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Democratic culture and the 2019 general elections in Nigeria (3)

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Douglas Anele

Therefore, notwithstanding shortcomings in the Atikunation Project launched to bolster Atiku Abubakar’s chances and counteract the Next Level marketing strategy of APC, the former Vice President performed better than President Muhammadu Buhari during the campaigns. Still, Buhari “won,” which raises the question: does a candidate’s actual display during campaigns really matter in determining the final result of presidential elections in Nigeria?

PDP, the main opposition party, has alleged that INEC connived with APC to rig the last presidential election. Expectedly, the President’s vociferous supporters have dismissed such claims, insisting that Atiku Abubakar is a bad loser. But it is premature to ignore allegations of electoral fraud and manipulation without looking closely at some interesting details about the just concluded election. According to media reports, voter turnout for this year’s presidential election was low generally at 35.6%, 8% less than 43.6% recorded in 2015.

Now, although the situation was largely due to increased voter apathy stemming from serial disappointment of Nigerians by our morally leprous political class, some of the figures declared by INEC are puzzling indeed. To begin with, in spite of the low turnout nationwide, relatively insecure Boko Haram-infested states like Borno and Yobe recorded increased voter turnout of 39% and 40% respectively, whereas Abia and Akwa Ibom states with far less insecurity issues had 16% and 18% in that order. Interestingly, in Akwa Ibom Buhari managed to increase his total share of votes by 34% compared to what he got in 2015. It could be argued that what seems like voter suppression in the south-east especially is actually the result of confusion among voters arising from the call for election boycott by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) which was eventually called off at the eleventh hour, so to speak.

Atiku vs Buhari: Bulkachuwa is wife, mother of APC members, PDP insists(Opens in a new browser tab)

Even so, in a large number of polling units across the zone, INEC officials arrived several hours behind schedule, a problem that was compounded by insufficient quantity of electoral materials and malfunctioning smart card readers. In this connection, millions of voters were disenfranchised throughout the east, perhaps to reduce the number of votes from there and whittle down the political influence of Ndigbo in the next dispensation. Now, how did President Buhari manage to get a higher percentage of votes in the south-east this year than he did four years ago, to the extent of leapfrogging from a paltry 3% in 2015 to 28% in Abia, Nnamdi Kanu’s home state? To be candid, the result is somewhat baffling given that prior to the last elections a sizeable percentage of Ndigbo in general were poised to vote against him because they believe strongly that he is anti-Igbo and that his administration is not genuinely interested in addressing their genuine concerns, particularly the issue of Igbo exclusion from the power grid of national security apparatchik and lack of heavy federal investment in Igboland among others.

But to Osita Okechukwu, Loretta Onochie, Chris Ngige and other favour-seekers from the zone always fawning and ingratiating themselves with the President, it is a welcome development, a clear demonstration or evidence that they really worked hard for the President, hoping that it might convince Buhari to compensate them one way or another as obedient servants. Of course, Buhari might dump them like expired tyres that have served their purpose. Having said that, there is no good reason to rule out the possibility that the startling results declared for the south-east when compared to those from the troubled north-east could be a deliberate attempt by INEC and the ruling party to ensure low votes in the east, a traditional stronghold of the PDP. In otherwords, it is possible that the whole thing is a well-planned and executed game plan of systematic voter suppression and disenfranchisement in Igboland complemented with vote inflation in the north-east to ensure that the President is re-elected for a second term of four years.

Another intriguing case is Kogi state, where the so-called Fulani herdsmen have been terrorising people for some time now. Still, INEC says that voter turnout there rose by 22% over the 2015 figure. Kogi indigenes seem to appreciate President Buhari more than his own people in Katsina state where participation of voters increased by only 7%. Consider also the case of Lagos and Kano, two states where the problem of insecurity is not as serious as what obtains in Yobe state. According to official results, despite worsening security situation in Yobe, about 76,000 more people voted there compared to the number that did in 2015. But INEC has more presence in Lagos and Kano, which have remained hotbeds of national politics since the 1950s till date. Yet, not only did the number of voters in Lagos state drop by 28%, PDP’s share went down by 180,000 when compared with the figure the party got four years ago. That is partly due to deliberate (sometimes violent) suppression of votes in PDP strongholds across the state with large Igbo population.

In Kano, voter turnout dipped by 11%, whereas it increased in bandit-ravaged Zamfara state. Judging by INEC results, it appears that people running for their lives and internally displaced persons in crisis-torn states like Yobe, Borno and Zamfara were more willing to risk their lives to vote than people living in more peaceful states especially in the south. Now, how can one explain these anomalies without implicating INEC, security agencies and do-or-die politicians? Do the results released by INEC truly reflect the actual votes cast or is the whole thing a well-calibrated electoral legerdemain cleverly executed to achieve a predetermined agenda?

I do not have the answers to these questions, but it is clear that the last presidential poll has raised serious doubts about the ability of INEC chaired by Prof. Mahmood Yakubu to conduct free, fair and transparent elections. The issue is complicated right now by the bold claim of PDP that it has the authentic results obtained from INEC’s back server. According to the party, the real results it downloaded from INEC server indicate that Atiku Abubakar defeated Buhari by more than 1.6 million votes, excluding the result from Rivers state which was unavailable when the others were downloaded. Some of the results claimed by PDP include the one from Niger state, which shows that its presidential candidate garnered 576,308 votes, while Buhari had 504,218. But INEC announced that Buhari won in the state with 612,371 as against Atiku Abubakar’s 218,052.

In Gombe, Atiku won by 684,077 while Buhari had 115,225 votes. However, the result announced by INEC shows the reverse, with Buhari scoring 402, 961 as against Atiku’s 138,484 votes. For Benue, INEC’s back server shows that Atiku beat Buhari with 529,970 votes while the latter secured 140,282 votes. INEC released a result having 356,817 for Atiku and 347,668 for Buhari, narrowing Atiku’s “victory” considerably. In Kaduna, Atiku purportedly won by 961,143 compared to Buhari’s 469,002 votes, while INEC claims that Buhari carried the day with 993,445 votes and Atiku 649,612 votes. In his home state of Adamawa, Atiku emerged victorious both in the result downloaded from INEC’s back server and the one announced by the returning officer from the state but, as in Benue, the official result narrowed the margin of victory.

Thus, INEC’s official result reads 410,266 to 378,078 in favour of Atiku, while the downloaded result is 464,080 and 169,600. Also consider this interesting statistic: between 2015 and 2019, votes from the north shared between APC and the PDP during the presidential election increased by 1,032,619 votes, while southern votes dropped by a whopping 2,854,977 votes, giving the north an outrageous advantage of 3,887,596 votes and inadvertently reaffirming its contrived political superiority over the south. Now, is it really a coincidence that INEC chairman announced that Buhari has been re-elected with 3,928,869 votes, almost the same margin of victory as the contrived political advantage of the north over the south? In my view, selfish southern politicians are a bunch of political Lilliputians.

At the beginning of our discussion, I pointed out that President Buhari’s re-election notwithstanding his mediocre performance is both counterfactual and counterintuitive from the perspective of rational game theory. Little wonder Festus Keyamo started chasing shadows by reacting hysterically to PDP’s claim of having authentic results which show that Buhari actually lost the election. Keyamo’s emotional outburst dripping with slave mentality is very amusing: instead of addressing the most important question of whether the figures PDP allegedly got from INEC certified server are authentic, he tries to muddy the waters by calling on law enforcement agencies to investigate how the party got the information in the first place. I am not a lawyer, but as a logician I know that the most important issue here is to determine the accuracy and genuineness of the information PDP is parading – the question of how it was obtained is secondary. For, if the figures are fictitious, the question of its source becomes otiose or irrelevant. But if they are genuine, it means that the source is trustworthy and the figures must have evidential value. While we await the unnecessarily sluggish judicial process to take its course in this matter, Atiku Abubakar and his vociferous supporters like Chief Olusegun Obasanjo must be reminded that they were partly responsible for bringing the blizzard called President Muhammadu Buhari into office in 2015. So, those who sow the wind should be prepared to reap the whirlwind without complaining! Concluded.



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