By Clifford Ndujihe, Deputy Political Editor
Under normal circumstances, an incumbent office holder has a better advantage to be re-elected over a fresh contender angling for the same post. The reasons are obvious. The incumbent often times is better known and gets more media exposure. He is also in a better position to raise more money for electoral campaigns. And more importantly, he has executed projects to campaign with.

However, a fresh contender may turn the table against an incumbent in the face of poor performance, bad exposure in the media, citizens’ desire for change and other political considerations.

If the outcomes of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Assembly primaries and a recent survey are anything to go by, incumbent senators and House of Representatives members will have a tough nut to crack if they hoped to return. If current trend persisted, only 22 of the 109 senators and 72 of the 360 Reps or 21% of the lawmakers will be re-elected.

According to a survey conducted by SMS between December 15 – 17, 2010 by mPOLLS and Valuefirst, 66 per cent of respondents said they would vote for new candidates. Only 21 % said they would vote for the incumbents as 13 % said they would not vote at all.

House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, recently stressed the need for constituents to hand their lawmakers fresh mandates. According to him, the National Assembly needed legislative experience to improve lawmaking, which fresh legislators do not have and for which they would spend time learning on the floor of the House before they could start making impact.

Specifically, Bankole tied creation of new states on return of the old lawmakers.

However, the outcome of the PDP primaries and the survey indicate that there will be many fresh faces in the National Assembly after the 2011 polls.

Conducted against the backdrop of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Governor, Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s claim that 25% of Federal Government’s overhead was being spent on the National Assembly, the survey showed that there is apathy towards incumbent legislators and preference for new contestants and “parties stand a risk of losing their seats to the opposition if incumbents are presented for re-election. Incumbents will generally lose against any worthy opponent. ”

According to the survey, the observation is the same irrespective of geo-political zone, political party, religion, gender and age. The questions were texted to 5000 subscribers across the country and 402 responses were recovered.

Asked: ‘How will you vote?’ with A (I will vote for a sitting Senator/Rep), B (I will vote for a new Senator/Rep) and C (I won’t vote) as options, 63 % of respondents in the North opted for new legislators with 25 % saying they would go with the incumbents and 12 % saying they would not vote. In the South, the opinion was 71 % for fresh lawmakers and 15% for old legislators.

Across religious lines, 64% of Christian and 72 % of Muslim respondents aligned with new lawmakers with 22 % and 20 % respectively saying they would vote for incumbents.

On gender basis, 68 % of male and 48 % of female respondents opted for fresh lawmakers as opposed to 21 % and 22 % respectively for the incumbents.

Across party lines, respondents returned similar views when asked: ‘Do the electorate trust incumbents in some parties and not in some?’ With Lagos, a stronghold of opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, which is controlled by the ruling PDP, as locations, responses were in tandem with the average opinion. Only 13% (Lagos) and 16 % (FCT) of the respondent said they would vote for returning legislators as opposed to 66 % (Lagos) and 74 % (Abuja) for new lawmakers.

Results from the PDP primaries seem to confirm this view.

Although Senate President David Mark and House of Representatives Speaker, Bankole retained the tickets of their party – PDP to seek re-election, a host of their colleagues were turned down by their constituents. And the list of the losers keeps lengthening as more results tumble in. Possession of the PDP ticket does not amount to automatic return to the National Assembly as the flagbearers still have to contend with opponents from other political parties.

PDP Senators without return tickets

* Senator Lee Maeba (Rivers)
* Abubakar Sodangi (Nasarawa West)
* Effiong Bob (Akwa Ibom)
* Eme Uffot Ekaette (Akwa Ibom South)
* Simon Oduoye (Osun)
* Hosea Ehinlawo (Ondo South)
* Joseph Akaargerger (Benue North East)
* Bassey Ewa_Henshaw (Cross River South)
* Caleb Zagi (Kaduna South)
* Usman Jibrin (Kaduna Central).
* Mrs. Chris Anyanwu (Imo),
* Sylvester Anyanwu (Imo)
* Osita Izunaso (Imo)
* Bassey Ewa_Henshaw (Cross River)
* Gregory Ngaji (Cross River).
* Senators George Akume (Benue North West)
* Lekan Mustapha (Ogun West)
* Nimi Barigha_Amange (Bayelsa)
* Idris Abdullahi (Gombe)
* Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello (Ogun)
* Emmanuel Onwe (Ebonyi)
* Anyim Ude (Ebonyi)
* Anthony Agbo (Ebonyi)
* Mrs Grace Jackson Bent (Adamawa)
* Jubril Aminu (Adamawa)
* Mohammed Mana (Adamawa)
* Abubakar Umar Gada (Sokoto)


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.