With Femi Akintunde-Johnson
As my people are fond of saying: time is a tedious master; sometimes, there will be volume of words and no allowance for expression, and then there is another occasion with excess of idle time, and words fail the speaker. Repressed by space and conditions, we shall continue to try and press our reflections into space lest they become outdated and overwhelmed by sheer speed and variety of cascading challenges that are the lot of Nigerians of the 21st century.
Sun-Scorching of Incumbency Factor
Somehow, a phenomenon in Nigerian political architecture is gradually being pulled down. It’s a slow and painful exercise, but the signs are clear that it is unraveling. Godfathers and king-makers and tin-gods are dropping, or being kicked off their high horses, to the jubilant consternation of activists and spectators. We have seen “invincible” emperors, modern-day potentates, arrogant ex-public servants and glorified boot-lickers receive well-aimed kicks in the butts – some are still speechless, while the incurably arrogant still strut around as if it’s all some sort of “misunderstanding”… they are wallowing in denial – too deeply sussed in their own fecal discharge to appreciate the power of a full dip in the communal river of humility.
In the North, long considered the motley crowd of political agitation, the news coming out indicates a more radical disposition to leadership recruitment roughly hewn in some sort of sophistication. Of course, the political establishment is not overwhelmed into cowering in a corner, tending its wounds. The political merchants and dealers are fighting back, with any weapon within sight, irrespective of its crudeness.
Leading the way, unsurprisingly, are the Kano warriors who voted massively (well, relatively) for President Muhammadu Buhari (1,474,786) against Atiku Abubakar of PDP (391,593). However, in the governorship election, the people chose to express their disgust at the alleged dollar-gate videos where the incumbent governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, was allegedly captured receiving, counting and pocketing what was generally believed to be US dollars in kickbacks. As at the last kick, before collation suspended, the man who boasted last year that Kano would give Buhari five million votes could only muster for himself 987,819 votes to PDP’s Abba Kabir-Yusuf (1,014,474) after valid votes from all 44 local government areas were collated. The INEC call of ‘inconclusive election” in 176 PUs saved Ganduje’s blushes momentarily.
States like Gombe (where PDP’s Ibrahim Dankwambo (222,868) could not rub the shine of incumbency on the electorates to defeat APC’s Inuwa Yahaya (364,179); Sokoto’s Aminu Tambuwal, who had designs to rule this country, sweated profusely (scoring 489,558) to barely fence off his former deputy, Ahmed Aliyu of APC (486,145), and now has a second chance today to attempt his re-election in the re-run polls.
In Plateau State, incumbent Solomon Lalong of APC (583,255) is panting to defeat old soldier, Jeremiah Useni of PDP (538,326) with a tottering “Inconclusive Election” to decide the winner today. The painful reality of uncertainty has dawned on Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba where fiefdoms of power are being rooted or threatened, and new allegiances and countervailing strategies are being activated to redress the disgrace of March 9!
However, the story is less inspiring in the southern part of Nigeria. A spate of returns dog the South East where incumbent governors seemingly strolled through the races: in Abia, Okezie Ikpeazu garnered 261,127 in spite of the new-found momentum of APC (which polled only 99,574); Enugu’s Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi was ruthless with 449,935, leaving a less than paltry 10,423 for APC. Similar misfortune was the emblem of APC in Ebonyi (Dave Umahi polled 393,043 to APC’s 81,703). Imo with its peculiar madness had the APC incumbent governor, Rochas Okorocha, rooting for another party, leaving his party, under which he contested a senatorial seat two weeks earlier, with a slim 96,458 votes in third position, thus allowing PDP’s Emeka Ihedioha to breast the tape with 273,404 votes.
Yet, there is nothing to indicate that the handsome votes in returning those governors were testaments to good governance, infrastructural development, exemplary leadership and demonstratable improvement in the lives of the electorates. Many observers alleged the insidious influence of cash and brashness in voter-inducement during the elections.
Some semblance of comeuppance was still achieved in parts of the South… as they say in football commentaries, few states saved the blushes of the so-called enlightened gentry of the South West. Remarkably, the mumblings of Ogun and Oyo governors warm the hearts of progressives. Ibikunle Amosun (Ogun) was particularly bellicose, and turned common sense and civility up side down with the style and tenor with which he set about installing his choices in virtually all available spots, and imposing his will on the people, even resisting the barricade of his political party, aping Okorocha’s perfidy. When he could not secure his minions the electoral seats (governor, senators, HoR and state assembly), the Owu man simply moved them into a makeshift party, APM, to continue the battle of wits and attrition, while he remained in APC to stir the mud effectively(?) Apparently, even his “pal”, the president, was unable to dissuade him from his eventual collision with disgrace, and near all-round losses. He got a Senate seat though, by the curve of his “bogus” cap!
Amosun’s less truculent brother in Oyo, Abiola Ajimobi was comprehensively whitewashed. He lost all, including his own senatorial ambition. His governorship candidate, Adebayo Adelabu was severely worsted by a veteran trialist, PDP’s Seyi Makinde (third attempt at this stage). Adelabu scored 357,982 to Makinde’s 515,621. Emphatic.
The case of Kwara was apparently written in the stars – the young Kwara strongman, Bukola Saraki, was completely separated from his near mythical possession, with surgical precision. All the candidates of his party, PDP, lost, and the factor of a relatively successful incumbency was rendered null and void.
Perhaps, the elections next time will give us more curds to chew, and more profound opportunity to more seriously interrogate the possibility that the overarching influence and indulgences of incumbency, at least, at the state level, are gradually being moderated by electorates’ sophistication and gravitas, voter reprisals, more robust election management… or it is all merely a mirage occasioned by ephemeral anger, a chink in the armour of our vastly unconscionable political class.
We shall enrich our democracy further, hopefully, and not relapse, when the elections for the six absentee states, all in the South, come into the fore in the next two or three years. The following states did not participate in the March 9 governorship election: Osun, Ondo, Edo, Kogi, Bayelsa and Anambra.
Today, let the six “inconclusive” states make a sterner statement on the inviolable right of the Nigerians to change or retain their leaders, freely and fairly – and let us pray for Rivers State.