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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Short Essay 13. The Political Economy of Jonathan's Emergence

hort Essay 13.
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

The Economics of Jonathan's Emergence

Our predictions are gradually coming to pass. This is what we wrote few days ago regarding the emergence of Jonathan as PDP's flag bearer:

"From the look of things, the President Goodluck Jonathan is most likely to emerge as the flag bearer of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Little has changed in the politics of incumbency that has characterised that party if we examine the gubernatorial and other primaries which the party has conducted so far in many states. The presidential primaries will hardly be any different."

And it was not. Incumbency was at its best two days ago. Few of the delegates could muster the courage and vote againt the incumbent. That has been the first principle of Nigerian politics. I am happy that I am old enough to know that. Who says age does not count?

Hahaha... "I am created intimate, if I were to be returned to childhood, I would have parted with my grey hair, broken-hearted, weeping", said Al-Mutanabbi.

Eight years ago when we were in a group analyzing the chances of candidates few months before the general elections, Malam Kabiru Yusuf, the Chief Editor of Weekly Trust then, in elucidating the power of incumbency, said that some people accord incumbency 60% weight in determining the outcome of presidential elections. I noted that sentence. After the polls in 2003, INEC gave Obasanjo 60% and Buhari 39 point something percent. Then I filed Kabiru's incumbency principle and saved it on the hard disk of my brain as .exe file that I will never lose sight of whenever I weigh the candidates of presidential elections. Incumbency is a general principle. We just wish that one day it will be violated for the better, just as even nature, atimes, though rarely, violates its own principles.

It does not require any ingenuity to predict how the average Nigerian politician would behave in a primary election. From my village, I was able even to predict with an accuracy of 96% the number of votes that Obasanjo would get during the PDP primaries for 2003. The secret is simple. It is amala politics in Nigeria.

Here it is important to discern two important groups in Nigeian politics: the elite politician and the footsoldier.

The elite that form the crankshaft and pistons of Nigerian politics are dependent on goverenment. They don't have working factories or run businesses that are independent of government. The infrastructure deficit in the country is so entrenched that it has shut down the gates of profits in the face of investorss. The only surviving business is that which is patronized by government. So even for those who try to invest and appear successful, they have to abide by the political wishes of incumbent government. They must contribute hundreds of millions to its campaign. Ask Dangote and our big brother TY Danjuma for details. Do you expect any of them to do any party other than PDP? What will become of their businesses then? These juggernauts, along with the President and governors are the crankshafts and connecting rods of our politics.

The pistons are those elite who do not have any semblance of economic independence or direct power. They do not run businesses at all. Their livelihood is completely dependent on politics. They move with the movement of the crankshaft in a harmony that will ensure a smooth running of the engine. They must not differ lest the engine knocks and the vehicle stops. These are the ministers, commissioners, contractors, civil servants, party officials, etc. Each of them carries out an auxiliary function that helps the engine. They are the cuberator; the top-cylinder, the muffler, etc, accessories to the engine that enables it receive inputs and dispose of wastes.

The footsoldiers are the body and load of the vehicle, relevant only to carry the load and provide accommodation. It could be made of anything: steel, wood, leather, etc. The load could be of anything: firewood, sugarcane, refuse, money, just anything. They do not have a say as to the running of the engine or the direction it takes. They are passive. These are the grassroots members of the potilical structure of any ruling party at state or national level. They include party leaders and delegates from the nooks and crannies of the country. They are among those we saw two days ago at the PDP convention.

I have read how some members of some discussion groups on the Internet wonder on the behavior of delegates during that convention. Is there any need for wonder? The secret is this. These delegates, either as party stalwarts in states and local governments or just party members at wards are living under abject poverty. In their villages, it is not uncommon to find many people who have not possessed N100 cash for six months. Then the politicians came looking for people that will run their parties at the grassroots. This poor fellow is appointed the chairman or secretary of the party in his ward or local government. He gets some N1000 here and N5,000 there, occasionally. If he is marrying his daughter out, his superiors contribute something to him. They even give him a car and some contracts to renovate the primary school in his village. Etc. How do we expect him to vote for anyone other than the choice of these superiors - the bigger politicians at his state - when he is a delegate at Abuja, especially if he is given N100,000 cash or even $10,000!

The interest and influence of governors must be seen within this context. They have many interests to protect, many baggages to conceal. And so is any big politician you know. We must expect that only few of them can hearken to other calls, of their conscience or of other interest groups. What then is surprising? This is a universal law. Majority of people who are not economically independent cannot hold opinions. Even if they hold them, they cannot express them in public by speech, by writing or by votes.

Poverty? That is why the Prophet (peace be upon him) sought the refuge of God from poverty. "Oh God," he was reported to have prayed regularly, "I seek thy refuge from poverty." And he warned us against poverty because through it all sorts of ills, including disbelief, are imported into the society. "Poverty will not set out to enter a people", he said again, "except disbelief says: Please let's go together." Peace be upon him!

Nigerian political history, nay African political history, run along this line. Due to poverty and lack of economic independence, any party that is handed over power at independence or after a military rule uses incumbency to perpetuate itself. It continues to grow in strength by the day while the opposition shrinks by the hour. Thus, one of the wisdoms I learnt from Buhari is the observation he made in a private discussion in 2002 that in Africa republics with time tend to move inevitably towards a one party state.

The same path was taken by both first and second republics in Nigeria. The only option left was for the military to takeover power with the intention of correcting the wrongs which the politicians found difficult muster the courage to handle equitably. The unfortunate thing is that as soon as the mitltiary settles in power they begin to steal such that the only option they have is to handover to corrupt politicians who will cover their track. This is the vicious cycle of our politics. So we are returned to the same politicians and their methods again.

Murtala was killed precisely because he wanted to break this trend. The trio - Obasanjo, Danjuma and Shehu Yar'adua, who tookover from Murtala quickly derailed and went for public coffers. They devoured it and became the first multiple-billionaire generals. They have been piloting Nigerian politics since then. And so was Buhari who was ousted in 1984.

So no one should wonder or rejoice at the emergence of Jonathan. I never, even for a second, doubted his emergence as the winner of PDP primaries, hence my cheap prediction last week which did not need any ingenuity.

Incumbency is behind the emergence of Jonathan. Simple. If Atiku were in power, even Solomon Lar, Jerry "Ghana" and Clarke would have voted for him in the primaries. The governors too would have compelled their delegates to vote for him. Jonathan himself would not have attempted contesting the primaries but would have lined his delegates, as a governor, behind Atiku. There was nothing in the PDP charade that was based on principle, religion or even ethnicity. It is economics, pure and simple.

We now have the three candidates we predicted - Jonathan, Buhari and Ribadu. Let us move forward. The target before all progressive Nigerians is to find who among the three has the courage and support of Nigerians to break that circle without giving chance to the military again. I have heard many Nigerians wishfully say that a coup is not possible. So we said and thought in 1983...until it suddenly happened.

You may share your thoughts on this article with other readers across the globe by posting your comments at

15 January 2011


Anonymous said...

Sahih Ya Doctour!

Aminu Bashir said...

I strongly concur with your view. It's simply about economics. May the poor Nigerian people have the courage to elect responsible leaders who will care about their security and well being come April 2011. Sadly, Jega, like all others in the Government enterprise may not be different from his predecessors.

Hina said...

Thank you very much Dr. for the constant contibution. I do not think that voting our preferred candidate will provide a solution, because its obvious that even before the registration, 'yan mulkin mallakar had already finshed everything, the only hope I think is revolution or atleast if we are too weak to do anything, we better stay indoors and let the whole world know that we did not perticipate

chukwuemeka ilouno said...

Dr. Tilde:
I certainly agree with your beautiful analysis regarding the role the power of incumbency plays, especially at the national level, in our body politics. However, how do you explain the fact that certain states, such as Sokoto, Niger, Zamfara, among others, did not fall for the bait in the just concluded PDP primaries?
Once more, thanks for a job well done.
Chukwuemeka Ilouno. PhD.
Dallas, TX.

Umargarbai said...

Engr.Baba Shehu
Do not think those who have the money may sleep and allow GEJ to loose this election, not even Atiku may allow GEJ to fail. Nigerians are not needing any change and are not ready for any change. This is the real truth and the delegates will never be shameful for doing what they were paid for. As you mentioned, they need food and shelter so they must be bought like commodities.

Anonymous said...

My brother I hope I could have salient facts to contrdict your postulations herein, but there is none.
Can we ever be released from the grip of these awks or are we condemned to permanent servitude.
My prayer is to ask Allah to grant us enough courage to say no to our condemnation to poverty in the midst of plenty and for the grace to have a committed and valiant personality arise to lead us to say no and take the mantle of leadership from the parasites.
Thanks Dr.

Adeiza said...

can Jega make a difference? I am sure he has started having trouble nights since the emergence of the incumbent. Somebody should tell him "all eyez on you". Nonetheless, we all can make a difference. Lets get registered, lets vote for the candidates of our choice, maybe, just maybe it will count. Only miracle can change things and believe me getting registered is the begining of miracle. May Allah have mercy on us.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Tilde,
Sir, Atiku ran on a flawed premise. The consensus candidate for the North, if he had a brain in his head he would have known that was a silly commidity to sell to even those whom you clasissified as being poor. Again, sokoto, zamfara, niger, kano and I believe Kebbi voted for him for reasons known to them. Like Algore in the USA, Atiku did not even win in his own state. So he really did not have much to offer but he thought, appealing to our ingnorant will get him elected, it did not work pure and simply.

Abubakar said...

I wait to see how Atiku play a spoiler role beginning from next week. Northern power in PDP demystified and is good for Nigerian.
Good analysis but coup not a possibility any more. The same political economics that paved way for GEJ will make Nigerians to support a move. We are only lucky because of the international community. Some one recommended revolution-it wont work because we divided along strong factor. But PDP will eventually kill itself someday soon.

Anonymous said...

AAW,Always a breath of fresh air readimg your articles. A country like Nigeria will always succumb to the pitfall of dictatorship. PDP has taken up a western friendly form of dictatorship and so has been allowed to flourish without external influence. I believe that the root of the problem lays in the foundation of the country’s constitution. A country with such a vast assembly of different ethnicities requires an intricate and subtle constitution to rule from. As long as Nigeria remains one I believe we can never prosper.

ISA said...

Dr, the way PDP conducted its primaries is a clear signal to Nigerians that secondary election will follow the same process. GEJ as an advocate of free and fair election has since abondoned the concept. So it is high time to zero our mind regarding the issue of free and fair election and think of the alternative way forward.

bakar said...

The biggest problem is how can Nigerians guard and protect their votes. No matter how we register or vote, it will be extremely difficult to have a free and fair election. It will be really difficult to allow Nigerians choose the most competent leader. Our votes might not count at all.

We have to start thinking on how our votes can count. very despairing. Really despairing.
Hypocritical airing to fool Nigerians on their claiming of conducting a free and fair election of the primaries which have already been decided behind the scene. Atiku gave 3k Dollars while Gej gave 5k plus.We are finished.

Alfadarai said...

Dr. I hope you are not predicting a coup, as you predicted the emergence GEJ as the presidencial flag bearer of PDP in the April 2011 general election.

Dantala said...

Well written essay. The party ticket only position you to contest for the preisdency of Nigeria under the party flag, it does not make you the president of Nigeria automatically.

It is up to the Nigerians (the people - stakeholders) that have so much complaint about bad goverance to make the right choice. The whole world is watching. election rigging is no longer tolerated. Therfore, Nigerians of all class, all ethinicity and of voting age should go out in full numbers to rgegister and be out again to vote on the voting day. This is the chance for Nigeria to make a break away from the corrupt past.

If we vote the right people, we will have the Nigeria we all dream of and we shall celebrate like any other free and progressive nation. For once the whole world is out to asist us (Nigeriams) in ensuring a free and fair elections.

Let us all go out there register and vote for a better Nigeria as one people.

Anonymous said...

Thank You for the brilliant analysis. The take away for me is that we need to change the electoral paradigm. We need to think more long term and we need to speak to the values and aspirations of ordinary people. We must accept that nation building is a very long and difficult process and we must be prepared to give it what it takes. The day we begin to engage the talakawas of this country again (and throughout the country this time) the way Aminu Kano engaged those of the North, and also start to engage the middle classes again the way Herbert Macaulay did, throughout the country. That would be day indeed for this country. Nigeria happens to have very bright prospects, we just don't have enough good men (and women) who combine, vision with courage, intelligence with a sense of history, ambition with principles,.... who understand that change, progress and civilisation come about by one generation sacrificing itself for the next one.....

Abubakar (Lancaster University, UK) said...

This is a good and insightful analysis on the political structure of our beloved nation. However, I felt you are being extremely unfair to the person of General Buhari by examplifying him to the so-called Billionaire Generals (as you've said likes Obasanjo, TY Danjuma, Shehu Yar'adua and even IBB [which I believe you forgot to include in your article]. It is really an undeniable fact that Buhari carry in his wagon the Nigerian masses (who stand for fairness, equity, justice and corruption-free Nigeria) from all the nooks and cranies of the nation.
I believe one day one time (insha Allah), we, the masses, will stand against those corrupt poliTHIEFians - oh ! politicians; like what happenned recently in Tunisia.

Sa'ad said...

To my understanding Dr. was comparing Buhari to Murtala becos both tried to set things right. He was not comparing him to the Billionaire Generals. I think Dr. can clarify more if I'm wrong

Sa'ad said...

Salam Dr.
Thanks for changing the "Trivial" title, many ppl didn't like it, they say why read something that is Trivial.

Anonymous said...

Dr. you have said my mind and discussions with friends and colleagues after the PDP primaries outcome.

Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde said...

@ Abubakar from Lancaster.

I did not compare Buhari with Yaradua obj and TY. I compared his Faye with that of Murtala, one was toppled, the other was killed because both fought corruption. Please read again. I do not know hey we become blind when the name of Buhari is mentioned anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Allah in his infinite wisdom said in the glorious Qur'an:Till the messengers despaired,and felt despondent; then suddenly our succour reached them, we deliver whoeve we wish but our scourge cannot be averted from the criminals.....We hope, therefor,light would apear at the end of the tunnel.

saleh yamusa said...

I always enjoy reading your articles, Tilde. Pls keep writing!!

Yakubu Gusau said...

Inspite of the politics of Economy which seem to be flowing in a vicious circle, I sincerely believe we must be unrelenting in our resolve for a better change which I also strongly believe can be achieved through the power of our VOTES. But somehow the ongoing Voters Registration Exercise is merely a exercise in futility! It is virtually impossible to register all qualified eligible voters in Nigeria within the stipulated period considering the slow pace at which the exercise is going on. The registration centres are not enough and it takes an average of 40 minutes to register 1 person. The officials hardly arrive on time to commence the exercise. Where are we heading? Can I with the permission of Mr (PDP) Presidential Candidate quote Atiku's 'treasonable' remark of "Those who make peaceful change inevitable..."

We must be given the opportunity to register and vote for candidates of our choice; that is equity and justice. Else posterity will never forgive those who have a hand (in any way) in making it impossible for us to break out of this oppression!

john Emale said...

interesting article that captures both the political and economic dimensions of Nigeria. In as as much as I like GEJ, the handcuffs in his hand will not allow him to perform to his full potential if he wins. PDP will still be what it is made of, "cooks". Ribadu is OBJ's ears in ACN. Buhari appears to be the only one left, but his changing parties all the time make it impossible for Nigerians to identify with him. besides, those who shortened his rule are still there, but if he continue to preach democracy of the stomach, he may win as Nigerians trust him more than any other leader to end our endemic corruption. Dr. John Emale, Dallas, TX.

Sadeeque Abba said...

The PDP primaries was a democratic metaphor of some sort. I thank Allah that with JHonathan"s pre-arranged victory, the only political magic of holding to power by the Elites is broken. Zoning is dead, and is good for our democracy.

Jonathan"s candidature is a return of political investment from the Governors. I hope the poor massess in this country are alive to all these executive excessess by their Governors. Atiku is certainly not a good product in leadership, but I believe Jonathan is worst, by all, and every standard.
How I wish the Tunisian wind will reach this part of our land...yes how prayerful is this my wish.

thanks for this beautiful piece, please keep it up.

amina London said...

Amina from London
Dr. Aliyu, thank you very much. My heart breaks for my people in the villages.I weep for my country!God help us! When will our salvation come? People in my village are dying like flies from diseases that should not kill them all because of poverty. A friend of mine from Katsina told me that sick people in that state are having to cross into Niger for medical help.( thats those that can financially afford it). Some day something will have to give. God will surely hear the cry of the poor and helpless man. Keep doing the good work Dr. Aliyu and may Allah bless you and yours abundantly.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your contibution. The question that remained unanswered in the write up,Can we break z vicious circle?z matrix is economy...poverty, poverty, poverty all over z land, z same people would line up for a peanuts and fidipi are ready to pay, courtesy of z incumbency holding z treasury.We re really in a fix and indeed our country.Z situation is so bad dat morality and virtues are thrown out.Buhari types are undoubtedly materials worth exploiting, but are we really up to the task, against the malaise mentioned above...?

Ahmad Ali said...

Thank you so much Dr, we always appreciate what your pen wrote, Pls keep the wonderful work.

Ahmad Ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danfulani said...

Is really interesting, the article and comments that follows. My own personal perspective of the whole thing is
1. Atiku, IBB, OBJ Jonathan are all PDP and will NEVER allow the party to loose grip.
2. IBB, SARAKI, ATIKU, CHIROMA and his elders forum were all acting a script written at Minna hill top or Otta farm to show the world that there is democracy and to facify the Notherners that something is being done to stop Jonathan
3. way Out? ask the Tunisians. Simple

Abubakar said...

Danfulani: Tunisians says revolt!

Anonymous said...

Dr Tilde, many thanks for keeping even the politically aloof awaken in Nigerian politics.
My prayer is that let some miracle work to allow our big brother Gen Buhari to make a sacrifice that will give our younger progressive -Ribadu, the opportunity to wrestle power away from the ruling PDP. With this extra-ordinary sacrifice, posterity will ever remain grateful to him.
This could pave way to a new dawn in Nigerian politics - hopefully we may begin to put the "house" in order.

Anonymous said...

I was impressed with Dr. Tilde's expos eon the power of incumbency in Nigerian politics. Beyond the power of incumbency however is the dominance of parasitic elements in our body politics which are interconnected. Most of the delegates voted against the wishes of their constituents because the constituents themselves do not know what is good for them. They are contented with a paltry sum of N500 or N5000 at most that they receive from the elected representatives. Their major concern is not good roads, functional hospitals ans schools for their children, effective security, and many other things for which government is elected to do. I though Dr. Tilde would emphasize on the need for restructuring of our electoral cosntituencies and representation which gives an edge to those who have accumulated ill-gotten wealth as he rightly pointed out. The representation should not be based on artificially delineated constituencies. It should be based on existing wards, local government areas and states. We do ot need th large number of legislators we have at federal level. We don't also need a permanent legislature. A part time one is more cost-effective and will reduce the desparation for power among Nigerian politicians. Besides incumbency, Jonathan also exploited ethnic sentiments. That is why he was able to secure all the votes of the Bayelsa delegates.

Buran said...

99.991% correct

Ibrahim said...

I have read all of the comments and they are quite interesting and explosive. But one that catches my attention most was the submission of an Anonymous writer as follows:
"Thank You for the brilliant analysis. The take away for me is that we need to change the electoral paradigm. We need to think more long term and we need to speak to the values and aspirations of ordinary people. We must accept that nation building is a very long and difficult process and we must be prepared to give it what it takes. The day we begin to engage the talakawas of this country again (and throughout the country this time) the way Aminu Kano engaged those of the North, and also start to engage the middle classes again the way Herbert Macaulay did, throughout the country. That would be day indeed for this country. Nigeria happens to have very bright prospects, we just don't have enough good men (and women) who combine vision with courage, intelligence with a sense of history, ambition with principles, who understand that change, progress and civilization come about by one generation sacrificing itself for the next one....."

The major agent of change in any society is the middle class and the clergy. We saw it in the U.S. - MLK and his likes, we saw it in Iran – Ayatollah Khomeini. If the two are not united for common cause, the politicians will continue to play on our intelligence. If we don't check our value system and engage our ordinary people in a serious discussion on good governance, we will not get there. We should learn from the politicians mentioned by the anonymous writer. They are middle class politicians that devoted their time and resources to awakening the consciousness of the masses to understand what is good for them and go for it at all cost. Buhari is the best candidate and as one of the commentators rightly said it is up to Nigerians to decide if they want elect a credible Nigerian that will respect their wishes and aspirations. The second best could be Ribadu if he chooses an experienced person from the south west to be his running mate. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with Buhari's campaign machine as some people have consistently argued. Having no money to fund campaign is not a limitation. If Nigerians like him, they can mobilize more funds than the PDP to run his campaign. Assuming every Nigerian of voting age donated N100, how much do you think we can raise for him? Let's assume we have up to 25 million voters, multiply the number by N100. What you get is N2.5. This should be enough to fund a genuine presidential campaign that is devoid of bribing voters or delegates, or the electoral umpires. The fund is to be used to set up campaign offices, place adverts, bill boards and organize meetings and rallies. For someone of Buhari's popularity you don't need to get him to all nooks and corners of Nigeria. If you advertise him on NTA and some selected radio stations and newspapers, that is enough. I think our only problem is that we are docile and are not as committed as those that are bent on imposing criminals and rogues as our leaders. If we have half their commitment, we can change Nigeria for the better.

shehu said...

I am extremely happy for the incisive,thought provoking article by Dr Tilde and sharp comments and reactions by readers.I have been following Dr. Tildes insightful analysis and constructive comments.No doubt you are trying especially now moving to the political economic realities of Nigerian polity and society.Almost all what you are saying perfectly fit the Nigerian sociological and cultural realities.But the big questionis what is the way forward?

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