17 December 2012

Nigeria: Jega's Promise and the 2015 Elections

While fielding questions from members of the press a few days ago, Professor Attahiru Jega, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), promised that he would make the 2015 elections "remarkably" better than the 2011 general elections. That statement alone, which, on the face of it, should encourage people and gladden their hearts, has instead drawn the ire of many Nigerians.

Unless the INEC chairman wants to lie to himself, he should be the first to know that he has serious credibility problems at the moment - a direct aftermath of his conduct of the 2011 general elections - and, as someone who generally considers himself Jega's friend and well-wisher, I say that he needs to do everything to start restoring his image.

Professor Jega's image was simply in the clouds just before the elections. People talked romantically about his antecedents and, even though Nigerians didn't expect magic, they thought that, in the very least, they would see something close to what the nation saw under Professor Humphrey Nwosu or even Justice Ephraim Akpata, the first chairman of INEC as we know it today.

But what eventually happened put all of us in the very awkward situation of comparing Jega with Professor Maurice Iwu. And you know what? Many actually believed he was worse.

And I think Jega worsened his case with the way he behaved during the presidential election petition case, especially when he was asked to produce documents. But did I believe him when he said he would do everything to improve on 2015? No, I didn't because I have not seen anything he has done to make me optimistic. But will the 2015 election be better and different from the 2011 elections? Yes, definitely so because no one is going to simply sit down trusting that Jega would be fair on his own.

The adage, "once bitten twice shy," still holds very true. People are not just going to put their future in the hands of a couple of people. Nigerians are totally mobilised now and, if the Occupy Nigeria phenomenon is any pointer, then, I think all concerned should be careful about the 2015 general elections.

But it is also important to know that even if Jega sincerely decided to brave the odds against his employers and decided to change and the elections were held today, PDP would win the presidential election even without anybody rigging the process.

The opposition are still in a trance, still very confused about the pathway to victory. Nigerians are scared of a future life with the PDP but the opposition have not provided the alternative. The opposition parties, especially the CPC, ACN and the ANPP, are too weak standing on their own. None of them can win a presidential election on its own now and, unless they come together early enough to give time for organic blending, the PDP will sail with the wind at its back.

So far, they do not appear to be in any particular hurry. The Nigerian opposition clearly do not appear to understand that politics is a very, very serious business and that taking power from a sitting government in Africa is not a piece of cake. It requires very serious planning, cold strategising and unity. The Senegal experience is still very fresh in our minds. The PDP will win if the opposition do not come together to stop them from doing what they have been doing since 2003 to win.

They will also win because most Nigerians would not even bother to come out to vote if they do not think that their votes will make a difference. But, between now and 2015, a lot of water would go under the bridge - and 2013 will be critical.

And I see 2015 as very unpredictable. What is very clear, however, is that the status quo with the PDP is unsustainable. It is not even in the interest of the people. 2015 will also be compounded by the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan would be the standard bearer of the PDP. Jonathan has a right to contest and nobody can stop him.

Whether the president would seek re-election or not is squarely his decision to make and he has clearly made up his mind to do so and nobody within the PDP can stop him from becoming their candidate. President Jonathan's case is very similar to that of President Lyndon Johnson. President Johnson was the vice president to President JF Kennedy and became the 36th president of the United States after Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Johnson completed Kennedy's term, contested in his own right in 1964 and won the election.

In 1968, he joined the presidential race to seek re-election and had actually taken part in the initial stages of the primary election which he won, but he had to withdraw basically because Senator Robert Kennedy, JFK's younger brother, had joined the race. Johnson withdrew from the race only because he thought Robert Kennedy was more popular than him and was going to disgrace him at the polls and nothing else.

As we know, our presidential system draws kinship from the United States presidential system. The only difference between President Johnson of the United States and President Jonathan of Nigeria is that the PDP is not the American Democratic Party and has no rules when it comes to their primaries or, to put it more correctly, it is the president that draws up the rules for the primaries and can make changes or forge the law in the middle of the game as we saw when Obasanjo was attempting re-election in 2003. That is the legacy that Obasanjo left in the PDP and that is why, whether anyone likes it or not, Jonathan would get the PDP ticket. But that is only a scenario for the PDP.

On the other hand, Nigerians have become restless watching the opposition; and, if very soon they do not see any seriousness in their coming together, new tendencies are likely to emerge that will push the current opposition players aside.

This is clearly because Nigerians have become too impatient with the current opposition and are not likely to place their hope on them if they do not see any purposefulness - very, very soon. It is already a disturbing augury that they have not fused by the end of 2012. All said, with or without Jega improving, 2015 will not be business as usual. But it will be good for his image and the way he wishes to be remembered if he improves.

And Now This Tragedy...

The sudden deaths of Governor Patrick Yakowa and General Owoye Azazi (retired) have shocked the nation to its foundations. I know both of them well but particularly Governor Yakowa, whose maturity and fairness in governance have meant a great deal for the disparate peoples of Kaduna State.

The shock and disbelief of the residents in Kaduna are a testimony to the depth of the tragedy that has befallen the state. Yakowa related with people with respect and courtesy across religious and political divides. His inclusive style has contributed to the level of peace we have all noticed lately. I was also close to General Azazi and I will miss his constant calls. "Kakaki, where are you?" or "Kakaki, how you dey?," were his signature openers each time he called me.

I will miss them both.


Why Nations Succeed And Others Fail

I have just read a very interesting and energising book entitled "My Vision, Challenges In The Race For Excellence", authored by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. When placed side by side with another book, "From Third World To First" by Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's long-time prime minister and arguably the best statesman of the 20th century, which I read a long time ago, then it won't be difficult to see why some countries succeed and others fail so abysmally.

I have also read the story of Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China's economic rise, and how successive Indian leaders moved 400 million of their people out of poverty in less than two decades.

One thread that moves through all these books is leadership. The ruler of Dubai talks about how he seizes every opportunity for his people and the initial struggles for survival. He dedicated sections of the book to leadership and even postulated 16 qualities a leader who must succeed like him should possess.

He wrote passionately about excellence in Dubai's public sector and how corruption and bribery are ruthlessly dealt with. By the way, Lee Kuan Yew also talks about "punishing corruption harshly". The Dubai leader understands that all nations are in a competition and he is in the race to win.

He also declares quite frighteningly towards the end that "... we have not reached the goal we are striving for. What you see now is nothing compared to our vision... just tiny parts of what lies ahead". Which simply means that if you think Dubai has been on steroids, then, you haven't seen anything yet.

The ruler has given us a glimpse of why nations succeed. It is not difficult to see why Nigeria has failed so scandalously.

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