Events in Nigeria are easy to predict and the inconclusive nature of the governorship elections in six states plus Rivers is not only premeditated but a clear indication of what to expect in 2023. The ruling APC government is redefining our political dynamics and the future of elections in the country. Those who don’t make this connection are simply leaving in denial and overly optimistic about the altruism of the government.
It will be too simplistic to blame INEC as an institution for the problem that marred the elections; nobody including observers has denied their existence – but the winners and their supporters advise us to overlook such problems and move on to the next phase. Such patronizing disposition is convenient but does not answer the question of what happened and how do resolved it ensure that it does not recur.
However INEC is vicariously responsible for the chaotic outcome of the polls. INEC relied on the good intentions of government and its own naïve desire to deliver improved elections. But its leadership forgot hat in the real world of Nigerian politics, it is the end that justifies the means. INEC was obsessed with having a fool-proof process, which is good, but clearly irrelevant in our world; here, what matters most is the end.
The problems of the 2019 election had a purpose – even the postponement – and the purpose was to ensure that APC wins handsomely in the polls and for President to be returned. INEC was simply a victim of the high level political scheme to perpetuate APC in power. The truth is that APC had no reasonable performance record to retain power. Everywhere you turned, the party was in shambles in Kaduna, Benue, Rivers, Kano, Kwara, Ogun, Imo, Oyo, Sokoto etc – completely divide – and the mass suffering of the people indicative of its performance. So how could the party go into an election hoping to win when it is at war with itself and the people in dire strait?
Postponing the election by INEC was a spanner in the works in this plot, which explained the outraged by the president and party over it. The burning of INEC offices in Plateau, Anambra and Abia states; and botched attempt to deliver sensitive materials to Akwa Ibom, Kano and Rivers were orchestrated effort to stagger the polls.
INEC was not expected to postpone the election few hours to opening of ballot; government wanted the electoral body to stagger the election by rescheduling polls in those states with major issues, which were mainly where the opposition was expected to mount strong challenge. But the polls’ shift took the wind out their sail and sent them scampering back to the proverbial drawing board.
Elections in Nigeria were not going to be the same again after the Osun experience. The strategy is simple and the outcome assured: first secure the victory in your strong holds and use every available resources – human financial and coercion – to fight for the outstanding areas, especially where the opposition is strong. It makes it an unequal contest and the opposition stood no chance. Although the staggered election formula was not used in the presidential election, however, they had to win and ask questions later; but it became inescapable in the states’ polls for some reasons.
Regardless of the outcome of the judicial challenge by the opposition and its likely verdict, the presidential election was a sham and a disgrace to both the government and the nation. Because the idea of staggered election was no long practicable after the postponement, they had to win the election anyhow – and they won.
But having won so massively even in unlike places presents a major legal and political hurdle: the popularity of the president must reflect also in the states’ elections given the bandwagon effect of the presidential polls on the states’’ elections, as was the case in 2015 when Buhari won and in the process decimated the opposition in states’ elections. It was because of this hat the president rejected the reordering of the polls. But they did not bargain with the determined conviction of Atiku to challenge the outcome.
Realising that President Buhari could not have won the election fair and square and that the governorship election was the litmus test to negate or validate the result, schemes were contrived and hatched to avoid that.
So, having secured its victory in its strongholds, the government and party deliberately created conditions in opposition enclaves to cause a suspension by INEC as the guidelines are very specific and clear: over voting, violence non use of card readers would void the polls. Why were these conditions waived in the presidential election but for little pockets of reruns which did not alter the outcome?
In all the six states slated for a rerun, namely, Adamawa, Benue, Bauchi, Kano, Plateau and Sokoto, the opposition PDP was ahead on the votes tally – states where the APC had a lead were announced. These are all APC states that would have likely returned a PDP governor, thus discrediting the basis of the presidential election result. Oyo result was the only one allowed because of the volatile nature of its politics which the government did not want to contend with and also it suited Tinubu’s plan to removed Governor Ajimobi from the power loop come 2023.
Without commanding a dominant control over the country its power will be tenuous and ambition for 2023 in jeopardy. If returning Buhari in 2019 was challenging, retaining power after a transition in leadership will be daunting. This should have been Buhari’s easiest election to win; it turned out to be his difficult and testing. The anger of 2023 will be boiling over by the time of the polls. It would have made no sense to win in 2019 and lose in 2023. This election was a guarantee for 2023.
So we could call the election of 23 March before it was held: the states will be shared 50/50. This will be to placate the opposition and give it a semblance of contest. However, the purpose is to undermine the opposition and give itself a fighting chance in 2023. Ultimately APC is the winner in the rescheduled polls. First the results will support and validate the outcome of the presidential polls.
Second, the opposition will be crippled financially and strategically to mount any credible challenge. Third, the growing voter apathy will persist making it easier to manipulate. However, whatever is the outcome of 2019 after the legal battle, 2023 cannot be guaranteed for APC. And the Yoruba will regret their role in all this.