5 matters the dollar could not erase
Given the ethnic nature of voter behaviour, the structure of existing party governance situation, the calculus of 2023 presidential contest, the small matter of issues and the even smaller matter of protest movement Candidate Atiku Abubakar could not have won the presidential election. Besides these five matters, there are the following too to think off.
The control of INEC, the control of the security complex, the control of party solidarity, the control of thugs and other agents of rampant violence and the control of money, these controls are crucial in winning elections in Nigeria.
Only two of these controls could be said to be in the hands of Atiku Abubakar. And they were not in his hands exclusively.
Muhammadu Buhari had them also. Or, if he didn’t have they he knew people who had them and could let him have them. As for the rest, as the incumbent President, he had them.
ETHNICITY – From the dawn of voting in Nigeria ethnicity has always played a role, big at the beginning, getting smaller now, hopefully.
The Northerner voted for the North, the Southerner voted for the South. The Hausa-Fulani voted for the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo for the Igbo and the Yoruba voted for the Yoruba. And since the Hausa-Fulani are mainly in the North and the Igbo and the Yoruba are in the South there was, hopefully, a North-South horizontal divide.
Today, a look at the latest presidential voting graphic map shows a diagonal dividing line from Lake Chad to the Nigeria-Benin border at Seme. So, yes, ethnicity is still there but other things are arriving to belittle ethnicity.
STRUCTURE OF PARTY HOLDINGS – When Nigerians went to the polls on February 23rd Muhammadu Buhari’s APC controlled 22 states while Atiku Abubakar’s PDP controlled 13 states.
Each governor fought tooth and nail to deliver his state to the presidential candidate of his party.
Even in states where the governor was sponsoring a successor different from the choice of his party, the governor still worked for his party’s presidential candidate to win his state.
Refer here to Rochas Okorocha in IMO State and Amosun in Owo State. Given these structure of party holdings Atiku Abubakar was sure to come short.
2023 PRESIDENTIAL CALCULUS – Muhammadu Buhari winning and spending four years until 2023 was the simplest way of having a clear playing field for the contestation of 2023. Anything else like Atiku Abubakar winning would muddy the waters.
In the first place, Atiku Abubakar would wish for a second term throwing into the wilderness of the future both Igbo ambitions as well as the ambitions of the not too young to run! Where did the idea come that Atiku Abubakar would do only one term and hand over to an Igbo President? Didn’t he, Atiku Abubakar, oppose the third term agenda of President Olusegun Obasanjo because it would distance his own ambition to occupy the presidency? Why would others not think strategically as he did in their turn? With Muhammadu Buhari winning now, the field is clear for a new beginning in 2023.
ISSUES – As a foreign journalist was asked when she wanted to know the major issues driving the presidential election WHAT ISSUES? Generally, issues have never been of importance in Nigerian elections. But this year, they have come to matter, at least in a small way. Two issues mattered, especially in the voting in the South West. These are the re-structuring of the federal system and de-tribalisation of the country.
In May 1966, General Aguiyi Ironsi unified the federation of Nigeria. In time the military bought into this unification because it rhymed with their military mindset of a singled undifferentiated armed forces.
The military constitution imposed by the army in 1999 continued this military unification thereby distorting the nature of the federal system of Nigeria.
The demand for restructuring has been loudest in the Yoruba South West geopolitical zone. Muhammadu Buhari’s APC has been unclear about restructuring which Northern leaders believe would work against their interest. So, as far as the APC is concerned, no restructuring.
On the other hand Atiku Abubakar committed his PDP government to restructuring of the federal system to restore power to the constituting members of the federation.
The South West took this to heart and the largest Yoruba weekly newspaper ALAROYE carried articles week after week almost calling imprecations against any Yoruba who did not vote for Atiku Abubakar.
In the end Atiku Abubakar’s PDP won two of the six states in the Yoruba South West and lost the other four with narrow margins.
The other issue of detribalisation is more amorphous to grasp. There is the feeling in the South West that Igbo residents in the zone have had the opportunity to vote against what the predominant Yoruba population would vote for.
While their preference of Atiku Abubakar and the PDP coincides with some Yoruba because of the restructuring plan of that party, it went against the trend in Lagos State, the state which is the Chief host of Muhammadu Buhari’s APC.
As a result of this, there was a reported incidence of OPC attacking a polling station and targeting Igbo voters for violence. This is to be condemned and it is hoped that the incident will be investigated and those responsible are brought to book.
PROTEST MOVEMENTS – This is a new and hopefully developing element in Nigerian elections. The effects of protest voting can best be seen in Kwara State and in Ogun State.
In Kwara State a protest movement arose against Dr. Bukola Saraki and the PDP. Dubbed ‘O to gẹ!’ translated as ‘Enough is Enough’ it worked to get Dr. Saraki out of Senate and out of Kwara politics. It succeeded.
In Ogun State where the governor wanted to go back to the Senate where he had served before serving two terms as governor of the state, he was told enough should be enough, thank you.
For now issues and protest voting are small elements in the Nigerian elections. Hopefully, they will grow. But the logic of our electoral system said Atiku Abubakar could not win. And he lost the elections.
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