The ‘war’ is fiercer than that of any political game ever seen. We have been seeing some use of communication tactics & tools never before seen in a race to Aso Rock Villa. However, both groups know that the battle to win the votes of a political party’s delegates, especially delegates in Nigeria, is not fought solely using the conventional media, the new media or verbal attacks on each other, but by high-wired politicking full of manoeuvres, horse-trading and scheming.
The intense political scheming so far is a pointer to the fact that, the d-day would be hotter than the party’s February 1999 Jos convention, where former President Olusegun Obasanjo slugged it out with former Vice President Dr. Alex Ekwueme.
Ideally, there is no special process to win delegates’ votes, because they can vote for whoever they please. And candidates can use whatever power of persuasion they have at their disposal to win the support of the delegates. However, in the next coming PDP presidential primaries, as it were in the previous ones, five decisive factors would determine how the delegates will cast their votes.
Whichever order PDP conducts its primaries, Governors would have an overwhelming influence on how the delegates cast their votes. The delegates will gather merely to ratify the choice of the Governors. The choice of the Governors will be determined by where their political interest will be protected. Their interest lies on the second term tickets for those going for another term; the choice of their successors as well as control of the party machinery and structures.
Another set of people who will influence how PDP delegates would vote are the party’s bigwigs whose states are not controlled by a PDP government. This group have three interests which will determine how they will instruct their delegates to vote. Their interest lies on: the control of the party machinery; who gets their states’ governorship and other elective position tickets, in addition to their ‘economic’ interest.
Despite the fact that most of the delegates would be controlled by the aforementioned, a number of them would vote based on regional basis and personal affiliation with a candidate. Though, the bulk of this segment of delegates will trade their vote like a commercial commodity.
The fourth group that would influence how the delegates would cast their votes is the candidates themselves. This is where their skills on the use of the most potent political weapon would be tested. Nigerian politics is somehow ‘primitive’ in nature; any of the candidates who have a thorough grasp of its intricacies and masters delegates’ election process will use it to influence voting. The candidates’ skills in negotiation, reaching agreements as well as the talent in political manipulation within a very short time would also be a powerful ingredient.
Both Goodluck and Atiku must be at their best, come January 13, 2011, if not; they would be highly shocked. Reason being that, delegates’ election is like magic- it’s full of surprises- one’s strong allies would all of a sudden change course. This is because political interest is the first and only one thing politicians believe and worship. Thus, both Atiku and Jonathan should have it behind their minds that the current endorsements, re-endorsements and approvals of their candidature by politicians alike are merely part of the bigger game. However, both gentlemen have strong odds in their favour. For Goodluck: incumbency. Challenging and unseating a sitting President during his party’s primaries is a painstaking job, and very difficult. Incumbents traditionally win their party's nomination. The incumbent anywhere in the world is always the man to beat. In fact, the primaries are usually a walkover for him. He can always swing delegates’ votes with decisions which may appear ordinary.
For Atiku: he finds everything about politics fascinating and pays incredible attention to its details; that is why he has deep knowledge about it and this is reflected in his passion for it. Atiku’s weapons will be a well-organised political network, human resources and experience. Since 1990 convention of the defunct SDP, to 1999 and 2003 PDP convention, he has become a nightmare to his opponents in any delegates’ elections. The man has shown that he has the technology for winning delegates elections. He always saves his best tricks until the final. Bola Tinubu once described him as the only master strategist in Nigerian politics to whom he could concede superiority. It was reported that he has already infiltrated most of the delegates-the reason why Dr. Goodluck’s handlers went all-out to reverse the planned staggered presidential primaries and also attempted to change the order of the primaries, which was rejected by PDP Governors. The issue has to be settled through another public endorsement of Dr. Goodluck Presidential ambition. The seeming mistrust between the PDP Governors and the President is nothing but part of the game that compels both side not to put too much trust on each other. In politics, it is very normal.
The fifth and the most crucial factor that would determine how PDP delegates would vote is the ‘unknown’- how the night before the election day will turn out to be- the intricacies, manoeuvres , high wired politicking and indeed the ‘bucks’ that would exchange hands that night. What would happen that night would be the ‘mystery of January 13’. It would a dicey contest. Either of the two candidates will emerge the winner. After then, many things will change, but one unique thing about the PDP is that during general election time, its campaign podium will be mounted by Abubakar Bukola Saraki, Atiku Abubakar, General Aliyu Gusau, Goodluck Jonathan, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo and their foot soldiers. Politics, as the saying goes, is really fascinating and very complex. It is the only permanent thing in life that most of the times its intricacies go beyond our imagination.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State, firstname.lastname@example.org, 08036070980.