An Important Election (2), By Opeyemi Agbaje


If you have not read the of part one this publication, kindly do so before reading the part 2. This is a continuation which can only be properly understood after reading the first part.
The much-expected Nigerian presidential election of March 28, 2015 has come and gone and at the point of writing, it does appear General Muhammadu Buhari is headed for victory on the platform of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) displacing the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in an unprecedented first opposition victory in democratic Nigeria.
The voting trends broadly mirror the projections made in the first instalment of this article -Jonathan in a six-week blitz succeeded in closing the gap in Lagos with the eventual result being 792,460 for Buhari and 632,327 for Jonathan; the rest of the South-West was similarly divided down the line, but unlike our expectation of a narrow Jonathan victory in the region outside Osun where a Buhari victory was presumed, it was the APC candidate who had the narrow lead except in Ekiti where Ayo Fayose comfortably delivered his state for the PDP. The big surprise was in Ondo where Governor Mimiko succumbed to the assemblage of formidable opponents, many of them former allies, who were now arrayed against him.
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There was no surprise from the South-South and South-East where an “extraordinary” victory was projected for Jonathan and the emergent percentages for the incumbent ranged between 75 and 95 percent. We also expected a narrow PDP victory in the North-Central which was manifested, even though the APC performance in Benue and Kogi States was better than expected. The result from the North-West was also expected where we predicted a Buhari “dominance” howbeit the size of the Buhari numbers, especially from Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa and Sokoto were somewhat astounding (just as Jonathan’s return from Rivers State ).
It does seem that significant vote padding occurred in the candidates’ areas of strength, with the South-West and North-Central being the zones from which believable figures emerged. We expected Jonathan to do slightly better in the North-Eastern states of Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi than emerged, but in the event the Northern wave for the General proved overwhelming.
So Buhari becomes president-elect at his fourth attempt with Professor Yemi Osinbajo as his deputy in the professor’s first attempt at elected office. The political implication of what has just happened is that an alliance of the Hausa-Fulani Islamic North (with heavy inroads into so-called “Middle-Belt” and non-Hausa-Fulani areas of the North-Central) and the Yoruba South-West has succeeded in shoving a Southern minority Niger-Delta candidate whose de facto political constituency became South-South/South-East out of office.
The single most important political miscalculation responsible for Jonathan’s loss appears to have been allowing his presidency to be alienated from the South-West. He had been elected on a rectangular alliance of South-East, South-South, South-West and North-Central with inroads into parts of North-West and North-East, but once the South-West was due to acts of omission or commission displaced from the rectangle, his chances of victory became tenuous in spite of last-minute efforts to remedy the situation.
Apart from that political miscalculation, the Jonathan presidency was undone by the Boko Haram insurgency (and his slow response thereto); the perception of huge escalation in corruption (even though much of it based on concocted propaganda around billions and trillions of Naira and Dollars missing from the Treasury); and recent economic troubles and Naira devaluation consequent on the precipitous decline in global oil prices. On the other hand, the Buhari victory was anchored on the merger of opposition forces that produced the APC; the political merger of the South-West and North earlier mentioned; the “re-branding” of General Buhari by his sponsors as a reformed democrat who would banish corruption from Nigeria; the choice of Pastor Osinbajo as running-mate which demolished reservations in Christian constituencies about his candidacy; and the determination of the North to reclaim the presidency.
The new leadership will face important challenges-economic, political, social, security etc., but the first challenge will be re-uniting the nation. Large segments of the Nigerian electorate particularly from the Niger-Delta and Igbo nationality who voted for Jonathan may regard his ejection from office as a collective rejection; many still harbor concerns about his agenda for Sharia and the roots of Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen; these elections have been very divisive-in one state, Rivers, it almost resembled a civil war and significant bitterness willlinger even after the polls. Many readers remember the four scenarios we anticipated-continuity, change, coalition and crises. “Change” has happened, but two contingent scenarios, “coalition” and “crises” may not be ruled out of the mix, so leadership and statesmanship are required.
After the swearing-in, the new president and his team will face a significant economic challenge in a context in which the social crises in the land calls for social intervention; he will face a plummeting currency having promised to bring the Naira at par with the Dollar (!); he will face an angry and spiteful Niger-Delta and the risk of resumed militancy at a time simply paying off insurgents may not be an option due to resource limitations; and the challenges of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, illiteracy will not disappear with the removal of Goodluck Jonathan! The new leadership will also be closely scrutinized in relation to their promised magic wand against corruption!
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