Nigeria’s election – why the major opposition, PDP crashed in the presidential race

ANTHONY OBI OGBO

This article is not an endorsement of the recently concluded presidential election because in Nigeria’s dysfunctional electoral system, the party which rigs the most wins the race. However, this paper investigates in clear terms, the parties, their candidates, and their preparedness in handling their election challenges.

Africa is a continent fraught with governance issues. At the root of its problems is a single but multi-faceted factor that the process of choosing the right leader through a credible election is yet to be institutionalized and modified to meet the integrity standards. This is further complicated by an unfair power of incumbency structure – a pattern where the incumbent presides over an election in which he or she contests. Unlike developed countries where the electoral process is significantly structured without interferences, Africa continues to walk the democratic path the other way. Although choreographed and muscled into subjugation of this cluttered selection process, the defenseless masses also play supporting roles as they cheer and enable the worst leaders in their domain.  

 

In Nigeria’s just-concluded Presidential elections, The People Democratic Party (PDP) failed to unseat their rival, the incumbent, President Muhammadu Buhari who ran under the All Progressive Congress.  President Buhari, faced off with Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and bombastically wealthy business leader who represented the PDP. Of course, there was a line-up of other party candidates on the ballot, but the race was clearly a two-man duel. Atiku however, described the polls as a “sham election”, rejecting the results and contesting it in the court system.

 

This current situation explains the structure of Nigeria’s shattered political system.  The ruling President, and indeed, his party, often reserved the ‘upper hand’ in supervising the elections process – making it difficult to challenge their incumbency. For instance, shortly before this election, the Buhari regime met with the defense service chiefs several times, reshuffled the electoral management, and apparently installed his trusted confidants in the core corridors of the process. Most importantly, Buhari brazenly reorganized the Supreme Court – a move that heated up the electorate. It was conclusively, a self-serving action to position himself favorably for possible post-election litigation. Without a doubt, these actions were carried out strategically to protect this incumbent from any poll surprises. That is just the power of incumbency in Nigeria, structured by the system to weaken challengers.

 

Viewing from another perspective, the issue of election preparedness remains the major reasons for PDP’s political loss. First, the Party’s failure in 2015 polls disorganized it. In fact, for almost three years into Buhari’s presidency, the PDP, sunk in internal strife, remained a harmless and voiceless opposition. Broken to smithereens, they submitted to a free-for-all in-house leadership wrangle. Later, under the National Chairmanship of one Prince Uche Secondus, the party struggled helplessly in the murky waters of apathy, while the incumbent APC overran the network with campaign propaganda.

 

Broken to smithereens, they submitted to a free-for-all in-house leadership wrangle. Later, under the National Chairmanship of one Prince Uche Secondus, the party struggled helplessly in the murky waters of apathy, while the incumbent APC overran the network with campaign propaganda.

 

It appears history repeated itself. In the 2015 election where the PDP lost as the incumbent, a similar blunder occurred. While the APC were ceaselessly overrunning the voting population with campaign propaganda, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s campaign coordinators were busy scrabbling and garnering funds for personal interests. It may be recalled that this sitting President and his wife at the time, did not even pass the election card- accreditation process – an indication that the digital voting system across the nation might have been  fraught with technical hitches and possibly, a breach of the  process. Even as President Jonathan and his wife were declined by the card readers at their home town, Otuoke in Bayelsa State; this President ignorantly missed the opportunity to question the integrity of the electoral process. The result was a miserable crash that has plagued the PDP since 2015.

 

Unlike the PDP, President Buhari and his APC handlers strategically mapped out a reelection roadmap way ahead of the Presidential Election. About eight months to this election, the APC repackaged their candidate Buhari, and made up enough excuses for his disastrous three-year outing.  Unfortunately, the PDP at the time was still far away from naming a candidate to challenge this dragon. To make up for a lack of a possible presidential flag bearer at the time, it embarked on a meaningless “Anybody but Buhari” campaign. This again, was where the PDP got it wrong. A proposal to replace a bad leader with just about anything is not a strategy. It is indeed an anthem for a failed opposition.

 

To make up for a lack of a possible presidential flag bearer at the time, it embarked on a meaningless “Anybody but Buhari” campaign. This again, was where PDP got it wrong. A proposal to replace a bad leader with just about anything is not a strategy. It is indeed an anthem for a failed opposition.

 

This article is not an endorsement of the recently concluded presidential election because in Nigeria’s dysfunctional electoral system, the party which rigs the most wins the race. However, this paper investigates in clear terms, the parties, their candidates, and their preparedness in handling their election challenges. While Buhari might not have been regarded as the best choice for Nigerians, his campaign was strengthened by the inactions of his challenger, Atiku Abubakar who was portrayed as having the tendency to share the national treasury with the wolves who surrounded his candidacy.

 

Yet the APC projected two campaign strategies to sugar-coat a catastrophic first term. They started with “Next Level” crusade, claiming that this incumbent was set to take the country into the next level of economic comfort zone of possibilities. A few months to the election, it launched another campaign – the “4+4” mantra – demanding the completion of another a 4-year tenure for their candidate. The opposition strategists failed to impugn Buhari’s strategists, nor did they provide a superior crusade. Sadly, PDP’s structure remained chaotic, unable to conceptually implement effective campaign strategies, as their enthusiasts sporadically engaged in innocuous social media rants.

 

To win an election, there must be strategic plans or convincing programs to sell to the electorates. But attempting to bribe voters or compromise election workers are definitely not the options for consideration.    Sadly, without any meaningful preparations, PDP and its candidate handed Buhari another 4-year tenure of potential policy vagueness. The question now is, would this opposition go back to a usual sleep and wake up a month before the next election in 2023 to resume an impossible electoral victory? The reality is, if any party is serious about unseating this incumbent government, it must start right at this moment.  Thus, PDP should go back to the drawing board, embark on self-process audit ad revisit its people, structure, and strategy.

 

♦ Anthony Ogbo, PhD is the author of the Influence of Leadership (2015)  and the Maxims of Political Leadership (2019). Contact: anthony@guardiannews.us

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