PDP may win the presidential election but the power structure will never be the same again given the National Assembly elections results
Results of the National Assembly, NASS, elections held on April 9 provided the first objective preview of the April 16 presidential election. If they are to be relied upon, then the logical conclusion is that President Goodluck Jonathan still maintains the lead and will probably win, despite mounting odds. As at last Thursday, results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, showed clearly that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is still leading in the parliamentary election for both the Senate and House of Representatives. However, the party could not garner enough seats to make two-third majority in both houses. What that implies is that the ruling party, if it forms government, will not be able to lord it over other parties in the passage of bills and other matters in the next dispensation.
As at Thursday last week, with 99 out of the 109 Senate seats declared, the party’s profiles were: PDP 58, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN 13, All Nigerian People’s Party, ANPP 7, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC 6, All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA 1 and Democratic Peoples Party, DPP 1, Labour Party, LP 3. For the House of Representatives, with 263 seats declared out of 360, PDP won 140, ACN 52, CPC 35 and ANPP 20, APGA two, LP eight, Accord Party, AP four and Peoples Party Nigeria, PPN two. The election was postponed to April 26 in 15 senatorial and 48 federal constituencies but by the competencies shown by various parties so far, the remaining seats will be shared by PDP, ACN and CPC with a few seats going to APGA, ANPP and LP.
The reality is that ACN will be the main opposition party in the new NASS. And from the distribution of the seats left, the party will increase its haul significantly. The PDP has 85 per cent majority in the outgoing sixth Senate and 90 per cent in the House of Representatives. A ruling party needs 64 out of 109 Senate seats and 240 out of 360 seats in the House of Representatives to have a comfortable two-third majority to get their programmes through without having to lobby the other parties. This is a comfort that PDP may not enjoy in the next NASS.
The new factors in the power equation are Bola Tinubu’s ACN and Muhammadu Buhari’s CPC. Both have pushed ANPP further down the power rung to fourth position. Analysts see the good showing by ACN and CPC as a redefinition of the power equation in the country. According to them, it returns the country to the traditional tripod politics of regional parties and necessary alliances.
Buoyed by its performance at the election petition tribunals, ACN recaptured the South-west from PDP, re-establishing the Yoruba’s traditional opposition politics. It is seen as the appropriate payback to PDP for rudely running the Alliance for Democracy, AD, out of control of the South-west in 2003. This, according to politicians, effectively throws up Tinubu as the new power broker in the South-west, the most beautiful bride to the top contenders to the throne – PDP and CPC. Ogun and Oyo, seen as PDP states presented shockers to the ruling party as it was routed by ACN. Dimeji Bankole, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Governor Gbenga Daniel, who contested for a Senate seat and Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, senator and daughter of Olusegun Obasanjo, former President, all lost their respective elections in Ogun State to ACN candidates.
In Oyo State, observers say what was more significant was how ACN and the Accord Party, AP, quashed the dominance of the PDP in the state. For instance, the ACN and AP won four seats each to PDP’s five seats in the House of Representatives. While ACN candidates emerged winners in Oyo Central and Oyo South Senatorial districts, the PDP was only able to retain the seat of Oyo North Senatorial District. It was a telling tale of how the balance of power is shifting in the state. A general election devoid of thuggery, widespread rigging and reprisal attacks was once unheard in a state like Oyo. But the Saturday of April 9, 2011, may have changed all that.
In the emerging political segmentation, PDP retains total control of the South-south, except Edo State where it is in a strangle hold of the ACN. Though LP is making a strong statement in Jonathan’s Bayelsa State, the mantra in the Ijaw heartland is that Jonathan is LP’s presidential candidate. Labour Party is one of the 43 political parties that have adopted the President as their presidential candidate.
The South-east is now effectively in the hands of PDP. Jonathan silently burrowed into the zone and with guile achieved what Obasanjo could not achieve in the South-east. Under the guise of alliance with APGA, PDP has effectively muscled out APGA from political relevance in the South-east. Political activists see what happened to AD in 2003 happening to APGA with their alliance with PDP. They point to what has befallen APGA in Anambra State in the NASS election where it lost the two Senate seats so far declared to PDP and the outstanding one is being hotly contested by the ACN.
In the North, Buhari’s CPC is the new powerhouse. It has pushed PDP out of power in Katsina, Buhari’s home state, where he lost elections in 2003 and 2007. This time, the general reclaimed his dignity with CPC clinching the three Senate seats and 12, out of the 14 House of Reps seats, leaving only two to PDP. CPC may also be on the way to pushing PDP out of Kaduna State, Namadi Sambo, where the vice president, comes from. CPC shared the two Senate seats declared so far; while CPC routed the ruling party in the House of Reps by winning seven seats out of 10, with PDP winning only three.
But that is the end of the good news for CPC. The expected takeover of the North by CPC did not happen, apart from the good showing in Katsina and Kaduna states. Rather, PDP made surprising gains in the North. Kano presented a great surprise as CPC flopped in the most populated state in the North with over five million voters. PDP won 11 seats in the House of Reps, ANPP eight and CPC only two. The ruling party took two of the Senate seats leaving ANPP with one. Surprisingly too, PDP cleared the three Senate and eight House of Reps seats in Sokoto State, against all odds.
In Jigawa State, where CPC was expected to make a good showing, giving the vilification of Governor Sule Lamido as a ‘Bishop’ supporting southern Christian cause, PDP swept the whole three Senate and ten House of Reps seats. Reacting to this loud victory, Lamido said, last week, that northerners voted against sectionalism. According to him, it was “a rejection of sectionalism, manipulation of northern sentiments and emotions and a vote for national stability.”
How do all these affect the presidential election? In many ways! Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Shekarau have dropped from the scales as contenders for the crown. Though ANPP did better than CPC in Kano State by winning one Senate and 20 House of Reps seats, Shekarau’s loss of his home state to PDP is significant. His relevance in the presidential race was principally seen as function of his capability to win block votes from Kano. Now this appears impossible, as the affection of Kano people has swung back to PDP, in a state where Rabiu Kwakwanso, former governor who wants to return on the platform of the PDP is said to be much loved. It could not immediately be determined if the same love would be transferred to Jonathan, seen by many in the zone as taking the slot of the North for president.
For Ribadu, he was cut down to size by PDP in his own Adamawa State. The ruling party won the three Senate seats and three out of six House of Reps seats; while ACN got two and CPC 1. Ribadu’s party’s poor showing in the North generally, and total absence in the South-east and five out of the six states of the Niger Delta makes it clear he cannot win the presidency. Shekarau is similarly ruled out of contention.
So the battle for the Aso Villa boils down to a tango between Jonathan and Buhari. Perhaps with the performance of the PDP, the temptation would be to give the crown to Jonathan, but the development whereby people in certain areas voted for candidates, rather than the party, calls for caution. It was also found that most voters registered with only the presidential election in mind and this will change the voting demography for the presidential election.
As it stands, on paper, Jonathan has the required 25 per cent in 24 states; what is not certain is if he will have the highest number of votes cast to rule out a run-off. The hope for a Buhari rebound is the suspicion in many quarters that many voters who voted PDP in the NASS election might switch over to CPC for the presidential election and switch back during the governorship election. Even PDP faithful were still apprehensive as at press time of what the voting behaviour of the North will be on April 16. It is feared that unpredictable Kano, which many analysts say love Buhari, might give their ballots to the man they call ‘the honest one’.
Jonathan’s horsemen were well aware of this possibility not to go into celebration last week. Rather, the President’s team worked round the clock trying to finalise some hitherto slippery alliances. Several meetings were held late into the week to prevent alliance between CPC and ACN at worst, as some needed endorsements failed to come. Some critical endorsements that would have made the position of the cleared toed the path of wisdom and remained neutral in the run-in to the presidential election.
There were also great expectations for an alliance between ACN and CPC to push PDP out of power. But this also failed. By last Thursday, ACN issued a statement that an alliance will not happen between it and CPC. Ribadu told a press conference in Abuja on Thursday that the alliance was frustrated by “ego and self-centred world of politicians”.
Plateau is expected to vote massively for President Jonathan. Governor Jonah Jang is one of the PDP governors who have embraced Jonathan and his ambition to run again. Jang has built his own governorship campaign around the presidential campaign of Jonathan, and called his campaign theme: “Jang and the 2011 Team- the Leadership Team We Can Trust.” Of course, the other member of the team is Jonathan. The Jang campaign has described the Jonathan/Sambo ticket as the “best presidential pair Nigeria has ever had.”
The permutations notwithstanding, there are still fears about the conduct of the remaining elections. The April 9 NASS elections were marked by very low voters’ turnout and widespread disenfranchisement of registered voters. Except, may be in Akwa Ibom State, voters’ turnout was very low. In the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, the turnout was as low as 25 per cent. Most of the voters that came out to vote could not find their names on the voters’ register. Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, who has received local and international thumbs up for the success of the NASS election after the hiding he took for the botched April 2 election, has promised the commission would rectify the problem before April 16 to enable them vote. But this appears far-fetched as the magazine was told the problem with Jega’s voters’ register was too serious to be sorted out in one week. If this turns out right, then may be less than 50 per cent of the registered voters will not vote through no fault of theirs.
Olatunji Oloyede, a local observer and a reverend of the Anglican Communion, is of the view that the cancellation of the election on April 2 was responsible for the low turnout. “Many who showed up last Saturday did not turn up today. For example, they were up to 1,000 people that did accreditation here last week before the exercise was cancelled, but today only about 300 and something voters showed up at Ita-Eko, in Abeokuta where Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello registered”, he told the magazine.
Obasanjo wants INEC to do a post mortem, to correct the lapses that may be witnessed during the National Assembly elections. In his view, the exercise has witnessed some avoidable lapses. “I’ve heard about cases where people say their names appeared on the INEC register, but their photograph did not appear; that’s a technical problem that could have been corrected. Some have their registration cards but their names are missing from the register. I think INEC should make provisions for people who are genuinely registered but cannot vote due to no fault of their own,” he noted.
Ibikunle Amosun, ACN governorship candidate for Ogun State, said, the announcement by INEC that there would be no election in certain constituencies might have contributed to the low turnout witnessed during the election.
Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State and a chieftain of ACN in the state, noted that the conduct of the exercise has been reasonably okay in majority of places in Ogun State. “But I have serious complaint about the exercise in Mowe/Ibafo. There were inadequate supply of ballot papers to both sides of the expressway along that axis, where 37,000 people registered during the registration exercise. It was so bad that the editor-in-chief of the Vanguard and president of the Guild of Editors, Gbenga Adefaye, had to send a distress message to the resident electoral commissioner in Abeokuta. “That is an example of deliberate supply of materials to a densely populated area, to deny them their rights and manipulate the votes that would have accrued to the ACN,” he argued, adding that he had visited the area not less than 15 times and had meetings with stakeholders and therefore knows their yearnings for change. “That is why I say that it is a deliberate and well organised system to deny ACN sympathisers from exercising their rights,”
On its part, the PDP’s Presidential Campaign Council, PCC, commends the NASS election and sees it as plus for the President. It, therefore, says that it is enough reason why people should vote for Jonathan. The PCC says that the exercise “showed Nigerians keeping faith with and remaining solidly behind the policies and programmes of the Peoples Democratic Party and President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.” In a statement signed by Abba Dabo, director of media and publicity, it stated that, “the successful conduct of the polls by INEC is attributable to the pledge of Mr. President to conduct a free and fair election... His total support for INEC, the free hand he gave to the agency and his commitment to put our democracy on sound footing is responsible for the success achieved so far.”
However, ACN has rejected the results of the NASS election in many states, including Kwara, where Olusola Saraki has publicly stated his son, Governor Bukola Saraki, rigged the NASS election and that it should be cancelled.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary, ACN, the party said it would challenge the results in court because it has incontrovertible evidence of intimidation, using military personnel, lack of accreditation in certain areas, thuggery and violence.
Additional reports by WOLA ADEYEMO, TAJUDEEN SULIEMAN, RAYMOND MORDI and ARUKAINO UMUKORO.