With the exception of Rivers state — where former friends are at war — governorship elections have been concluded across Nigeria on the not-so-unfamiliar note: the good, the bad and the ugly. As typical of Nigerian politicians, if they win, “the election was free and fair”; if they lose, “the election was rigged”. No politician rejects a result that favours him or her. It is worth celebrating, though, that many are accepting defeat these days and sending congratulatory messages to the winners. We can take this as a positive trend — as the Fourth Republic approaches its 20th anniversary. And, yes, I intend to take you through some interesting historical facts today ahead of the anniversary. A lot has happened in 20 years that we need to recollect.
Elections were held in 29 out of 36 states because of what Mr Peter Obi (then of APGA) did in 2007. Having fought for three years to win his election petition against Dr. Chris Ngige (then of PDP), Obi had spent just one year as governor of Anambra state when the 2007 election was held. He went to court to enforce his constitutional right to four years in office and the courts agreed with him. So his first term expired in 2010. Other states with similar litigation outcomes soon joined the train of “out of season” elections: Ondo, Edo, Ekiti, Osun, Bayelsa and Kogi. That, in sum, explains why governorship polls are now held in only 29 states during the general election. It is practically impossible to align them with the general election, so we will live with this for life.
But contrary to what you might have been told, Ngige was not the first sitting governor to be asked to vacate office. The “honour” goes to Mr. Boni Haruna (PDP), whose re-election as governor of Adamawa state in 2003 was nullified by the tribunal in March 2004 — but the Court of Appeal saved his neck thereafter. His opponent, Alhaji Adamu Modibbo (ANPP), would have done a Peter Obi before Peter Obi. At the time, the Court of Appeal was the last bus stop for governorship petition. This was changed to the Supreme Court by the National Assembly in 2010 to “deal” with Justice Ayo Salami, then president of the Court of Appeal, who had been accused of using his position to award governorships to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He denied the allegation.
Haruna might have survived by the skin of his teeth in 2003, but many governors were not that lucky. In fact, 11 incumbent governors were swept out of office that year — the highest in a single season. All but one of the six south-west governors (all AD) were defeated by PDP candidates. Only Governor Bola Tinubu of Lagos survived. However, in the 2015 general election, only one incumbent was defeated — Alhaji Ramalan Yero (PDP) of Kaduna state. Later in the year, Captain Wada Idris failed to get re-elected as the governor of Kogi state. In 2019, only two incumbents have lost so far — Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi and Jibrilla Bindow of Adamawa. We have to wait for the outcome of Rivers’ election to know if we need to update the casualty figure.
Despite all the hue and cry, PDP did not do badly in the 2019 general election. It gained four states (Bauchi, Adamawa, Oyo and Imo) and lost two (Gombe and Kwara). Zamfara is still in play. If the Supreme Court rules that APC was not qualified to field candidates in Zamfara, PDP would gain an additional state. And if Senator Ademola Adeleke maintains his victory at the tribunal up to Supreme Court level, Osun would also go the way of PDP. If Rivers goes in the bag too, PDP could soon be in charge of 17 states as against 18 for APC. With Kogi in play in November, PDP could even dream of having 18 states to APC’s 17 and APGA’s one. It is a possibility. On the evidence of this, I wouldn’t think the 2019 general election was such a bad outing for the leading opposition party.
Comparatively, PDP lost eight states (all in the north) in the 2015 general election (before losing Kogi later in the year to make it nine). In fact, PDP did not gain a single state then, compared to four in 2019. As things stand, PDP will control 14 states, APC 20 and APGA one by May 29 (the missing state on the list is Rivers, whose result we may not know until another week). I understand that political emotions are still raw, but for PDP to even have the possibility of controlling up to 18 states by November 2019 is like a fairy tale. The party was virtually dead and buried after the 2015 elections and the mass defection to the new bride, the APC. It could be that Nigerians are disappointed in APC’s performance and are returning to their first husband. I can’t say for sure.
PDP used to pride itself as the largest party in Africa. In 1999, it produced 21 state governors as against APP’s nine and AD’s six. After the 2007 general election, PDP was controlling 28 states! The party was so arrogant that it continued to tell us it would rule Nigeria for 60 years, like the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) which ruled Mexico for 71 unbroken years from 1929 to 2000. PDP probably borrowed its green-white-red flag from the PRI. The PDP started showing signs of break-up in 2007 with the formation of the Reform Group, led by Senator Ken Nnamani, Senator Adolphus Wabara and Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari. Things began to fall apart with its “zoning” (power rotation) controversy in 2011 after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
Many PDP stalwarts blame President Goodluck Jonathan for the misfortune that hit them and led to the party’s near collapse in 2015. Some blamed him for not respecting the “zoning” (power rotation) policy of the party, which seemed to have hurt the PDP badly in northern Nigeria which it used to dominate. The “new PDP” group emerged in 2013, leading to the defection of five governors from the party. They teamed up with the ANPP (former APP), CPC, ACN (a party that broke away from AD) and a faction of APGA to form APC. The rest is history. Jonathan not only lost power as the incumbent president — the first in Nigeria’s history — his party could only win two states in the north, compared to 15 in 2011. That was a fall from Olympian heights. I would therefore say the 2019 general election did PDP some good.
The PDP could be mischievous by talking about the number of its “alumni” who are now APC governors. The governors-elect of Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Bauchi, Kwara and Ogun, among others, were once in the PDP in their careers, although they are wearing the APC jersey today. That was how powerful the PDP used to be. It is accurate to say it produced most governors, either as current members or alumni, in this year’s general election. Despite its famed power, PDP has never ruled three states: Borno, Yobe and Lagos. Its record of having ruled 33 out of 36 states in the last 20 years will be hard to match; APC and all its legacy parties have only ruled 26 states, with no luck in 10 yet. Taraba is the only northern state APC or any of its legacy parties has never ruled.
APC’s hold on Borno, Yobe and Lagos looks solid, so also is the eternal record held by Alhaji Ibrahim Geidam, the Yobe governor. When he leaves office in May, he would have ruled Yobe for over ten years. He became governor on January 27, 2009 when Senator Mamman Ali died. Giedam, as deputy, stepped in to complete Ali’s term and subsequently won two terms in office in 2011 and 2015. This record cannot be broken. Under the amended constitution, if you succeed your principal, your tenure starts counting immediately. There is no “completing” anybody’s tenure again. Yobe had also produced the second longest-serving governor: Senator Bukar Ibrahim, governor in the Third Republic from January 1991 to November 1993 who later served two terms from 1999-2007.
Ibrahim served as governor for 119 months while Geidam would have spent 124 months and two days by May 29, 2019. Rev. Jolly Nyame also governed Taraba thrice and matches Ibrahim’s record. Alhaji Abubakar Audu was in the same class; he could have matched Ibrahim’s record if he had not died on his way to winning the 2015 election in Kogi state. He was elected in 1992 and 1999 but lost in 2003. Only one living person can still equal their record: Chief Segun Osoba, governor of Ogun state from 1992-93. He was elected again in 1999 but lost in 2003. He can still have a go, legally speaking. A court had ruled in 2003 that the Third Republic tenures of Audu, Osoba, Nyame and Ibrahim would not count in the two-term limit permitted by the 1999 constitution.
Back to the 2015 governorship elections, it is very interesting to note that Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal defeated APC’s Aliyu Ahmed with a margin of 342 votes. Tambuwal has described this as the slimmest victory margin in the history of Nigeria. I do not have any evidence to contradict him. But if Senator Adeleke eventually becomes governor of Osun state, his own margin could be 354. The tribunal has annulled the supplementary election of September 2018 which gave victory to APC’s Alhaji Adegboye Oyetola. The difference of 12 votes would still make Tambuwal the “slimmest margin” record holder. The biggest gap in 2019 is in Borno state, where APC’s Babagana Zulum scored 1,175,440 — that is 1,109,325 more than his opponent who got 66,115 votes.
Alhaji Mohammed Imam, the PDP candidate in Borno, should still thank his stars — Senator Ayo Eze, the APC candidate in Enugu state, got a miserable tally of 10,423, the lowest of any PDP/APC governorship candidate. But you just have to pity PDP’s Alhaji Abba Yusuf whose 1,024,713 votes in Kano still did not allow him to be crowned. Dr. Abubakar Ganduje scored 1,033,695 to edge him out, although the alleged irregularities that greeted the supplementary election means the tribunal will soon receive a visitor. There were five “millionaires” in all — Ganduje (1,033,695), Zulum (1,175,440), Nasir el-Rufai (1,045,427, Kaduna), Aminu Masari (1,178,864, Katsina) and Yusuf (1,024,713, Kano). Yusuf is the only “millionaire” to lose.
Finally, despite the allegations of irregularities, elections were very competitive in several states, particularly in Sokoto, Adamawa, Kano, Oyo, Ogun, Plateau, Sokoto and Bauchi. The figures look credible, although the Kano supplementary poll is being disputed. Over all, we seem to have fairly contained the fraudulent writing of results in some parts of the south, but the underage voters in the north are still getting a pat on the back. General voter turn-out needs to improve. INEC must get its act together in the area of logistics and speed of announcing results. Certainly, the 2019 general election was not better than 2015, but to call it the worst in our history cannot be accurate. As a journalist, I covered the 2003 and 2007 general elections. I know what I saw. Perspectives.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
The Igbo once again gave their votes to the PDP in the presidential election and this has raised yet another issue over the sharing of the “spoils of victory”. If the APC-led government insists on “winner takes all”, then national cohesion will take a hit in the next four years. While the hawks will be telling President Buhari to “deal with those guys” for not voting for him, I would say two things: one, he should not ignore the fact that south-east’s votes for him have been on the rise in the last three general elections, no matter how marginal; two, he needs the support and energies of everybody. He has to be president of all, including those who did not vote for him. Inclusion.
Is there a way of really understanding the Nigerian situation? We depend heavily on imports, yet we do not have enough reception facilities at the ports. Imported goods spend months before they are cleared. Now there is another problem: even though we have been talking about promoting non-oil exports and encouraging Nigerians to go into agriculture, the ports are such a mess that exporting has itself become a nightmare. According to a Bloomberg report, shipments of cashew nuts worth N108 billion ($300 million) have been trapped at the Apapa port since January because of “inadequate capacity and infrastructure, stifling red tape and corruption”. Nigeria!
Chief Audu Ogbeh, minister of agriculture, might have bitten more than he could chew on Wednesday while defending his ministry’s 2019 budget before a senate committee. Ogbeh complained that some Nigerians now order pizza from the UK via their cell phones and take delivery the next day through British Airways. He sounded genuinely angry. Some commentators have taken him on, reminding him that government officials gleefully patronise foreign goods and services. Some said he was exaggerating his “pizza by air” claim so as to be retained as minister. Can Ogbeh please give us details of how much forex Nigerians expend on importing London pizza yearly? Spicy.
Mr. Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, shocked many of us when he said on Wednesday that some states in Nigeria now enjoy nearly uninterrupted power supply. I did not know things had improved so dramatically in the sector. All I know is that my bills for diesel at home and in the office have gone up considerably in the last three weeks. However, it seems some Nigerians do not agree with Fashola: someone said on Twitter that to be fair to the minister, he did not say the states enjoying “almost 24 hours of power supply” were in Nigeria. Maybe he meant American states! Or was the minister adding the power supplied by generators as well? Electrifying!