An eavesdropper’s putative account of a strategic meeting

Ballot papers for the Presidential election are seen during the eletorial preparation at a local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria, on February 22, 2019, a day before postponed voting day. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP)

This writer imaginatively chanced upon a top-level party meeting in the build-up to the frenzied situation of the 2019 general elections.

The meeting incidentally foreshadows the tone and tenor of the affairs and events that have been both a prelude to and the aftermath of the present general condition of the country.

The characters here are fictive but represent certain identifiable tendencies or prognoses. “This is a business meeting and so will not permit of rambling soap box-like declarations or plaintive mournful dirges. I have called it to receive from all of you your contributions to our compulsory success at the impending polls. This election is important to us.

Our success will firm up our programmes, steady us in our resolve to put to shame our detractors and put the opposition in permanent disarray, confusion and a condition of “permanent shut up”.

First, we will review our party’s relative strength in each of the geo-political zones. We will thereafter establish the basis or rationale for a customised action regarding each Zone/State. I crave your indulgence for total attentiveness throughout the duration of this important meeting so we may cover the field.

As a result of the damage the opposition has done to our name and performance we should not deem this election a walk-over or one like in 2015 in which we had a landslide over our opponent.

Our systematic and steady pace has been conveniently mis-understood as “go-slow”. So there may be need for a change of approach to one of “talking the talk” or saying what the people want to hear. We will go geo-political zone by geo-political zone and deal with the states composing them one by one. The strategies and tactics to be employed will differ from state to state depending on their respective peculiarities or difficulties.

Let us begin our discussion from a familiar terrain. Let us start from the North-West geo-political zone. The bulk of the voting population in Nigeria resides here. So, special emphasis must be accorded this zone.

Our governor in Kano State has promised us 5 million votes from his state alone. Of all the states in this zone, Kano and Sokoto are of strategic importance for reasons of expediency and history. They can be problematic too. Our strategy for Kano must be a win-at-all-cost or at-any-cost panoply.

As you all know, that state is home to radical politics in Northern Nigeria and if we do not have it under wraps we will be disturbed or harassed throughout our tenure even as we rule from Abuja.

Un-assailable political jabs will be thrown at us from this important segment of Nigeria’s political configuration. Sokoto and Kebbi both present a similar scenario as Kano.

A rising star in the Nigerian political firmament must be dimmed. He is governor of Sokoto. He is too “fool” of himself. He vaingloriously ascribes our victory in 2015 to his own deft manoeuvres. He is challenging us to a duel even as he has returned to his old party.

Sokoto, the seat of the Caliphate, is a must win for us. We must deploy all arsenal to the achievement of this objective. Zamfara, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina, the other states in the zone, appear to be in good hands as their governors are among our gadflies who are properly steeped in the roforofo terrain of do-or-die politics or election. Jigawa would have presented a special problem.

Sule Lamido’s wings have however been clipped; what with an EFCC graft charge as an albatross round his neck. As for the incessant uprising in southern Kaduna, El-Rufai as governor can get away with anything. He is a war lord who is feared for his no-holds- barred vituperation. We all cannot be gentlemen. We need flying poisoned arrows or shrapnel like him” “Mr Chairman, Sir I suggest we do a more thorough job respecting Kano State.

The Kwakwansiyya movement is a force to reckon with and is in the opposition. A virulent group, it will go for broke over Kano any day. How do we counter this group that is a household name in Kano?” “The Kwakwanssiyya movement is a rag-tag army of disgruntled elements.

A combined team of our tough boys, the police and a small detachment of the army is enough to snuff life out of the political ambition of Kwakwanso, his governorship candidate and other political jobbers like them on election day. The offensive against them should be reserved for the day of election.

We may move on now to the North-East zone where ravaging insurgency has befuddled the atmosphere. Many towns and villages have been sacked, many settlements deserted even as life has become generally unsafe in the entire zone consisting of Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi.

This situation presents us with the advantage of a tamed or controlled opposition to our general political leadership of the zone even as our party is leading the military offensive against the insurgency.

Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are the worst hit by the Boko Haram senseless carnage. We should be mindful of the fact that the president’s main challenger in the impending election, “jumpologist” Atiku Abubakar, claims to come from this zone and specifically from Adamawa. We will attend to that anon. We should expect him to give the president a good run. He however comes with a big baggage of deficits including alleged corrupt practices in and out of office and of others.

Our policy in this zone is going to be one of scorched earth strategy. We will metaphorically devastate the terrain such that no one will take benefit for victory. We should expect victory at all costs in this important zone”.

“Mr Chairman, an aide of mine has just called me to say INEC has ruled that our party will not be part of the gubernatorial and house of assembly elections in Zamfara”. “That is due in part to the nefarious activities of Marafa who claims to be our member but whose actions are inconsistent with our ideals.

One call to INEC by the president will resolve that irritation. Can you think of an election without the participation of the party in power?” “Now, North-Central zone.

The Obasanjo era truly created the present state of unconscionable assertiveness by the North-Central zone. The people were satisfied with their condition as part of the monolithic north until Obasanjo came with his agabagebe. That is why Ortom in Benue State, the Berom ultra-nationalists in Plateau, the criminals in Eggon and the bandits in Kogi and Niger States are misconceiving their independence. They are, in fact, abusing our party’s generosity. We shall deal with them in all ways.

Our party’s publicity machinery must be extra effective here. I wish “Lai” Mohammed were still the party’s Goebbelian publicity coxswain. A block-buster or “jam body” approach is most suitable for this zone.

The president must secure at least 50% votes here even as our governorship candidates must win, especially in Benue and Plateau. Niger and Nasarawa are safe havens for us. Kwara may appear impregnable and I see that all of you are shying away from a discussion of our fortunes in this unfortunate state.

Frankly speaking, Kwara will turn out to be an easy win for us. We have successfully de-mystified the “crown prince”. Saraki is fighting a battle of survival now. He may well become an ex-politician. We have perfected his exit.

To be continued tomorrow

•Rotimi-John, lawyer and public affairs commentator, wrote form Abuja

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