Faruk Ahmed has lain bare what it takes to become a Nigerian president: ignore the Igbo votes of the southeast region.
The February 23, 2019 presidential elections have come and gone and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already declared a winner, Muhammad Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
On February 27, the electoral umpire declared that the APC presidential candidate polled 15,191,848 votes of the total 28,614,190 votes cast to beat his closest contender of the PDP with over 3.9 million. Atiku took home 11,262,978 votes.
Atiku Abubakar as expected has since disputed these figures, claiming in a petition to the presidential election tribunal in Abuja that he should be declared the winner of the elections. He claimed that the results from INEC’s servers showed that he got 18,356,732 votes to beat Buhari who came second with 16,741,430 votes.
The election tribunal is still sitting and its outcome will determine whose arguments are stronger.
Run up to 2019 elections
The 2019 presidential election was earlier billed for Saturday February 16, 2019. But due to some logistical failures, the electoral commission moved the elections forward by a week.
Atiku Abubakar of the PDP who is from Adamawa state, north central Nigeria, had picked his running mate, a southeasterner from Anambra state, Peter Obi, a move, analysts say, was to sway the Igbo’s votes.
On the other, Muhammadu Buhari, the incumbent president, who is from the northwestern state of Katsina and flag bearer of the APC maintained the working relationship he had with his deputy, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, by opting to retain him as his running mate.
A little bit of history
Prior to the 2019 elections, specifically, in the general elections of 2003 and 2007, Buhari had always chosen an Igbo from the southeast of Nigeria as his running mates. In 2003, he chose Senator Chuba Okadigbo and Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke in 2007 under the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
Buhari has always been smeared as a Muslim fanatic. To wash away this black paint, in 2011, he chose a pastor from the southwest, Tunde Bakare, as his running mate in Congress for Progressive Change, one of the parties that formed APC. He still failed in his third try.
And then in 2015, he chose another pastor from the same region, Yemi Osinbajo. And the rest is now history as he coasted home to victory by smashing the then-incumbent, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Atiku Abubakar was the vice-president of the federal republic of Nigeria, from 1999-2007 under the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. After contesting and winning the election to become the Adamawa state governor in 1999, Obasanjo picked him to become his running-mate. Together, they won the general elections of that year.
But having grown wings and fallen out with his boss, Atiku schemed to stop Obasanjo from getting the PDP’s ticket to the 2003 elections. The president had to stoop low to placate his deputy. And this caused a strain in their relationship. In their second tenure, the two men never saw eye to eye.
Furthermore, while Obasanjo was subtly plotting for a third term in 2006, Atiku made sure to put hefty cogs in the wheels of his boss’ ambitions by backing the Nigerian Senate on May 16, 2006 to vote against amending the constitution which would have paved way for Obasanjo to realise his third term bid.
Obasanjo reciprocated by denying Atiku the PDP’s ticket in 2007. And thus, in order to realise his dream, Atiku moved to the Action Congress (AC), and the party handed him its ticket.
Umaru Musa Yar’adua of the PDP, an ex-governor of Katsina state, who was anointed by Obasanjo, went on to win the 2007 general elections which was generally decried by local and international observers as flawed. Buhari came second, while Atiku took a distant third.
Then before the 2011 general elections, Atiku Abubakar moved back to the PDP to contest for its presidential ticket. The incumbent president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathon, who had inherited the seat after the demise of his boss, Yar’adua, also threw his trademark southsouth cowboy hat into the ring and knocked Atiku and others from the party race, and eventually went on to win the general elections.
Ditto in 2015. Atiku moved again to the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC) in the hope of scooping its ticket. But Buhari, who won the party’s primaries, also won the presidential election of the year.
In 2018, Atiku made another u-turn to his previous party, the PDP. But this time around on October 6, 2018, he grabbed the party’s ticket with both hands in an election that was fraught with exchange of dollars for votes.
Why you don’t need Igbo votes to become president
In 2015, the southeast region of Nigeria put all of their eggs in one basket by casting majority of their votes for the then incumbent, ex-president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. But even without their support, Muhammadu Buhari eventually became the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with votes from the southwest, northcentral, northeast and northwest regions of the nation.
It looks like history repeated itself again in 2019. The southeast voted en masse for Buhari’s main contender, Atiku Abubakar. But irrespective of their votes, Muhammadu Buhari was still reelected.
Hence, a pattern has created itself: With or without the support of the people in the southeastern region of Nigeria, one can become a president of the country.
When this reporter asked a question, “If you want to become a Nigerian president, do you need the votes of Igbos?” on facebook, more than 52 percent of the respondents opined that since 2015 when the use of card readers were institutionalized, the electoral values of the people in the southeast region of Nigeria has been diminishing.
A cursory look at the collation of results from the 2019 presidential elections showed that the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had his greatest votes count from the northwest, not even from the southeast where he picked his running mate from.
Furthermore, the total votes cast for the PDP candidate in the entire five states of the southeast region stood at 1,693,485. But Kano alone was able to return 1,464,768 for the APC candidate, Buhari; a difference of mere 228,717 votes.
According to Ibrahim Suara, this voting pattern of the southeast has been reoccurring and that what “one can infer from both 2015 and 2019 elections,” is that the votes of the region are “not relevant” in deciding who becomes the president of the country.
Also on his part, Andrew Chukwuemeka opined that the southeast is “pretending relevance but actually, recent unfolding has punctured that aesthetic position.” He added that “An underdog can only play the mere position of a dancer not a piper. Igbos should go, for only in this lies the fortitude of our existence.”
The 2019 general elections having been a referendum on President Muhammadu Buhari’s first civilian rule, his scorecard showed that he garnered over 54 percent of the valid votes cast, which is a pass mark.
His least votes came from Anambra state where he secured 33,298 votes. Anambra state happened to be the home town of the PDP vice-presidential candidate, Peter Obi.
On the other hand, Kano state has proved to be Buhari’s main strength as he garnered his highest votes, 1,464,768, from the state. His home state, Katsina, took second by pouring 1,232,133 votes into his net.
Of all the regions, the northwest gave Buhari about 5.9 millions, followed by the northeast which cast 3.2 million votes for him, the northcentral, 2.4 million votes, and the southwest brought in more than two million votes. The southsouth gave him over one million votes, while he secured only 403,968 votes from the southeast region.
One of the requirements of the electoral act is that for one to become a president of the country, he/she must score at least 25 percent of the votes cast in 2/3 of the states and the FCT. That is to say, one must secure at least 25 percent votes in at least 25 states including the FCT.
Buhari secured at least 25 percent votes in about 33 states of the country including the FCT. The only states where he did not secure that percentage were Rivers (150,710 votes to Atiku’s 473,971), Enugu (54,523 to Atiku’s 355,553), Ebonyi (90,726 to Atiku’s 258,573) and Anambra (33,298 to Atiku’s 524, 738).
Performances of Buhari and Atiku by states in the 2019 general elections
Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s performance surprised bookmarkers as he racked up more votes than was expected.
Political pundits had predicted him to flunk the northwest because of his establishment tendency and even the southwest owing to allegations of corruptions tagged on his neck. Surprisingly, that wasn’t the case.
Looking critically at his scorecard, Atiku secured his highest numbers of votes in the northwest, 2,280,465, just like Buhari. Coincidentally, he got the least votes from his own neighbourhood, the northeast region, a region that had been blighted by Boko Haram’s insurgency. He garnered 1,255,257 here.
But comparing Atiku’s return from the northeast to that of the southeast where he got 1,693,485, you will find out that the margin (438,228) wasn’t much. Hence, he could still pat himself on the back for a good showing.
The southeast was where he secured the second to the least votes. This wouldn’t come as a surprise to many political watchers.
The whole southeast region had an average turnout of about 25%, while the northwest region had the highest average turnout with about 45%. Jigawa state alone had about 55% turnout rate, while Abia state had 19%.
The southeast’s low turnout rate might not be unconnected with the agitation for secession by some elements in the region and the call for the region to boycott the general elections by the Independent People of Biafra’s (IPOB) self-exiled leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
Atiku got his highest votes from Kaduna state (649,612), followed by Delta state (594,068), and the lowest from Borno and Yobe states (71,788 and 50,763 respectively).
Of all the regions, Atiku won only two, Southsouth and Southeast.
How do you win a Nigerian presidential election?
For any person who wants to become a Nigerian president, the 2019 general elections should serve as guide to gauge if your contest is real or otherwise.
From the careful analysis of the 2019 general elections, a pattern emerged that if you want to become a Nigerian president and you happened not to be a member of the northwest zone, you would need to make the zone your first wife. For your second wife, take the northeast zone, and make the northcentral zone your third wife.
For your fourth wife, I will advice you marry the southsouth zone. You can make the southwest your mistress.
Someone might ask “Why not make the southwest region your fourth wife since they gave Muhammadu Buhari more votes than the southsouth?”
My answer is thus: the southsouth looks to me to be more principled. They vote according to a pattern just like the aforementioned three regions. But the southwest is double-faced. They will always spread their legs for another party, irrespective of the winning one.