2015 election: Beyond Buhari’s victory

A book on the last presidential election, written by former presidential spokesman and Chairman of Editorial Board, ThisDay, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, has been generating attention in the media in the last two weeks. At the launch of the book, Adeniyi explained what spurred him into writing it. Eminent Nigerians at the event poured encomiums on the journalist, describing him as a pacesetter. Deputy Political Editor RAYMOND MORDI was there.  

Against the background of the excitement generated by Against the Run of Play: How an incumbent President was defeated in Nigeria, a new book by former presidential spokesman and the Chairman of Editorial Board, ThisDay, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, friends, associates, professional colleagues, politicians and Nigerians from all walks of life gathered for the launch of the book in Lagos last weekend, with a lot of expectations.

But, rather than dwelling on revelations about the Goodluck Jonathan presidency, the event was a celebration of the author, who was variously described as a pacesetter, a passionate and patriotic writer and journalist, who displays a lot of diligence in his work.

Chairman of the occasion and former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd) set the ball rolling when he described Adeniyi as a journalist who has displayed an abiding faith in the Nigerian project. He said the former presidential spokesman has proved that journalists can do more about the events they report daily in the course of their job. The former Head of State said it is the responsibility of journalists to stimulate robust and unbiased debate to bring about change and that that is what Adeniyi has done with his latest book.

Abdulsalami said beyond the current effort, what the former presidential spokesman has been doing through his column and books are to chart a new path. His words: “He has proved and quite successfully too that our journalists do not have to limit their scope to covering the news and writing of weekly columns; they can do more, by giving us the back stories of some of the momentous events that help to shape our history.”

The retired General said the book is not just a chronicle of the fall of one president and the rise of another. He said: “It is a typical journalistic history-in-a-hurry about what happened; what could have happened and what is currently happening in our country, so that we can all learn important lessons. We need journalists to write books about critical aspects of our national life, not just politics, which seems to be Segun’s fort. We need books to explain some of the issues that are treated perfunctorily, so that we can understand ourselves better.”

He said there are serious developments in Nigeria that ought to be documented, such as the Boko Haram saga. He said fortunately the only book published on the subject is by a Nigerian journalist. However, he added: “But, it tells a different dimension of the story. Indeed, the issue of insecurity in the Northeast and other parts of the country has not been fully told; so we need Nigerian journalists to dig deeper into the issue of Boko Haram.”

Abdulsalami implored journalists to exercise caution, especially when reporting crisis, adding that they should emulate Adeniyi’s style, by being “factual, engaging and capable of providing answers to hard questions”.

He said the book, Against the Run of Play, is coming at the right time to further deepen peoples’ understanding of what actually happened in Nigeria during the March 2015 presidential election, which many believe is the most defining moment of the country’s political history. He added that the book may have taken the author two years to write, but given the information it contains, that it is worth the time spent. “I must therefore commend Segun, who has consistently demonstrated through his writings an abundant faith in the Nigerian project,” he said.

Former Commonwealth Secretary-General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, said Adeniyi’s treatment of his subjects is deeply perceptive and well thought-out. Anyaoku said he reads some opinion columns in Nigerian newspapers and that Adeniyi’s column in ThisDay newspaper is one of his favourites. He said though he has not read the book, but the revelations of the author, the book reviewer and others suggest that Against the Run of Play is an example of his thoroughness and diligence.

Spokesman to former President Jonathan, Dr. Reuben Abati, described Adeniyi as a pacesetter in the inky profession. He said: “Many of us in this business do not take our time to reflect. He has set an example that many who occupy that office would follow.”

The current presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, also commended Adeniyi for writing a book that has generated a lot of comment in the media. He said he learned from the author, who found himself in a difficult position when his principal, the late President Umaru Yar’Adua became ill and incapacitated in 2009.

Adesina said he tried to make himself available to the media and the public generally when President Muhammadu Buhari was in the United Kingdom recently on vacation and had to be hospitalised.

The Managing Director of Leaders and Company Ltd, publishers of ThisDay, Mr. Eniola Bello, equally poured encomiums on Adeniyi. He said: “I must confess that writing is not an easy project, particularly with the problems of frequent light outage, bad roads and surviving in our country. I’ve been playing with an idea for a book for years.”

It was former First Lady of Cross River State, Mrs. Onari Duke that alluded to Adeniyi’s patriotic zeal, by providing Nigerians with a lot of useful information to correct the mistakes of the past. Mrs. Duke who stood in for her husband, Mr. Donald Duke, as the Chief Launcher of the book, said Adeniyi’s “patriotic zeal is almost like a flame”.

Mr. Tunde Rahman, who represented the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at the event, said the account of Tinubu as provided in the book is not about him losing the vice presidency, adding that his principal was quoted out of context in some of the reports. The media aide to Tinubu said: “The account of what transpired as told by Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the book and as presented in some newspapers is not about him losing the vice presidency and the eventual vice president emerging, as the reviewer has put it.

“Asiwaju spoke in greater context in that book, and when people are making comments, they should speak within the context in which he spoke. If they are saying that Asiwaju lost the vice presidency and that a vice president emerged, where did he emerge from? Who nominated the vice president?

“I’d like to say that even the Vice President has said on some occasions that a certain political leader from the Southwest nominated him for the job, and we all know who that is. That nomination has been a very good choice from all the wonderful things the Vice President has been doing.”

Rahman also said Tinubu is “working on his own book to tell his account of what transpired”.

The book reviewer, Dr. Okey Ikechukwu, who is a member of ThisDay Editorial Board, said the book is compulsory for anyone who wants to understand, grab and exercise political power.

Adeniyi confessed that he did anticipate that the book would generate the kind of excitement it is generating today. He said: “For instance, I woke up yesterday morning to discover that people were already buying the book on Kindle, having announced in my column that it would only be on sale from today. And it has been trending ever since.”

He said the idea for the book germinated when he was doing a fellowship programme at Harvard University, during the 2010/2011 academic session. He said: “I decided to research into why it is difficult for incumbent presidents to lose elections in Africa. In the process, I discovered that competitive presidential elections held in sub-Saharan Africa in the preceding two decades resulted only in four per cent defeat and 96 per cent victory for the incumbents.

“As it would happen, when I applied the same principle to the rest of the world, I found out that it is a global trend, as incumbents were defeated at the polls only seven per cent of the time and winning 93 per cent of the time.”

This, he said, led him to conclude that there was not much difference between Africa and the rest of the world, with respect to incumbency factor. He added: “Having eliminated that as the main factor why elections are usually skewed against the opposition whenever incumbents were on the ballot, I tried other variables. Eventually, I was able to locate fractionalised opposition as the main factor.

“As at the time I was working on the paper, which I eventually titled: Divided Opposition as Boom to African incumbents, Nigeria was going through the 2011 presidential election that had President Goodluck Jonathan standing against Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). At that period, there were feeble attempts at forming an opposition platform around Buhari and the former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, but it turned out to be too little too late. From my findings, the only opposition coalition that can defeat an incumbent is one built over years and not one cobbled together weeks to the election.

“When the election eventually held and Buhari lost, I adapted my research paper for a newspaper article which I titled: Divided They Run, United They Lose: How Fractionalised Opposition Strengthens African Incumbents. It was widely circulated in the media at home even though I was still then in the United States. The idea was to state clearly that Buhari should locate his defeat not on rigging or the factor of incumbency, but rather in the fact that he could not build a credible coalition.”

The article, Adeniyi said, had admonished the opposition to close ranks, by building a formidable coalition well ahead of future elections; rather than go into the contest divided. He said: “The perennial narrative that they are rigged out by the ruling party is becoming hollow. In a milieu where political parties are not only weak, but lack financial wherewithal, while there is no ideology binding members together, forging an electoral alliance is a long and arduous task. Waiting till weeks or days to the election to begin the process for such an alliance is therefore no more than an open invitation to a sure defeat.”

After the defeat of former President Jonathan in the last presidential election, Adeniyi said it was clear to him, as a keen follower of events that culminated in the election, “that while a credible opposition platform that the All Progressives Congress (APC) represented helped, it was not the main reason why the election went the way it did”. This, he said, spurred him to begin to interrogate the factors that led to that unprecedented electoral outcome. “The result is what we are presenting today,” he concluded.

Adeniyi said none of the key characters of the last general elections that he interviewed in the course of researching for the work can complain that he was misquoted, because he spoke to a number of them at least twice to ensure that he got it right.

The event was graced by a lot of eminent Nigerians, including former Minister of Communications and an uncle of the author, Chief Cornelius Adebayo, Chairman of Etisalat, Hakeem Bello-Osagie, Senator Tunde Ogbeha, Ambassador Joe Keshi, Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Dr. Chidi Amuta, Akin Osuntokun, Kayode Komolafe, Ayo Arowolo, Soji Omotunde, Gbenga Omotoso, Eric Osagie, Yinka Odumakin, Emeka Opara, Dele Momodu, Tokunbo Afikunyomi, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, Opeyemi Agbaje and Hon. Ehiozuwa Agbonayinma who represented the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara.

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