AFRICANGLOBE – For 16 years, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) dominated the political space like an octopus. Its leaders boasted that it will rule for 60 years. But yesterday, the table turned. In a free and fair election, power shifted to the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), signaling the end of an era.
The progressives have made history. Since Independence, they have been sharpening the opposition arrows. But, the status quo collapsed yesterday, following the declaration of the results of the historic presidential election. The symbol of the victory is Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military Head of State and standard bearer of the main opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He defeated President Goodluck Jonathan, who wielded incumbency power. It was the triumph of hope and courage for a man, who had failed in three previous elections. It was the first time an incumbent civilian President and Commander-in-Chief would be defeated by his challenger. It was a turning-point in national history.
It was also the end of an era for the Ijaw-born politician. Acknowledging the reality of the new dawn, the President conceded defeat to the victor. Instantly, he became a statesman by according respect to the wish of Nigerians who voted him out. He congratulated the President-elect, the APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and other opposition arrowheads on phone. Through that singular effort, he ultimately changed the perception of people about him as a desperate leader itching for a fresh mandate by all means and at all costs. His conciliatory move, despite the acrimony that characterised the contest, would herald a peaceful transfer of power on May 29.
March 28 was the defining moment. The credit goes to the sanctity of the ballot box. During the presidential election, democracy was insulated from colossal assault by master riggers and electoral terrorists. The commitment of the electoral agency and its novel Smart Card Readers (SCRs) saved voters from the nightmare. With the outcome of the election, a precedent has been set. The change of government at the centre by popular vote is now possible in democracy. The Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) is the potent weapon of choice. Gone were the days when the ruling party can go away with its impunity. The lesson is very instructive. Change will always be inevitable whenever the government fails to live up to expectation. But, another factor is also crucial. Only an unbiased umpire can safeguard the integrity and credibility of the electoral process.
The analysis of the results released by the by Prof. Attahiru Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) reflected a change in the voting pattern. Old alliances and traditional voting trends were altered. The issues that shaped the 2011 polls, including the sympathy for a ‘shoeless boy’ from Otuoke; the consideration for power shift to the minority ethnic group in the South; the rejection of ‘power shift to North’ slogan and the promise by the embattled President to live up to expectation, gave way. But, after four years, it was evident that the ethnic and religious solidarity were misplaced. The goodwill evaporated. As Nigerians groaned under the lean period, with the economy lying prostrate, critical sectors wobbling and unemployment soaring, public confidence waned. The nation thirsted for a new lease of life under a new leadership. The disconnect between the government that has squandered a popular mandate and the bewildered people resulted into bitterness.
Consequently, voters waited till the poll day to vent their anger. In a society ravaged by poverty, misery, want and frustration, money was doled out to woo the electorate. The strategy failed as it could not save the President from a looming electoral disaster. The results underscored the decline in the strength of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has been in power at the centre for 16 years. Ironically, its leaders had boasted that the hitherto octopus party will rule for the next 60 years. The election was a referendum on the performance of the President in the last six years. To analysts, the outcome confirmed the rejection of the inept leadership, which they believe, has plunged the beleaguered country into the abysmal pit of corruption, economic strangulation and hopelessness.
The poll was conducted across the six geo-political zones in an atmosphere of ethno-religious strife and rancour. Never has the fledgling nation-state been so divided along ethno-religious lines in the post-civil war era. This presents a challenge. In their quest for power, leading lights in the polity across the six regions participated in the election, not as Nigerians bubbling with national outlook, but as Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Junkun and Kanuri, reminiscent of the pre-colonial days of ethnic wars coordinated by tribal champions. Therefore, the President-elect, as the new face of the country and the symbol of unity and cohesion, has to brace for the challenge of national reconciliation.
However, the euphoria of change or power shift notwithstanding, the outcome of the poll has brought some issues to the front burner. Observers may be cautious in placing the new mandate, within the context of bitter struggle for power and lack of meaningful consensus. Unlike the June 12, 1993 mandate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) presidential candidate, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, the mandate conferred on Gen. Buhari may not be viewed as a pan-Nigerian mandate, owing to the voting behaviour along ethnic and religious leanings. Also, the election lacked ideological underpinning. The dichotomy between the blocs – Northern Peoples Congress (NPC)/Action Groug (AG); National Party of Nigeria (NPN)/Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and Social Democratic Party (SDP)/National Republican Convention (NRC) – has been absent. Some political scholars have pointed out that there is no marked difference between the two dominant parties, although APC leaders tend to lay claim to superior manifestoes and sound pedigree of its governors who are role models.
Unlike before, the elite were not aloof. They showed unprecedented interest in the electoral process. To this category of informed citizens, the last six years of the Jonathan administration have been very boring. They believed that the ship of state was sinking under Dr. Jonathan and that Gen. Buhari was on a genuine rescue mission. The response from the Muslim-dominated North to the presidential battle was obviously shaped by its clamour for power shift. Conversely, the voting behaviour of the Southsouth and the Southeast was also influenced by ethnic and religious appeal. But, the resolve to change a non-performing government had a stronger appeal among the wide spectrum of stakeholders.
This is also reflected in the comparative analysis of the 2011 and 2015 election results. In 2011, Gen. Buhari, who ran on the platform of a seemingly fragile Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) got 12, 214, 853 votes, trailing the President, who got 22, 495, 187 votes. The election sharply polarised the country into pro-Jonathan and pro-Buhari supporters. While the North voted for Buhari, the Middle Belt and the South, with the exception of Osun State, voted for Buhari. Osun’s vote went to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. In that election, Buhari got majority of votes in 12 states namely: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Niger, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Gombe, and Yobe. President Jonathan won in 23 states.The states were: Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, Edo and Delta. Others were Anambra, Imo, Ebonyi, Abia Enugu, Cross River, and Rivers. He also won in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
But, this year’s result is a wide departure. There is a clean break from 2011. The President was defeated in five Southwest states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo. He lost in Kwara, Kogi, and Benue. The seemingly natural alliance between the North and Southeast/Southsouth, which predated the First Republic, was erased. For the first time, Southwest and the North were in political marriage.
In 2011, Jonathan had 1,281, 688 votes in Lagos. In this year’s election, there was a diminishing return. He got a little over 500,000. But, Gen. Buhari, who scored 189,983 in 2011, moved up. He got over 600,000 votes. In Oyo, Jonathan polled 434, 758 voted in 2011. Yesterday, it dropped to 303,376. But, Buhari moved up from 92, 396 to 528, 620. In Kogi, while Buhari, who got 132, 201 in 2011, scored 264, 851, Jonathan, who got 399, 816, could only garner 149,987. For Gen. Buhari, the 2011 pattern was sustained in highly populated Northern states of Kaduna, Kano and Katsina.
The West, which was more or less perceived as the deciding factor, tended to play contrasting roles. It was not influenced by ethnic and religious factors, although Hausa/Fulani in Agege, Apapa, Obalende, and Idi-Araba areas voted for Buhari in Lagos while Igbo in Festac/Amuwo-Odofin, Ojo, Isolo, Okota and some parts of Surulere gave their votes to the President. But, generally, the Southwest states of Ekiti and Ondo were tormented by the PDP arsenal. There were financial inducement, voter’s intimidation and repression in the last six weeks. In Lagos, voting pattern reflected the induced ethnic tension between Igbo and Yoruba, aided by the heavy naira and dollar rain by the PDP. In Ekiti, the governor, Ayo Fayose, who had objected to Buhari’s candidature and campaign vigorously for Dr. Jonathan, was combative throughout. He single-handedly influenced the way the people voted in Ekitiland. But, in Ondo State, Jonathan’s campaign coordinator, Governor Olusegun Mimiko, could not re-enact the 2012 feat, despite the enormous power and resources at his disposal.
Also, in the West, the President struck a deal with wrong persons. His romance with the traditional rulers, factional Afenifere leaders – Pa Rueben Fasoranti, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, Dr. Femi Okurounmu and Basorun Seinde Arogbofa – did not yield the desired dividends. In the same vein, his fraternity with both factions of the controversial ethnic militia, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), was counter-productive. It revealed, in part, his shallow understanding of the Southwest politics and knowledge of its true, popular and respected political leaders. Apart from Fayose and Mimiko, others who claimed to be working for the President in the region could not have successfully mobilised for councillorship candidates in the zone.
According to observers, the events of the last three years have served as the background to power shift. The crisis in the PDP led to its disintegration. Since the defection of governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wamakko (Sokoto), Abdulfathah Ahmed (Kwara) and Rabiu Kwakwanso) from the party, the PDP chapters have not remained the same. Also, the defection of prominent PDP chieftains, including Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator Bukola Saraki, and Senator Danjuma Goje, created a vacuum in the party.
Another factorthat accounted for the success of Gen. Buhari at the poll was the rise of a viable platform for the opposition. With the emergence of the APC, the two-party system was restored. The new two-party system does not mirror the two-party system imposed on the polity by former military President Ibrahim Babangida in the ill-fated Third Republic. Unlike the defunct SDP and the NRC, the two dominant parties – the PDP and the APC – evolved from the people. Their manifestoes were also not written by the military.
In this Fourth Republic, the scattered opposition forces have discovered the strength in unity. The prediction of the indomitable leader, the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, came into fulfillment. After the 1983 elections, which was won by the NPN, because the progressives could not float a joint platform, he peeped into the future. Awo said a time will come when progressive forces will come together to present a common front to displace the conservative fold in a power struggle.
When the leaders of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the CPC and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) made sacrifices by dissolving the rival progressive platforms to pave the way for a bigger, broader and formidable party, the stage was set for a titanic contest. Historians will always allude to the Tinubu factor in the evolution of the mega party. The former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, was the motivator, inspirer, and arrowhead of the progressive forces that challenged the ruling establishment to a duel. Working with other patriots, including Gen. Buhari, Chief Bisi Akande, the former APC Interim Chairman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, Prince Tony Momoh, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, and the determined governors and chieftains from the PDP, he sold the platform to Nigerians as a credible and better alternative.
However, the euphoria of victory should quickly wither away. There is much work for the next President to do. A lot of damage has been done by the out-going government. Buhari’s second coming is more significant. He will not rule by the barrel of the gun, unlike 1984/85. He will inherit a country in despair. The national treasury is empty. The debt profile is huge. Youths are in a futile search for elusive jobs. The infrastructure battle must be fought. Nigerians may also not be patient with him. They will want a quick action.
Besides, the two-party system has implications. It has made democratic self-renewal possible. But, it will always make the electoral process competitive.
By: Emmanuel Oladesu