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A mystifying and demystifying election

Published by The Nation on Sat, 16 Mar 2019

During his presidential campaign, President Muhammadu Buhari suggested to the All Progressives Congress (APC) crowd that thronged his rallies in two or three states to vote their conscience. His admonition, it seems, did not fall on deaf ears in Imo and Ogun States, in particular. Analysts suggested that the president was in fact tactful in giving that admonition because the APC was divided in both states. Unwilling to take sides lest it jeopardise his own election, the president was believed to have solicited the party faithful and other journeymen who gaped in his rallies to vote him as president, and any other partys candidates during the state elections. He got his wish.In Imo State, where the outgoing governor, Rochas Okorocha, demonstrated unalloyed loyalty to the presidents ambition but displayed unrestrained haughtiness towards the party faithful in the state, no one was certain the APC would go to the state elections united. Indeed, the mutually destructive and antagonistic sides were eager to pursue each other to the grave. They literally did that on March 9, 2019 when they split their votes and handed victory to a third force. Governor Okorocha planned to impose his son-in-law, Uche Nwosu, as the APC governorship candidate. The party rank and file, who were loath to serve the governor and his son-in-law, revolted and took matters into their own hands and pitched tent with Hope Uzodinma, a senator. Indeed, they were willing to pitch tent with Lucifer himself if that would liberate them from what they termed the bondage of the loquacious and imperious Mr Okorocha.Unable to foist Mr Nwosu on the APC, and despite spending a fortune to do so, Mr Okorocha eventually secured the governorship ticket for his favoured candidate from another party, the Action Alliance (AA). That ticket failed miserably on March 9, 2019, with the Peoples Democratic Partys Emeka Ihedioha taking the diadem. Not only was Mr Nwosus ambition thwarted, even Mr Okorochas election as a senator for Imo West on the platform of the APC now seems also threatened. The returning officer for the Imo West senatorial election, Innocent Ibeawuchi, a professor, told the world, as he announced Mr Okorochas victory, that he did so under duress. Consequently, the governor is yet to get his certificate of return. In all likelihood, the whole senatorial election in that constituency, or a part of it totalling about eight local governments, might be repeated. Whenever the Imo West poll is redone, Mr Okorocha is unlikely to win, thus completing the total humiliation and demystification of an orator who started very well until power got the better of his judgement and he veered towards the mundane and the frivolous.But the demystification of Mr Okorocha seems to pale into nothingness compared with the humiliation suffered by the Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun. Though the Ogun governor won his senatorial election on the platform of the APC, having at one time been a senator also, his desperate attempt to install a successor, not to say the resources and emotions he heavily invested in the effort, have all come to nought in a spectacular, highly public and dispiriting manner. Like Mr Okorocha, Sen. Amosun stayed put in the APC, which he described as hated, while he pushed his favoured candidate and other supporters to another party to contest the governorship and other offices. That candidate, Adekunle Akinlade, defected to the Allied Peoples Movement (APM) to vie for the governorship. But he fell, not just to any candidate, but to the hated APC standard-bearer, Dapo Abiodun. Mr Amosun is still livid. Indeed, his fury is still incandescent. Having tried many times to profit from his closeness to the president, the Ogun governor is still shocked that that closeness has counted for nothing, despite the president admonishing the Ogun crowd at his February 11, 2019 campaign rally to vote their conscience.Mr Amosun may have secured the consolation goal of a senatorial seat, unlike Mr Okorochas path to the upper legislative chamber which is still paved with thorns, it appears the Ogun governor would have loved to lose his senatorial seat and gain the governorship for Mr Akinlade, his protg. He had framed the governorship election as a contest of wills between him and the APC leadership. During the contentious and violent president campaign in Abeokuta less than two weeks before the February 23, 2019 presidential election, the beleaguered Mr Amosun had boasted that his APM candidate would win and thereafter, together with him, return to take over the APC. Indeed, for the governor, he and his APM crowd and other supporters were poised to put the APC hierarchy to shame after the elections. That goal may now be unrealistic. He is alleging shady electoral dealings on the part of his opponents, but the battle may really be over.But it is not only Messrs Amosun and Okorocha who have had their wings clipped; Governors Abiola Ajimobi and Abdullahi Ganduje may also have sung their Nunc Dimittis. Though Dr Ganduje is still bracing up for a rerun poll, the Kano electorate, if feelers are right, may have sealed the fate of the dissembling governor. In any case, whether he wins or loses, he has been thoroughly demystified. He had promised President Buhari some five million votes. He could only deliver a little over a million. Even that one million plus is suspected by some analyst to be controversial, given that figures deviation from the national mean. But for the governorship, he has been unable to deliver as much to himself as he coralled for the president. The reason, as Kano voters allege, is that the governor is dishonest, having been caught on camera soliciting for and receiving bribes. According to them, had there not been a definite sexing up of figures in some polling units loyal to the governor, the margin of his defeat would have been horrendous.The demystification of the Oyo State governor, Abiola Ajimobi, is even more dreadful and distressing. He wont get over the defeat easily, though he has tried to put on a brave face. As recorded on this column two weeks ago, Mr Ajimobi of course lost the senatorial election. Recognising his failings and foibles, his party waded into the fray, helped him to cobble some alliances together, and attempted to placate the Oyo electorate. All the efforts were, however, a little too late. Not only were Oyo voters dead set against him, they let anyone who cared to listen know that the defeat they inflicted on him during the senatorial poll was just a foretaste of the horrifying rejection they planned for him during the governorship poll. Despite the emergency alliances, especially the one with former governor Adebayo Alao-Akala, Sen Ajimobis candidate, the brilliant and technocratic Bayo Adelabu of the APC, lost his local government and 27 other local governments to the PDPs Seyi Makinde, gaining only five in the process. The APC defeat was emphatic. The ruling party lost essentially on account of Sen. Ajimobis politics, attitude and insensitivity. No demystification was ever so complete, and no defeat was so humiliating as one in which the senatorial and governorship polls are lost weeks apart and with uncontroversial margins.But what would anyone say of the crushing defeat inflicted upon Senate President Bukola Saraki who not only lost his seat by a wide margin, but also lost the governorship candidate he was backing by an equally astounding margin, and then lose a dynasty, if not an empire, through what can pass for a horrendous beating' His defeat was long in coming. When it came, however, it was a total repudiation. Messrs Okorocha, Amosun, Ajimobi and Ganduje were brutally crushed. If they are capable of recovery, the country will have to wait and see. Perhaps in one form or the other, one or two of them can attempt to stir themselves in the near future, though it will be a hard prospect indeed. But if Sen. Saraki is to bestir himself for a return to the throne, if he is to attempt any form of political recovery and reincarnation, he will need his successors to not learn anything from his fall, and for them to mistreat the electorate and inflict pain and mediocrity upon a disillusioned state. No one knows whether Sen. Sarakis successors are capable of that precipitous decline.Overall, the electorate may be finding their voice and discovering the immense power in their hands. If they can secure the help of the system to continue to conduct elections that are credible, they will move to deploy that power in ways that will dispossess the political class of the false sense of security and omnipotence they have long tried to claim. Perhaps, in the short run, the electorate will misuse and mishandle that enormous power, enthroning and dethroning at will, with kakistocratic fecundity and unabated panache. But in the long run, after imbibing a lot of moderation and restraint, and being coaxed by circumstances and happenstances, they may use their voting power to deliver a civic culture. Thatll be the day.
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