The recent statement by President Muhammadu Buhari that the results of the bye elections in Katsina, Bauchi and Kogi States where the All Progressives Congress (APC) senatorial and House of Representives candidates won were indications that the party would be victorious in the 2019 general elections was reassuring for some of us who are supporters of the party and it’s indisputable presidential flagbearer.
That statement to some of us who are Buhari supporters is an elixir that will ginger us up and make us look at the positive sides to the coming elections in the face of the mounting opposition from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which seems to have really reorganized to give the APC a run for its money.
Having stated the positive interpretations to our victory in those bye-elections, somebody like me owe it a duty to the President to let him know the real and naked truth. President Buhari was not in the country when the August 11 bye-election took place and did not even vote. He was not around to see how the voting went on in his Senatorial district and to properly evaluate whether the result is one that he can celebrate or rejoice over.
First, let us look at the figures before interrogating the facts behind them. In that election held in 1,825 polling stations of the 128 wards spread across 12 Local Government Areas constituting Katsina North Senatorial District, otherwise called Daura Zone of the state, the APC candidate, Ahmed Baba Kaita secured about 224,000 votes to defeat his brother, Kabir Baba Kaita of the PDP who got about 59,000 votes. This means that the APC got three out of every four votes cast in the election while the PDP candidate got one.
Second, these figures show that only about 290,000 voters came out to cast their ballot. This is less than 33 percent of the about 900,000 votes secured by the late Senator Bukar Mustapha who was elected in 2015 from the same district. This means that about 70 percent of the voters have either disappeared or did not show any interest in the election. Or is that these were voters who never existed in the first place?
Third, the implication is that if the above points are extra-polated further, the figures show that in the 2019 elections, President Buhari will not score the jumbo votes as he did in 2015, in his senatorial district, the place that he often calls his “constituency”. What this also means is that a key, safe ground is under serious threat.
More importantly, the President should note that the APC victory in the bye-election was recorded under a pale of massive vote buying in that election. There were videos showing active participation of electoral officials and leaders of the APC in this illegal activity. And the President should know that this is not an empty claim or false information.
The Daily Trust, a credible medium to some of us here in the north, and I believe, across the country, wrote as follows in its editorial on the election: “Even in Katsina State, the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, vote buying defaced APC’s victory in the August 11 bye-election into Katsina North Senatorial District seat in the National Assembly. It was alleged that the APC distributed N200,000 to voters in each of the 1,825 polling units”.
This actually is the fact behind the figures. Nobody can contemplate that the APC, the party to which President Buhari belong will have to resort to vote buying before it can win a senatorial seat. There are suggestions that as much as N5,000 was paid per vote by our party leaders. What it means is that the loyalty, devotion and dedicated support which have always been the strength of the APC are no longer there, or if they are there, they are no longer very potent and have lost their electoral value.
These developments are worrisome but they are so hidden that the declaration of Baba Kaita as winner of that Senatorial bye-election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) will not make them visible. They are the facts behind the figures.
The strategists of President Muhammadu Buhari need to look beyond the figures and make a thorough analysis of the situation and have a broad understanding of what may await the President in his re-election bid. There is a danger in a situation where the votes are thinnning out or gradually reducing, in key strongholds of the President. Also, the strong showing of the opposition PDP and other smaller parties which may team up to face APC in 2019 have two implications.
It may embolden the opposition and encourage them to see the APC as beatable and a spent force which has lost its pre-2015 invincibility. It may also dampen the morale of the APC supporters. Now, instead of the confidence they exude in these strong areas, our party’s supporters may resort to pressing the panic mode. This may lead to the kind of desperation that will now make the supporters to adopt the do-or-die attitude. And this will make the election become violent. Also, the legitimacy of the mandate that may result from an election in which the outcome is based on fraudulent purchase of votes and upscale occurrence of violence, may be called into question.
Already, the opposition which has been raising the accusation of vote buying will seek to beat the APC in their game and we may end up having a free-for-all, vote buying spree in the 2019 election. That is why I believe the President should know what the true situation of things are, beyond the election result figures and the INEC declaration of a winner.
Beyond what the party chieftains tell the President, he should try to get information from independent sources. Similarly, a more objective, scientific and critical analysis of all the election results should be done to give broader meaning to them.
This is what the President needs at this point. It is what can help him. The clear pointers to the 2019 polls are already here with us. We should read the signals well.
Dass writes from Bauchi