By Femi Aribisala
The only way the APC could have won the Osun election is by rigging it.
My first impressions are usually mistaken. If I have a good first-impression about someone, it generally turns out to be wrong. But if I have a bad first-impression, it usually turns out to be right. However, if my bad first-impression remains bad; or if my good first-impression remains good; it means my view of the person is bullet-proof.
My first-impression of Attahiru Jega was very good when he was appointed INEC chairman in 2010. Then, as I watched him for hours painstakingly collating the results of the 2011 elections with the help of university vice-chancellors, that first-impression was more than reinforced. I concluded that the winner of the 2011 elections was Jega himself. That led me to ask myself: since we have this kind of man in Nigeria, how come we never elect someone like him as president?
My opinion of Attahiru Jega has not changed. He remains one of the best presidential materials we have in Nigeria today. He is also by far Nigeria’s best public-servant, as far as I know. Here is a man who is not only highly-educated; he is also very competent and scrupulously honest. He is yet again, the real winner of the Osun election; and he is doing a fantastic job transforming the electoral process in Nigeria for the better and even the best.
God has given us in Jega a man that is making what we thought was impossible possible. He not only deserves to get a second-term as INEC chairman after his term expires in 2015; he would also be a shoo-in if he were to run for president thereafter. He already has my vote. I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Jega and his entire INEC team for excellent job they have been doing. They are really doing Nigeria proud.
The Supreme Court decision that led to the staggering of some gubernatorial elections has provided Jega and his INEC team with training-grounds for perfecting our electoral process. One-by-one; from Edo, Ondo, Anambra, Ekiti and now Osun, we have had election results that, by all accounts, reflected the true wishes of the people. That is a sign of progress in a Nigeria where progress is often few and far between.
As INEC has grown, so have some of the actors in the political process. Growth in the PDP is evidenced by increased internal democracy. PDP candidates are now chosen through popular democratic elections and not through the diktat of the party leadership; as used to happen during the Obasanjo presidency.
Governor Kayode Fayemi showed great maturity in accepting defeat and in congratulating Ayo Fayose after the last election in Ekiti. When INEC announced the victory of Ogbeni Aregbesola in the just-concluded Osun election, Goodluck Jonathan immediately congratulated him. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti also extended to him a right-hand of fellowship as neighbouring governor in the South-West; even though they belong to opposing parties. These are the nascent signs of new democratic politics in Nigeria.
In all this, there is still one big problem: the APC. The APC calls itself a progressive party, but in actual fact, it is antediluvian. It cannot recognize the sign of the times. When Fayemi accepted defeat in the Ekiti election, the bigwigs of PDP Central persuaded him to reject the result. They came up with such ludicrous allegations as ballot-papers with disappearing ink. One thing is clear; the APC does not recognize any election that it loses. Moreover, the APC cries wolf in every election it is going to lose, or is afraid to lose.
APC clearly does not believe in democracy or in the democratic process. It is the party of threats and blackmail. It is the party of Muhammadu Buhari; who says the dogs and the baboon will be soaked in blood if the 2015 election is rigged. It is the party of Bola Tinubu, who declared that in Ekiti it will be “rig and roast.” It is the party of Murtala Nyako, who says there will be civil war if Goodluck Jonathan runs for president in the next election.
Before every election, APC goes to town shouting itself hoarse that the election will be rigged. It brings out all sorts of fictitious documents showing “beyond reasonable doubt” that the PDP, in collusion with the INEC, has perfected outrageous plans to rig the election. Then when it loses, it says “We told you so” and decides to contest the results frivolously in court. Apparently, the only election that is not rigged in Nigeria today is the one that APC wins. At least, we are yet to hear APC say it is going to court to contest the Osun results.
Before the election in Osun, the APC went to town telling the whole world it would be rigged. Every so often, it came out with broadsides as to the discovery of fresh plans to rig the election which it discovered through its detective agency. Its Sherlock Holmes in this regard is Lai Mohammed, its Publicity Secretary. Lai Mohammed has the unique capacity to smell smoke where there is no fire whatsoever. These days, whenever he makes an announcement, it is to cry wolf yet again.
A dishonest party will tend to presume dishonesty in others, especially when it discovers that its traditional channels for manipulating elections have been blocked. The APC doctrine implies that no election can be won in the Nigeria unless it is rigged. This doctrine cannot be conveniently jettisoned now that APC has won in Osun. The APC position is like the backward belief in Nigeria that, if anybody dies, he or she must have been killed. Likewise, if anybody wins an election in Nigeria, it must have been rigged, according the APC.
Since, therefore, the only way the PDP could have won the Ekiti election was by rigging it; then by the same token, the only way the APC could have won the Osun election is by rigging it. Therefore, the APC needs to tell Nigerians how it managed to rig the Osun election. Otherwise, Lai Mohammed, John Odigie-Oyegun and the entire APC party-apparatus owe Nigerians, the PDP and INEC a big apology for maligning virtually everybody just because it was running scared of losing in Osun.
The very fact that Osun was a make-or-break election for the APC, leading it to cry wolf again and again, shows that the APC lost the election in Osun even before it took place. Here is a party that has pretensions of overthrowing the ruling PDP nationally in 2015. And yet, this same party was scared to death of losing an election in what is supposed to be its backyard.
Can anyone imagine the PDP being afraid of losing an election in Bayelsa or Akwa Ibom? Of course not! But this is what happens to an APC party that, in spite of all its bluster, had been trounced in Ekiti; one of its putative strongholds.
Under normal circumstances, Osun should be a cakewalk for APC. It is supposedly an APC redoubt. The incumbent governor belongs to the APC. In the last presidential election of 2011, Osun was the only South-West state that PDP lost to the ACN. The voters opted massively for the ACN by a nearly two-to-one margin vis-à-vis the PDP. Why then should the APC be so afraid of losing Osun if it were not for the fact that, instead of growing stronger, the party is actually growing weaker.
The APC has been running petrified since Ekiti. The entire party has been suffering from high blood pressure. Every other day, Lai Mohammed or John Odigie-Oyegun comes up with yet another wolf-cry, alerting everybody that would listen that the PDP, in collusion with INEC, has perfected plans to truncate the democratic process, rig elections and retain the PDP and Goodluck Jonathan in power forever.
Since the APC ended up by winning the Osun election convincingly, it can only mean that this ginormous PDP/INEC rigging machinery is not up to scratch. As a matter of fact, it apparently fails every so often. It failed in Ondo, where Mimiko and his Labour Party prevailed over the PDP. It failed in Anambra, where APGA, and not the PDP, won the gubernatorial election. Since it has failed yet again in Osun, it cannot be what the APC is touting it to be.
The truth is that it is all a figment of APC’s anti-democratic imagination. APC bigwigs are not only sore-losers, they are sore-candidates. Such temperament is not needed in today’s new dispensation.
In the end, Governor Aregbesola of the APC won the Osun election convincingly. His margin of vis-à-vis his PDP rival amounts to a landslide victory. But placed within the framework of the forthcoming presidential election, the Osun election is a major defeat for the APC. It actually suggests that, without the benefit of incumbency, and with a Northerner as opposed to a Southerner as the likely APC candidate, APC will most likely lose Osun to the PDP in the forthcoming presidential election.
I repeat; Osun was the only South-West state that Jonathan lost in 2011. PDP obtained 188,409 votes to ACN’s 299,711. That is a relative vote-share of 38% PDP to 62% ACN. But three years later, in this gubernatorial election, PDP obtained 292,747 votes to ACN/APC’s 394.684. That is a relative vote-share of 42% PDP to 58% ACN/APC. That shows the strength of the PDP has increased in Osun state, relative to that of the APC. When you factor in the APC power of incumbency in Osun, then this election becomes nothing short of disastrous for APC’s presidential aspirations.
If PDP can defeat APC in Ekiti, where APC had a sitting governor; and if PDP can take 42% of the APC vote in Osun, where the APC also had the advantage of a sitting governor; and since Ekiti and Osun are supposedly APC strongholds; then the APC does not have a prayer in the coming presidential election. It will not give any serious contest to the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan.