ARGUABLY, Nigeria has never had it so bad. Seven months to a presidential election, the aspirants are not known.
The political atmosphere is not charged or astir. Consultations, if any, are done in low and hushed tones. The electorates do not know what to expect from those who will want to govern them because nothing has been said or promised.
There is no flurry of activities in the political parties especially the opposition parties that should keep the ruling party on its toes. Does it mean the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Goodluck Jonathan are doing well? If not, who is going to stop them? What will the person or party do differently for Nigeria and Nigerians?
There is loud silence in the polity less than three months to the beginning of presidential primaries. Does it mean that the political class and would-be candidates are taking the electorates for granted?
It has not always been like this. Several months before the April 21, 2007 presidential polls won by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of the PDP with Dr Goodluck Jonathan as vice president, the polity was awash with a horde of aspirants, who criss-crossed the length and breadth of the country consulting stakeholders and seeking endorsements.
They were upbeat to succeed President Olusegun Obasanjo, whose perceived Third Term Agenda was shot down by the Senate President Ken Nnamani-led National Assembly with the support of Nigerians.
The aspirants included most of the governors, who were doing their second term then. We had Vice President Atiku Abubakar; former Military President, Ibrahim Babangida; Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Ahmed Sani Yerima and his Abia State counterpart, Orji Uzor Kalu. Among those whose aspirations were not in doubt and whose political moves electrified the polity included Dr. Peter Odili, then governor of Rivers of State and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
As of July 2010, about nine months to the April 16, 2011 presidential elections, many aspirants had emerged, declaring their readiness to do political battle with President Jonathan. Within the ruling PDP, Gen. Babangida had declared his intention.
There were also the likes of Atiku Abubakar; then Kwara State Governor, Dr Bukola Saraki; and General Muhammed Gusau (rtd). Among the opposition parties, those whose aspirations were known included Mr. Donald Duke, the former governor of Cross River State, who was warming up to fly the flag of Labour Party; Otunba Dele Momodu of the National Conscience Party (NCP); Malam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Change (CPC) among others.
Even President Jonathan declared his intention on September 18, 2010, about seven months to the election.
But things are different now despite early release of the 2015 election timetable by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
With the INEC fixing February 14, 2015, seven months away as the date for the presidential election, one would have expected that the political climate would be turbo-charged now with hundreds of aspirants showing interest to remove President Jonathan from Aso Rock.
One expected the PDP, All Progressives Congress (APC), Labour Party (LP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), etc, to have commenced the process of producing their presidential candidates. It appears that the coast is almost clear for PDP’s Jonathan, who has not even declared his intention against the backdrop that the House of Representatives caucus of the PDP endorsed him, this week, for second time, with the PDP Governors, National Executive Committee (NEC), Board of Trustees (BoT) and others to follow, thereby clearing the political bush for the president.
2015 election timetable
According to a breakdown of the timetable of activities for the elections as contained in a document signed by INEC’s Secretary, Mrs. Augusta Ogakwu, the presidential primaries of the various parties should be held between October 2 and December 11 while campaigns for the election will commence November 16.The dates are in line with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2010.
Campaigns for presidential and National Assembly elections will commence on November 16, 2014 while campaigns for governorship and state houses of assembly will start on November 30, 2014.
According to INEC, campaigns for presidential and National Assembly elections would end on February 12, 2015 while those of governorship and state houses of assembly would stop on February 26, 2015 and February 28, 2015 respectively.
With political activities so dull six months to the election, Saturday Vanguard asked politicians and stakeholders what the scenario portends for the polity.
APGA is not focusing on the presidency now –Umeh
Reacting to the development, Chairman, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, said that his party was for now concentrating on governorship, state houses of assembly and National Assembly elections and not the presidency because that requires so much resources.
He said: “Who are the presidential candidates of the other 24 parties? We are interested in building our party with more governorship, National Assembly and State Assembly victories across the country in the 2015 general elections! A Presidential election is not a local government election.
You need much resources to contemplate participation. When we muster enough strength, we will join the contest. But, we shall play a major role in determining who wins the presidential election in 2015 through alliance engagement.”
Politicians‘re not taking voters for granted –Ben Obi
Asked if politicians were not taking voters for granted with their approach, Special Adviser to the President on Inter-Party Affairs, Senator Ben Obi said, “I don’t agree with you. INEC has a time table and you have to follow the time table.”
Told that campaigning is different from signifying intention to run, he said: “But you have to follow the time table. If somebody wants to run and he is consulting quietly, how would you know? I know of people who have interest. Running for presidential election is not a child’s affair. For you to go into the presidential race you have to consult to be sure of what is on the ground.
You have to have a structure. APC thought it was easy but as you can see they are now facing their own internal wrangling. If they don’t sort that out now before going to talk about, who will fly the flag of the party, your guess is as good as mine. Even in the PDP, we are doing some reconciliation.
As you can see the National Chairman who people refer as the game changer is moving around and he has brought some innovations, which are making the party come alive by trying to make sure that he reaches out. Fortunately for him, he has been a governor and most of these problems emanate from governors that want you to do this or that.
But at the end of the day they are leaders of their various states. So, they have found their equal match and colleague in Ahmed Muazu. So it makes things much easier.”