By Chinemelu Nwokike
The people who cast the votes don’t decide an election, the people who count the votes do. ~ Joseph Stalin
Once again it appears that Nigerians have been scammed. The forlorn mood of the nation after an important presidential election couldn’t be more explicit as a sad reflection of the heist perpetrated by the electoral umpire and the ruling APC.
I have always said that I wield the quill to inform and entertain. Whether or not my writing persuades or influences you is entirely up to you. I reduced my political writings to social media commentary and banter. Writing involves considerable investment in the most valuable resource and yours truly is transiting to the scalable areas of the craft.
Nevertheless, I do not hesitate to pen an article on serious political matters as the need arises. It affords me the opportunity to articulate my thoughts with facts and figures in a concise manner.
So here is my take on the recent presidential election and what I believe should be the way forward.
BACKGROUND: I will not equivocate in stating that the north has been a cog in the wheel of Nigeria’s progress. The region is plagued by endemic poverty, pervasive illiteracy and more recently, the bloody insurgency and banditry. It is as ironic as it is unfortunate that northerners often determine the occupant of Aso Rock even as their ruling elites continue to impoverish the region.
From Shagari to Buhari their presidential tenures in a democratic setting have been disastrous. But as an impressionable 12-year-old boy during Buhari’s first coming, I witnessed the joy in the streets as Nigerians celebrated the ouster of corrupt politicians whose excessive prebendalism had finally grown insufferable. I saw discipline as WAI waged a relentless campaign to reset our brains. Nigerians started queuing for services like rational humans.
And so when Buhari launched his bid to regain power as a civilian, I aligned with his army of Buharists. His second coming saw him robed in satin by the formidable APC campaign machinery. Try as the ruling PDP would to portray him as an unrepentant despot who once truncated our democracy, a majority of Nigerians including yours truly still trooped to the polls and elected him in that unprecedented victory of March 28th 2015.
If Buhari didn’t rule perhaps history would describe him like Awo as “the best president we never had”. But he is about to complete 8 catastrophic years in office. This fact is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. No amount of spin will vitiate the stark statistics available to all of us. For this reason, many of us had hoped that leaving a legacy of a transparent process to elect his successor would begin to mollify the affliction of his reign.
THE ELECTION & ARGUMENTS: Once again it appears that Nigerians have been scammed. The forlorn mood of the nation couldn’t be more explicit as a sad reflection of the heist perpetrated by the electoral umpire and the ruling APC. We are about to be saddled with another septuagenarian supposedly ‘elected’ via a process fraught with manipulations, thuggery, and numerous irregularities. Isn’t it telling that many including the ‘winners’ are not rejoicing after an election of this magnitude?
The bulk of the arguments has been between the APC and LP supporters. Many Nigerians including some APC supporters believe that Peter Obi won the elections. The major pointers cited by this group include but are not limited to the heavily suppressed voter turnout in Lagos, the fictitious figures from Rivers and the alleged reduction of Peter’s votes in Plateau state. Indeed the opinion polls that projected a Peter victory anchored this on massive voter turnout among other factors.
Conversely, ardent Tinubu fans counter these postulations by arguing that voters were equally intimidated and coerced in Peter’s strongholds, particularly in the SE. They add that all the candidates performed reasonably well in their domains and that Peter actually swept his by a wider margin.
These are all valid arguments if you want to be rational.
CONSIDERATIONS: However, the truth is that we can’t factually pronounce the winner from our personal permutations. So I wouldn’t say that Peter won or didn’t win. Instead, I would argue that it would have taken a miracle for the APC to lose. And while miracles do happen, I urge you to tarry a while as I explain my conviction in 3 broad points.
- The feudal structure of the core north: In her paper Who Speaks For The North published by The Chatham House, Dr Lenna Hoffman stated that “From the time of its inception, the caliphate, which consisted of autonomous emirates, consolidated its political control in many parts of
northern Nigeria through Islamic values and practices. During this era, power was primarily legitimized by religious authority”.
The Jagaban of Borgu is not a 17-year-old title for nothing. I once read an interview where the late Haliru Dantoro explained his reason for making Tinubu the Jagaban. He said it was in return for the support he received from Tinubu during his legal sojourn in the Emirship tussle. In his words, “When God made me the Emir I said this man was there when I was in dire need of help so why can’t I use my position to make him what I feel will help him in future politically”. Tinubu is not a dilettante. He understood the northern political system and permeated the region with his influence. His enormous wealth ensured the patronage of notable northern leaders. From Dantoro to Ganduje, Kwankwaso, Tambuwal, Wamakko and Shettima, all are relationships forged by giving and returning favours. These powerful leaders, in turn, have loyalists in Emirs, Imams and traditional rulers who influence a majority of the masses. This structure will ensure that Tinubu gets a large chunk of the votes in a region that frequently determines the occupant of the Villa.
- Resources: Corruption is our political economy. It is why Nigeria works and why it doesn’t. Regardless of their partisan labels, elites will undermine institutions and manipulate processes to further their ambition. Tinubu is not a disciple of Henry Clay who would rather be right than president. He knows that many Nigerian officials can be ‘bought’ at the right price. In his January 2022 essay on Why Bola Tinubu must never be Nigeria’s president Festus Adedayo succinctly put it thus: “Scarcely can anybody have the mis/fortune of encountering Tinubu without becoming a captive of his cash influence”. Tinubu succeeded where Amaechi and Wike have thus failed. All funded their ambition by oiling the northerners from their state treasury. Yet, it is clear that besides the fact that Tinubu has been on the turf for longer, he has been more strategic and consistent. He fought, won and lost many political battles. But he never relented. He projected others and patiently waited until he believed it was his turn. Emilokan! It is even possible that the late drama of cash scarcity is part of the agenda to hoodwink Nigerians. The alleged sabotage of the BVAS system and the compromise of INEC officials may have long been perfected before the campaigns. The war chest is colossal, the structure is rooted and the machinery is available. None of the leading candidates had the resources to counter Tinubu and the ruling party. None!
- The divided opposition: This requires no clairvoyance nor lengthy details to comprehend. In 2015, the opposition coalesced into the APC to sack the ruling PDP while the reverse was the case this time around. Although Tinubu could only manage about 59% of Buhari’s votes and scraped just 12 against the president’s 19 states in 2019, these inadequacies pale when you consider that Atiku managed just about the same figures. He got 60% of his 2019 votes and 12 compared to the 17 states he won previously. Atiku also acknowledged that Peter took a slice of his votes. It was easily predictable that the attempt to oust the ruling party as a divided house will kiss the canvas. It won’t work. Not with Tinubu as the APC candidate.
MY TAKE: I believe that at best we would be getting ready for a run-off if the election had been reasonably free and fair. Why do I believe so? It is because I studied the polls that gave Peter victory and none of the reputable pollsters gave him the 2nd constitutional requirement of 25% in 2/3rd of the states. ANAP for instance has correctly predicted previous elections and this time while giving Peter the lead in the popular votes, didn’t give him 25% in any of the 3 northern regions. Out of 3 polls in September 2022, December 2022, and February 2023, only the last study gave him 24% in the North-Central. He only managed 8% and 6% in the NW and NE respectively.
Therefore, barring the manipulations and suppression, it is only possible that Peter could have polled the highest number of votes without getting 25% in 13 of the 19 states in the region. That of course leaves him short of meeting the 2nd requirement.
THE BRIGHT SIDE: Regardless of your perception, Tinubu is a proven visionary and thinker. In addition, he is also a patient, dogged and strategic builder. Peter on the other hand is an astute administrator and a prudent manager of resources. These are worthy leadership virtues for the younger generation to imbibe. And for this reason, any of the two presents a better future for the country than Atiku.
So while not conceding the questionable mandate, one can still be hopeful that a southern progressive will be at the helm. Tinubu’s antecedents as a proponent of restructuring abound in his political career. Never mind that he whittled it to gain favour from the north in furtherance of his ambition. More than Atiku he is likely to assemble a solid team that can correct Buhari’s shambolic economic performance and embark on fiscal restructuring.
And besides the obvious fact that he will likely maintain the Lagos port monopoly, I struggle to see any other policy direction he can possibly take to hurt the SE without equally harming his region as a consequence. Thus it makes little sense for Igbos to antagonise him as we did to Buhari. The Bourdillon landlord actualised his ambition the only way he knows; the Nigerian way.
In the larger national picture, Peter magnified the political consciousness among the largest and most important demographic in the country today. While Tinubu’s “Emilokan” sounded the requiem for the remnants of the old brigade, Peter’s “Go and verify” is now the popular SI unit for assessing future political aspirants.
THE SOUTH EAST: Given the continuous rejection of APC in the South East, one may believe that the SE would have preferred an Atiku presidency as a 2nd option. Some because of Okowa and others because they believe that power will possibly come to the SE after his tenure. However, the results disprove this notion as Tinubu polled higher than Atiku in the region. And if you divorce emotion from reality and critically interrogate the past you will realise that Atiku and the PDP have nothing more to offer Nigerians.
In 2019, I stated that as an Igbo man, the task of piloting Igbos back to their rightful place in national politics mattered more to me than Peter becoming the Vice President. For me, that will bury the affinity towards non-state actors that misled many Igbos with a fraudulent Biafra agitation.
With his outing, Peter surpassed my realistic expectations and even Tinubu will tell you that Peter is the greatest beneficiary of this election going forward. Without the support of elected politicians and even against the persecution by his kinsmen, Peter Obi polled more votes than any other Igbo presidential candidate in history. The organic growth of the Obidient movement will be studied for a long time to come.
As my friend Lawrence Ughamadu wrote in an impassioned and succinct comment “I am super proud of Peter Obi…Peter became the first man that took away Lagos from Tinibu…for the first time, a President-elect didn’t win any of the 3 major states of Kano, Lagos and Rivers…Peter brought pride to the SE that would have been out of the political calculations of 2023..gave Igbos and foreigners living in Lagos the voice to speak. He contested with 3 men that started politics more than a decade before him yet shook the status quo. He has many more years ahead of him. Peter Obi is super duper!!! I will do this again 20 times again and again. We won it all!!! “
It is also heartwarming that the SE is terminating the abusive relationship with the PDP. The so-called Igbo leaders who refused to support Peter are paying the price. Both the inept leaders and the usurpers will be swept into the dustbin of history. Peter must now fully embrace the task of leading the Igbos back to their rightful place in national politics by forging the needed alliances, especially in the north. We have commenced a generational political change in our region, and with him in the cockpit, the future can only be bright.
GOING FORWARD: This election is DEFINITELY not an improvement on our electoral process which frankly, made successive progress in the last 8 years. The blatant rigging, violence and above all the BVAS sham inflicted on the electorate on February 25th 2023 leaves a big question mark on the credibility and legitimacy of Tinubu’s victory. And this is why it should be robustly challenged in the courts.
Be that as it may, I will err on the side of caution and join Peter in calling for calm. Many will disagree of course, and that is understandable because Nigerians invested a lot in this election and really hoped that their votes will count. So by all means, vent, rant and protest but never take the laws into your hands. Do not dwell on emotions for emotions must never submerge REASON!
Democracy has laid down procedures for seeking redress and Peter is a serial beneficiary of our justice system. So if you believe in the man you voted for then you should trust his direction.
I say this because I feel obliged to assuage the emotions of the younger ones who may not know that we witnessed worse under Obasanjo when electoral umpires wrote election results in hotel rooms and massage parlours. In plain sight, INEC allocated over 24 million votes to Yar’Adua in a travesty that the beneficiary himself publicly acknowledged as ‘flawed’.
The #EndSARS protest was a watershed moment in that it was the first time young Nigerians utilised their internet prowess to expose the vulnerability of the ruling elites. Nonetheless, I urged caution in a previous thesis and explained that oftentimes the result of sudden popular revolts did not meet the expectations of the masses. The ‘liberators’ that replaced the “old order” ultimately turned out to be the same and in some cases worse leaders. This is why gradual, successive gains are the building blocks of a stable democracy. With what the Obidient movement achieved so far, it is possible to enthrone a paradigm shift in our politics. The change will not come in a sprint, the democratic process is a gradual marathon.
So as the legal journey to justice resumes, we must realise that we have a nation to build. In the immutable words of Bernie Sanders; Election days come and go. But the struggle of the people to create a government which represents all of us and not just the one per cent — a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice — that struggle continues. Fortifying the electoral process and delivering a successful digital census should make the list of our top priorities.
It isn’t that gloomy after all…