Congratulations, Mr. President!
Dr. Aliyu Tilde
Last week, this page carried predictions regarding primaries in our political parties [see Predicting the Primaries]. We will start the page today by recalling those predictions, in a summary form. They were:
• All the 36 governors will win the primaries.
• Obasanjo will defeat Ekwueme, flat
• Atiku will not contest, and he will beg to remain “the briefcase of the President”
• IBB cannot contest 2003
• Buhari will win the ANPP primaries
• NDP and UNDP will never find a credible northerner to split Buhari’s votes, and
• AD will support Obasanjo through aligning with PDP
So far, all the governors in PDP and ANPP, except Kachalla of Borno State, have been declared candidates of their parties. While in ANPP the decision of maintaining the status quo regarding the governors was greeted with little acrimony, the same in the PDP, as usual, attracted a lot of petitions, disputes, and loss of membership including the dozen aspirants who, led by Senator Haruna Abubakar, after being suspended by the party, earlier abandoned the party for NDP.
The PDP had trouble managing the crisis. It was a pity that in handling petitions and complaints the party did not consult its conscience. Its leadership cheaply surrendered to the influence of power, the grip of fear and expectation for future benefit. In its calculation, as we said last week, it expects the governors to reciprocate the gesture with supporting the president in the primaries. In addition since election in Nigeria so far has been dominated by rigging and the governors are those who have the capacity of doing so, the best assurance of retaining power in 2003 is not to be at variance with them. It sounds logical, but only if the country will continue to remain a clone of its past. If so, PDP needs to also look at the other side of the coin. Rigging by civilian administrations have only helped to terminate the lifespan of their republics, turning winners into instant losers.
I am glad that, perhaps in appreciation of our argument last week, Governor Kwankwaso of Kano State has publicly asserted over the BBC Hausa Service that all the complaints by other aspirants to his seat are baseless. He asked a practical question, saying, “Is it not on the delegates from local governments that the whole dispute is about (i.e. that other aspirants hope to get their votes from)? Then he used the affirmative answer to adjudge, saying, “As long as it is the same (PDP) formula that will be used, nobody can defeat any governor.” True. The default setting, if we will borrow from the software vocabulary, is preference to any incumbent regardless of his performance in office or the wish of his people. That is democracy in Nigeria a la PDP and ANPP.
The formula has really created a lot of problems and meted a lot of injustices. In Plateau State for example, it was used even at the primaries of councillors and members of state House of Assembly. Wherever a calculation was made in a ward or local government and it was apparent that by the background of the delegates members of an ethnic group or religion would win, political appointees are imported from the Government House to ensure that the winner comes only from the same religion as the governor.
In some states there were complaints that the ballot papers issued to delegates, by the losers of course, were marked in such a way that the incumbent governor will be able to know who among the delegates did not vote for him. And a way was found of making the delegates aware of this prior to the election. What could they do other than vote for the governors? This is the height of mistrust and self-defeat. It was not surprising therefore that some governors lost only a vote or two while others got 100%.
As it was widely reported, there have been contradictions regarding the official position of PDP on the merit of the primaries at least in six states until when the party made a blanket declaration upholding them in spite of the petitions.
A day after the declaration, all PDP governors declared their resolve to support Obasanjo in the primaries. Thus, as we said last week, the primaries will resemble what happened during the party convention in 2000.
If Ekwueme, Rimi and Gemade will compute the few minutes’ arithmetic of the primaries carefully, taking into cognisance that the delegates will include political aides at the federal and state levels, they will realize that it is fruitless for them to appear at the primaries. It is better for them to go and have a sound sleep on the days of the convention. After waking up, they can choose to cross over to any of the twenty-nine other parties.
Roughly, using the 1999 constitution as a guide, there are 764 local governments in the 36 states of the federation. Formerly the number of delegates from each local government to the national convention were 5; now they have been reduced to 1, clearly, to favour the president. This gives the total of local government delegates as 769, if we include the delegates of Federal Capital Territory. Out of 36 states, the PDP has governments in 21 states. Using the number of local governments in each state, the number of delegates from PDP states is 58.8% of the total. If the governors keep their promise, the President, together with his “effort” – and his effort in this matter of PDP is great, can rest assured that he has at nothing less than half of the delegates from local governments.
He needs to turn to other source of delegates. The state governors have political appointees, as shown in their last primaries, more than the total number of delegates from each local government. They will take this crowd along to the national convention and use it to support the President. If they are allowed, it will be a total disaster for other aspirants.
If even we conservatively equate the number of political appointees to the total number of local government delegates for gubernatorial primaries, Obasanjo is assured of at least over 2,000 votes, about two thirds of the total votes. Add this to his own number of political appointees which must be close to 500, and those of the Vice-President, who must do his best at this moment to clear any lingering doubt regarding his loyalty to the President.
The entire arithmetic gives the President roughly about 2500 votes. This is clearly well over 70% of the votes at the convention. Congratulations Mr. President. Ha, some heads will roll.
There are two grey areas to the above theory: Niger state and the Igbo factor. The governor of Niger State has since the inception of this administration proved to be a Nubian to the core. He has held an independent mind, as the only governor that has never been a sycophant Obasanjo. This almost cost him his seat, though he was able to ward off the threat, with the same dexterity that his grandparents used to construct the Egyptian pyramids. Many people, including myself, have expressed doubt whether the Nubians in Nigeria will vote for Obasanjo. But even if they don’t, that will not undermine the chances of the President.
Some have since the publication of the last article expressed the possibility of the ethnic factor, i.e. Igbo delegates and their governors will not vote for Obasanjo. The possibility is there, but the probability is insignificant – for two reasons: the influence of their governors who are all PDP, and the mercantile nature of Igbo politics. Be sure of finding the Igbo where money is. Just sound some money in the ears of their dead, as al-Hariri once exaggerated in Assemblies, he will wake up to grab it, and ask you: “Whom do you want me to kill?” No. No… Mr. President is not asking for any head. He is simply begging you to vote for him at the PDP primaries because he loves Nigeria so much that he is offering to serve it for another term. And in Nigeria, but especially in the PDP, money is in the Presidency, with Mr. President.
For the same reason, northern delegates will obey their governors. In fact, I doubt much if in a purely PDP affair there will be any foolish northern delegate that will miss the golden chance of collecting Obasanjo’s money, which could be enough to solve all his needs for a year. Even if Obasanjo decides to buy each delegate, including the VP, his ministers, ambassadors, MDs of parastatals, with a million Naira each, he needs only N8 billion. This is peanuts, in this arithmetic of the presidency. Let us remember that Thisday has told us, as far back as early last year, that the campaign team of the President already had N32billion in their purse, as of then. I do not think any delegate who, for nothing, will court the wrath of his governor and/or fail to return home smiling with N1m in his pocket. Even the Nubians will think twice. May someone educate me please on whether the National Assembly was able to receive from the President a detailed account of the N400 billion they said were not accounted for by NNPC. Sorry. We do not have a minister of petroleum. And may the soul of Idris Abubakar rest in peace!
I said “for nothing” because, one, the presidency has already been zoned to the south by the caucus of the party. It is a tradition of the PDP not to revert any decision taken. This may not be an exception. Two, how can a northerner forfeit a million Naira simply because he wants Ekwueme to win. To him both candidates present one form of risk or another. The President presents a continuation of marginalization in economy, especially projects, education, agriculture, water and power, at least for another four years. Ekwueme, on the other hand, presents the risk of a permanent and more advanced form of marginalization that will follow his idea of restructuring the federation.
A more serious reason why I will appeal to all northern delegates not to waste their votes on Ekwueme but collect the millions of Obasanjo is that it is increasingly becoming clear that Ekwueme’s candidature, according to one theory, is part of a grand design to preserve Obasanjo’s candidature in which both of them i.e. Obasanjo and Ekwueme have connived. This solves the apparent contradiction in our last article where we asserted that IBB is behind the idea of Igbo candidate while at the same time his real candidate remains Obasanjo.
Actually I went to bed after writing that article aware of that contradiction. But last Sunday my attention was drawn to some information that include the patronage that Ekwueme has been enjoying from the federal government, the nature of his emergence as an aspirant this time, and the lackadaisical manner in which he is conducting his campaign. I am satisfied that the nation may one day realize that the presidential nomination in the PDP was either stage-managed or a miscalculation by some people.
If it were the PDP alone, we would have said democracy in Nigeria has been murdered and buried already. 2003 would have been of no significance at all. However, there still seem to be some hope in the primaries of the ANPP where Buhari, it is strongly believed, will emerge as the flag bearer of that party. If it so happens, then Nigerians have a true alternative to Obasanjo.
In spite of the proliferation of possible negative scenarios, I still subscribe to the positive one that I gave last week. That is because I do not think the party will gamble will the best chance it has. If it really wants to promise Nigerians that it is presenting an alternative to the wasteful administration of Obasanjo, the ANPP has no better alternative among its aspirants today than Buhari. Obasanjo’s administration has epitomized waste, corruption, incompetence, complacency and connivance in the management of our resources. He has also symbolized insecurity and instability expressed in consistent unrest, political thuggery, and the general absence of rule of law. He has undermined democracy through manipulating the National Assembly and his party.
Few Nigerians will disagree that, on the other hand, Buhari represents the direct contrast of the above, as far as his record and that of his administration are concerned.
The party itself stands to gain more by consolidating the gains brought about by the membership of Buhari if it elects him as its presidential candidate. The widespread sympathy that it has, though many party chieftains may not like concede it, is because of his membership. This will be further strengthened if he emerges as the winner of its presidential ticket.
The opposite is also true. His failure to win the ticket may create a bad blood for the party. It will certainly lose its members who join the party along with him – and they are many – in the hope of finding an alternative to the present regime. Commoners will also listen to the PDP that will use his failure to accuse ANPP of cin amana (breach of trust).
At any rate, it is left to the officials of the ANPP and their members to determine what will happen at the next convention of the party. Money will certainly be distributed by some aspirants, outside forces and the federal government. Different intrigues will be used. I strongly call on the delegates to collect as much money as possible from the aspirants and other sources, regardless of any oath they will be asked to take. But in this case they should follow their conscience to vote for Buhari; he is neither Obasanjo nor Ekwueme.
Finally, Buhari will represent the popular dimension of 2003 presidential election. There is little doubt that he will have the popular vote, while the President will have incumbent ones. After the primaries, when we begin to analyse the outcome of the election that will take place in April, we will try to quantify the contribution of both components. Thus, the ANPP is assured of consolidating the victory it had in 1999 and a possible increment as a result of the Buhari factor and the ‘anti-party’ activities of disgruntled PDP elements who were edged out of its gubernatorial and presidential primaries.
Next week, the graph of our anxiety will reach one of its peaks in our political history. By next week Friday, readers must have known the outcome of the primaries in both PDP and ANPP. Notwithstanding whatever we said in this page, we wish every aspirant success. But they should understand that in every competition there would only be one winner. We hope that members of both parties will endeavour to produce the best for the country such that we Nigerians can vote usefully next April. And our greatest hope is in God, the Lord of the Worlds.
Even if Obasanjo decides to buy each delegate, including the VP, his ministers, ambassadors, MDs of parastatals, with a million Naira each, he needs only about N8 billion. This is peanut, in this arithmetic of the presidency.
I strongly call on the delegates to collect as much money as possible from the aspirants and other sources, regardless of any oath they will be asked to take.