As the race for the 2019 election gathers momentum,GABRIEL ATUMEYI, examines whether the outcome of recent elections are necessarily a forecast of the much anticipated 2019 polls.
As the race for 2019 heads into the campaign stage, the two major political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have, expectedly been locked in a perception battle.
While both sides scale up the exchange of accusation over corruption and incompetence, analysts and professional pollsters are also engrossed in the task of predicting the possible outcome of the election.
For PDP, the success of its presidential primary and the formidable statue of its candidate, former vice president, Atiku Abubakar and his running mate, former governor of Anambra State Peter Obi, is a good start. They also hope to ride on narrative of economic hardship, the wave of insecurity in the country as well as what they consider lopsided anti-corruption war under the current administration.
The APC is hitting back. The ruling party believes it has done enough to deserve a second term at the helm of the federal power because the 2019 election would be a referendum on President Muhammadu Buhari’s achievement so far. The party is quick to extend its argument of having an upperhand with the electoral successes it has recorded in recent times. For them it gives an indication of what is to come.
The later argument seems plausible given the fact that this year alone there have been a number of off season elections and by-elections that the ruling party won, even though it attracted protests from the opposition party.
In Ekiti State, the ruling party in the state, PDP, was dislodged by the APC under the former minister of Power and steel, Kayode Fayemi and in Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, succeeded the incumbent APC governor, Rauf Aregbesola.
Similarly, the recent House of Representatives by-election held in Bauchi, Katsina and Kwara States saw the APC, not only consolidate its presence in areas it already controlled, but took control of areas it didn’t control before the polls. In Toro Federal Constituency (Bauchi), Alhaji Yusuf Nuhu of APC defeated Shehu Umar of the PDP with a difference of 9,102 votes.
In Ekiti/Irepodun/Isin/Oke-Ero constituency in Kwara State, Mr. Raheem Olawuyi of the APC triumphed over Saheed Alatise of the PDP; and in Kankiya/Kusada/Ingawa Federal constituency of Katsina State, Alhaji Abubakar Kusada of the APC.
Also in the senatorial by-elections that took place in August this year the APC in Katsina and Bauchi States.
The APC also made a strong showing as Ahmad Babba Kaita won the Katsina North Senatorial District after polling 224,607 votes against his closest rival, Kabir Babba Kaita of PDP who polled 59,724 votes. The APC candidate, Lawal Yahaya Gumau, also won the Bauchi South Senatorial seat.
Also in August, Haruna Isah of the APC won the Lokoja /Kogi Federal constituency by-election polling 26,860 while the candidate of PDP, Engr Bashir Abubakar scored 14,845 votes to place second.
APC couldn’t win the Anambra central senatorial rerun in which Chief Victor Umeh of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) won. But it came second.
The APC conscious of the next general election has not taken any preceding election for granted, so they seem battle hardened and perhaps have perfected their tactics and strategy. But these victories are not without controversies they have been accused of using the security apparatus to coerce the outcomes of those polls.
The Ekiti State governorship poll of July 14 that witnessed the deployment of 40,000 policemen while the Osun State election of September 22 was reported to have seen the deployment of 30,000 police personnel among other security personnel. The opposition cried foul over this deployment.
In Ekiti State, the then governor, Ayo Fayose, a member of the opposition, PDP was allegedly denied movement for two days effectively stopping him from going out to campaign for the last two days of the exercise. This was allegedly done by a combination of Police and military personnel drafted to the state for the purpose of the election. The legality of that action is still being contested just as some analysts have opined that it amounts to the principle of political intimidating by a ruling party against the opposition.
In Osun State, PDP’s candidate, Senator Ademola Adeleke was leading with 353 votes before it was declared inconclusive by INEC. But Gboyega Oyetola of APC came from his second position in the main election to win the supplementary poll and he was declared winner in the final results.
PDP rejected the outcome even claiming that the actual margin of the win against Oyetola in the first election was 4,740 and not 353. It was claimed that the party alleged that INEC added 2,000 votes to what the APC polled in Osogbo and 1,387 to what it scored in Olorunda. The party also alleged that 1,000 votes were deducted from what Adeleke scored in the Ayedaade council area.
The early post 2015 elections also show same pattern of APC domineering the polls, amid lots of intra and inter party intrigues, legal drama and protestations. While the PDP retained Bayelsa State at the governorship election, the APC took Kogi and Ondo States from PDP and retained Edo State.
But despite the suspicions of the opposition, the presidency has continued to maintain that the electoral victories of the APC was evidence of the popularity of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The odd seems to favour the APC, still having a majority of governors in the states, with 22 governors of which 14 are in the North. The South-eastern states and the South-south states have voted PDP in the past while the South-west has increasingly remained an APC strong hold under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, as reinforced by the outcome of elections in Ekiti and Osun states. This is in spite of alleged frictions between Tinubu and Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, on the one hand and Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, on the other hand.
The middle belt states have oscillated sporadically depending on the mood of the nation, in 2015 it was expected that they will vote massively for PDP but they ended up voting for the APC.
But the PDP has further claimed that what makes coming presidential election interesting is because they will be fielding a northern candidate unlike 2015. They believe that Buhari had it so easy against Jonathan because the party jettisoned its zoning formular which saw a southerner taking the slot of the North, a situation which culminated in lots of votes going to Buhari.
They argue that that may not be the case in 2019. For instance, in 2007, the contest between late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua and Buhari, perhaps gives an insight into the argument of the PDP.
Buhari according to INEC scored a little over six million votes in that election (even though Yar’Adua admitted that the election was flawed) compared to 15million votes he scored in 2015.
The debate continues. With the North-east (where Atiku hails from) eager to produce the president of the country decades after the former Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, and the clamour for more inclusivity gaining traction, the prospects for both parties and their candidates remain a close call for pundits.
Reacting to the outcome of the federal constituencies by-elections in Katsina, Kwara and Bauchi States which the APC won, the senior special assistant to the President, Garba Shehu, believed it was symbolic of how the party will perform in 2019.
“This is a sign of things to come in the 2019 elections”, Shehu noted in a statement.
He added, “This victory should be a blow for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) campaigners who have maintained that by merely claiming that they have rebranded, Nigerians will have forgotten all the mess they left behind in 2015.
“By voting overwhelmingly for the ruling APC, Nigerians have shown their confidence in the Muhammadu Buhari administration, and their willingness for continuation of this government and its policies.
“This clear show of support can only be a synopsis of what Nigerians should expect in the forthcoming elections, at all levels.”
A PDP chieftain and former chairman of the rested Fresh PDP, Chief Olukayode Akindele, believes the outcome of previous votes won’t affect his party’s fortunes.
He said “That is a big laugh. What the ruling party has done is to play the game the way that most ruling parties in Africa do. However, thank God that in Nigeria, we have precedence of court decisions. I am sure that by the time one or two of those elections are fully addressed in the courts, the outcome of these elections will be reversed.
“I have no doubt about that. It has happened in the past. Fortunately we still have a credible Judiciary. I am certain that in states like Osun, the illegality will be reversed by God’s grace.”
But political analyst, Martin Odega, avers that the behaviour of electorate, the quality of engagement between candidates/parties and voters will be critical.
He also stated that what is critical is for the electoral umpire and all other critical stakeholders in the electoral process, especially the security agencies provide not just free and fair election but an environment for people to freely engage the process.
“I like to think that every election is different because the issues that determine how the electorate will vote vary. Ideally, the issues that should define how people vote should be more of capacity to meet the needs of the people rather than issues of ethnic and religious sentiments. So it might not be totally correct to predict one way or the other because these primodial sentiments unfortunately still exist, perhaps in ways they ought not to.
“But it is also important that people are free to come out and vote and not be intimidated by political thugs. It is equally very important that the electoral umpire, INEC and security agencies are seen to be non partisan,” he added.
But the ultimate verdict lies with the electorates.
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