‘Will GMB finally win a Southern state?’, ‘Where will S/West go?’: 15 political questions for 2015

by Stanley Azuakola

It’s safe to say that Nigerians have been counting down to the 2015 elections since the last one in 2011. That election is now less than 40 days. Amazing!

This election year will be a crucial one for Nigerians and several questions will be answered.

The Scoop presents its take on the 15 biggest political questions for 2015, most of which will be answered even before the end of the first half of the year.

Here goes:

  1. Will Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan debate?
Muhammadu Buhari and Goodluck Jonathan

Let’s be honest: a Buhari-Jonathan debate will be as interesting as watching laborers carry bricks. Neither man has the gift of the garb nor that of sharing their visions with clarity. However, a debate should be non-negotiable. In 2011, Pres. Goodluck Jonathan decided to stay away from the debate everyone was looking forward to; this time we have a more competitive race and neither him nor Buhari can afford to abstain nor indeed should they be allowed to get away with doing so.

2. Where will the South West go?

Gradually, party strategists and commentators are arriving at a consensus that the South West will almost certainly determine who becomes Nigeria’s next president. In 2011, Pres. Goodluck Jonathan swept the zone with the exception of Osun where the ACN candidate, Nuhu Ribadu won. But even in Osun, Jonathan still polled 37% of the votes. Meanwhile, Buhari did not even manage up to 25% in any of the states in the South West.

If Buhari is to stand a chance of winning the election next month, he has to do even better than Ribadu. It’s hard to see any route to the presidency for Buhari without him winning the South West. If the president manages anything close to his 2011 margins in the South West then he is going to be in power for the next four years. No arguments.

3. Violence or no violence?

Some rascally supporters of the two major parties have issued threats of violence in the event that the election does not go the way of their preferred candidates. Memories of the post 2011 election violence which rocked parts of the North is still fresh in our minds. A burden of responsibility will be on the two presidential candidates as well as all the other candidates across board, to do their utmost and ensure that their supporters are kept in check and not incited. As commander-in-chief before, during and even after the elections (no matter who wins), Pres. Jonathan has an even greater responsibility to ensure the safety of lives and properties of INEC officials, corps members on election duties and every other ordinary Nigerian.

4. Will Buhari finally win a Southern state?

It’s incredible that in his last three attempts to be Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari has never won a single state in the South. In 2011, his best showing in the South was in Oyo where he got a measly 10.7%. Of course, he wasn’t helped by the fact that the ACN which was the strongest opposition in the South back then, had a Northerner as its flagbearer, which divided the votes. But still, 10.7%? The retired general has to cross the 50% mark in some Southern states this time in other to mount a challenge and his best bet is in the South West.

Map of Nigeria, showing the 36 states and Abuja

5. Will elections hold in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states?

Well, the governors of those states said yesterday that elections must hold in their states, afterall it held in war torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. However their demand might be impossible to meet if Boko Haram steps up its attacks in the coming weeks. Already there are several Internally Displaced citizens far from their homes and the places they registered to vote. How will these ones be accommodated?

Meanwhile, one fallacy being propounded is that the insurgency in the North East favours Pres. Jonathan as the three states are expected to be easy pickings for General Buhari. People forget that Pres. Jonathan won Adamawa state in 2011 with over 50% of the votes and got more than the crucial 25% in Yobe. He only fell short in Borno with 17.58%. That’s food for thought.

6. Who presides over the House of Reps after the elections?

From February when the elections will hold till May when a new government is sworn in is a whole three months. During that time, a lot will and should happen. The current crop of lawmakers for instance will still be required to make laws for the country. They will be the ones to pass the 2015 budget, and if need be, reconsider the state of emergency option in the North East. But with Aso Rock desperate to ensure that Speaker Aminu Tambuwal no longer presides, will the House sit? And if it doesn’t, what then happens to the important pieces of legislation — including the Appropriations Act, constitutional amendments and even the PIB — it has to deliberate upon?

Meanwhile will the courts rule on Tambuwal’s eligibility to remain as speaker before the expiration of this assembly in May?

7. How many people will be disenfranchised as a result of INEC’s PVC?

Independent National Electoral Commission

The permanent voter’s registration card collection process currently ongoing across the country has been far from smooth. INEC has not exactly done a great job, and the complaints are loud — even the Lagos governor, Babatunde Fashola, could not find his name on the list. If INEC insists that no voting will take place without the PVC, then a good number of registered voters are likely to be disenfranchised due to no fault of theirs.

Meanwhile, you know what will really be cool? If everyone reading this can take just three minutes — just THREE MINUTES — and visit www.PollingNigeria.com. We need your participation in that quick and easy poll which affects us all. All our voices need to be heard.

Now, if you are absolutely sure you have done that, we can move to Question 8.

8. Will we have our first presidential runoff?

We know that next month’s election will be tighter than that of 2011. First, we have only two main parties now unlike 2011 when the opposition had two relatively equal parties in the APC and CPC, which not only split the anti-PDP votes, but — since the candidates of the two parties were Northerners — they also split the Northern votes. This time we have just one strong opposition.

Secondly, unlike in 2011 when Buhari got 12 million votes although he did not have a single governor in his party, this time he has the backing of 14 APC governors, and hundreds of lawmakers.

Thirdly, the defection of people like Bukola Saraki and Rotimi Amaechi puts into play some states which the president comfortably won the last time.

Still, will that be enough to force a runoff? Technically, in other to win outright, a candidate needs to win the majority of votes and at least 25% of the votes in 24 states. If Buhari for instance wins most states in the North and South West, he could mathematically get the majority of votes but fail to get the 25% in up to 24 states. In such a case, a runoff would happen.

9. How many incumbents will lose next month?

Nationwide, at least 10 governors are vying for reelection and a lot of them are facing really tough races. Gov. Rochas Okorocha in Imo faces an uphill task against the deputy speaker of the House of Reps in a zone where the APC is not so popular. The governors of Ogun, Oyo and Nasarawa also face tough challenges, as will the governor of Zamfara. It would be interesting to see how many governors will — like Fayemi of Ekiti last year — lose their reelection bids.

10. What next for Gov. Rotimi Amaechi?

Gov. Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers is one politician who draws extreme reactions — love or hate — from Nigerians. The governor is not running for reelection or for the senate unlike many other second term governors. But he is strongly invested in ensuring that his party emerges victorious both in Rivers — where his chosen candidate, Dakuku Peterside, will square off against Amaechi’s former chief of staff, Nyesom Wike of the PDP — and nationally where he is the director general of the Muhammadu Buhari campaign for presidency. What happens to him afterwards?

If Buhari wins, that’s great news for the governor. He would have proved his mettle and the general who already adores Amaechi will see reasons to repay Amaechi’s efforts in whatever way the governor pleases. However if the president wins reelection, it might be trying times ahead for the governor. Very trying times.

11. And how about Patience Jonathan?

It would be interesting to see the roles which the wife of the president, Patience Jonathan, will be playing in the next two months in the PDP national campaign, and in several state campaigns like Rivers where she reportedly has interests. Will she be given a prominent role? Is Aso Rock prepared for the risks and rewards which come with such a choice?

12. Will we have our first female elected governor?

Not deputy! We have had several female deputy governors since 1999. Not acting! We have had Dame Virgy Etiaba who acted as governor for a few months after the rogue Anambra assembly impeached former governor Peter Obi. So far no woman has won election as governor on her own merit. This year the hopes of the women to change that is on the shoulders of Sen. Jumai Alhassan who will be flying the APC flag in Taraba state. Alhassan currently represents Taraba South in the senate. How well would she do?

Campaign poster of Jumai Alhassan, APC governorship candidate for Taraba State

13. How long would it take before new governors start fighting their predecessors/godfathers?

In states where a new party wins the governorship seat, it is expected that several months will be spent squabbling over stuff like how much debt was left and how much money was wasted. That’s still the case in Ekiti where Gov. Fayose and his predecessor, Fayemi, have been slugging it out in the media. But even in states where the successor belongs to the same party as the incumbent, it does not take long before they try to break free and assert their independence. Just check out Anambra state where already Peter Obi is being isolated by the successor he feverishly campaigned for, Gov. Willie Obiano. After May, we’ll see how this goes.

14. Is the APC serious about competing in the South East?

It would take a miracle for the APC to win in Igbo land. But sources within the APC camp have told The Scoop that the party is willing to make a play for some states in the South East, or at least get the important 25% of votes in a few of them. Imo is definitely one state they would be hoping to capitalise on, but there is also Ebonyi where the governor is still upset over the fact that his candidates were overlooked by the party. Already Buhari billboards have been erected in a few South Eastern states like Imo. The APC will be buoyed by the recent critical sermon by Rev. Fr. Mbaka, the failure of the Ohanaeze to arrive at a consensus endorsing Pres. Jonathan and the recent statement by an APGA chieftain that the party has to reconsider its support of the president.

15. Would we still be here?

Remember 2015 is the ‘infamous’ year in which — according to a supposed prediction — Nigeria is expected to break up. So will we still be here as ONE NIGERIA by the end of the year? Well, I think so. But still people are asking so let’s see how it goes.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @stanleyazuakola

Originally published at www.thescoopng.com on January 7, 2015.

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