15.2m Nigerians Okay President Buhari’s 4+4

By Editor on February 27, 2019

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President Muhammadu Buhari

“That Muhammadu Buhari, having satisfied the requirements of the law, having scored the highest number of votes is hereby returned elected”.

With those twenty-one words by Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the returning officer declared President Muhammadu Buhari as the duly-certified winner of the presidential election held on Saturday, February 23, 2019. 

Buhari, fondly called Mai Gaskiya by millions of loyalists, supporters and followers across the North, polled 15,191,847 votes. 

In this opening part of a series by SOUNDBITE News anchored by the Managing Editor, Nkiru Emeka-Nwankpa with additional reports from Suleiman Adamu in Yola, Uche Emeka-Nwankpa in Daura and Segun Olabisi in Lagos, we present analysis of the undercurrent in the just-concluded presidential elections. EXCERPT: 

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To political pundits and commentators, Buhari is the greatest and most indomitable moving political machine on Nigeria’s current political canvas. He was pronounced winner after defeating Atiku Abubakar, his closest challenger and former vice president and candidate of the leading rival party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who scored 11,262,978 votes as runner-up.  

Flashback

In 2015, he flew the flag of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) after running unsuccessfully in similar races for two consecutive times, crossing from ANPP to CPC, to finally unhorse and terminate PDP’s 16-year grip, thereby making history as the first to challenge and defeat an incumbent.

Professor Yakubu, the INEC helsman who, immediately after the election on Saturday, February 23, 2019 had attracted unusual global attention, said while issuing the Certificate of Return to President-elect Buhari, that the commission had done its best by ensuring that the votes of all Nigerians counted. Promising to sustain the tempo in the forth-coming Governorship and State Assembly elections slated for Saturday, March 9, 2019, he urged all Nigerians to comply with the electoral rules.

Will Atiku Play Goodluck Jonathan?

Since the formal declaration of the final outcome of the presidential polls, Nigerians have been reacting with some even urging Vice President Atiku Abubakar to concede defeat and congratulate President Buhari. 

If he does so, he will be doing something new as the first to follow in the mature example set by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. If he does not, he will also not be doing something strange as he will seen as toeing the line familiar with Buhari who declined in the three times he lost but headed straight to the court.   

 Atiku Abubakar

A Battle Like No Other

For Atiku Abubakar, who served as vice president between 1999 and 2007, it was perhaps the toughest battle of his political life and perhaps his closest attempt to clinch Nigeria’s most coveted political seat in the Presidential Villa after many years of criss-crossing the national political landscape. 

Not a few observers believe that it was a hard-fought victory for Mr Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), after a rigorous political campaign that saw the 76-year old retired army general traverse the 36 state capitals as he sought a much-needed re-election.

With this victory, he becomes the second former military Head of State to become a re-elected President after former President Olusegun Obasanjo who was first elected in 1999 and re-elected in 2003 on the platform of the PDP.

Exhuming Orubebe? 

Before Prof. Yakubu’s announcement of the final results in the wee hours (precisely 4.45am) of Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at the magnificent Africa Hall of the International Conference Centre, venue of the National Election Collation Centre, the PDP had rejected the outcome saying the election was marred by disenfranchisement and manipulation of figures.

The party urged the INEC to discontinue the announcement of the presidential election results, a request the electoral umpire declined leaving the aggrieved party the option to head to the court in line with the law.

But the ruling party described the opposition party’s reaction as “antics” to stop the INEC from completing the electoral process in what could have turned out as a replay of what many now prefer to call the Orubebe drama in Nigeria’s political lexicon. 

It would be recalled that after the last 2015 presidential elections while INEC’s former national chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega was announcing the results, PDP’s representative, Elder Godsday Orubebe, a very close ally of former President Goodluck Jonathan widely seen as fast losing the election, stormed the venue, went straight to Jega, seized the micro-phone screaming, railing, cursing, stomping and pacing, asking Jega, who maintained his cool while the drama lasted, to stop the announcement. 

Unable to match Jega’s calmness, Orubebe stormed out of the venue into the nation’s electoral history as an attempted abductor of the electoral process, an accusation he has laboured albeit unsuccessfully to disclaim till date. 

 Goodluck Jonathan

Osita Chidoka playing Orubebe?

Fast-forward to early this morning at the same collation centre, before the final declaration by the INEC national chairman Mahmood Yakubu, attention shifted to former Aviation Minister, Osita Chidoka when he stood up to speak as Atiku Abubakar’s spokesperson and representative. Sighting Chidoka at the venue instantly unsettled not a few persons bearing in mind that he was one of those ex-President Goodluck Jonathan named in his book, My Transition Hours, as pressurizing him to reject the 2015 results. In fact, many feared he might exhume the Orubebe ghost but, in his usual mature, urbane and academic mien said, it was curious that up to five million votes were recorded from areas where the card readers malfunctioned.

Then he dropped the hammer: Chairman Yakubu, don’t declare any winner yet!

This created a mild ripple in the audience made up of party agents, local and international observers and journalists.

Responding, the INEC boss who waited for the ripples to settle cleared his throat and said that the Electoral Act only called for the voiding of such votes in situations where the card readers were deliberately sabotaged, adding that votes arising from such cases did not tally with the figures cited by Mr. Chidoka. While the audience waited for Chidoka to further press his case, the PDP team went mute perhaps mindful of the implications of giving away its grounds when and if its loss is challenged in the court.       

 INEC Boss, Professor Mahmoud Yakubu

Grain in PDP’s grouse?  

Part of PDP’s grouse may have been linked to the alleged spate of election-related brigandage as observers believe that there were, indeed, election violence in several parts of the country with injuries and fatalities recorded in Lagos, Rivers, Kano, Kogi, Zamfara, Anambra, Ogun, among other states.

For example, no fewer than 43 people are believed to have died from election-related violence reported across over eight states in the country, according to the Situation Room, conducted by a coalition of over 67 civil society organizations.

However, irrespective of the reported violence, President Muhammadu Buhari comfortably cleared 19 states, securing the statutory 25 percent of votes cast in 24 or more of the 36 states. He won in Kaduna, Jigawa, Niger, Yobe, Gombe, Kogi, Nasarawa, Kwara, Osun, Ekiti, Bauchi, Lagos, Ogun, Kano, Katsina, Borno, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Zamfara states.

 

North’s political skill re-enacted 

It is interesting to note, according to observers, that no violence was reported in the majority of these states, fuelling belief that the President’s political handlers especially the governors worked hard to ensure that election-related violence was nipped in the bud. 

‘’It would appear that the North continues to display its political sophistication in successive elections. Even in the insurgency-torn Adamawa, Borno and Yobe States, the people came out en masse to vote defying Boko Haram scare-mongering. In the South where Buhari’s political handlers concentrated on getting the statutory 25 per cent, violence had a field day’’, an analyst said.

Vice President Atiku Abubakar secured 25 per cent in 17 states and the FCT, winning Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia, Ondo, Adamawa, Taraba, Oyo, Edo, Benue, Imo, Plateau, Cross River, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, and the FCT.

 

Shittu Mohammed, APDA and endorsement politics

The 2019 presidential election will go down in history as producing the highest number of political parties whose national chairmen metamorphosed into presidential candidates leading to the creation, nurturing and strengthening of the brand of politics called endorsement politics which its proponents maintain is not just new but an effective weapon of reining in a more purposeful leadership recruitment process that engenders true peace, unity, growth and development of the country. 

It is for this reason that the just-concluded presidential election, despite featuring the highest number of candidates was deeply characterised by the politics of endorsements. It is a brand of 21 century politics that has become popularised by a politician whose political experience dates back to the Second Republic.

Alhaji Shiitu Mohammed

Alhaji Shittu Mohammed, national chairman of Advanced Peoples Democratic Party (APDA) where Kingsley Macebuh, a U.S-trained teacher and Professor of Political Theory serves as the National Secretary and head of the new party’s strategy think-thank.

Prof. Macebuh told this newspaper that though the party’s campaign programme lacked funds to sell its ideology to Nigerians, he was not surprised that the party secured votes in many states. He attributed this to his national chairman’s media visibility.

He said this was also why over 20 other presidential candidates agreed to join his chairman to endorse Buhari because of what they saw as his electability for a second term based on what many Nigerians especially how the poor and the down-trodden saw in the president as their true hero.   

Nupe-born Shittu Mohammed, successful farmer, business man and political horse-trader from Niger State led about 22 presidential candidates to endorse Buhari on the eve of February 16 before the election was postponed. 

 

SOUNDBITE News sought Shittu Mohammed’s immediate reaction to Buhari’s re-election.

‘’We thank Almighty Allah for his mercies. God is a Nigerian. I congratulate all Nigerians because the result is a true reflection of the wishes of the majority of Nigerians. When I led over 20 presidential candidates to President Buhari on Friday, February 12, 2019 on the eve of the elections, I had no illusion whatsoever that it was the most fit, proper and rightful thing to do.

‘’We have come to a point in the life of this nation to align ourselves to what is right. As a human being, President Buhari may have his faults but what you cannot deny is his passion to get things right in the country. 

‘’We endorsed him because we have heard the cries of the poor and the down-trodden who see him as perhaps the last surviving hero of the moment who had the guts and gravitas to confront the dragons behind Nigeria’s many years of woes. So let us file behind him. We are full of hope that the next four years will begin to produce the fruits of his first tenure Insha Allah’’, Shittu Mohammed said. 

 

Low Voter Turnout

There were 73 presidential candidates on the ballot in an election marred by low voter turnout (which is 35.7 percent far short of 44 percent recorded in 2015). At the last count, the contest was essentially narrowed down to President Buhari and ex-Vice President Abubakar. For the latter, and still at 72, not a few think it is probably his last attempt at the presidency after previous unsuccessful attempts. However, none is sure for now because of yet-to-emerge variables and permutations.

 

4+4 as imprimatur

Way into the early days of President Buhari’s campaigns, the sign 4+4 showing four fingers each on both hands began to gain currency in Nigeria’s political sign language. It cannot be ascertained who actually invented it but it soon gained wider vibrancy as the President’s presidential campaigns moved from ground to another across the country. Best put, it means two full terms of four years each. 

 

Which way Nigeria?

For the re-elected President, the next four years is an opportunity to prove critics of his Administration wrong on many issues particularly around the need to forge the peace and unity of the country which some tend to believe had been altered since the 2015 elections. To those who are non-partisan, the President‘s nationwide broadcast on the eve of the February 23, 2019 election presented a plank good enough to commence a restoration of national cohesion in line with the dream of the nation’s founding fathers. 

The next four years also presents a great opportunity for the President’s image handlers to reverse the narrative around public understanding of the president’s persona believed to have been battered, rightly or wrongly by bad politics and sheer hate rhetoric driven by people at the receiving end of his patriotic actions as a focussed anti-corruption fighter.  

Corruption trials involving politically-exposed persons will be one of the areas where sure-footed actions will intensify especially against the backdrop of perceptions that the APC is a haven providing cover and refuge for the untouchable and corrupt. 

It is the view of many that within the time frame of the renewed tenure for the President, practical efforts need be taken to address the divisions that had been created since 2015 along ethnic, religious and political fault-lines. Though the President’s job is already cut for him, it is not his job alone. Nigerians across the various divides have roles to play. While a Truth and Reconciliation Committee has been suggested, the President, working with the Council of State, is expected to take the lead.

Buhari, Atiku and Namu Namu 

Before the elections were permutations on how and where the pendulum will swing. The two front-runners are not just northerners but Muslims. While Buhari hails from Daura in Katsina State in the North West, Atiku Abubakar hails from Adamawa State in the North East.

In the build-up to the polls, there were strong opinions that Atiku Abubakar held the ace in both the North-west and North-east, widely considered as Buhari’s major support base in his three previous attempts before finally winning in 2015. They even went as far as positing that Atiku was sure to clear the votes in much of the States in the South-West, South-East and South-South to coast home to victory. But the calculations have backfired with Buhari bursting their balloon.

For the Record

At the end of voting and collation of results, Buhari won in all the states in the North East and North West except Adamawa and Taraba States. His victory makes it the second time, since 1999, that an incumbent will be re-elected, after former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s move in 2003.

In 2015, Goodluck Jonathan who lost to Buhari in his failed re-election bid went down into history as the first incumbent president to lose.

 

Source SOUNDBITE NEWS

Posted on February, 27 2019

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