As both President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar emerge Presidential candidates of the ruling All Progressive Congress and opposition People’s Democratic Party respectively over the weekend, “the battle line has been drawn” was echoed across the Nation as Nigerians appear to ignore, even more than before, other candidates and for obvious reasons.
While Buhari was ratified unopposed by a giant 14.8 million party members according to his party, Atiku Abubakar beat 11 other Aspirants with more than twice the votes garnered by second place Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State.
On the same day, results from other parties began to trickle in with very little media attention.
Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, emerged as the Presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC). Sowore, in accepting his position, referred to what many see as his base,
“We are not alone. We have people at the Diaspora and our ancestors who have gone with us. I thank those who have nominated and supported me in the journey to become the President of Nigeria.” He said.
Human Right lawyer, Femi Falana, who was present, decried the monetization of primaries as was alleged to have been the case at the PDP convention in Port Harcourt,
“Elsewhere, when convention is taking place, dollars are being distributed. We must never allow some people take over our country. We must determine the destiny of our country with our own hand. AAC, you must elevate politics to the platform of Nigerians. When others are distributing money we must be distributing ideas because it is only ideas that can eradicate politics in our country,” He said.
While Nigerians counted votes with a PDP returning officer live on TV on Sunday, Former Governor of Cross Rivers State, Donald Duke, also emerged the Presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP). Duke polled 812 votes to defeat his close rival, former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana, who polled 611 votes at the party’s National Convention held at Old Parade Ground, Abuja.
Duke, as is usual, stayed on issues and proposed what he defines as good governance, saying,
“What divides us is inadequacy and wants, because in the face of this survival of the fittest comes in, which ought not to be so because there is more than enough for everyone. This is what good governance is all about and that is what I stand for.”
But not even the declaration by one of the initiators of the Bring Back Our Girls Movement, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, could remove the attention of Nigerians from a fixation on the APC and PDP.
Ezekwesili, who started a Red Card Movement earlier, said she was running for President to sack what she described as the mediocrity and stronghold of the APC and PDP.
“Governance keeps worsening. So we the citizens have decided to get into the political arena to make things right,” she said.
By Sunday, the former Vice President of the World Bank and major progressive voice, had become the Presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), but the narrative was still firmly along a two-party line.
Exist like they don’t
India has the most political party in the world with 1866 parties, but out of this, only 56 are recognized as registered while the others are strangely called “unrecognised, registered” parties. Note that of these 56, some are State parties meaning they only exist in certain States in India. In the case of Nigeria however, there are 91 registered political parties which all claim to exist all around the Nation, even as they do not.
In March, the Independent National Electoral Commission’s Chief Technical Adviser, Bolade Eyinla, sounded a warning that the bloating of the number of parties, with all of them wanting to field a Presidential candidate, can create real logistic problems for the Commision.
Not only would the candidates’ names and party logos have to be printed, presenting voters with extra long paper, 91 different party polling agents would have to be accredited for each of the 119,973 polling units in the country, a situation that will crowd the voting centres and expose more people to the possibility of violence, as well as confuse uneducated voters.
Many Nigerians also want to narrow down their options.
Money Politics or Logistic reality
With the rise of allegations of vote buying, money has become a huger factor in Nigerian politics. This may not have helped how Nigerians see the chances of smaller candidates. In other words, people without a known “money bag” who supports them.
This is telling in the calculation of many Nigerians who were sure a not so popular Tambuwal will emerge as PDP’s candidate, all on the strength of a rumoured support by a Governor of an oil-rich State.
Research shows that nearly 80% of voters from 36 African countries believe voters are bribed – either sometimes, often or always. In Nigeria, only 6% of citizens believe bribing for votes never happens. In 2007, seven out of ten voters believed that vote buying happens either ‘all of the time’ or ‘most of the time’; today, nine out of ten believe so.
A party is also expected to send an agent each to the 119,973 polling units across the country. All of whom will be paid, very well, or will be compromised – paid by the opponent. With reports of vote buying costing up to 5,000 Naira per persons, it is expected that agents will go home with more than that amount as their pay. Even worse, more than one agent is needed to perfect the system of buying votes. Yet at 10,000 per agent for 119,973 polling units, a candidate is expected to doll out over a billion Naira in a single day, to settle agents alone. An amount that is usually ten times the budget of the average candidate.
Much more money is needed for expensive media adverts, on spot publicity and maintaining a campaign organization and lubricating a party structure which involves rent, running cost and staff in all 36 States of the Federation.
While it be believed that Atiku Abubakar can pay for this with the school fees of a number of sessions in his University and President Buhari can do the same through friends, political associates and his a strong public support base which has been begging for an account into which to make donations, other candidates have not addressed convincingly how they plan to scale through this problem. The best attempt has been from Sowore who says he will do so with cryptocurrency, leaving most people more confused.
While President Buhari contested four times before he became President, Atiku is contesting to be President for the fifth time in 25 years. Not few Nigerians think this long period of trying is needed to finally get the credentials to be President. Earlier this year, Minister of Communication had dismissed Sowore on a live radio programme, asking him to go and start from a smaller level politically and grow before running for President.
Sowore’s response to such statements has been that this is the usual attempt to make younger people feel smaller than themselves and not dare to step up. He has also threatened that “in 2019, money will fail them”
It is however not clear if the millions of young people who have divided into camp Buhari and Camp Atiku are with Mr. Sowore or other younger aspirants, as both Buhari and Atiku are over 70 and have been in power as President or Vice for a total of 13 years.
Another factor which sought to tell the ambition of others into a drive for momentum in the future is the zoning of offices. There is an unwritten and non-binding understanding that the Presidency has been zoned to the North, political parties irrespective. Both Buhari and Atiku are Northerners. Other candidates have carefully avoided the tough topic of how they intend to get enough vote from the North.