The Cattle Rearer Chronicles — The Stolen Mandate
The weekend of 23rd — 24th March has come and gone, leaving behind different emotional responses among Nigerians. It was the weekend the 2019 General Elections into the Presidency, the Senate and House of Representatives held, after the 11th hour postponement from original date of February 16th. It is no longer news that Nigeria is split right down the middle. The split started under the Goodluck Jonathan Presidency as for the first time citizens began to attack the President directly and others jumped to his defense, with social media bringing these exchanges mainstream. At that time there were still a neutral few who were called “fencists”. By the 2019 Elections, there were almost no more fencists to be found. Muhammadu Buhari’s time at the helm has so divided the country that people had become clearly for or against his re-election bid. It is against this backdrop, that reactions to how the election panned out and the declaration by the not so Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that Buhari had won his re-election bid, can be viewed.
As a caveat, I must say I have firmly been in the not Buhari camp for quite a while and readers of these series will know that. It has never been personal, but about a clear understanding that Nigeria deserves far better than Buhari (and that we clearly have far better people too). It was clear in my mind that Buhari needed to be defeated and for a long time I struggled with making a decision on which candidate not named Buhari to plump for. My shortlist narrowed to two candidates: Kingsley Moghalu and Atiku Abubakar. My guy Toye Adedapo had written a pretty convincing piece about Moghalu’s candidacy, see here and Atiku’s credentials were pretty strong as “Atikulated” here. I vacillated between both until the week of February 11th when I settled on the Atiku candidacy for a couple of reasons, the Atiku/Obi ticket was far compelling than the Moghalu/Getso one, it spoke of taking this matter serious. The other reason was that Atiku’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) seemed better suited for the battle which the elections were shaping up to be…..and boy was I right. When all was said and done, Moghalu finished in 14th place with 21,886 votes. An election cycle too early perhaps.
I take a data driven and logic based approach to most things. In my analysis of the potential outcome of the 2019 Presidential election, I took the 2015 results as my starting point and called out the key elements as follows:
Muhammadu Buhari as a participant in both, with his base largely intact.
All Progressives Congress (APC) and PDP as the key parties in both, with their areas of strength largely the same despite the defections back and forth.
Buhari would not be going up against a Southerner but against a prominent Northerner, a Muslim and Fulani.
On the basis of these 3 key elements, I surmised that Atiku had a very strong chance to unseat Buhari on February 16th. When the elections were postponed a few hours to the start of voting my antennae went up; Nigeria is not new to election hanky panky and the excuse given by the INEC Chairman only made it worse. He said the postponement was due to logistics issues, bearing in mind that he had changed the team responsibility for election logistics just 6 weeks before the elections. Then the ruling APC brought in drama that became quite suspicious as their Chairman Adams Oshiomhole was quite vehement in his condemnation of INEC and their decision to postpone. Oshiomhole’s ardent vituperation made my antennae go up even further as it just seemed a little over the top. As events of the following weekend would show, it became a case of “aje ke lano, omo ku leni (translated from Yoruba — “the witch cried yesterday, a child died today”).
As reports of the election proceedings started filtering through, it became obvious that it was different strokes for different folks and the all too familiar North-South dichotomy was in full effect. While the elections were going on peacefully and quietly up north, there were widespread cases of violence and election disruption in parts of the South (so far 39 deaths were reported to have happened during the elections). In Lagos, thugs attacked polling units in specific neighborhoods known to have predominantly people from the South East. In the South South elections were disrupted in several locations in Rivers state (Abonema, Okrika and Ikwerre local government area), Bayelsa state and Akwa Ibom state, particularly with heavy military presence in Rivers. In the South East, heavy military presence was again a feature of the elections, much unlike the North. Then stories began to emerge from the South South that the army personnel posted to preserve the peace were actually disrupting the elections and preventing people from voting.
As bad as the 2007 General Elections had been, 2019 was beginning to make that look like child’s play. Independent foreign electoral observers pointed out these issues in their reports.
INEC however chose to go ahead with the process and began to announce the results on Monday February 25th. As expected, Buhari was losing votes to a fellow prominent Northerner in the North. He wasn’t losing enough to deny him big wins but enough to close the gap significantly and put him in danger of losing if the South followed the traditional pattern as expected. In total, Buhari’s votes across the core Northern states where he had always done well were down by 8%. What was especially surprising was how Buhari was able to increase his votes in Borno by 77%, the state where Boko Haram and ISWAP have continued to hold sway, same state where on the morning of the elections there was intense shelling.
In the same states, Atiku and the PDP made gains on the 2015 outcome. Not only did they succeed in taking a small slice from the Buhari as shown above, they were also able to attract more votes into pool and took those as well. A very logical outcome given Atiku’s status in the North and support from key Northern Political Leaders like Aminu Tambuwal (Governor of Sokoto) and Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso (former Governor of Kano).
Things were clearly looking good for Atiku and so the attention switched to the South. In the South South and South East, a pattern began to emerge that suddenly confirmed reports that voter suppression had been employed to ensure votes from the South South and South East that were more than likely to go to Atiku would be no where near what they had been during the 2015 elections. More incredulously, while the PDP votes were going down significantly in the SE and SS, the APC votes were going up significantly!
Amazing when you consider how the locals felt about Buhari’s 97 vs 5 comments and the various operations by the army that saw pythons dancing and crocodiles smiling. Buhari’s gains in the South compensated for the losses up North in a most bizarre fashion. The table below shows Buhari’s performance in 2015 and 2019 in the non APC states in SE and SS.
Across these 9 states, Buhari’s electoral performance improved by almost 300%!!! Stand out performances came from Abia (535%) and Bayelsa (2,188%!!!). Now this may even have made sense if it was a case of increased voter turnout all around, but that wasn’t the case at all. The table below shows how PDP fared in 2019 compared to 2015.
Atiku and the PDP lost almost half of the votes garnered by GEJ and PDP in 2015. Now perhaps some may say there was apathy in the South South as they had no skin in the game. However, an almost 70% reduction in votes in a state like Rivers where Governor Nyesom Wike holds sway is a result that defies reason. In the South East, logic was completely turned on its head. For the first time in more than 35 years, the Igbos had one of their own (a proven performer as former Governor of Anambra state) on a potential winning ticket, yet we are to believe that they chose to turn their backs on this opportunity and instead gave votes to a man who had openly shown disdain for Igbos and had not visited the region until his election campaign kicked off. Someone who had quite clearly refused to complete the one major project in the South East which they all were looking forward to — the Second Niger Bridge.
Anyone with clear sense of justice and wish for a Nigeria based on equity and fairness can clearly see that the results released by INEC were flawed. With such glaring irregularities, with millions of Nigerians disenfranchised, with reports of state actors such as the DSS, EFCC, Police and the Military clearly favoring one side over the other and actively participating in voter intimidation and suppression, it is quite beyond the pale that the Yakubu Mahmood led INEC deemed it fit to declare Muhammadu Buhari re-elected. In response, Atiku Abubakar rejected the INEC results and declared the elections the worst ever to be conducted in Nigeria.
I am in total support of Atiku’s decision to reject the result and seek legal redress. Though the odds remain stacked against him given the manner in which Buhari has suborned the Judiciary by suspending the Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen and replacing him with someone he believes will dance to his tune, Atiku has taken the right path…..that of honor. He has chosen to keep faith with the millions of Nigerians who cast their lot with him, hoping for a better Nigeria. It will be a long and hard battle against an opponent that has shown the willingness and audacity to use any means necessary to hold on to power. An opponent that continues to show little regard for human life. An opponent that will use state resources to continually tip the scale in his favor. However, it is a winnable battle and the longer he fights and the more he makes this not about himself but about the greater good, the more he will win the average Nigerian to his side.
As for Buhari who has chosen to steal the hopes and dreams of millions of Nigerians, who have seen their lives diminished over the last 4 years and looked forward to a brighter future with him out of the saddle, he must know that it is not yet uhuru. As Yorubas say, the child that says his mother will not sleep, he too won’t get to close his eyes. Buhari and his cohorts have chosen a path that will only end in ignominy. He could have left with his head held high, but when this all begins to unravel and the truth becomes very clear to all, the emperor’s nakedness will become apparent. Nigeria deserves better and Nigeria will get what she deserves…….it is only a matter of time.
Just before elections I put out a book on the Buhari government between 2015–2019.
The book is available on Okadabooks via this link https://publish.okadabooks.com/book/about/the_cattle_rearer_chronicles/25545 and on Amazon for Kindle via this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N2ZQW2F. Happy reading!