Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2011: The emergence of two party politics?

There is much talk going at the moment amongst the political class of coalitions, alliances and mergers. The general consensus seems to be that the election machine of the PDP will simply be unstoppable come 2011 and the only way that non-PDP politicians can have a say is by forming a coalition (or coalitions). The story bubbled earlier in the year as legislators debated whether to include a two-party amendment into the Electoral Reform Bill, on that occasion the idea was shot down, albeit after some political manoeuvring, but nonetheless it raised the profile of the grand coalition agenda. The idea was first floated by the ‘love-him-or-hate-him’ Godfather of Nigerian politics, General Babangida, in the ‘Third Regime’ and eventually lead to what was considered the freest and fairest elections ever held in Nigeria which was contested between the National Republican Convention and the Social Democratic Party ( Who won the election with candidate MKO Abiola).

As the elections have drawn nearer, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) are reported to be in talks over an alliance (but probably not a merger) with the All Nigerian People Party (ANPP) and their splinter party the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). In addition to all the politicians who are criss-crossing the carpet from one party to the other, Presidential aspirant Pat Utomi of the Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP), the day after announcing his candidacy indicated on his Facebook page that he would be going round Nigeria to build a coalition with ALL progressives’. The question is now why the sudden clamour for unity?


There are two scenarios here that though inter-related are best looked at separately. The first of which was that raised in May in the legislature, where The National Assembly sort to pass an amendment limiting the parties allowed to run to two. The argument being that a two-party system is a stable political system that has succeeded in polities all over the world (and indeed in Nigeria albeit briefly) and will have a number of beneficial consequences include reduced cost of elections, greater accountability and higher participation. As such it was advisable to have it in law. This move although apparently supported by many was opposed by PDP legislators, but is also opposed by a number of academics who contend that besides the problems of rigidity and restricted choice this may imply, the emergence of two-party politics in the US or Japan or for that matter anywhere in the world has never been induced by the passing of law or amendment of constitutions. These changes have always happened by evolution, with two parties emerging as dominant over time but with the existence of other parties not expressly outlawed. This is of course the second scenario for Nigeria, that parties will splinter and merge, grow and wither and two parties will emerge; one of which in all likelihood has already emerged, The PDP.


There is a degree of inevitability about as French sociologist Maurice Duverger outlined in what became known as his principle. Duverger’s law asserts that a plurality election system, like the one that exists in Nigeria, tends to encourage a two party system, as opposed to a system of proportional representation which tends to favour a multiparty system. The argument being that in a country like Nigeria, where each legislative seat (and the Presidency) is divided by a simple majority of votes casted by constituents, the party with the most seats is the majority (or gains the Presidency) and the second party is in minority (or is in opposition). In each individual seat there is no role for the party that comes third, and any party that consistently comes third across the seats will have no role at all on a national level. People will stop voting for them as they will begin to see it as a wasted vote and/or the party itself will seek to ally itself with one of the more successful parties. This model has been applied to analysis of the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom and is widely accepted, however it is only a theory and it is the practice of politics that concerns Nigerians.


This would be a good time for the opposition parties to unite. The PDP is suffering a dip in support; people are dissatisfied after 12 years of the party in Government. The pressure for free and fair elections is overwhelming, this combined with the cheap publicity via modern technology means that the elections will be more open than in previous idea. The concept of a non-partisan coalition chimes with the electorate and the theme of change that the parties are planning to run on and cooperation might give them the financial muscle to challenge the PDP’s hegemony. In practice, amalgamation looks unlikely. Though the parties are currently in talks with the view to some sort of understanding, there are a number of issues in the way so much so that Alhaji Bafarawa (formerly of the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), now of the ACN) has come out to dispel talk of an alliance as just that, talk.


“As a democrat and I believe ACN is a democratic party. Whoever that is taking our ticket must be our member. I am assuring you there is no way ACN will adopt a presidential candidature without recourse to democracy. There is no way merger will work"


 The CPC is a splinter of the ANPP and such is unlikely to enter any coalition with them, leaving the ACN to choose a suitor. The major problem hindering any agreement is that there is no real acknowledgement of who is the ‘second’ party and who is the ‘third’, in other words who will be senior and who will be junior partner. The CPC is a new party that although has considerable support particularly in the North, has no tangible political assets to bring to the table. The ANPP despite its state Governors and significant stake in the legislator has taken some political blows as a result of the defections that have plagued the party this year. The ACN would seem to be perched in the driving seat with the popular acclaim for Governor Fashola of Lagos and its recent court successes in the South-West, however they don’t appear to be able to put forward a heavy hitting presidential candidate and such seem to be very much playing second fiddle to the other parties. The latest gossip is that the coalition will be between the CPC and the ACN, with former head of state, General Buhari, being lined up as the presidential candidate with a running mate from the ACN, possibly former governer of Lagos State, Mr Tinubu.


If a deal is struck, there will be a number of losers including ACN aspirant, Mallam Ribadu, who seems to have been overlooked as well as Pat Utomi’s SDMP and a whole host of smaller parties who will have little or nothing to bring to the table. However, in this writer’s opinion a deal is not likely to be struck, Nigerian politicians are not well known for their cooperation or their selflessness. For progress to be made one or more parties will have to give up their claim to the presidency and accept a diminished role. The parties will have to choose a platform on which to run and that is proving a sticking point at the moment as all sides would want to preserve their political capital by running on their own party ticket. Then there is the question of what will happen in the likely situation that the PDP retains power, the PDP currently has 26 of the 36 gubernatorial seats while the other parties combined have only 10. What are the realistic prospects of any coalition continuing beyond the elections and forming a credible opposition? One can only speculate and on some level that is the problem in Nigeria, there is no power in opposition and so every election is winner takes all. Duverger’s theory doesn’t hold up for Nigeria because there is no second place, no shadow cabinet, in effect no opposition. Opposition that should be shadowing government activity, scrutinizing government agenda and formulating alternative policies simply doesn’t exist. It should act as check on the party in power and should fight to get the upper hand on its opponent by reflecting the will of the people. So this brings us back to the first scenario and perhaps instead of the National Assembly trying to legislate on a two party system, they should legislate on reform to the Assembly that will allow for or even require credible opposition and maybe this will bring about the evolution of a two-party system if it is indeed inevitable.


Enyinnaya Emmanuel Chukwueke


Green Label Project, Changing Nigeria Together

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.