Sunday, 26 December 2010

How to win a Nigerian Election by GEJ & Co

This week SaharaReporters, in true Wikileaks fashion, leaked a copy of an internal document from the Jonathan/Sambo camp. Saharareporters described it as a manual for rigging the 2011 elections, they highlighted how the plan sought to use almost every tactic employable to win. Interestingly enough the document wasn’t leaked directly to SaharaReporters or in fact to any news agency; instead it turns out Atiku (or should I say Mr. Fox as he is referred to in the document) had a mole in the GEJ/Sambo camp who leaked it to him and he then released it to the media (and to western governments? As if they care?). So it’s out there, the question now is how damaging is this to Mr. President and his aspirations for 2011.

The most important thing is for anyone who cares to actually read the thing for themselves. It is freely available as provided by the good people of Saharareporters; and though it is a tad long, poorly written and repetitive in places it will surely find its place in the canon of modern Nigerian history as it provides a snapshot (albeit skewed) of the state of Nigerian politics in the run up to the 2011 elections.

The first thing to point out is that yes, it does allude to some illegal activity. It in some places advocates the abuse of the office of the President, the bribing of a vast range of people and the intimidation of political opponents. In fact it seems as though the person/people writing it have never heard of the word euphemism yet alone how to use it and it is this that adds some credence to the claim by its alleged author, Mr. Mike Omeri, that the document was doctored. But really who was surprised by these revelations. Who was surprised that the incumbent was going to use the security apparatus to his advantage? Who was surprised that he was going to try and influence INEC? Who was surprised that he would try and bribe party delegates? Who was surprised that he would offer people protection from prosecution? I think it’s safe to assume that most people anticipated these things, and it is probably safe to assume that Mr. President is not the only one who will be engaging in these tactics.

Assuming that the whole thing is real, there are a number of things that we may not have known that this document has revealed. Firstly it shows that the GEJ/Sambo ticket thinks that their priority is winning the PDP primaries. The whole document seems to be written on the basis that winning the PDP ticket is as good as winning the National election. This raises the immediate question: how can they be so sure? Two possibilities: One, the PDP, its history, its policies and its political ideology are so popular with the Nigerian electorate that it is inconceivable that they will lose. Or two, they are so confident in their ability to rig the hell out of the next elections that it doesn’t matter who gets the ticket, come May 29th they will be popping champagne in Aso Villa.

Secondly the GEJ campaign team see only the Fantastic Mr. Fox (Atiku Abubakar to you and I) as the only credible competition for PDP ticket. The oddest thing about the whole thing is that the authors were very half-hearted in their attempts to mask the identity of ‘Mr Fox’, at more than one point they refer to Mr. Fox and his wife Jennifer Douglas Abubakar, I mean they might as well have gone to the effort of writing ‘Mrs Fox’ or ‘Vixen IV’ (as she is his 4th wife) or better yet call him by his name. Naming issues aside, the document does a full SWOT analysis of the Atiku campaign, highlighting his strengths and the threat he may poses to Jonathan’s aspirations and outlining specifically how to exploit his weaknesses and highlighting opportunities to steal the march on him. The main strategy is to portray, the former Vice President as a criminal to wit the document produces some prototype campaign posters with such gems as:

‘Those of us who run intellectual business and academic schedule; the road ahead will be tortuous and challenging diplomatic situation as a result of the stigma of a convicted President and the damage to our national image. Please take his money if you are bribed but vote wisely and do the right things’

Encouraging the citizenry to take bribes from Atiku may seem questionable, but this fits in squarely with the strategy of the Jonathan campaign as it identified Atiku’s strengths as being ‘extremely wealthy’ so any way to run down his bank balance would be appreciated. The strategy also includes discrediting Mr. Abubakar as a ‘serial betrayer’ (having supposedly betrayed Obasanjo, Abiola, Yar’Adua and Tinubu) and a regional (as opposed to national) aspirant.

Another issue that was raised by this leaked memo, and was duly picked up on by the article on SaharaReporters, was the complacency of the mainstream Nigerian media in the execution of the strategies. The document name drops some of the top journalists, working at some of the most influential news agencies in Nigeria. However, the SR article doesn’t go far enough in showing how people from all walks of life are being bought off by politicians, the document lists musicians, Comedians, Dance troupes, ex-footballers, TV personalities, Churches, Mosques, NGO’s, Students and Intellectuals as well as of course politicians of all levels ranging from Local Government all the way to the Legislative Houses at Federal level. The BBC recently ran an article on the role of musicians in the elections in which the likes of D’banj and TwoShotz are given a tongue-wagging by Seun Kuti for selling out, in the light of the leaked memo these musicians should really question themselves as representatives of the youth.

One of the more interesting issues raised by the document is the role that Obasanjo is playing in the GEJ campaign. It is not made clear in the plan how much of the direction of the policy (legal or illegal), how much of the funding or how many decisions come directly from the former President, but what is clear is how important his political clout will be for Jonathan in this election campaign. The plan entrusts OBJ with winning over a number of difficult delegates, particularly in the South-West, in regards to Osun state the plan ominously says ‘OBJ is in charge’. How is it that a man who has no official role of importance in government or indeed in his party can be so influential? Is GEJ wise to entrust his political fortune to Obasanjo? And perhaps more importantly, what does it mean for our democracy when a man who was refused a third term still appears to be pulling the strings behind closed doors.

Lastly, the saddest thing about this whole saga is what it says about Nigeria. The plan isn’t all political intrigue, there is a section (albeit small) focussed on policies, fairly concrete policies on issues like power, education, transport, the Niger-Delta, agriculture, industry and poverty. It also in part takes on Atiku in the issue of the economy and does so without resorting to mud-slinging or smear tactics but rather by using publically available information. It says to Nigerians and a new generation of voters that elections are not fought on issues and are not won on policy, they are won by the power of money and as such it is no surprise that Nigeria is not moving forward. It is important to reiterate that because we have seen such a document from the GEJ camp, doesn’t mean that the same isn’t been done by other aspirants. The document shows that a great deal of work has gone into its production and an even greater deal of work will need to go into the execution of the strategies it suggests. If only the same amount of work was put into developing the policies that would improve Nigeria and the same amount of energy put into executing these policies then maybe Nigerian will improve for everybody. Attaining the office of the presidency has become an end in itself, everybody seems to have forgotten that it is meant to just be means to implementing your policies. In order for Nigeria to change, we as the people of Nigeria cannot be idle; we have to make sure our votes count and we have to make sure that we are voting for policies and not for personalities.

Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke
The Green Label Project, Changing Nigeria Together.

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