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Ngige, Soludo: Tale of two losers

THE worst moment in any election is often the day after. It is the period when the losers start coping with the reality of the outcome. Because truth most times hurts, for losers in an election, this is the time the sinking feelings of anger, disillusionment, frustration and “betrayal” take control of reason.

The day after is also the time when losers begin to mull over how their ambitions have been extinguished. And don’t forget, it is the time a loser begins to think of repaying the money borrowed. Drowning in debt has often been the nightmare for those who lose elections.

But should losing an election be the end of life? In civilised climes, it should not, because there must be life after politics. Losing an election tests two profound virtues: The discipline and culture of behaviour of politicians; how much have they learned in accepting defeat and congratulating the winner? In Nigeria, this is where the big problem begins. It is the crucial point where ‘healing’ starts or crisis begins to brew.

The Anambra governorship poll held February 6, was ‘disappointing’ to some people. It was disappointing in the sense that it failed to meet many critics’ worst case scenarios. These are electoral violence, ballot snatching, massive rigging, etc. As it turned out, these ‘evil winds’ didn’t blow, and where they happened, they were negligible to have any negative effect on the outcome. So, those who had anticipated evil were disappointed.

These are people who essentially harvest from crisis. Also, the allegations ahead of the election that INEC had a pact with two of the candidates, Dr Andy Uba of the Labour Party (LP) and Hon Uche Ekwunife of the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) turned out to be a hoax and part of the usual attack on the electoral umpire to make it and its leadership look grossly incompetent to organise any free and transparent election.

Interestingly, Gov Obi, once a vociferous critic of INEC is now being labelled the “anointed candidate” of INEC by one of the losers – Prof. Charles Soludo. Who says our politics is not a fun to follow?

In typical Nigerian setting, conceding victory appears to be a rare virtue of politicians. And making a volte-face even after one has graciously conceded victory and congratulated the winner, seems not a passé in Nigeria. It is nothing to be ashamed of either. In Prof. Soludo and Dr. Chris Ngige, two runners up in the election, we have seen an odd couple, two sore losers united by a common goal.

This odd couple has a distinction without a difference. Soludo is a bookish professor whose first “baptism of fire” in politics ended in tears, in a crushing defeat. But in Ngige, we see a more conventional politician, with a warrior instinct.

Over time he has come to see himself in Anambra politics as “too big to fail”. It is ironically interesting that Ngige who came second in the February 6, election with 60,240 votes has come to realise how it feels to be on the “other side” – a loser in a political contest.

But, let us begin with the Professor. A day after INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner, Josiah Uwazuruonye declared Gov Obi re-elected, with over 97,000 votes, Soludo was one of the first to congratulate the Governor. We all hailed him.

Indeed, in what many called gracious in defeat. ThisDay, February 8 described his behaviour as a “rare display of statesmanship by a Nigerian politicians”. Daily Sun in its editorial days later called Soludo’s behaviour “exemplary” and a new-found culture in Nigeria’s politics. The paper urged other politicians to emulate him. But wait a minute!

Soludo has since recanted. How can the offspring of a leopard change its spots. Four days later, he called the election a “monumental fraud”.

He criticised INEC, alleging that the Commission was in a hurry to return Obi as its “anointed” candidate. He claimed that Obi didn’t meet the constitutional requirements of 25 per cent of the votes cast in 14 local councils of the 21 LGAs in the state. Ngige has since made more mountain out of this mole-hill in his press conference in Lagos. Ngige wants, among other things, a run-off between himself and Governor Obi.

Detailed results of the election show that both Soludo and Ngige lied. Contrary to their claims, INEC was right, Obi met the mandatory 25 per cent requirement of 14 LGAs, not 13 as the complainants have claimed.

Few things are clear regarding the volte-face by Soludo and the claims made by Ngige. For Soludo, he has come to terms with an ambition that went up in flames. Coping with feeling of disappointment, anger and over confidence of “too big to fail” has set in. It is an astonishing fall from grace to grass, from hero to zero. From his height arguably as a top performer as CBN Governor, watching himself demolished in a race that would have been a milestone had he won it, his story now can best be likened to the turning of a corner.

This was a contest he stood little chance of winning anyway, considering the flawed process through which he emerged. Because he believed in the “old way of doing things” only to wake up to find a “new INEC” more than ever before, determined to make the votes count. Surely, Soludo who found it difficult to ‘reach’ INEC during his campaigns may now be having his heart caught up with his head. He must be feeling like a man in a straight-backed chair, all alone. We are all waiting for him to speak up about INEC as he promised last year in a ThisDay interview.

But all this Soludo would have avoided. His beginning showed how his end would be. He ought to have known from the outset that his plunge into politics less than three months after he failed to be re-appointed CBN Governor was a politically risky venture. And I did say so in more than three occasions in this column. His African Dubai/Taiwan initiative was seen by the people as utopia. They couldn’t connect with it.

Soludo’s defeat which PDP described as “unfortunate” is a big kick in the groin. But did he stand any chance of winning the election considering the avalanche of protests and court cases that trailed his selection by the PDP? For me, he stood no chance even in hell, except if there was a large scale fraud. It is therefore no surprise that he, like Ngige, has found a “common enemy’ to blame for their loss- INEC.

For Dr. Ngige his claims are neither tall nor ancient. It is like telling the truth slowly. This is what is called “sin of omission”.
Mr. Onwukwe, a journalist, writes from Lagos.


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