Nigeria 2015: Buhari commissions study on how to defeat Jonathan

Ahead of his plan to next week declare his intention to contest the 2015 presidential election, a leader of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Muhammadu Buhari, has commissioned a study on how he and the opposition in Nigeria could defeat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and its potential candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, in the poll.

Barring any hitches, Mr. Buhari, Nigeria’s military head of state between 1983 and 1985, is expected to formally declare his presidential bid on October 8 or 9, some of his associates confirmed to this newspaper at the weekend.

If he does, Mr. Buhari would become the second aspirant to declare presidential intention on the platform of the APC, Nigeria’s main opposition party.

A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, had last week announced his plan to contest the presidential election, fixed for February 14, on the platform of the APC.

Mr. Buhari and his associates reportedly asked Femi Olufunmilade, head of department of international relations and strategic studies and sub-dean of the School of Post Graduate Studies and Research of the University, Igbinedion University, Okada, Edo State, to prepare a paper which would be presented at the event holding in Abuja.

The paper, which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, identified factors which former opposition leaders in eight African countries used in defeating the incumbents in the last two decades and which, if adapted by Mr. Buhari and other opposition leaders could send Mr. Jonathan packing next year.

The president is yet to announce his plan to contest though he has been adopted by the PDP as its sole candidate.

The eight opposition leaders the paper focused on are Frederick Chiluba (Zambia, 1991); John Kufour (Ghana 2000); Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal, 2000); Mwai Kibaki (Kenya, 2002); Yayi Boni (Benin Republic, 2006); Ernest Bai Koroma (Sierra Leone, 2007); Alhassan Quattara (Cote d’Ivoire, 2010); and Peter Mutharika (Malawi, 2014).

According to the study, titled “Opposition Victories in Africa: How it can Happen in Nigeria (A Working Paper for the APC), which would be presented at Mr. Buhari’s formal declaration, for four decades post-independence, regime change through democratic means was unheard of in Africa.

It said in some countries, regime change was even impossible constitutionally because one-party rule was legitimized by constitutional instrument while countries whose constitutions had provisions for a multi-party political system were only nominally multi-party in practice, as the incumbent presidents or prime-ministers as the case may be, sat tight, often changing the provisions of the constitution regarding tenure to perpetuate their rule.

It also said elections became a mere ritual aimed at creating a façade of a democratic order when in fact there was no substance to it. The person in power, it further noted, was always the winner in such elections and the results invariably indicated his victory was landslide.

It stressed that this scenario made military coup d’état and warfare the only means of effecting a change in government.

“However, beginning from the 1990s, there have been pockets of democratic regime changes in Africa,” it said.

“By this we do not mean an intra-party transfer of the baton of power such as happened in Nigeria in 2007 when President Olusegun Obasanjo handed power over to his party member, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.

“Rather, we refer to an inter-party change whereby, upon the defeat of a ruling party’s candidate, power is ceded to an opposition candidate, as was the case in Zambia (1991), Ghana (2000), Senegal (2000), Kenya (2002), Benin Republic (2006), Sierra Leone (2007), Ivory Coast (2010), and Malawi (2014).”

Noting that since 1999 the PDP had been in power, not necessarily because it was popular, the study alleged that it was because the ruling party “has perfected the art of rigging on one hand, and on the other, because a weak opposition.”

“All the presidential elections that have legitimized PDP’s hold on power have been seriously flawed. A combination of outright cooking-up of fake results and bribing of voters has been part of the PDP’s staying power as is the case in African countries generally,” it alleged.

To enhance the preparation of the Nigerian opposition for the 2015 presidential election in a manner that can lead to victory, this paper, which is divided into three sections – “Demystification of Power of Incumbency,” “An Appraisal of the All Progressives Congress” and “Conclusion” identified coalition strategy, complementary candidatures, mass discontentment with the PDP and promoting international pressure as means of defeating the ruling party, come 2015.

It said some of the eight leaders, who had contested elections several times like Mr. Buhari, and generally the opposition in those countries, had employed the four methods in defeating the ruling parties and incumbents.

“The objective, in this connection, is to draw vital lessons from the experience of those eight countries’ opposition and signpost how they may be adapted by the Nigerian opposition in the 2015 presidential election,” it said.

On the coalition strategy, it stated that since the four opposition parties in Nigeria had successfully achieved a merger, and if Mr. Buhari is made the candidate of the APC for the 2015 presidential poll and the structures of all the merging partners, especially those of them that are dominant in regions and states where he (Buhari) never had a strong footing, are put at his service in 2015, his victory shall be a fait accompli.

It added, “What should now be added is that APC should actively seek to expand the base of its coalition till 24-hours before the 14 February, 2015 presidential election.

“In this connection, it must explore and exploit schisms within the PDP to firm up its membership base. It should also seek collaboration with organized groups cutting across trade unions to students. If possible, it can set up a team to work on this.

“At the same time, it must guard against further inroads into its membership by way of defection. Primary elections often lead to disaffection and defections. The choice of direct primaries on a level playing ground is a good way of minimizing defections on account of allegations of unfair treatment by contestants.”

The paper also suggested that the APC leadership should immediately constitute a Primary Elections Arbitration Panel composed of respected retired jurists and religious leaders – both Muslim and Christian – to which allegations of electoral infractions can be promptly referred for settlement.

“Its chief task is to resolve issues in a manner that would keep the party together. Ahead of this, the APC leadership should design an Allegiance Form which every contestant must endorse to underscore his/ her readiness to accept the outcome of a primary election and the ruling of the party’s Arbitration Panel as the case may be.

Stating that the option of direct primaries by the APC would, to a large extent, foster the emergence of popular candidates for elective positions of all kinds such that the popularity of the candidates in their respective constituencies would rub off on the presidential candidate of the party positively, the paper, however, warned that leaving matters solely to a free and fair direct primary would be inadequate.

“Efforts should be made to recruit non-politicians who have excelled in diverse walks of life and are held in high esteem in their constituencies to take a shot at the APC tickets for the Senate, House of Reps, and State Assembly etc.

“This is of strategic importance in the South East and the South-South regions where the APC is weak and the PDP is not only dominant but has a standing strategy of securing 100% of total votes cast through a rigging method Prof Attahiru Jega of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) would call “community connivance”.

The paper noted that mass discontentment had great propaganda value for the opposition as the ruling party is to blame if the citizens are unhappy; not the opposition that is not in power.

It stressed, “There is no doubt that Nigerians, with the possible exception of those enjoying government’s largesse, are generally discontented, disenchanted, and dissatisfied with their condition. Millions are unemployed and insecurity lurks everywhere. Government has become irrelevant. People provide their own water, electricity, and security.

“Nigeria, the sixth largest exporter of crude oil, cannot refine enough of it for its citizens close to six decades after oil was struck in commercial quantities. Nigerians want change no doubt.

“However, the APC has a lot of work to do in terms of public communication to convince them that it will do a lot better than the PDP, that it is indeed a harbinger of national rebirth. Many Nigerians, if the truth must be told, are distrustful of the APC because its rank-and-file is highly swelled by PDP men and, indeed, each PDP stalwart that joins the party is celebrated as a major achievement.”

It also advised APC leaders who from time to time meet with diplomats of various western countries interested in obtaining their views on issues to mount international pressure on them.

It said the party had to be “pro-active in drawing the attention of the international community to flaws in the process leading to the 2015 election so that enough pressure can be mounted on the Nigerian authorities to make necessary amends ahead of E-Day.

“The party should similarly fine-tune its public communication machinery to work closely with influential international media like the CNN, Al-Jazeera, BBC etc. The APC should utilize the media to project itself locally and internationally in a positive light while putting the PDP and its government on the defensive.”

The study said, “Opposition victory is possible in Nigeria in 2015 assuredly. This conclusion is borne of the experience of eight African countries where the opposition has defeated the ruling parties, thereby demystifying the power of incumbency.

“It is further reinforced by the better preparation of the Nigerian opposition more than ever before – under the rallying banner of the APC – to wrestle power from the PDP.

“Yet, the APC must leave nothing to chance in its quest for power by, among other things, fielding the best presidential candidate within its fold, as well as strengthen its machinery of public communication, for the real battleground of the 2015 election is the mind of the electorates.”

Contacted, Mr. Olufunmilade confirmed drawing up a paper for presentation in support of Mr. Buhari’s quest for the APC ticket.

“For those who are just looking for immediate gain, Jonathan may just be the right person,” he told PREMIUM TIMES on phone.

“But for those who have a long view of change, I am telling you the greatest mistake APC will make is to succumb to all the propaganda that he is fanatic or that he has contested before. Etc

“If the party does not make the mistake of giving the ticket to the wrong person then he is the man to beat. Who are the other persons?”

Mr. Buhari had contested for the position on three previous occasions, but lost.

He was the presidential candidate of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, in the 2003 election, but lost to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He got 12,710,022 votes representing 32.17% to Mr. Obasanjo’s 24,456,140 or 61.94%.

He ran again on the platform of the same party, but lost to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007. He polled 6,605,299 or 18.72% to Mr. Yar’Adua’s 26,638,063 or 69.82%

In the 2011 election, the former military leader contested for the presidency on the ticket of the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, CPC, a party he founded with his associates when they left the ANPP. In that election, while Mr. Jonathan got 22,495,187 votes representing 58.89% of the total votes cast, Mr. Buhari polled 12,214,853 representing 31.90%.

The CPC alongside the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, ANPP and a faction of APGA fused into the APC last year and was registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, in July of that year.

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