I received an invite to an event at Chatham House entitled Nigeria’s 2011 Elections: Reflections on the process and prospects for Nigeria with the former CPC Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Pastor Tunde Bakare as key note speakers, the event was over subscribed with all places given out to the point that it was standing room only at the back.
As was later apparent it was not just the usual coterie of journalists, activists, NGO’s and random Nigerians but several fully paid up members of the Goodluck Jonathon bandwagon in the audience.
The event started at 6.00pm Nigerian time (i.e. 6.10pm) with the able moderator Dr Titi Banjoko putting us all firmly in our places by reminding us of the importance of keeping to the allotted times and not asking over long questions when the Q & A section came about, for a second I thought I was back in secondary school so powerfully did she put her points across.
Gen Buhari then spoke and to be brutally honest I was for the first time since April secretly relieved that Dr Jonathon won. In as much as the good Doctor has the public presence of a gently floating canoe it was difficult to understand a word Buhari said.
I am extremely proud of my Nigerian accent but I think it is imperative that the President of the Federal Republic is at least able to speak clearly in the lingua franca of our country. He introduced Bakare, explaining that how he selected him as his running mate on the back of his SNG efforts and revealed the joker in the pack, Nasir el Rufai was in the house as well. 3 for the price of 2!
It was with visible relief all round that he handed over to Pastor Bakare for whom public speaking is his daily bread and he did not fail to deliver with a composed rendition.
He began by emphasising that this presentation was by the Buhari-Bakare Campaign organisation not CPC and followed up a PowerPoint presentation covering the various documented riggings of PDP from underage voters, to falsified collation documents to violence against CPC officials.
He stated that from his own experience the tag of most free and fair was false observing that in his own election ward accreditation, voting and counting were fair and free up until the time came for collation. He made particular mention of the spectacular turn outs and results allegedly posted in the south-south and south-east, contrasting it with a single newspaper report in which Gov Amaechi of Rivers State stated there was a low turnout yet that region posted turnouts in the high 96%s.
It was a good performance and like all good stories had a heavy element of truth in it but once the Q & A started the cracks began to show. The most curious aspect of the Q & A was watching Buhari pass up the opportunity to answer the initial questions to Bakare As has been mentioned above, public speaking is not his forte but it was a little disquieting to watch a man ‘who would be King’, failing to impose himself upon an audience which was liberally sprinkled with his supporters.
The initial spread of questions ranged from whether they thought they would have won the south east or south south rigging not withstanding, what exactly did they seek to gain by the tribunal, whether they were alleging CPC did not rig, as well as some decidedly feminine ones about why they cried on the campaign trail. The answers were in part illuminating and in part empty.
The illumination came with Gen Buhari, stating that CPC was not a saint in terms of rigging, in response to the question about the desired outcome from the tribunal was that they wished to ensure that the system was cleaned up in order to attract the best and the brightest back to Nigeria and into Nigerian politics.
There was however very little substance about future intentions or their plans for the future. A pertinent question was whether the General would resume his place at the council of state to which he gave a non committal answer.
It is beyond dispute that there was rigging in the Presidential election going to the banana republic extremes in the south south and south east. It is worth noting that it was the south eastern and south south states with the worst performing governors where rigging was at its worst, however there was no argument given that showed CPC would have won or even performed creditably in those states. The other salient point is that despite the fact that disgruntled CPC voters were sufficiently excised to commit murder, arson and attempt regicide they were not sufficiently motivated to vote in any more than one CPC Governor despite having swept the north in the Presidential election. Its also instructive that Bakare could not even deliver his own state to CPC as well.
What this indicates is a party limited to the personal appeal of a single individual who has the ability to command adoration amongst one section of society and alienate the rest. It is hard to imagine Igbo’s, Ijaws, Ikwerres, Efiks and co voting for a Fulani General, especially when he has not taken the time to explain his case to them in detail.
Despite the spread of questions the opportunity apparently did not arise to question the duo about the post election violence and their sluggish response and condemnation of it. Whilst no one would state that CPC or Buhari or Bakare were responsible for the actions of the mobs there was a complete lack of corporate responsibility in the aftermath of the polls that did nothing to enhance their statesmanship or calm down the crisis.
Other utterances attributed to Pastor Bakare referring to certain people as bastards unworthy to be leaders of particular groups further adds to this impression and further deepens the depression of those who seek a change in Nigeria’s polity.
There were several surreal moments at this event, the first being when a man’s phone went off with the Islamic call to prayer, there were nervous mutterings in the audience as to whether Boko Haram had reached London as he struggled unsuccessfully to switch it off, all the while Pastor Bakare carried on barely missing his stride. Dr Banjoko’s stern visage was such I was expecting her to tell him to kneel down and hands up and balance the phone on his head.
The second event was as participants exited the building we were met with a well dressed man and lady (who had really lovely eyes) giving out 3 books with one of GEJ’s quotes, one about the ‘successful’ election and the 3rd about GEJ’s campaign. When your journalist queried what the books were in aid of and who paid for them , the pair became very interested in who we were and who we represented, we never got a straight answer from them, we were asked to wait around to speak to Oronto Douglas. The good fellow never made an appearance and after the pair saw my colleague and I greet Pastor Bakare and try and get some quotes from him, they became extremely frosty. I guess they must have had some left over books or money from one of the multifarious endorsement campaigns and decided to contribute to our education, out of interest I would strongly, strongly recommend GEJ hires the likes of Chimamanda Adichie or Biyi Bandele as his ghost writer as I am yet to see a more turgid collection of writing in modern political history.
The only way to either defeat PDP or force them to clean up their act is a strong credible opposition. The strongest opposition party in Nigeria right now is ACN and with the exception of Fashola there is a strong whiff of more of the same about them, even if they did take the presidency.
A country in which we have an Islamic insurgency in the North, a polluted, blighted Niger Delta, no power, no refineries, in which it takes a month to select a cabinet where governors build international airports in their mothers and fathers villages but can’t seem to figure out that good roads and potable water are more relevant to ordinary Nigerians we are in desperate need of a loyal, credible, competent opposition.
So far we are still waiting.
Source: Rally For Nigeria