By Dirisu Yakubu
It is longer news that Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has lost the presidential election to the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, following the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The PDP prepared in the best possible way, ran a well-oiled campaign and gave the government-backed APC campaign machinery a run for its money.
With former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as its presidential candidate, funding wasn’t going to pose a challenge as it were. Thus, ahead of the polls, the PDP Campaign Council traversed the length and breadth of the country, and, armed with a policy document detailing his message of ‘Getting Nigeria to Work Again,’ Atiku and his party were upbeat, and perhaps rightly so, of their chances.
However, as collation and announcement of the presidential election results from the states commenced at the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja, last Monday, starting with Ekiti, Buhari, the man who shunned the Nigeria Election Debate Group, NEDG, organized presidential debate and gave what many analysts described as less than average performance at ‘The Candidates’, an interview series anchored by Kadaria Ahmed, began to prove that he was the candidate to beat.
Atiku though expectedly recorded an impressive outing in the South-East and South-South geopolitical zones as well as in the South-West, votes from the North-West and North-East for Buhari opened a huge margin between the two leading candidates, such that, with 24 hours to declaration of results, there were calls for the Wazirin Adamawa to concede defeat.
What went wrong?
The party’s fortune got a huge boost when, without a struggle of any variant, it added three states into its kitty. Just while the opposition party’s National Working Committee (NWC), led by Prince Uche Secondus, was alleging electoral manipulation in the victory of Dr. Kayode Fayemi in Ekiti State governorship election in 2018, three state governors elected on the platform of the APC, viz – Abdulfatai Ahmed, Aminu Tambuwal and Samuel Ortom of Kwara, Sokoto and Benue states respectively – defected into the PDP.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara of the House of Representatives followed suit shortly, leaving the party with a chance of victory at the polls.
Meanwhile, the PDP was also losing a good number of its chieftains.
Adamu Muazu, its former Chairman; Emmanuel Uduaghan, a former governor of Delta State; Sullivan Chime, erstwhile governor of Enugu State, Godswill Akpabio, erstwhile Minority Leader of the Senate, and a host of others left the party for the APC.
Although, Atiku did well in the respective states of the aforementioned, there is no doubt that these influential figures took with them a legion of supporters to the ruling party, thus decimating the ranks of the PDP in the process.
That was not all! Senators Garba Gamawa, who was elected Deputy National Chairman (North) of the party in its elective convention in 2017, and Saidu Kumo, a member of the PDP Presidential Campaign Council, also quit for the APC, leaving the party fragmented in Bauchi and Gombe states. Not surprising, Atiku lost both states to Buhari.
Outside of the killings in Rivers State during the presidential and National Assembly elections, the polls were relatively peaceful across the country. However, vote cancellation, particularly the over 157, 000 votes cancelled in Nasarawa State, remains a low point for the electoral umpire.
Although INEC cited violence as reason for the cancellation, the PDP Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, told newsmen in Abuja that were it not for INEC’s action, the party wouldn’t have lost the state to Buhari. This may be true considering the fact that the state had always voted for the PDP Presidential candidates in previous elections.
In states like Ekiti and Ogun, the PDP was enmeshed in internal squabbles involving big personalities whose insatiable appetite for power ended thinning the support of the party at the polls.
In Ekiti for instance, immediate past Governor Ayodele Fayose and the senator representing Ekiti South, Abiodun Olujimi, championed parallel causes, even though both claimed to be working for the party. At the end, Olujimi not only lost her re-election bid, Buhari scored a total of 219, 231 votes while Atiku came second on the log with 154, 032 votes in the election results in the state.
The story was the same in Ogun where hostilities involving the Ladi Adebutu faction of the PDP and that of Senator Buruji Kashamu played into the hands of the ruling APC as Buhari harvested a total of 281, 762 votes compared to Atiku’s 194, 655.
There is a nexus between violence in some parts of Rivers and Lagos states and voter apathy that characterized the elections.
Lagos, with the highest number of registered voters (6.5 million), had a paltry turned out to exercise their franchise.
Rivers, which has a sitting PDP governor, had less than one million voters of its 3, 215, 273 registered voters turned up to cast their votes. In the end, the huge harvest PDP expected fizzled out like a thick smoke as the party only managed to garnered 473, 971 votes as against APC’s 150, 710.
North-West as deciding factor
The PDP had predicated its chances of victory on winning a good number of states in the North-West. With the possible exception of Katsina, the home state of the President, Atiku looked forward, with optimism, to a good harvest in Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Jigawa, Sokoto and Zamfara states.
This optimism was not without a premise. Boasting such political figures as Rabiu Kwankwaso (Kano), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Tanimu Turaki (Kebbi), Ahmed Makarfi (Kaduna) and Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), all of whom collapsed their political structures for a common goal, the PDP candidate’s chances appeared brighter than those of Goodluck Jonathan, then incumbent President and candidate of the party in 2015. At the end of collation of election results however, none of these figures delivered his state as Buhari swept the votes, with Atiku left to gather what was left of the crumbs.
INEC: An improved outing?
Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, almost became a villain to many following the initial postponement of the polls a fortnight ago. Chairmen of the two leading parties, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (APC) and Prince Uche Secondus (PDP), called for his resignation, accusing him of incompetence, partisanship amongst others.
In the re-scheduled exercise however, Yakubu’s INEC conducted fairly peaceful elections with some observers rating the umpire above average. Popular figures lost elections in their localities including two heavyweights of the ruling party, Akpabio (Akwa Ibom) and George Akume (Benue); a development analysts described as a pointer to some levels of credibility.
Although Atiku and the PDP have both faulted the outcome of the polls, INEC deserves commendation for some innovative electoral guidelines it initiated to prosecute the 2019 elections. The simultaneous accreditation and voting, for instance, ensured that voting ended in most polling units at the same time, thus rendering tinkering with figures somewhat difficult.