With about 100 days to the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, there are growing fears and pessimism in Africa and the international community on the sustainability of democracy and credible elections in the most populated black nation in the world.
This is against the backdrop of mounting security challenges in the country triggered by Boko Haram insurgency in the Northern part of Nigeria; the decisions of the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC towards the 5th general elections since 1999, such as the rationale for increase of polling stations by 30,000 from the present 120,000 to 150,000 and the uneven distribution between two geographical divides (North and South); coupled with the unguided utterances of Nigeria political leaders, that leaves much to be desired. While Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government is doing everything within its power to contain the insurgency, the last factor is now a public discourse to the extent that the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has waded into the controversial INEC decision calling on the electoral umpire to put on hold the exercise. But the INEC Chairman Professor Attahiru Jega said that the exercise was meant to reduce or decongest the number of voters in a polling booth, there by saving time and enhancing the voting system.
These unhealthy developments notwithstanding, the electoral umpire on September 30, issued 2015 Election Notice to 25 political parties signifying that the election process is on course. In January this year, the Commission released a timetable for the election, scheduling the conduct of Presidential and National Assembly elections for February 14, 2015 while the governorship and House of Assembly elections comes up in February 28, 2015.
According the timetable, campaigns for the Presidential and National Assembly elections will commence on 16th November 2014, while the campaigns for the Governorship and State Houses of Assembly elections will start from 30th November 2014.
Justifying the release of the Elections Notice to the political parties, INEC’s Director of voter education and publicity, Mr. Oluwole Osaze-Uzi, stated that the notice is a formality by the electoral commission and that political parties are still banned to do campaigns publicly until the stipulated dates.
What is on ground is that the race for the 2015 Presidential Election is between the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) and the opposition party, the All Progressive Congress (APC). Individuals, party organs and interest groups have defied INEC’s order and started open campaigns in support of their preferred candidate. Blazing the trail is a movement, the Transformation Ambassadors of Nigeria (TAN) that launched album of signatories of voters running into millions from each of the six geopolitical zones of the country adopting President Goodluck Jonathan as the sole candidate of PDP for the Presidential race. About 8,000 interest groups had taken the same stand while PDP organs – PDP Governors Forum, PDP National Caucus and PDP National Executive Committee (NEC) within the month of October 2014 respectively adopted the incumbent President as the sole Presidential Candidate for 2015 Presidency.
According to PDP election programme, 29th November and 6th December are the dates for conduct of the Party Primaries for Governorship and Presidential elections respectively. At the time of going to the press, President Goodluck Jonathan is yet to declare his re-election ambition despite pressures from many groups to do so.
However, in an Eid el-Kabir goodwill message to Nigerians, October 3rd 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan stated that his decision to run for second term would be guided by national harmony, cohesion, unity, security, political stability, progress, equity, justice and fairness. “I thank the many individuals, stakeholders, groups, associations, non-governmental organizations, unions and political leaders from across the country who have, in recognition and appreciation of our efforts and commitment to re-positioning our dear nation for more rapid growth and development, urged me to seek a second term in office. I urge all political leaders in the country to place the overriding interest of the well-being and progress of our fatherland above all other considerations in the coming campaigns and elections”, the President stated. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Goodluck Jonathan’s declaration of interest for a second term presidency is a matter of time.
For the All Progressive Congress (APC), the choice of the flag bearer in the 2015 Presidential election is between a former Head of State (1983-1985) and three times Presidential Candidate 2003, 2007 and 2011, General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and a former Vice-President (1999 – 2007) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, who on 24th September 2014 declared his Presidential ambition for 2015 Presidency at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.
On that occasion, Atiku Abubakar re-echoed his vision for Nigeria made June 16, 2011 – a virile economy, infrastructure, democracy and good governance, a comprehensive action plan for Niger Delta, functional education, social services (healthcare delivery, stable power, water supply) true federalism including devolution of power to the states of the federation and guarantee of national security.
In a speech titled “Time for change”, the former Vice President said: “The 2015 election is about you. It is about how to ensure that you live safe and secure lives. It is about making sure that you feed well, receive quality and affordable education and training, good jobs, support your own families and contribute positively to the development of our country. This is what a responsive and responsible government owes its citizens. This is what our generation owes upcoming generations. This is what we must do to guarantee our country’s future…”
Like the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressive Congress (APC) has rolled out guidelines for 2015 Polls. The guidelines stated, among other things, that screening of Presidential aspirants would commence on 10th November 2014 and be concluded on 12th November. The Party’s national convention where the presidential candidate will emerge is scheduled for 2nd December. The screening of governorship aspirants will commence on November 10 and ends on November 12 while the governorship primaries will hold on November 15, 2014.
While the two major parties PDP and APC are seriously canvassing for the support of other Political Parties especially in the Presidential race, the ultimate deciding factor is the electorate. The incumbency factor notwithstanding, opinion polls survey in the six geopolitical zones on the voters’ support for the two major parties indicates as follows:
The electoral fortunes of the two parties will definitely change in the zones as the country moves nearer the election dates, coupled with the intensity of voters’ education and electioneering campaigns of all the parties.
No matter how one looks at the 2015 Presidential Election, the outcome will either be continuity or change.
By Geoffrey Umeh
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