Joshua J. Omojuwa reckons that Nigeria now has three major political parties

This has been a consequential election for Nigeria in many ways. Whilst 2015 landed a validation in the belief that an incumbent president and political party can be defeated, 2023 has shown that politics as it used to be has further shifted. Several fundamental things helped to shift the dynamics of the election before the monumental effect of votes from a whole new generation, Gen Z!

The APC’s Tinubu-Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket asked a lot of a substantial number of Christian voters across the country. The PDP’s Atiku ticket that would have extended the north’s hold on ‘Mr. President’ asked too much of many southern voters. Add these to the fact there is a substantial number of Nigerians who now prefer a political order led by anything but PDP or APC, there was indeed an opportunity to upset the power balance.

Then came Peter Obi, the man who reaped the harvest of angry voters; the ones who could not stand a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the ones who felt another northern president after Buhari would be unjust and the ones who did not want anything to do with the mainstream political order – PDP and APC – which had nothing to do with whether they fielded a northern presidential candidate or a Muslim-Muslim ticket. They intersected into a competitive bunch that officially lost the election but clearly redrew Nigeria’s political map.

Opinions are harder to have these days because conversations have become impossible in the public space. Many prefer the comfort of their privacy and the residual trust of their friends and family to say what they genuinely think about these times and these issues. I feel for everyone who cannot share their thoughts publicly on account of the fear of a mob – present across every political divide, albeit with a lot more lopsided per capita representation in one – but what needs to be said must be said. Those who would disagree are free to and are even encouraged to.

Conversations help us all to learn because amid sharing, we take from one another. That such conversations unfortunately cannot happen without the contributions of those who are only able to contribute insults and curses – often times because that’s the highest level of engagement their minds can aspire to and not because they wouldn’t have loved to do better – should not mean that we should all disappear from the public square or choose to say as little as possible whilst allowing for the elephants in the room to grow bigger, until there is no breathing space for anyone.

Back to the matter. In essence, we now have three major political parties in Nigeria, the incumbent APC, the old horse PDP and the agile Labour Party (LP). If this election was a football tournament, even though the official results show they haven’t won the whole thing, LP would still be named player-of-the-tournament. This is on account of how they disrupted everything. That disruption though was an outcome borne out of many factors, some already stated above. Having listed the LP as a major party now, going by the profile of most of its voters, it remains a sort of pre-APC Buhari-esque phenomenon. Extremely popular at one end of the country to be a factor, not enough popularity at the other end to meet the constitutional benchmark to clinch the presidency. Buhari’s though was an influence derived more from the myth of the person unlike this one that was formed long before it had a focal point in Obi.

A lot has been said about how INEC botched the process of the 2023 presidential election. The lot of it to do with the manual collation process that many expected to be like the mandatory electronic voter accreditation process. Many have understandably hidden behind the cloud of confusion that this noise created to make it appear like there were three parties that had the ability to meet the constitutionally mandated 25 per cent in 2/3rd of the 36 states and the FCT. On the suggestion that one needed at least 25 per cent in the FCT to meet the constitutional requirement to be declared president, it shouldn’t even feature in the conversation. The FCT voter is not more equal than the rest of voters across the country and the FCT does not have any form of veto power enshrined in the constitution.

 Only two parties had a spread across the country and if you conducted that election in its purest, fairest and freest form 500 more times, in the contexts that preceded the last election, only two parties were set up to have their votes spread across the country. It did appear like one of the parties banked on a run-off to carry it to the ticket. Of the three major parties, the PDP turned out the ultimate loser, even though it finished first runner up.

All three parties have their work cut out long before and after the Supreme Court closes the argument. History suggests that in the presence of three major parties, ceteris paribus, the incumbent stands favoured; it’s a question of getting the votes of those who want them and having the votes of those who do not want them divided. The LP could double down on what it already has but that means it would have to continue to isolate the chunk elsewhere it needs to meet the 25 of 2/3 of 37. If it decides to play the pragmatic politics it needs to play to expand its base up north, it must calculate the effect that would have on what it currently has. The PDP on its part has a party to build post-Atiku.

All of these will play alongside the sort of government the APC continues to run – this is without prejudice to the eventual Supreme Court judgment. Whatever happens though, anyone who still thinks votes do not count does not need anyone to convince them, they are always free to wake up when they choose to. That is not a deep sleep, that is someone intent on pretending to be asleep.

 Omojuwa is chief strategist, Alpha Reach/ author, Digital Wealth Book

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