If you did not see my column last week, it was because I did not want to rain on anyone’s parade. I wanted the euphoria over the bullet we missed by avoiding the riots that would have ensued had the APC been defeated to subside. But I am now back to tell you that the presidential election was a big INEC rigmarole. Long before Jonathan lost the election to Buhari, he had been defeated by the machinations of Jega and INEC.
As a matter of fact, General Buhari did not win this presidential election: President Jonathan lost it. The president lost because he allowed himself to be defeated. Maybe he did not want to remain in power badly enough. Or maybe there was a side of him that felt there is honour in being the first incumbent president to lose an election in Nigeria. Whatever the case; he failed to heed the warning of many that, like Aminu Tambuwal and Lamido Sanusi, Attahiru Jega was working for the enemy.
Failure of Tinubu
With the coalition of Bola Tinubu’s ACN and Buhari’s CPC, many concluded that the outcome of the 2015 presidential election would be determined in the South-West. The assumption was that Tinubu would provide the killer-punch that had been missing in Buhari’s earlier failed attempts. However, this has proved to be mistaken. Tinubu failed to clean up the South-West with his broom for the APC. Indeed, in order for the APC to prevail in Lagos with only 160,000 votes, INEC had to ensure that many non-indigenes could not get their PVCs.
The truth of the matter is that, quite apart from the shenanigan of having a Redeemed Yoruba pastor as Buhari’s vice-presidential running-mate, the people of the South-West don’t like Buhari. In the 2011 election, they said this emphatically by giving him a paltry 321,000 votes out of the 4.7 million cast in the geopolitical zone. This time, in 2015, Buhari received 2.4 million South-West votes, with a plurality of 600,000 over Jonathan. However, most of those votes were actually not for Buhari: they were against Jonathan.
In the end, the South-West vote was neither pivotal to Buhari’s victory nor central to Jonathan’s defeat. Tinubu’s assistance for Buhari ended at the APC presidential primaries where he got Buhari nominated against the wishes of Northern delegates. All Tinubu did at the level of the presidential election was to give a façade of national spread to Buhari’s essentially Northern victory. This factor will soon come to haunt Tinubu and his South-West cohorts when it is time to share the spoils of victory in the Buhari administration.
Should APC lose the Lagos governorship election, Tinubu would be left in a quandary. All the Northern timber and caliber who were missing in action throughout the campaign when Tinubu, Fashola and other Southern politicians were running helter-skelter with Buhari, will soon come out of the woodwork to claim their Buhari inheritance. Inevitably, they will overshadow the Southern brigade. Vice-President Osinbajo will simply be sent to fetch water when crucial decisions are to be made by Northern “born-to-rule” elements.
Southerners without coattails
In order to defeat the PDP, APC needed to undermine Jonathan in his areas of greatest strengths – the South-South and the South-East. However, APC men like Amaechi, Okorocha and Oshiomhole proved to be paper-tigers in these areas. In Rivers, Amaechi was disgraced. With all his bluster, he could only deliver 69,000 votes to Buhari; while Jonathan made off with a whopping 1.45 million. No wonder, therefore, that the governor tried to save face by saying there was no election in Rivers. He even rented a crowd to go on a perfunctory demonstration.
Chinem Bestman sent me a text message from Port Harcourt with the same complaint that the election was rigged. I answered by asking him if there has ever been a free and fair election in Rivers since 1999. Amaechi knew the ropes, therefore when he came for accreditation, he asked to see the election result sheet. He knew the traditional rigmarole in Rivers was to doctor the report sheet. Now that he has been out-rigged, he is singing a different tune; asking Rivers people to forgive him.
In Imo, Okorocha was humiliated. He could only deliver 19% of the vote to Buhari. It looks like the governor is going to need another job very soon as he is unlikely to be re-elected. In Edo, Oshiomhole did much better. APC lost with 208,000 votes to PDP’s 286,000. Nevertheless, Oshiomhole tried to explain this away by complaining that PDP used the military to manipulate the election. However, when INEC announced the results, APC won the senatorial election in Edo North; one of the places where the governor claimed PDP used the military to rig.
Assault on the South-East
Godsday Orubebe grabbed the microphone during the collation of the election results and alleged to the whole world that INEC chairman Attahiru Jega is partial and tribalistic. His outburst may have been embarrassing, but it is not entirely without justification. The evidence of INEC’s partiality is compelling. Although President Jonathan put a call to Orubebe to stop his protest, and he has decided to accept the verdict of INEC, that does not mean we should sweep INEC’s shenanigans under the carpet.
It is easy to fob off Orubebe by saying he was only being emotional because he is a PDP man from Niger Delta, a kinsman of Mr. President who “lost” the election. That just won’t cut it. I am not a Niger Deltan. I don’t belong in the PDP. I don’t know Goodluck Jonathan and I have never ever met him or spoken to him. Cynical Nigerians believe anyone who supports Jonathan must either be in his pay or be looking for a job. Neither allegation is applicable to me. Jonathan ostensibly received 12.8 million votes; surely all these people were neither in his pay nor Aso Rock job-seekers.
My faith requires me to support the weak. Therefore, I will always support the minority against the tyranny of the majority. We cannot be reliant on South-South oil in Nigeria and then treat one of their sons as if he is an impostor for being president of the country. The fact of the matter is that this presidential election was the result of a vicious and malicious gang-up of the majority ethnic groups against the minorities.
Since the civil war, the Igbos of the South-East have been treated as if they are a minority ethnic group in Nigeria when in fact they are one of the majorities. In order to diminish Jonathan’s votes, a major assault was made against them; recognising that they are some of the staunchest Jonathan supporters. In 2011, the Igbo gave Goodluck Jonathan a decisive 5 million votes. The task of INEC in 2015 was to ensure that did not recur.
Buhari prevailed as a result of a deliberate disenfranchisement of the Igbo by INEC through the manipulation of PVC distribution and the failure of the card reader in the South-East and the South-South. INEC ensured that, far more disproportionately and relative to other geopolitical zones, millions of South-East voters disappeared between 2011 and 2015, in order to provide a smooth passage for a Northern presidential candidate; which turned out to be Buhari.
The first strategy of INEC in this regard was to create 29,000 additional polling units, allocating 21,000 of these to the North and only 8,000 to the South. In this crass manipulation, INEC gave more additional polling units to Abuja than it gave to the entire South-East. However, widespread outcry over this proposal forced INEC to jettison it despite protracted resistance by Jega.
But INEC had a plan B: the registration of voters and the collection of PVCs. This was bogus and lopsided; skewed most especially against the South-East where only 7.6 million were registered and 5.6 million PVCs collected. Compare this with the war-torn North-East: 9.1 million were registered and 7.4 million collected. But the most outrageous were the figures of the North-West. 17.6 million registrations and 15.1 million collections were recorded in the North-West; much more than the figures in the entire South-East and South-South combined.
On Election Day, news of a bomb blast in Enugu served to discourage people from coming out to vote in the South-East. In addition, there was widespread late voter accreditation and voting in the South-East as well as the South-South. One reason for this was the massive failure of the card-readers in these zones, highly suggestive that they were programmed to fail there.
Quite incredibly, the card-reader failed to recognise even the president. It took President Jonathan 35 minutes to get accredited; but within five hours, we are meant to believe that 2.5 million voters in Kano were duly accredited. In the middle of the election, INEC changed from card-reader to manual accreditation. This suddenly brought into play the huge voter registrations in the North-West. Cell-phone video recordings showed many of the North-West’s bloated PVC holders to be under-aged children.
The total effect of these machinations is that over 2.4 million South-East voters were successfully disenfranchised. 38 million people nationwide voted for Buhari and Jonathan in 2011. In 2015, this figure shrank to 28 million. The votes of the South-West remained virtually constant. 4.6 million people of the South-West voted in 2011: 4.2 million in 2015. But compare this with what happened in the South-East. 5 million people voted in 2011, only 2.6 million in 2015. That is a drastic drop of 2.4 million.
While Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Jigawa and Bauchi were posting their traditional humongous figures; Imo, Anambra and Abia were posting relatively disappointing figures. Jigawa used to be a part of Kano, when Kano was said to be bigger than Lagos. In the 2015 election, the votes of Jigawa and Kano combined was double that of Lagos. Lagos had 1.4 million votes. Jigawa and Kano had 3.1 million; virtually all for Buhari.
While the internally displaced Northerners in the North-East could vote, internally displaced Igbos from the North could not. In places like Lagos and Kano, many non-indigenes were not even given their PVCs. In effect, the innovation of the Permanent Voters Cards is designed to permanently disenfranchise the South. If this is not redressed immediately, the North will always determine the winner in Nigerian elections.
Femi Aribisala is a scholar and international affairs expert. He is currently an iconoclastic church pastor in Lagos. He is also a syndicated essayist for a handful publications in Nigeria.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.