The presidential election of 25th February, 2023 is one that would go down in the history of Nigeria as the most keenly contested election and one of the most controversial in our recent history¬¬. It wasn`t the violence that marred the election-violence that has unfortunately now become a norm in our elections over the years, that made it controversial, neither is it the fact that mouths have never ceased to fan towards the direction of INEC to be compromising the elections. That too isn’t what made it controversial: these things are fast becoming our norms and reality, sadly. I daresay that INEC in fact has never conducted an impeccable election since 1999, sadly.
But what are the facts on ground that made this election deeply controversial? It was far from the violence. The very fact that made this election controversial is that INEC in its own incompetence contravened its own laws by not transmitting the results of the Presidential election from the polling units as they said they’d do. And that very act, that ineptitude from them, that massive incompetence rankles in the minds of the electorates and meant that even those who could barely muster twenty-thousand votes were claiming to have been rigged out of the election, because, according to them, they won in almost all the polling units and INEC, in falling to publish those results in real times from the polling units meant they were taking their times to compromise the integrity of the elections, rewrite the election results in which they claimed they the dark horses could have won. One cannot blame those entities, though. It was INEC who opened the doors to those nauseating claims being arrogated, because of their failure. With the massive financial resources at the disposal of INEC and the technology they claimed to just procured and deployed, they should be delivering impeccable elections to Nigerians and quit giving excuses.
But did INEC rewrite the figures, did they compromise this election? I don’t believe so. Did the violence undermine the credibility of this election? I think not. I think even though the violence and failure to transmit in real times did not translate to INEC having rigged the election, statistics of the elections also suggested that the election was keenly contested, smartly won by the voices and votes of silent majorities in the North whom we like to naively call the unsophisticated country yokels, who even though are very removed from the noise, tug and banter of the social medial, they still are always armed to the teeth with their transistor radios, even in the most remote hinterlands where they herd, and are keeping themselves abreast with the goings-on of the Nigerian political space, brandishing their PVCs everywhere, guarding them with their lives, waiting to echo their voices via their votes on the D-day. What else is education if not this singular act displayed by these so often maligned men and women from the countryside? In the end, they showed us they matter because they happen to be the silent majorities that eventually won Tinubu this election and because they seem to be vague and non-existence owing to their absence from the social media, we trivialize them and everyone in the cities think the election was rigged because, according to them, who voted this Asiwaju? I on the other hand, think the elections, based on statistics are credible.
To start with, the issue of rigging couldn’t have been tenable for these reasons:
1. This election has the least turnout in modern history, with 93million registered voters and just around 24million actual voters. It is one of the lowest turnouts we have ever had. If the results were massively rigged like the detractors of this election wanted to have us believe, the turnout would have been massive. But if anything, having 24million voters out of 93million registered voters suggested a wide moderation. Again, it could also be that the BVAS worked wonders on the numbers that were often hitherto got from our previous elections and pruned them down.
2. Secondly, the candidate that eventually won the election happened to be the only candidate who lost his own State. The rest three major candidates won their respective States and this suggested fairness in my opinion – because if there were to be rigging to favour the ruling party, the charity of that rigging would have begun at home. While the violence in Lagos, voter intimidation and all sorts were duly noted, I daresay they didn`t do so much to compromise who eventually was meant to win the election.
We must put emotions aside and figure out the major voting blocs in Nigeria according to the statistics released by INEC. That will guide us in determining where the election would be won and lost. The registered voters according to the six geo-political zone are:
1. North-West which comprises (KANO, KADUNA, KATSINA, KEBBI, SOKOTO ZAMFARA): 22,255,562 registered voters.
2. South West (which comprises LAGOS, ONDO, OGUN, EKITI, LAGOS. OSUN OYO): 17,958,966 registered voters.
3. North-Central (which comprises ABUJA, BENUE, KOGI, NASARAWA, KWARA, PLATEU): 15, 363,731 registered voters.
4. South-South (which comprises RIVERS, EDO, DELTA, AKWA IBOM, CROSS-RIVER, BAYELSA): 14, 440,714 registered voters.
5. North-East which comprises (BORNO, JIGAWA, ADAMAWA, TARABA, BAUCHI, YOBE) 12,542,429 registered voters.
6. South-East: (which comprises IMO, ENUGU, ABIA, EBONYI, ANAMBRA) 10, 907, 606 registered voters.
Out of 93million registered voters, statistics show that the majority of the registered voters (43% of them) are from the North West and South West. These means in all the 12 states of these regions, anyone who will win the presidential election must do exceedingly well in the regions.
And looking at the State-by-State breakdown of the election results, records show that the winner, Tinubu either came 1st or 2nd in all these States. He performed the best in these two regions. Atiku Abubakar who came second was only able to win two States in the South, doing poorly in the South East and South-South that were originally the stronghold of the PDP since 1999. Also, the internet sensation, Peter Obi was doing so well in the South East which has the least voting strength according to the voters` register. He did well in the South-South too, however, Tinubu was still able to nick Rivers off, racking a whopping 231, 591 votes in Rivers. In SOKOTO, Asiwaju also came a smart second, racking up 285,444 votes just about 3,000votes shy of the PDP candidate who has 288,679 votes. Peter Obi here again goofed, as he had just 6,568 votes.
Again, in the States with the largest voting bloc, Lagos, Kano and Kaduna, though Asiwaju lost Lagos but still racked up 572,606 votes, as against Obi`s 582, 454 votes. This is just about 10,000 votes margin. However, Asiwaju compensated for that margin between him and APC in Kaduna where he again came a smart second but still managed to nick 399,293 votes off his rivals as against LP and Obi having 294,494 votes. That’s around 105,000 margin there. He proceeded to Kano again, came yet another smart second, racking up 517,314 votes, as against LP who won 28,513 votes.
Looking at this stat, it then stands ridiculous to me that the LP who came a distant third and the PDP who won only two States in the South are claiming to have been rigged out of an election. In this election, the plethora of smart seconds that Asiwaju kept racking did matter. Asiwaju might not be the sexiest candidate out there. He might not be the internet sensation that you would want him to be, but he knows his onions around the political terrain of this country. While some candidates focused their sole attention on their regions, Asiwaju left his own base knowing he`s already formidable there, he focused on getting what I call many smart seconds in key States in the North. And that was enough to win him the presidency.
While the election looks too close to call, and the three major candidates won twelve States apiece, plus the fourth, Kwankwaso not letting his Kano slip from him, Asiwaju was smart enough to focus on winning some key States and many seconds as well in some key States too. Peter Obi truly won 12 States, but it turned out that his win in a State like Abia where he had 327,095 votes is not as important as a second position for Asiwaju in Kano, where he polled 517,341 votes. Peter Obi also won in Anambra, racking up 584,621 votes, but Asiwaju also closed that gap claiming second in Kaduna with 399,293 votes and also winning Zamfara where he scored 298,396 votes as against Peter Obi who won just 1, 660 votes.
Had Peter Obi come up with the series of 2nds Asiwaju was coming out with in the far North, he could have won. But as it turned out, it wasn`t to be. I am sure Peter Obi would have loved the idea of these smart seconds in the North.
While the frailties of INEC are reprehensible, while the tons of violence in Lagos, Rivers stands condemned, suffices it to say they aren`t new and have been part of our electoral system for a while now. The voters` intimidation and disenfranchisement of voters by thugs loyal to some parties too was seen and it stands condemnable. We should work really hard to defeat this scourge. But were they enough to have changed where the pendulum of power would have swung? I think not. As seen, all the candidates won in their respective strongholds as predicted. And Asiwaju losing in Lagos as the sole major candidate to suffer such fate speaks volume to suggest the credibility of the election.
Asiwaju, despite the hates around him, despite the media banters, despite that he was so thoroughly maligned prior to the election, he stood tall like the parable of the mountain, cutlasses and hoes in the Yoruba myth, where against thousands of cutlasses and thousands of hoes who had caucused themselves, united by their mischievous intent against mountain, threatening to see its end, mountain was never fazed, he stood tall, neither eating nor drinking, but defeated all its enemies, quietly but smartly.
The many seconds of Asiwaju is shrewd and deft and should be recognized. Rather than keep fanning the embers of division, we should quickly cauterize our wounds and forge ahead as a country. Because Nigeria, with all its frailties, with all its flaws, is ours to love, ours to cherish; as there is no other house to the life of a snail other than its shell; there is no other shelter for the tortoise other than its carapace, there is no other house to the life of a river mussel too. If all of these creatures crash their shelters on the boulder, whose shelter would the retire to?
Akinmade Abayomi Zeal