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Tolu Ogunlesi: The road to May 29, 2015

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Tolu Ogunlesi: The road to May 29, 2015

by Tolu Ogunlesi

A part of me is expecting a concerned Nigerian to march to the courts requesting an order compelling God to suspend the coming of the year 2015, on grounds that anticipation of it by the Nigerian political class is “heating up an already overheated polity.”

No such thing will happen, of course. But the truth remains that with the recent split in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, we have to acknowledge that 2015 will take up far more of our time and attention than we previously imagined.

There are those who fear that Nigeria will not survive 2015. There will be talk of US predictions of the end of Nigeria as we know it. I don’t quite buy that point of view. For me Nigeria is not in danger of breaking up or tipping off the edge. Fears of the demise of Nigeria are greatly exaggerated. What cannot be exaggerated is the possibility that  na like dis we go dey go – dancing on the brink in perpetuity.

How tragic it’d be if, in 2020, we’re still promising ourselves that darkness will be a thing of the past, and still setting up presidential committees to negotiate with ASUU.

So, I’m basing my arguments and predictions on the premise that Nigeria – as the entity that it is today – will hold elections in 2015, and elect a President who will be sworn in on May 29, 2015.

It is that journey to 2015 that I find myself tempted to analyse. And in the process, I will be asking a lot of questions. There will always be more questions than answers.

Let’s start with the key platforms that the players will coalesce around. The Old PDP (PDP1), the Breakaway PDP (PDP2), and the All Progressives Congress.

There are a number of possible scenarios to consider.

One is that the PDP might somehow resolve its crisis, or appear to do so. The PDP is a party quite at home with crisis; somehow until now it has always managed, by hook or by crook, to keep everyone under the big umbrella. PDP 2, if it manages to extract some concessions from the President (some of the demands include the sack of Bamanga Tukur, the lifting of sundry suspension orders, a non-insistence on automatic qualification for presidential candidacy), might return to PDP1.

If that happens, the most important happening on the political landscape will be the emergence of the APC. And the question will be, can the APC take Aso Rock? Or will the APC be focusing on expanding its legislative and governorship footprint, in preparation for a proper showdown in 2019?

But if PDP peace talks fail, and PDP 2 strikes off on its own, we’d have in that the most potentially disruptive event of this political season.

Which of the two PDPs will official INEC registration rest with? It’s very likely to be PDP1. Therefore, will PDP2, if it has to drop the name and the umbrella, either attempt to register a new party, or pitch tent with an existing group – the APC, PDM, or any of twenty-something other parties?

Will the APC, an unlikely alliance precariously stretched out between two dissimilar poles, be receptive to the idea of having a crew of overlords joining and potentially creating a disruptive third force?

It seems more likely to me that PDP2 is more likely to align with a PDM, than to have to negotiate a space in the already tightly contested APC. It will be in a better negotiating position as a political party, from where it can then seek to pursue a merger or alliance.

So, for now, there’s only one known Presidential candidate for 2015. The incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan. I have no doubt that President Jonathan will run for a second term as President of Nigeria. And he will run on the platform of PDP1, if not on the platform of a united PDP.

No one knows who the other platforms will present. The APC, in a bid to present itself as a national party, considering the Yoruba roots of its biggest component, the ACN, will very likely present a Northern candidate. Will it be Buhari?

Are there any other potential candidates from the North (on any of the platforms, not necessarily the APC)? Aminu Tambuwal? Atiku Abubakar? Sanusi Lamido Sanusi?

Will there be any contenders from the South East or the South South who will make it onto the presidential ticket of one of the big platforms? Is the South East seriously interested in a shot at the Presidency in 2015? In 2011, there was plenty of talk around an Igbo President for Nigeria in 2015. Will 2015 be the year to cash that cheque? If the South East had to produce a President or Vice-President of Nigeria today, who would it be? Charles Soludo? Oby Ezekwesili? Peter Obi?

Which invites the all-important question: Is zoning dead in Nigeria? Or simply in a coma?

In the event that Muhammadu Buhari does not get the APC presidential ticket, what happens? Will he accept his fate and throw his support behind whoever is candidate? Or will the APC unravel in the way the PDP is unravelling.

Here’s perhaps where we should be issuing a warning to the APC, to be careful about gloating over the fate of the PDP.

Under the right conditions, the APC – still a tenuous assemblage of disparate parts – will also fracture. Tough days lie ahead for party unity – especially when it comes to the 2015 presidential ticket.

And this is where I come to what I consider the meat of the matter. Somehow, amid the inevitable politicking, we will all need to remind ourselves that the posturing for 2015 cannot be an end in itself; it has to be a means to an end. And that end is a better-run, less-dysfunctional Nigeria. A Nigeria that can create and provide jobs and education and health care, and prove that the millions of new citizens who’ll be born over the coming decades will be born into a far better country than their parents. We must not forget that 2015 will be the year that Nigeria will face the sobering truth of its (dismal?) performance in the race to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The opposition parties have a role to play in keeping good governance on the front burner. They need to do a better job of telling us what they’d do differently if they were in power. All they seem capable of doing at the moment is running down the Jonathan government. Surely opposition politics should come with a greater sense of responsibility to the people?

Nigeria can no longer afford to play politics for the sake of it. We ought to bring in the critical issues of policy and governance. And until a time comes, if ever, when a person’s ethnic origins will no longer count in the quest for political office, we have to find ways to ensure that all competing ethnic and political groups put forward their best people, not merely the loudest or the wealthiest or the most powerful.

– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Tolu Ogunlesi. Follow this writer on Twitter: @toluogunlesi

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