Can Buhari mend a bro­ken Nige­ria?

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

ABUJA — Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent poll, an equal num­ber of Nige­rian vot­ers — 41 per­cent — fell on ei­ther side of the de­bate sur­round­ing the post­pone­ment of pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

It is per­haps no co­in­ci­dence that those num­bers al­most per­fectly over­lap with the re­sults of a De­cem­ber 2014 pres­i­den­tial vot­ing sur­vey, in which each of the two main par­ties racked up 42 per­cent of the to­tal tally.

By a rule of thumb, sup­port­ers of the rul­ing Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (PDP) and pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan backed the post­pone­ment, while those of the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), the main op­po­si­tion party, op­posed it.

The op­po­si­tion’s can­di­date is Muham­madu Buhari, a for­mer mil­i­tary ruler, and three-time pres­i­den­tial con­tender, who has since his emer­gence un­der­gone what is ar­guably the most im­pres­sive po­lit­i­cal re­brand­ing in the his­tory of Nige­ria.

A man once given ex­clu­sively to babari­gas — tra­di­tional dress favoured by Hausa-fu­lani men from north­ern Nige­ria — now poses for pho­to­graphs bow-tied and be­suited, or in the tra­di­tional out­fits of south­east­ern Nige­ria and the oil-rich Niger delta, re­gions in which he has con­sis­tently recorded mea­gre votes in his three pre­vi­ous at­tempts at the pres­i­dency.

Mr Buhari and his sup­port­ers in­sist that the PDP forced the post­pone­ment to un­der­mine the APC’S un­prece­dented mo­men­tum, and to buy more time to work out a way of rig­ging an elec­tion it looks set to lose.

The PDP has de­nied those al­le­ga­tions, fo­cus­ing in­stead on query­ing the pre­pared­ness level of the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC).

By all ac­counts, the INEC has not lived up to its re­spon­si­bil­ity. Go­ing by sev­eral in­dices (dis­tri­bu­tion of bio­met­ric voter-cards, ac­cred­i­ta­tion of ob­servers, train­ing of elec­tion per­son­nel) the prepa­ra­tions have been shoddy, and a 14 Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tion, had it gone ahead, would have been — not un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally, it must be said — chaotic.

The PDP is also in­creas­ingly voic­ing its op­po­si­tion to the planned de­ploy­ment of hand­held card-read­ers that the INEC wants to ex­per­i­ment with dur­ing the com­ing elec­tions.

The finger­print tech­nol­ogy on which the card read­ers are based is de­signed to pro­duce greater trans­parency in the elec­tions by en­sur­ing that no one is able to vote more than once. (One of the com­mon­est of con­ven­tional voter-fraud meth­ods in Nige­ria has been through the mass thumb-print­ing of bal­lot pa­pers.)

On the sur­face, the PDP’S ar­gu­ment is that the card read­ers are untested, and that it would be im­pru­dent to at­tempt an ex­per­i­ment us­ing the al­limpor­tant pres­i­den­tial elec­tion as a cat­a­lyst.

The ac­tual rea­son, is not far­fetched: by in­sist­ing on the use of non-bio­met­ric cards, the PDP will be able to throw open the elec­tions for the sort of rig­ging that earned it land­slide vic­to­ries in the last four pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

Be­tween in­sist­ing on the use of card-read­ers and bio­met­ric cards, and that the resched­uled elec­tions must on no ac­count be post­poned again, the APC has its hands full. If it wins th­ese two bat­tles, its chances of form­ing the next cen­tral gov­ern­ment are sig­nif­i­cant.

The party, a merger of Nige­ria’s three lead­ing op­po­si­tion par­ties, has been fight­ing against-all-odds bat­tles even be­fore it was for­mally reg­is­tered by the elec­toral com­mis­sion in July of 2013.

The first hur­dle was a court case by an or­gan­i­sa­tion — pre­sum­ably spon­sored by the PDP — that called it­self the African Peo­ple’s Congress and laid claim to the “APC” acro­nym, in­sist­ing it had filed for reg­is­tra­tion as a po­lit­i­cal party be­fore the All Pro­gres­sives Congress.

Hav­ing been reg­is­tered, the APC wasted no time firm­ing up its po­si­tion, at­tract­ing a raft of high pro­file de­fec­tors — in­clud­ing five gov­er­nors — from the rul­ing party. The PDP, suf­fi­ciently jolted, let go of Ba­manga Tukur, the di­vi­sive chair­man un­der whose watch the de­fec­tions hap­pened, and re­placed him with Adamu Mu’azu, a for­mer gover­nor with a knack for po­lit­i­cal strat­egy.

The next big hur­dle for the APC was the se­lec­tion of pres­i­den­tial and vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. Con­sid­er­ing its ori­gins as a coali­tion of dis­parate po­lit­i­cal move­ments, it seemed un­likely that it would man­age the process of se­lect­ing flag-bear­ers that ev­ery­one felt were in their in­ter­est.

It spec­tac­u­larly dis­ap­pointed pes­simists. In the days that fol­lowed, ten­sions swiftly rose over the choice of a run­ning mate to Mr Buhari. Again the party smoothed over a loom­ing dis­sen­sion, and pre­sented a cere­bral pro­fes­sor of law as Mr Buhari’s deputy — a nec­es­sary con­trast to the for­mer mil­i­tary man’s gruff, blunt de­meanour. This care­fully struc­tured cam­paign-organogram helped bring on board the in­flu­en­tial in­ter­ests who had lost out up un­til then.

Events over the last sev­eral months would then con­spire to en­sure that in­cum­bent pres­i­dent Mr Jonathan’s most for­mi­da­ble op­po­nent would not even be the APC, or Mr Buhari, but in­stead the ter­ror­ist group Boko Haram, and, to a lesser ex­tent, the Nige­rian cur­rency (the naira).

The ab­duc­tion by Boko Haram of more than 200 school­girls in Chi­bok last April, and the be­lated, in­co­her­ent re­sponse of the Jonathan gov­ern­ment, dealt a huge blow to his rep­u­ta­tion at home and abroad.

Since then, Boko Haram has marched on con­fi­dently, seiz­ing and hold­ing towns and vil­lages, keep­ing the mil­i­tary con­sis­tently on de­fence. Last year alone, the group’s on­slaught claimed the lives of more than 4 000 per­sons; and more than 1.5 mil­lion Nige­ri­ans have been dis­placed as a re­sult.

Around Oc­to­ber of last year, at a time when Boko Haram was step­ping up its at­tacks and seiz­ing in­creas­ingly larger swathes of ter­ri­tory, the naira be­gan to slump, thanks to crash­ing oil prices.

If Boko Haram was mainly af­fect­ing peo­ple in the coun­try’s re­mote north-eastern re­gion, the de­valu­ing naira took its own fight straight to the eco­nomic heart­lands of the coun­try — the south­ern cities that are the hubs of Nige­ria’s bank­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries.

The net ef­fect of ter­ror­ism and the eco­nomic down­turn has been dev­as­tat­ing for the pres­i­dent’s re­elec­tion prospects. Boko Haram has de­pleted his north­ern sup­port base so pro­foundly that he spent quite a bit of time on the cam­paign stump try­ing to con­vince north­ern­ers that he is not, in fact, a Boko Haram spon­sor. — Quartz

NIGE­RIAN op­po­si­tion leader Muham­madu Buhari has tried to spruce up his hard-line im­age by ap­pear­ing at events bow-tied and be­suited.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.