By Adisa Adfeleye
The good news of the week was the clearing of the murderous gangs from some parts of the country which they have forcefully occupied and wantonly devastated. The country‘s gallant security outfits should be handsomely rewarded for the victories, and the support of all Nigerians is needed for the eventual victory over the Boko Haram insurgents also. The supporting forces of Niger and Chad should be appreciated for coming to the aid of their neighbour at the crucial moment.
In the midst of such glorious celebration, it is heartening to hear the army forces saying and quite aloud, that never will Nigeria again be subjected to the ignominy of internal insurgency and its army to the ridicule by rebellious armed gangs.
While the armed forces are stretching themselves to clear the insurgents from the remaining three local government areas, the country’s politicians continue to argue on the suitability of INEC‘s invention – the smart Card Reader for the elections of March 28 and April 11, 2015. The ruling party and its supporters are saying quite clearly that, a new device (not thoroughly tested) is not suitable for an important election, like the coming presidential contest. Meanwhile the electoral umpire INEC has been maintaining its confident stance, that ‘We are ready‘. Yet, not many Nigerians are convinced beyond reasonable doubt, that INEC is ready.
In the ridiculous battle over the readiness of INEC, it appears as if the ruling party is unsure about its approach to the elections and jittery about electoral results which may not be favourable. Some analysts think PDP party should not be nervous because of the party‘s political dominance in many areas of the country.
The Opposition being the underdog has suddenly become the more confident contender taking the necessary challenge to the ruling party. The APC is seen by many Nigerians as the defender of the umpire who was unilaterally selected by the ruling party whose leader is a contestant. In the midst of the confusion over the distribution of PVCs and the Card Reader, the INEC Chairman, Prof Jega is the Grandmaster and the Opposition, the Teaser – It is a new political tactic to confront the ruling party.
The other day while waiting to collect my PVC (which I have not got), a young lady was bold to say that the political problems and instability of the system has been the lack of maturity among the Ibo and Yoruba leaders, past and present. I have since pondered over the seemingly innocent opinion of the young Nigerian lady. This view would coincide with the reporter‘s observation of late Chief Emeka Ojukwu that the solution to the political hegemony of the Hausa/Fulani would only be challenged by the cooperation of political leaders of South-west and South-east zones of the country, i.e AD in the West and APGA in the East. However, this might not happen.
Looking back into history, Nigeria opted for the British Parliamentary system at Independence in 1960 with the prospect of a government and the opposition or a coalition government of all parties (Unity government). From the results of elections held in 1959, the formation of a national government would have been preferable. The NPC won 134 seats – all from the North; the NCNC came second with 89 seats (58 from East; 8 from North and 23 from West) and the AG was placed 3rd with 73 seats (25 from North; 34 from West and 14 from East) minority areas.
These figures show that the NPC party had no overall majority and that NCNC (89) and AG (73) could have formed a working majority with 162 seats, even with 16 other candidates joining NPC, NCNC or AG. However, the predictable but negotiated alliance was between NPC of the North and the NCNC of the East. Tafawa Balewa of the NPC became the Prime Minister and Dr. Azikiwe took the position of a ceremonial President while Awolowo chose to become the Leader of Opposition. Thus, the first chance of Ibo and Yoruba political leaders working together was lost. Chief Awolowo was jailed in 1962 for felony and treason. The North/East coalition experiment failed with the military coup of 1966 and the consequent Biafra war of 1967 to 1970.
After the return of civilian rule in 1979, other electoral opportunities were open for the reconciliation of all the political forces of the country through the breaking of the 3 powerful regions (with Mid-west, carved out of Western Region) into 19 States which recognized the rights of the minorities.
The 1979 elections contested by three major old parties (but under different names–NPN (former NPC with broader base); NPP (old NCNC); and UPN (transformed from Yoruba led AG). The leading presidential candidates were Shagari (NPN – Sir Ahmadu Bello had been killed in 1966 military coup); Dr. Azikiwe for NPP and Chief Awolowo for the UPN. Nigeria had adopted the USA type of federalism since 1979 and the posture of the candidates showed the return of the old political rivalry – Hausa/Fulani – Ibo – Yoruba.
Looking back into the political history of the country, it could be discovered that lack of mutual trust and understanding among the Yoruba and Ibo leaders had affected their political fortunes. In the era before 1960, the Eastern Region (Ibo majority) and Western Region (mainly Yoruba) had been fierce political fields by the NCNC (led by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe) and Action Group led by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The North (under Sir Ahmadu Bello) remained in a ‘splendid isolation‘ with the exception of Action Group incursions in the Middle Belt. The Action Group and its leader suffered grievously for that impudence. However, the 1959 election results show dominance of the NPC in the North and the presence of NCNC and AG in all the three Regions.
The NPN victory of Shagari in the presidential election of 1979 seemed to put an end to the effect of tribal politics and ethnic block-voting as Ibo and Yoruba solid votes could help neither Dr. Azikiwe nor Chief Awolowo to win. Another feature of 1979 elections was the deep gulf in Yoruba and Ibo politics. Shagari scored more votes in Iboland than Awolowo and also scored more votes in Yorubaland than Dr. Azikiwe. The Hausa/Fulani became the grandmaster of the political chess game of the time.
During the political experiment of former military junta, Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim tried to pull off a political trick by fielding a Northern Muslim under the SDP party. The June 12, 1993 presidential election which was cruelly annulled by military President Babangida was presumed to have been won by Abiola. However, Abiola lost to Tofa in Ibo areas with 739,748 votes to 790,371 votes (Tofa had an Ibo as his running mate). The old impression was that Northern politicians were preferable to the Yoruba counterparts in Ibo areas before and after the civil war.
It looks as if the Ibo voters since 1999 have been sticking to the party and not the tribe. Under the PDP, they helped Obasanjo to overcome his Yoruba challenger, Falae. In cooperation with the Yoruba in 2003, Obasanjo was aided to overcome his challenger, Buhari. The total support was given to Yar‘Adua in 2007 and to Jonathan in 2011 against Buhari.
At present, the Hausa/Fulani block-voting is real; the Ibo block-voting is real; the Yoruba block-voting has long disappeared (thanks to Obasanjo).