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2015: Jonathan, Buhari in head-to-head, Sambo, Osinbajo too

Published by Tribune on Sat, 20 Dec 2014

President Goodluck Jonathan and former Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari, are not new customers on the political field. In the 2011 presidential contest, the duo were forerunners, with Jonathan emerging the winner by a wide margin. While Jonathan ran on the ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari contested the 2011 election on the platform of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party he formed and led after he left the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), on which platform he contested the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections.For the 2015 contest, the two candidates emerged presidential candidates of their respective parties the same day. Jonathan emerged in the early hours of December 11, while Buhari emerged on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) later that day. Incidentally, the two candidates have also been linked to Nigerian democracy in this dispensation more than any other candidate in the race for the presidency.Jonathan has been on the ballot in every election conducted in the Fourth Republic so far, while Buhari has been on the ballot since 2003, missing only the 1999 election.In 1999, Jonathan was the deputy governorship candidate of the PDP in Bayelsa State. He retained the same position in 2003, while in 2007, when he was set to contest the governorship election of his home state, Bayelsa, having won the gubernatorial primaries, he was beckoned on by the PDP to occupy the vice presidential slot to the late President Umaru Yar'Adua. The joint ticket with Yar'Adua defeated Buhari on his second trip on the presidential track and in 2011; he was the PDP candidate who slugged it out with Buhari.Buhari's fourth time on the ballot is again bringing him to slug it out with Jonathan, the PDP candidate. The duo ran a huge contest in 2011, with Buhari coming a distant second. While Buhari won the presidential contest in states of North West and parts of North East, he lost in the South South, South West, South East and North Central. Jonathan indeed made a clean sweep of that election, doubling Buhari's votes. The electoral geography was such that the PDP scored more than the required 25 percent in no less than 30 of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Buhari's loss was largely attributed to the failure of the merger talks between the CPC and the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). The last-minute collapse of talks between Buhari's men and the leaders of the ACN left the parties with no other option than to go into the election in their individual capacities.The loss rang it to the hearing of the opposition that only a united front could guarantee it a credible fight against the PDP. The ruling party, which emerged the leading party in the country in 1998, has structures in all the states of the federation which appears difficult to break down for the opposition. The realisation thus came that with a combination of forces among parties with pockets of support in the different geopolitical zones, the period of gestation for the opposition against the PDP could be significantly shortened.Thus, unlike what the country used to witness after elections seasons, when political activities would take a slight break, there was booze in political activities after the 2011 election. Opposition figures immediately re-floated the merger option, this time expanding the scope of merger plan. It eventually dovetailed into the merger agreement between the three legacy parties, CPC, ANPP and ACN, with a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Chief Rochas Okorocha.Four years down the line, Jonathan is facing Buhari again in another huge contest. The stakes are higher as Buhari has emerged on a bigger platform, with the APC coming pretty close to the PDP in terms of its members in the House of Representatives, while it accounts for a third of the senators. Will the contest bring forth any changes this time'President Goodluck JonathanPresident Jonathan emerged the candidate of the ruling PDP in a fashion that was a marked departure from the party's history. The PDP had since 1999 produced its presidential candidates after rancorous primaries that usually tore members apart. The 2011 experience was quite instructive. Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who was the major contender against President Jonathan, was full of vituperations and harsh words for the President. The speech he delivered at the national convention ground was seen as very dangerous and divisive for the health of the party to the extent that the convention was practically put on hold for some minutes to allow the heat simmer down.But in the 2014 national convention that produced Jonathan, the president was the only candidate and party members were only required to vote Yes or No. There was no tension at all at the primaries such that all attention shifted to Lagos, venue of the APC primary.It was expected that Jonathan and the PDP would leverage on the rancour-free convention to kick-start a strong charge to retain his seat. But the PDP was to get bogged down by conflicts and distractions across the states.In Jonathan's words, what is needed for the 2015 election is consolidation and not the type of change his opponents profess.He said during the PDP National Convention: 'During this campaign, some office seekers will say it is 'time for change' but while they were changing from one name to another and from one party to the other, we had already brought change to Nigeria.'My dear delegates,'Has change not come to our railway system''Has change not come to our airports''Has change not come to our roads network''Has change not come to our agricultural sector''Has change not come to our electoral process''Has change not come to Almajiri education''Is change not coming to the power sector''Distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, what we need today is to consolidate on our gains in order to secure our future.'Our focus now must be on the future and not on the past. We have challenges but we are determined to overcome them. And this we will.'General Muhammadu BuhariTo Buhari, the issues on ground is change. In line with the projection of hi party, the APC, the two most important issues in the campaign are corruption and insecurity. The party had built up the issues and zeroed in on Buhari as the candidate to project the campaign slogans.He will be plunging into his fourth try of the presidential contest and is already a record holder in that regard. Buhari is also 72 years old, who has to slug it out with Jonathan who is 57.As it is usual with challengers, the first is to lament the rot in the system, and present the opposition as the way forward.Buhari had said in his acceptance speech after the APC Convention 'Shall we at home continue to live in a condition where the Power Holding Company and its successors seem only to have the power to hold us in darkness' Shall we continue in a situation where 250 of our daughters have been abducted and the government has been unable to rescue them or provide credible information about what steps they are taking' Shall we live in a nation where several people were trampled to death in search of jobs in a stadium and yet no one has taken responsibility for the tragedy''Shall we live in a nation where the ranks of the poor swell and their poverty increase while the consorts of the powerful enjoy unprecedented wealth' The lives of the poor are bled dry while those of the powerful soak in excessive abundance. My answers to these questions are 'No, No, No, No!' It is time to close this demeaning chapter in our nation's history.'He then unveiled six pledges thus:'We will govern Nigeria honestly, in accordance with the constitution.'We will strive to secure the country and efficiently manage the economy.'We will strive to attack poverty through broadly-shared economic growth and attacking corruption through impartial application of the law.'We will tolerate no religious, regional, ethnic or gender bias in our government.'We will return Nigeria to a position of international respect through patriotic foreign policy.'We will choose the best Nigerians for the right jobs.He said his government would be committed to the cause of common man, whether a Christian or Muslim, adding that his government would ensure Nigerians see themselves as brothers and sisters.Vice President Namadi SamboSambo has emerged the quintessential vice president of this era in his relationship with Jonathan thus far. His mien made it difficult for the president to agree with those who lobbied against his retention on the job especially as 2015 drew to a close. An architect, Sambo has provided the needed support for the president at all times, and that has also enabled Jonathan return the benefits of that office that were taken away under President Olusegun Obasanjo but were never restored through the tenure of the late President Umaru Yar'Adua.Whether Sambo is able to rally the North around the president has been the issue for those who canvassed his removal from the seat, but the president had insisted at every turn that you can't create new problems in trying to solve another.The 2015 battle will provide opportunity for Sambo to prove his electoral worth on the Jonathan/Sambo ticket.Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SANThe running mate of General Muhammadu Buhari is a Law professor and a former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State under the administration of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu as governor.Not being a politician, the Law teacher, however, is believed to be capable of rallying the support of not just the Christians but the South West for the Buhari ticket.The South West surely remains the battle ground in the next election, being the second largest voting population in the country. His party, the APC, also controls four of the six states in the area. Mathematically, that could give an indication of the voting pattern, but the dynamism of South West votes as shown over the years could make prediction difficult.Head to head, Osinbajo provides the academic balance to the Buhari ticket. It could be a plus for the former Head of State whose training remains only in the military.Whether the candidature of his running mate would guarantee the votes from the South West remains a question the people will have to answer in February.
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