Article written

  • on 02.04.2015
  • at 01:40 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

Nigeria 2015: Jonathan’s defeat the result of a perfect political storm 0

The victory of Muhammadu Buhari in Nigeria’s Presidential elections, announced yesterday, signals an outstanding reversal for a man who had come up short 3 times previously. African democracies, in general, are yet to perfect the art of regularly changing presidents. In Nigeria, before yesterday, no incumbent had ever failed to gain re-election, and given the patronage made possible through the structure of the Nigerian petro-state, and 16 years of dominance at all political levels, unseating the PDP was always going to be a huge task.

Nigeria’s political history has always stacked one national party against 2 or 3 smaller ones, making it near-impossible to lose the centre once there. A number of attempts to unite the opposition, most recently on the eve of the 2011 elections, failed. However, the much needed merger finally happened over the period spanning the end of 2013 and the start of 2014, giving the opposition enough time for an assault on the Presidency.

United opposition

French sociologist (Maurice) Duverger’s Law asserts that in a system where the winner of an election is the one with the most votes, things eventually boil down to a 2 party state. Nigeria’s opposition parties realised that without a merger, they could never hope to challenge the PDP. One of the principal architects of this merger was Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State.

Only Tinubu retained his governorship seat in Lagos after the 2003 elections, when his colleagues in the Alliance for Democracy party in the South West were swept out of office. He then set about building his own political empire, with Lagos as its base. This became the platform on which he would later mount a national challenge, together with other governors who left the ruling party, most prominently Rabiu Kwankwaso from Kano and Rotimi Amaechi from Rivers State.

By the time the elections came round, the APC had 14 governors, and given the influence of the governors (see my previous) over local political structures, it put certain states firmly in play.

Jega and INEC

After the disaster that was the 2007 elections, a person like Attahiru Jega was needed to restore credibility to the electoral process. At every public statement and appearance, the native of Kebbi State radiated a calm and authority under pressure. He had to demonstrate this calm when, in one of the most dramatic moments ever on live Nigerian television, a former minister Godsday Orubebe – the PDP representative for the final phase of the collation process – began to accuse the INEC chairman of bias against the ruling party, calling him a “tribalist”. Jega handled that episode expertly, stating that Orubebe should make his complaints through the appropriate channels (this not being them), and his conduct has restored faith in the political process.

There were, of course, some lapses. The production and distribution of PVCs was very problematic. In states like Ogun, a few hundred thousand people did not get theirs. The Continuous Voter Registration exercise was also poorly executed, failing to capture everyone who wanted to be registered. On Election Day itself, polling centre agents arrived late in many parts of the country, which meant that the voting process carried on overnight in some places. Some who got their PVCs had also changed addresses, and due to movement restrictions on Election Day, could not get to polling centres. The collation of results was similarly a stop-start process drawn out over two days, while unofficial results had already begun to make the rounds, leaving space for both major parties to push their narratives in the media.

Contine reading on: African Arguments

by Joachim MacEbong

Photo Credit: Flickr/ Hello World Media

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