representatives were largely peaceful.  The verdict of the Nigerian people is showing an extensive perforation of the umbrella; the symbol of the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a party that prides itself as the largest in Africa.

Unfortunately, this is rainy season in Nigeria, especially in the South from where I am writing. So, some people are profusely drenched. Some people are feeling quite cold. Some people are shivering. This is natural! It is a validation of a view every keen watcher of the Nigerian politics would easily accept that in free and fair elections in Nigeria no single political party would emerge overwhelmingly victorious in legislative elections. This is because the Nigerian politics is driven by the dynamics of ethnicity, religion and region, and of course the contestant’s war chest. Sure, money plays a very important role in Nigerian elections, not just for advertisements and logistics, but also for the inducement of the electorate.

To these, integrity and performance have clearly become factors any politician in Nigeria today would wish away at his or her own peril.Certainly, the feeling of discontent among PDP members and the subsequent switching of parties by the discontented, coupled with aforementioned reasons account for the drubbing of PDP in Saturday’s elections as the results roll in. In PDP primaries, imposition of candidates was rife more than in the other political parties. While some of those who felt unjustly denied tickets chose to fight within the party by heading to the courts because in the past all you needed to win an election in Nigeria was to secure a PDP ticket, others wisely chose to join and contest on the platform of other political parties. Like their counterparts still in PDP, these new entrants into other parties know the rigging strategies of PDP.

Thus, they were able to checkmate their former brethren still in the PDP across the country. In Imo East Senatorial District where Mrs. Chris Anyanwu, the incumbent senator won her bid to return to the Senate, her impressive performance on the floor of the Senate, and the popularity of her new party, the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), among Imo voters clearly coalesced to ensure her victory. PDP denied her a ticket she is said to have won in their primary election, defeating Dr. Kema Chikwe. Dr. Chikwe is the former Aviation Minister and immediate past Nigerian Ambassador to Ireland who is said to have been awarded the ticket by the party with the umbrella where Nigeria’s former president, retired Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo is the czar.

Confident of her antecedents, Senator Anyanwu left the PDP and joined APGA and contested against Dr. Chikwe. The rest as they say is history.    Even then, it would have been impossible for her and others like her to have won without what I see as the most potent reason for this encouraging trend.

This potent reason is what I have elected to call the Jonathan effect. Under retired Gen. Obasanjo, the champion of  ‘do-or-die’ politics in Nigeria, the security forces were flagrantly used to subvert the will of the people. He didn’t stop at that. Using the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) under Professor Maurice Iwu, Obasanjo made elections in Nigeria in 2003 and 2007 a thorough reflection of the perception among members of the international community that Nigeria is a symbol of corruption. This perception of Nigeria was even used to make the controversial movie, District 9 in 2009.  In tow with the Advance Fee Fraud (AFF) popularly known as 419, those fraudulent elections under Obasanjo’s watch worsened Nigeria’s image problem more than anything else in the history of the country.

But the Jonathan effect appears to be changing the picture for good. Objectively, the National Assembly elections have been largely free, fair, credible and peaceful because President Goodluck Jonathan did away with retired Gen. Obasanjo’s abusive and condemnable ways.  He (Jonathan) has repeatedly assured the nation of free, fair and credible elections, giving verve to his assurances by appointing someone of integrity, in the person of Professor Attahiru Jega, and promptly providing all the funds INEC needed to succeed at their request.

Although the electoral reforms his predecessor, late President Umaru Musa promised while acknowledging that the election that brought him to power in 2007 was faulty cannot be said to be far reaching enough as recommended by Justice Mohammed Uwais Commission, INEC is certainly a lot more “independent” under Jonathan than it was under Obasanjo.  By the way, Obasanjo has been roundly humiliated in these elections. His daughter, Senator Iyabo Bello, lost her bid for re-election into the Nigeria’s upper chamber. So, someone must be really ‘laughing’ now.Besides, Jonathan unlike Obasanjo, has so far refused to deploy the instruments of the state, especially the security forces, to gain undue advantage. His daily mantra of “one man, one vote”, and regular admonishment of the security forces to give everyone a level playing field are helping in defining his administration.  I think he should be hailed! Professor Jega is doing his best. He must be hailed too for settling for the modified open ballot system. He not only took this transparent step, but also, defied the National Security Adviser; the retired Gen. Owoye Azazi, and police authorities and asked voters to stay and see their votes counted and hear the results declared after voting.

That the modified open ballot system has come to the rescue of Nigeria at this critical juncture is due to the ingenuity of Humphrey Nwosu, the meticulous professor who used the original version -open ballot system, for maximum effect. In 1993 elections, the erudite professor used the system to show the world that it is possible to have free and fair elections in Nigeria. Unarguably, Jega’s courageous act in choosing this system even if modified helped in no small way in encouraging voter vigilance, which played no less a key role in deciding the outcome of these elections.

On their part, I think that the Nigerian people themselves deserve praise for their commendable valour and resolve to ensure the sanctity of their votes and enthrone transparency in the electoral process. They should stay the course!The picture emerging is sure to be the same in the gubernatorial and the State Assembly elections scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, 2011. If this happens as it should, all things being equal, the implication is that it will strengthen the legislative arm of the government at the state level just as what has happened in the National Assembly will strengthen the legislative arm of the government at the national level. Hitherto, the legislative arm of the government has been a mere rubber stamp to the executive arm virtually at all levels.

This is notoriously so at the state and local government levels, where they cooperatively collude to steal funds meant for the development of their states and local governments.If this emerging picture truly becomes the case, one would expect robust debates and enactment of progressive laws, which should draw from the manifestoes and programmes of the various parties. At the federal level in particular, with members of Congress of Progressive Change (CPC), the party of the retired military dictator, Gen. Mohammadu Buhari, it would be interesting to see how their members will go about hitting the heart of the Nigerian question:  restructuring of the Nigerian pseudo-federation. The CPC has promised the restructuring of the Nigerian state in its manifesto.

Incidentally, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) peopled by individuals with a long history of activism for the restructuring of the Nigerian state will be there in good number. The Nigerian people expect the issue to be on the front burner of the National Assembly. This may be a wishful thinking though knowing how sly and slippery politicians can be and how self-centred the members of Nigeria’s National Assembly have been in the last twelve years; behaving as species bitten by the bug of rapaciousness.It would be hasty to say that what is happening in the National Assembly elections and being predicted to happen in gubernatorial and State Assembly elections would happen in the presidential election. This is unlikely!

The picture could be different. This could be so partly because of another aspect of the Jonathan effect in these ongoing elections. The dramatic way the current Nigerian president emerged from the crucible of political intrigues surrounding the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s sickness; and his emergence as his party’s flag bearer after intense horse-trading undoubtedly garnered some empathy for him, and elevated the awareness level in the polity. This awareness is so palpable among the youths whose massive support for him and that of the entertainment community is much more than what we have ever seen for any presidential candidate in Nigerian elections.

Considering that young people constitute more than sixty percent of the current population of Nigeria makes President Jonathan the candidate to beat on April 16, 2011.In addition, he has been touting some of his accomplishments in his one-year-old administration in publicity blitzes on most television networks and did very much so during his many campaign rounds covering the thirty six States of Nigeria and Abuja, the Nigerian capital.

The likelihood of President Jonathan’s win is further strengthened by the inability of the opposition parties to forge a common front against him. That the visible presidential candidates of all the opposition parties are from the core North, a region still insisting that it is “their turn” to govern the country, makes this outcome even more likely.Really, the question that should be playing in the minds of the Nigerian people considering what is happening to the umbrella and the emerging scenario is: can the Jonathan effect endure?  Ultimately, is Nigeria capable of a new future? Only time will tell.

USAfrica: As Egypt’s corrupter-in-chief Mubarak slides into history’s dustbin.  By Chido Nwangwu. http://usafricaonline.com/2011/01/30/chido-nwangwu-as-egypt-corrupter-in-chief-mubarak-slides-into-historys-dustbin-egyptians-not-waiting-for-obama-and-united-nations/

Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa’s writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/chido.achebebest.html

Tunisia, Egypt . . . Is Nigeria next? By Prof. Rosaire Ifedi

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USAfrica: Ribadu draws first contrast with President Jonathan and PDP ahead of April 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica.
See the October 17, 2001 special report/alert: Nigeria’s bin-Laden cheerleaders could ignite religious war, destabilize Africa. By USAfrica’s Publisher Chido Nwangwu.http://usafricaonline.com/chido.binladennigeria.html

Why Chinua Achebe, the Eagle on the Iroko, is Africa’s writer of the century. By Chido Nwangwu, Publisher of USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com http://usafricaonline.com/chido.achebebest.html

USAfrica, and first African-owned, U.S-based newspaper published on the internet USAfricaonline.com; The Black Business Journal, CLASSmagazine,  PhotoWorks.TV,  AchebeBooks.comNigeria360USAfricaTV and several blogs, assessed by The New York TImes as the largest and arguably most influential multimedia networks for Africans and Americans. News@USAfricaonline.com. wireless: 1-832-45-CHIDO (24436). Office: 713-270-5500.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Basorge,

    Thanks for your reaction to this commentary. Someone drew my attention to it.
    I just want to say that I did not absolve any political party from imposition of candidates. If you read paragraph 3, lines 5/6, I did say: "In PDP primaries, imposition of candidates was rife more than in the other political parties". I did not attribute the lack of internal democracy to PDP alone as you averred. Again thanks for your feedback.

  2. Thank you Nkem for making it clear here that it was Rtd Gen. Obasanjo's antics that discredited PDP. PDP is still a party to beat. PDP has proven that they can still win elections in a fair and just scenario. Even though PDP lost some seats across the nation (majorly in the South West), they did impressively in Yobe, Kano, Borno and Anambra which were ANPP & APGA strongholds respectively.
    You also said PDP imposed most of its candidates. ACN's so called primaries was marred by violence in Lagos and Edo, because candidates were picked by the party Governors and stalwarts before the day of primary. I don't think one should attribute it to PDP alone, it is a Nigerian thing, because CPC, APGA nor ANPP are innocent of candidate imposition.
    My prayer for Nigeria is that we should vote against sectional politics. I hope CPC, ACN, ANPP and APGA will either unify to form a teeming opposition to PDP or they work assiduously individually towards penetrating all the geo-political zones of the country (a feat that only PDP has been able to achieve currently).
    PDP today is a nationalist party unmasking its true identity under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan.

  3. President Jonathan made all the difference this time.He(Jonathan) wants a free and fair election and he is getting just that with Prof. Jega.Sincerity ,proaction and willingness to listen to nigerians on the part of Jega made him improve on what he met on ground.l guess the so-called big names that have lost out will now as usual queue up in Abuja for 'square peg in round hole' appointments since the will of the people have prevailed………an engrossing write-up.A very good read.

  4. Indeed, there is the President Jonathan effect as i voted and the ballot papers coun ted ,recorded on the approved result sheets in my presence. Moreso the trend as seen with the emmergence of other paties in the legistive business remains the tonic to give our democracy the true meanings. Now, an opportunity for wider consultation exist in carrying out legislative duties. equally, this a pointer that the era of assumptions and conclussions that only PDP ticket sells is over as the electorates prove more vigilant than the few living on the past. Now, we can begin to imagine what 2015 would test like. So lets keep dancing for a new revolution is on hand. Bravo

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