Monday, March 2, 2015 12:38 pm
President Jonathan mines the South west in a desperate search for votes
Nigerians, especially those outside of the political loop of the country’s two leading political parties, have continue to imagine what could have been the outcome of the presidential elections scheduled for 14 February, 2015 had it not been shifted by six weeks. But the fact is that many chieftains of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, as this magazine gathered last week feared that their party’s candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, may have been getting set to vacate the Aso Rock presidential villa by now if the polls had been held as scheduled.
A Return to the Drawing Board
Thus, the six-week extension in the date of the polls which many still believed was deliberately foisted on the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, by the ruling party with the support of the military chiefs is being seen as a golden opportunity to take the wind out of the sail of the momentum of the General Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. For the PDP, especially President Jonathan, it is a task for which there is no time to waste. Based on surveys which suggested an outright win for the opposition presidential candidate or a very close race if the polls had held as scheduled, the President had literarily returned to the drawing board immediately the window of opportunity became available to further sell himself to Nigerians.
The President had held an all night meeting with all the Governors elected on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on how to reverse the impending defeat at the polls few days after the 7 February announcement of the shift in the date of the election by INEC. This magazine gathered that a lot of suggestions were made at the meeting on how to re-jig the campaign of the President within the six weeks window available as a result of the postponement of the elections. From what this magazine also gathered, the governors had suggested that postponing the polls would give the President more time to sell himself and his achievements to Nigerians while the advantage of the new window will also be utilized to tell Nigerians why the candidate of the opposition is not worth their vote in a no expense spared publicity blitz. Femi Fani Kayode, the Director of Communication of PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation told journalists after the poll shift for instance that the PDP presidential campaign will use the six weeks extension to publicise the achievements and further ‘expose Buhari.’
The other aspects of the plan include getting Professor Attahiru Jega, the Chairman of INEC out of office to pave way for a more pliable replacement, getting the courts to disqualify the opposition’s presidential candidate and campaigning against the use of card readers for accreditation purposes before voters are allowed to vote. This is to be completed with visits to the key geopolitical zones during which the achievements of governments in each of the zones will be highlighted and a meeting with key stakeholders in political, religious, commercial and other circles held. Some reports had indicated that the presidency had budgeted billions of Naira to buy the support of the various groups.
In what seems an actualization of this claim, Vice President Namadi Sambo relocated to Kaduna, the capital of the old Northern region for most part of last week, meeting with different groups and opinion leaders in an effort to pour water on the raging popularity of the APC presidential candidate in the Northern part of the country.
Staying ‘Put’ in Lagos
The week before, President Jonathan had spent unprecedented five days in Lagos in a move designed to enhance support for his second term tenure ambition in the South West region for the election now scheduled for 28 March.
The President who kicked off his visit to the region with the commissioning of four warships recently acquired by the Nigerian Navy did not mince words about his mission as he met with key traditional rulers, trade groups, and political leaders of different ethnic communities during the four days. Analysts said the commissioning of the warships was to deflect criticisms of the President’s handling of Boko Haram terrorism. This, they noted, was also to further justify the President’s claim that previous administrations, including the one headed by Buhari, his main opponent, failed to effectively equip the military, which led to the inability of Nigerian troops to respond effectively to the challenge of Boko Haram insurgency.
“We believe that if you give us your mandate, at least, in the next two years, this epileptic power supply will be a thing of the past and it will be the basis for the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises in this country,” the President said when he commissioned the 750 mw Olorunsogo II Power Station in Ifo Local Government Area of Ogun State. He also assured his audience made up of members of Federal Executive Council, PDP chieftains, political and community leaders that with the privatisation processes almost completed, power failure will soon be a thing of the past in the country.
He actually told them that he had lived up to his campaign promise of making the power sector a priority with the privatization of the sector and in the next two years, Nigerians can take power sector for granted as obtainable in other countries. The President also met with different groups whom he thought are capable of helping his chances of re-election. The groups he met with include the Yoruba Council of Elders, association of market women, Members of the Oodua Cooperative Alliance led by Asiwaju Adetokunbo Osisanya, the Igbo and the Arewa community leaders in Lagos. During the various meetings, the President enumerated his achievements to the various groups while asking for their support to return to office.
The various groups also went away with various promises. For instance, the President promised the General Adeyinka Adebayo led YCE that if he is re-elected, he will run a more inclusive government by commencing a quarterly meeting with the six geo-political zones to further move the grassroots forward. And at a meeting with the market women resident in Lagos and environs, the President promised that if elected, the PDP administration in the state will provide the enabling environment for them to carry out their business: “Our victory at the polls will free all Lagos traders from oppression. You need to be free. We will remove Lagos from bondage,” he said while appreciating the women’s support for his re-election bid. The President also promised members of the Oodua Cooperative Alliance who promised to deliver over two million votes to him that he would establish Nigeria’s first University of Cooperatives if re-elected.