Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Jonathan May Lose As Incumbent President In 2015

For those who are upbeat about the chances of the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan winning re-election if he decides to run, I have bad news for them. The President may not only lose in 2015, he could lose by a landslide even with the incumbency factor perceived to be in his favour. Let's even consider a massive defeat of an incumbent impossibility; he could still be edged out by a narrow margin.

Indeed all evidence point to the first shocking defeat of an incumbent in a presidential election in the country. For the first time ever, it seems the incumbency effect may not matter. While I acknowledge the usual arguments about the incumbent advantage; 2015 may yet prove to be an exception.

Why do I think so? If the supporters of the President can just sit back and remove the scale of sycophancy from their eyes and honestly assess the situation in the country, they will see that in a free and fair election, the President does not stand a chance. I think they may be in for a rude shock.

 Those who fancy an easy win for Jonathan may have failed to appreciate the enormity of the challenges stacked against his re-election...

But supporters of the administration seem to have been living in denial all this while. For them the President's victory is a foregone conclusion. Not quite. Their optimism seems buoyed by the gale of endorsements by some phony groups and intimidated Peoples Democratic Party governors who seem not to have any choice anyway. Supporters of the administration have also trumpeted what they considered to be some achievements of the President. But it appears the so-called achievements are known only to them alone. As for Nigerians, it has been a case of the more you look, the less you see when it comes to assessing this administration. In the ultimate decider will be Nigerian voters.

Despite the huge arsenal of funds and state machinery at the disposal of the Jonathan presidency, politics and life often have other plans. This is what recent elections have taught us. The reality is, incumbents can be defeated. It may happen in 2015 – in a few months from now, President Jonathan will find out whether he will be keeping his job. For most voters, their choice will ultimately come down to how they expect either a new president or Jonathan to run the affairs of our country in the next four years. Unfortunately for Jonathan, he does not seem to have much of a presidential record, and a review of it leaves little doubt that Nigerians may want to fire him.

Let me make it clear for people reading this, especially supporters of this administration, the laziest thing will be to dismiss my thoughts as the ranting of a hater of the President or an opposition hatchet job. Far from it, I am completely apolitical. One does not need a crystal ball to see the realities of why President Jonathan should be preparing his handover note. Or shouldn't he? Here are my reasons. The first is in the changing demographics. Increasingly as we progress in our democratic experience, it is becoming clear that it is the voters that will ultimately determine the fate of candidates.

In the past, defeating incumbents was unthinkable. Incumbents held what proverbialy could be called the yam and the knife – but not anymore. We have the situation where sitting Presidents deploy state machinery to induce and coerce all electoral institutions. In recent governorship elections incumbents have been beaten while some held on to their post by a thin margin. It is no longer easy to steal the people's mandate. Now if elections are not won by ballot, one can be sure the courts will overturn any stolen mandate. The trend will surely continue in 2015. If the situation persists, President Jonathan may be Nigeria's first one-term President. Not even the rallies being held across the country in support of the President may help the re-election. 

In 2015, the President will be assessed by his performance in the last five years. A look at history has shown that if President Jonathan loses, he will not be the first incumbent to do so. There have been nearly a dozen one term Presidents who ran for second terms but were denied by voters, in the United States, for example, there have been three one-term presidents since World War II. The most recent one-term president who lost his re-election bid was George H.W. Bush, a Republican who lost to Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992. Republican George H.W. Bush was the 41st President of the United States, serving from 1989 to 1993.

He lost a campaign for re-election in 1992 to Democrat, Bill Clinton. Bush's official White House biography describes his re-election loss this way: "Despite unprecedented popularity from this military and diplomatic triumph, Bush was unable to withstand discontent at home from a faltering economy and continued high deficit spending.'' Though some of the one-term US presidents lost due to the prevailing economic, political and social factors of their time; those factors will pale into insignificance when juxtaposed with the failures of the Jonathan presidency. If any of the US presidents had been Jonathan, they would not have even made the mid-term election as they would have been impeached. Unfortunately, we have legislative arms that are largely part of the rot.

But in spite of ongoing propaganda, Nigerians seem to have become wiser—more discerning. They may express their displeasure with this administration in 2015. I have written in this column that the next election may yet be a protest vote by a people tired of this administration's arrogance, contempt and disdain for their welfare as a people. What will be the greatest obstacle in the path of Jonathan's re-election is his attitude to corruption. Needless to say that Nigerians have become embarrassed by how corruption scandals at home and abroad have taken a toll on their country's reputation.

What is worse is Jonathan's denial of corruption as the cause of our underdevelopment. In several public statements, the President had declared, much to the bewilderment of Nigerians, that corruption is not Nigeria's problem. The President must know that Nigerians are seriously angry about his 'body language' to corruption when allegations of corruption continue to taint his government. This President has too much baggage going into an election year. They will certainly hurt his re-election chances.

For example, Nigerians are scandalised by the President's refusal to probe the ongoing cash-for-arm scandals rocking his administration. That he has continued to maintain silence even as these allegations continue to taint the integrity of his administration is unnerving to Nigerians. Meanwhile, under this administration, all the agencies meant to fight corruption have also gone comatose. Perhaps it is not a coincidence that this is happening under his Presidency. The lack of leadership and the damage inflicted on Nigerians living in the North-East by the administration's delay to confront growing insecurity has had its attendant consequences. The President is going into the election as a largely unpopular candidate. Can Nigerians afford four more years of Jonathan? Something tells me that we may have seen the last of the Jonathan's presidency. I will be surprised if he is re-elected.

for: The Punch
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