Election Neither About Buhari Nor Jonathan By Sonala Olumhense

imageUp until last Thursday, the 5th of February 2015, there were people in Nigeria who thought President Goodluck Jonathan still had a chance to be re-elected president next Saturday.

Among that number, some mistook the pageantry and pomp of incumbency for the power and pump of Nigeria’s fledgling democratic heart.

As Mr. Jonathan stumbled and wobbled in poll after poll—several of them operated or commissioned by operatives and hirelings in and around the administration—they looked for scapegoats and escape holes.

As politicians trooped from his PDP into the suddenly-attractive APC, Jonathan’s team deployed abuses and excuses.

As organizations and important individuals around the country and abroad endorsed Mr. Jonathan’s principal challenger for the presidency, his cheerleaders encouraged him to disburse more promises, dismissing forecasts of his imminent electoral demise.

Well, not entirely. At first they clung to the strategy of trying to destroy the claims to character of Muhammadu Buhari, the APC presidential candidate.

That lost steam.

They shifted into blame mode, questioning the readiness of the electoral commission.

That, too, lost steam.

Then they—they who thought the “Independent” in the Independent National Electoral Commission was ridiculous and refused to honour its budgetary and programmatic requirements; who refused to encourage Nigerians to collect their voters’ cards; who refused to protect the rights of the internally-displaced to vote—these emergency philanthropists argued Nigerians had not received their cards.

That track also lost steam.

Then they dropped the P-word: postponement. They wanted the election postponed.

At first they wanted six months. Then, dawn and reality closing in, they wanted eight weeks.

Eight weeks?

Eight weeks. They had had four years—or five, or even eight, depending on how you looked at it—to prepare for the 2015 elections. They had had all the time in the world to grant the electoral commission all the support it needed to be absolutely prepared, but did not.

They had had all the time to support the IDPs, including those displaced by floods, but did not.

They had all the time in the world to revamp the military and Nigeria’s entire Boko Haram strategy towards making the Northeast safer and more election-friendly, but they did not.

It came down to begging and crawling to try and gain eight weeks.

To be sure, they gained a few voices. They got some minor political parties to whine on their side of the fence. They hurled a few moles in front of television cameras and radio microphones and Internet keyboards. They refused to grant visas to foreign journalists heading into Nigeria to report the election.

But it was hopeless, as opposition to postponing the election was substantial. Asserting itself, the electoral commission said, “We are ready. We are as ready as we are ever going to be!”

And then on Thursday, four days ago, the Council of State detonated a bomb right in the heart of the government, saying it had failed to find a shred of evidence why the election could not go on.

In other words, the Council did not fall for the tenure-elongation schemes of the Jonathan presidency in the face of the clamor of the populace to speak at the ballot.

These were gargantuan, seismic shifts.

It is not difficult to imagine that the presidency, after being doused with such ice-cold water on a bitterly-cold morning, did not crawl into alcohol and refuse to be consoled. It was not difficult to see that Nigerians simply wanted an opportunity to vote out Mr. Jonathan and the PDP.

It may be clichéd, but Nigerians wanted change.

This bothers some people, who argue—bravely you might say—that Buhari and the APC do not offer change. That argument is what emerges when you fail to clean your ears.

Buhari and the APC, I assert as someone who has openly denounced the PDP since the 2003 elections, are change. They offer a change from the PDP in the elementary sense that someone—anyone else—is hope, and something of a new beginning. Anyone and anything but the PDP is the definition of change.

Now, is APC the change Nigerians want? Well, that is a completely different animal. The truth is that you cannot have the second without the first. To say that APC is not the change Nigerians want should not be to say that PDP and Jonathan are a nightmare they want to maintain. It is the nature of homo sapiens, when confronted with pain or injury, to try something…different.

As for me, I am reformed. For five years, I have pointed out how weak and unsuitable for leadership Mr. Jonathan was. But it is all clear to me now: his mission in politics was never to be a conqueror or an achiever, for he is not so equipped; it was to show Nigerians how nasty life can turn when they are not vigilant.

Nigerians were not, and they got Jonathan.

The PDP were not, and now, it is about to be de-mystified and detonated.

In the process, Jonathan’s luck seems to have run out, and he is being unveiled as an impostor, the passerby in the mask of the King. Unveiled not just as the man who didn’t give a damn, but as one who couldn’t spell it. He will spend a lot of his old age trying to explain how he got to Aso Rock; how he got to the University of Port Harcourt, if he did, how long he spent there, and what he did there; and even the loyalties of those who cheered when he did not give a damn.

Speaking of Uniport, Mr. Jonathan may have singlehandedly damaged that brand. Every alumnus is on now his own.

Unless you are wearing damaged ethnic or regional blinkers, the only reason for any passionate support of Jonathan is because he upholds a lootocracy to which you belong. There is nothing about his public voyage that fills a normal man with anything but contempt.

But let us be clear: this election is not about Jonathan. It is not about Buhari. It is about Nigeria, as a country that has for too long been taken for granted.

This is also why Buhari, his team, and the APC must be on notice. It is not about you, and if you win, it would be the final tragedy should you act as if there is one day to waste, or as if the standards of measurement will be lowered because you enjoyed popular support on your way to the kingdom. The support is for the country, not you, and not your party.

Actually, your journey will be a lot more difficult because in the period since your much-admired presidential party primary, a lot has changed, and the resources that will be available to you on Friday, May 29, 2015 will be considerably less.

The comfort is that if you really and truly give a damn, you will have plenty of company and help on the road to restoration.


Twitter: @SonalaOlumhense

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