Tunji Adegboyega

Desperate attempts by Nigeria’s sore losers to delegitimise Tinubu’s victory.

Ordinarily, one would have let sleeping dogs lie concerning the just concluded general elections in the country, especially since the aggrieved have decided to go to court. But then, the way some of the losers, especially the Labour Party (LP) chieftains have been going about their loss at the polls leaves a sour taste in the mouth. While one may dismiss their call to violence as ‘ranting of an ant’, not so the narratives they are trying to rewrite about the 2023 elections.

I am here talking of their frantic attempts to delegitimise the election, having lost at the polls. Like a mortally wounded lion, they have taken to every available space, particularly the social media, to rubbish the election as neither free nor fair, riddled with violence, and what have you.

This is where silence stops being golden. For a generation bereft of the country’s political and democratic history, the tendency is for the youths who form the bulk of the party’s support base to gulp up and continue to regurgitate whatever they find on the Internet as the truth and nothing but the truth. But we should not abdicate the space to people who are attempting to stand truth on its head. Nigerians must have access to alternative viewpoints, the authentic story, as it were, to counter some of the wild claims that these sore losers have been making, home and abroad, about the elections.

Let’s begin from the beginning.

After the presidential election on February 25, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who scored 8,794,726 votes winner of the election. The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar came second with 6,984,520 and Labour Party’s (LP) candidate, Mr Peter Obi, came third with 6,101,533 votes.

The election produced some upsets. Perhaps the most shocking was the loss of Lagos State by Tinubu, to Obi, by about 9,848 votes.

I remember vividly how the Obidients (Obi’s supporters) in my area jubilated that for once, Tinubu, a political juggernaut, has finally met his match in the relatively political Lilliputian, Obi. I hear it was like that nationwide. At that point, they praised President Muhammadu Buhari for bringing up the cashless and Naira redesign policy that effectively checkmated Tinubu’s capacity to mop up votes.

In a sense, they were right: Tinubu has never lost any election in Lagos since the country’s return to civil rule in 1999. Unfortunately, they jubilated too early. They forgot that the masquerade that danced first eventually ends up as a spectator. By the time the real votes started coming in, particularly from the north, they turned Obi’s few thousand votes lead in a place like Lagos into mincemeat. Then, those who had earlier praised the election as a true reflection of the people’s wish started to sing a new song. As the Yoruba would say, ‘won wo shin bi obe paanu’ (they simmered like the soup in an aluminum pot just put down from the stove).

By the time the dust eventually settled on the presidential election, APC won in 12 states, as against the 19 and 21 it won in 2019 and 2015, respectively, while the PDP also won in 12 states and LP won in 11 states plus the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). APC and PDP had the 25% threshold in 29 states and 21 states, respectively. LP, on the other hand, met the 25% criterion in only 16 states. The ruling APC which won 19 states in 2017 had lost seven by the time the 2023 presidential election was over. Also, margin of votes of the ruling party fell from 3,928,869 in 2019 to 1,810,206 in 2023, a more than 50% drop. Yet, some people have the guts to say the election was not free and fair.

It would interest our youths that, of the leading four candidates in the presidential election, only Tinubu came from a formidable, united front. The remaining three, Atiku, Obi and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) were at a time all under the PDP’s umbrella. Their inability to go to the polls united led to the splitting of their votes. As a matter of fact, a cursory look at the votes they had in the polls almost approximated the number of votes PDP had in 2019 when they were still together. It is instructive that both the APC and PDP polled a little over half of the votes they had in 2019, while the third force, LP, cleared up what both parties lost at the polls with its 6.1million votes.

If only Atiku had stooped to conquer the G5 governors, and if he had not allowed Kwankwaso to leave the party with his 1.4million votes, his story would have been different. Indeed, he would have been the one the Obidients would be crying after now like a child whose lolly has just been snatched by a stubborn toddler.

Atiku, as a veteran politician, would seem to have understood these and his other miscalculations. Hence, the ‘relative’ calmness in his challenge of the election result.

Not so the Obidients.

They are not ready to take no for an answer. It is either they are declared winner or the roof comes down. Yet,they came third in the election. As a matter of fact, the way they are going about this their so-called mandate would seem to me to suggest that they are looking forward to another route to the presidency beyond the election. Although Obi has distanced his party from those calling for interim government, how about his deputy and other supporters? Worse still, could they be hoping to ride to the seat of power on the wave of another mass uprising?

The earlier the Obidients accept the reality that the only acceptable road to power in a democratic setting is through the ballot box, the better. Apoarently, many of the youths who supported Obi never voted or voted for the first time, that is why they don’t seem to understand how elections play out, especially in this part of the world.

On the issue of political violence, only those who are either ignorant of the degree of violence in previous elections in the country, or the mischievous, would say that the 2023 elections were marred by violence and so should be cancelled. Yes, pockets of violence were recorded in places like Lagos, Kano, Bauchi, Osun, Cross River and Imo, the rate of casualties was relatively low compared with past incidents. Although it is not ideal that a single soul should be lost to electoral violence, seven people were reportedly killed in Lagos in the last election, five in Kano, Imo (six), Osun (five), Bauchi (three) and Cross River (three). In all, between 13 and 28 people were reportedly killed during the presidential polls.

Although it may not yet be our dream election, this year’s election would seem one of the most peaceful if the casualty rate is compared with the past. Most of those trying to make a mountain of a molehill know; they just want the youths who have largely been denied the benefit of studying History to go with the erroneous impression that the election was largely marred by unprecedented violence.

For the record, the 1964/65 elections in the country claimed 200 lives, 1993 (100); 1999 (80); 2003 (100); 2007 conducted by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration (300); 2011 (800); 2015 (100) and 2019 (150). This year’s record is nothing near these. Ironically, the former President Obasanjo who knew how many people died in the election conducted in his time is one of those spearheading the cancellation of this year’s election in certain areas, whatever that meant!

In terms of voter intimidation, harassment and assault, these were recorded in only five per cent of the polling booths nationwide.

Again, this year’s election is the most technologically advanced in the country’s democratic history. Devices such as Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), the electronic device designed to read Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs), was used with 88 per cent success rate across the 176,606 polling units nationwide. They were fixed in nine percent of places where they malfunctioned and replaced outright in two per cent of such places.

Perhaps the main bone of contention is INEC’s failure or inability to upload the election result real time as it promised. For me, this is a storm in a teacup. Even if INEC had promised to deploy its Results Viewing Portal (IReV), and circumstances later dictated that was no longer feasible, is the commission a robot that it would not reverse itself? Should INEC not change its mind if it saw cyber attacks ahead? Even the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, confirmed that there was an upsurge of cyber attacks on Nigeria’s cyber space, especially during the elections.

At any rate, the issue is not a constitutional matter.

As I have argued severally, many of our politicians are like the proverbial drowning man who would not mind clinging to a serpent for help. It is when they know they have no case that they start looking for technicalities in court. For me, however, the most important thing in this matter is that the votes cast represent the wish of the people, whether collated manually or electronically.

It is not funny that the party that came third in an election is the one most vociferously calling for cancellation of results in places where it lost. If LP and its supporters had thought that some benevolent spirits would help them crack their palm kernels at the polls and those spirits could not deliver because they met more formidable spirits on their way, that is not enough reason to pull down the house over everybody’s head.

The way the Obidients are going, it is as if the party itself realised that if the presidency slipped from their hands this time, they may never get the kind of momentum that gave them visibility in the just concluded elections again. Hence, all attempts to upturn the result and have the trophy handed over to their party that came third on a platter of social media popularity.

Even in the south east base of Mr Obi, his people have moved on as the governorship election showed. People have largely returned to their tents. Was he also outrigged in his region? If any of the LP candidates had been sleeping on waterbed in Aso Rock Villa before the election in his dream, such LP candidates should go and sleep again and dream reality. They will then realise that the waterbed that they found themselves on was in a dream; fantasy island.

As my people say, eni r’owo he loju ala to ndunnu, e so fun ko tepa mose e nitori ebi (anyone who saw and picked money in a dream should be told that he has a lot of work to do to ward off hunger). Mr Obi, as a first timer in such an election has done exceedingly well. But, oun ko lo kan. The 61-year-old youth should wait for his turn, if his supporters would allow that, with the angry manner they are chasing after something that is not lost.

It is preposterous for any reasonable person to say that an election in which a sitting president lost in his state was rigged. Or the one that saw ‘a whole’ Tinubu floored in Lagos by a political neophyte. Come off it! Those are idle talks and those peddling them should go tell that to the marines!

Finally, LP and its supporters must choose between the courts and street protests, intimidation and threats. They cannot be in court on the one hand and at the same time be threatening fire and brimstone if they lose in court, on the other. They cannot approbate and reprobate at the same time.

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