By the beginning of this week, the country would know its new leader, a leader that would replace current president, Muhammadu Buhari, a man most agree has been a horrendous disaster for Nigeria.
Nigerians are poorer now than they were in 2015, when Mr. Buhari took power. 133 million Nigerians are poor, the highest number of poor people in the world. Nigeria never had this amount of poor people. Buhari’s terrible economic and protectionist policies brought us here.
A consequential election it had thus become and Nigerians wanted to have their say if not their way. In 24 years of democracy, Nigeria has not been able to deliver qualitative education, a good health system and provide essential public goods to its citizens.
The political psychics had mostly divined that it was going to be a three-horse race likely to end in a second round. None of the candidates was powerful enough, they opined, to get a simple majority of the popular vote while at the same time gaining the other required spread of votes.
And so, from across the vast expanse of the country, millions of Nigerians trooped into the various polling units assigned them by the national election manager. An ungarnished salad of the country’s young and old, rich and poor, congregated together; a classless collective, paying homage to democracy.
Nigerians went to the polls yesterday to elect a new president and members of the National Assembly. Since 1999, this ritual of electing presidents and national legislators has occurred every four years.
The monotony it had become was this time broken by the titillating entry of a new major candidate, Peter Obi, who was saying the right things that was music to the ears of the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.
“He diagnoses the country’s failings more precisely than his rivals, though he is not much better at explaining how he would fix them,” the London-based Economist Newspaper stated of him.
The troubling gaffes of the ruling party candidate whose words and mannerisms had become sarcastic humour and memes on social media, and the unyielding memory of the massacre of #EndSARS protesters by the army in Lekki in October 2020 coaxed many to brandish their voters’ cards in breathless fury. The threat of power slipping from the north further cajoled many up-country to vote to reinforce an unprofitable political hegemony.
In all the 176, 846 polling units across the country, young men and women in service to the nation under the fifty-year-old National Youth Service Scheme, NYSC, were the support system and backbone for the elections.
In October 2011, the Presidential Committee on Post-Election Violence in parts of the country, accused then Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Presidential Candidate, Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s for trafficking in provocative remarks that played a role in the bloody violence that led to the death of 10 members of the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, and hundreds of others in the April 2011 presidential polls.
In a country cursed with bad rulers, the reality was that what was always going to be considered change or revolutionary was the repudiation of Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidates of the APC and the PDP.
They are after all old school politicians comfortable with the virulent status quo that has neither driven growth nor development for Nigeria, nor social provisioning for the masses.
Change was always going to be equated with Peter Obi and that was why millions of young Nigerians placed their zealous trust in his capacity to upend the old order and summon a new way of doing things.
It was a cry for help.
As the results trickle in, it is clear that Atiku Abubakar, the Peoples’ Democratic Party Candidate had made strong last-minute gains in the muslim north. His uncharacteristic definition of himself as the northern candidate in the election and the extremely valuable endorsement he received a few days to the election from Sheik Dahiru Bauchi, supreme leader of the Islamic Sufi group known as the Tijaniyyah, certainly went a long way in his besting the All Progressives Congress in that region.
It was always going to be a contest between the PDP and the APC in the core north. It is increasingly clear now that the battle for the mainstream votes in the Sahelian north has been won by Mr. Abubakar who is considered a “better Muslim” than the Yoruba-born Tinubu.
What this means is that Bola Tinubu, the ruling party candidate has been barricaded to his natal Southwest for electoral relevance in this election. It is perhaps, obvious now, that the bulk of the votes that would come Mr. Tinubu’s way would be harvested from his region and a few contiguous states. Whether that would be enough to help him achieve his lifelong ambition to be president of Nigeria remains to be seen. Improbable, it looks.
Mr. Tinubu helped to bring President Muhammadu Buhari to power after three dismal outings by the latter.
“If not me that led the war front, Buhari would not have emerged. He contested first, second and third times, but lost. He even said on television that he would not contest again, but I went to his home in Katsina, I told him you would contest and win, but you would not joke with Yoruba matters.
Since he has emerged, I have not been appointed minister. I didn’t get a contract. This time, it’s the Yoruba’s turn and in Yorubaland, it’s my tenure,” Tinubu asserted in June 2022 when it was becoming increasingly clear to him that president Buhari and his concentric circle of friends and advisers called the cabal were not favourably disposed to his contesting the APC primaries.
It is more and more obvious that Mr. Buhari might be unable to pay Tinubu back by getting majority of his fanatical supporters in the Islamic north to support his party’s presidential candidate.
It is unlikely that Mr. Tinubu would go home without a strong feeling of hurt at the way he has been treated, indeed payed back by the man he helped to bring to power twice in 2015 and 2019.
He hinted at the folly of the lacklustre support he’d been receiving from the presidential leadership in January 2023, when he harangued the cabal within President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of sabotaging the party by creating unnecessary hardships with naira re-design and fuel crisis weeks to the 2023 general election.
“Even if they said there is no fuel, we will trek to vote. They have a lot of mischief; they could say there is no fuel. They have been scheming to create a fuel crisis, but forget about it.
“Let them increase the price of fuel and hoard it; let them hoard money, the naira, we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they change the ink on naira notes; whatever their plans, it will come to nought. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose (Won Ma Lule).
“I am homeboy, I have come here, you will not be put to shame; we will take over the government from them, the traitors who wanted to contest with us. They had no experience”, he had added.
Peter Obi seems to be doing very well in the Southeast and South-south regions as well as in Plateau and Benue states.
That was always expected. He is also giving a strong showing in Lagos, the heartland of Mr. Tinubu.
The next few days would show whether a second round of voting is needed or whether Atiku, Obi or Tinubu has captured the highest political prize in the country.
INEC suspends election in parts of Edo, others
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday suspended the election for Esan North/Esan South/Igueben federal constituency and rescheduled it for March 11.
Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman stated this while briefing journalists on the situation reports about the ongoing Presidential and National Assembly elections.
Yakubu said the decision was sequel to the absence of the logo of one of the political parties in the contest on the ballot paper but only acronym.
“I will also like to say that in Edo state, we have a situation that we handled yesterday. One of the parties whose acronym is on the results sheets but the logo is not on the ballot paper in a federal constituency, after a meeting with the stakeholders, the decision was taken, since the materials are intact, to countermand the election.
“So, we have suspended the election for Esan North/Esan South/Igueben. The ballot papers will be reprinted and the election will now hold along with the state constituency elections on March 11, that is in the next two weeks.
“We are determined that no Nigeria should and would be disenfranchised. We have been responding to some of the situations as they arise and we are going to do overnight,” he said.
The INEC chairman also announced the suspension of polls in parts of Abia and Kebbi States.
Stolen BVAS: Can Nigerians take INEC’s words to the bank?
Despite assurances by the INEC that everything was ready for the exercise and security was tight, organised hoodlums succeeded in snatching a number of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) disenfranchising many citizens..
BVAS is used for both fingerprint and facial authentication during accreditation and results therefrom are uploaded to the iReV for the viewing of election results real time.
The multi-layer process eliminates the possibility of voting by identity theft using another person’s Permanent Voter Card (PVC).
At the Saturday’s general election, INEC disclosed incidences of the snatching of BVAS as against ballot boxes stealing in previous elections.
Mahmood Yakubu in his briefings on the election process said that there were cases of BVAS snatching in parts of the country.
Yakubu first said thugs had attacked and snatched BVAS machines in Delta and Katsina states but that they had replaced or recovered and voting continued, noting that attention has now shifted from ballot paper snatching to BVAS.
“Oshimili LGA of Delta State, thugs attacked a polling unit and two BVAS machines were lost in the process. But again, determined that the election must continue, we were able to replace the stolen BVAS machines, reinforce security agencies and voting continued in that location.
“Similarly, in Safana LGA of Katsina State, thugs attacked one of our voting locations and snatched 6 BVAS machines. But again, we were able to recover and use the spare BVAS machines and reinforce security for voting to continue in that location.
“Happily, security agencies have recovered three of the BVAS machines but three are still held by the thugs. So in these locations, the target of attack was actually the BVAS machines, no longer our ballot papers or ballot boxes,” he said.
He also said that the Commission had lost additional three BVAS machines in Ayamelo in Anambra State but they were recovered by contingency arrangements to respond to any such attack.
He said: “Unfortunately, we continue to lose some of the BVAS devices. I reported in the morning, the loss of devices in Delta and in Safana local government area of Katsina state.
“But unfortunately, we also lost three BVAS machines in Ayamelo in Anambra State, but we have recovered from all these losses because we have contingency arrangements to respond to any such attack.”
Yakubu went ahead to say that INEC has lost ballot boxes, but it appears that the target of thuggery is now the BVAS, saying INEC will continue to protect the process and proceed courageously to conclude the election in a very free, fair and credible manner.
While he said the snatched BVAS have been replaced, the obvious amongst Nigerians is whether those could not be used to manipulate election results, provoking the questions whether Nigerians can to to the bank with INEC promises.