The term “landslide” was popularised in Nigeria in 1983-the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) having gotten president Shehu Shagari elected in 1979 by the notorious “twelve two thirds” electoral formula, was determined to “secure” an overwhelming “victory” for his second term commencing October 1983. The NPN had needed an alliance with Nnamdi Azikiwe’s Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) in 1979 in order to govern and had to concede the Deputy Senate Presidency, Speaker of the House of Representatives and quite a few ministerial positions to the NPP.
The NPN/NPP Accord duly broke down and the ruling party wanted to rule comfortably in its second term. With Justice Ovie-Whiskey as electoral umpire, the elections became a charade with massive rigging in Oyo, Ondo and (the old) Bendel States as well as Anambra and other states. The reaction (especially in Ondo State where NPN’s candidate, Akin Omoboriowo was declared the winner) was bloody and the NPN’s victory in Ondo was reversed by the courts.
Now while the term “landslide” was introduced into Nigeria’s politico-democratic lexicon in 1983, the propensity of parties which won an initial legitimate mandate in the first election to pervert every norm of democracy in seeking to consolidate power in a second election dated back to the notorious 1964/65 federal elections in Nigeria. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) won a fairly understandable (given the British gerrymandering of Nigeria to give the Northern region a presumed majority in parliament) victory in the 1959 independence elections but just like it’s geopolitical and ideological successor – the NPN of the second republic it needed an alliance with the Igbo-centric NCNC (National Council of Nigerian Citizens) to form a governing majority. “Zik” and his colleagues in the NCNC had forsaken a senior partnership with Awolowo’s Action Group in favour of a junior relationship in the NPC accord probably due to resentment of “Awo” and with encouragement from the British. By 1964, NPC sought total hegemony over Nigeria and had switched its alliance partnership from Azikiwe’s NCNC to Chief Ladoke Akintola’s “Demo” party after his split from the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo. The 1964 federal elections and the Western Region version of 1965 were a fiasco, a blatantly rigged process and led directly to the fall of the first republic. Of course the 1983 NPN landslide also led directly to the December 31, 1983 coup led by General Muhamadu Buhari just three months into Shagari’s second tenure! As they say, those who make peaceful change impossible, tend to make violent change inevitable!
In my article of 13/2/19 (repeated 20/2/19 in the wake of the postponement of the presidential elections) titled “Atiku Abubakar wins a fair contest”, it was deliberate that I qualified the type of elections, opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar could win-“… a fair contest” and not one undermined through massive vote buying facilitated in some cases reportedly through bullion vans (!), political violence targeted at opponents and their supporters, structural voter suppression through PVC collection, voting procedures and requirements, voter intimidation through the president’s orders to security agencies to be “ruthless” and to summarily execute electoral offenders (an order it turned out did not apply to those committing electoral offenses on behalf of the ruling party!) and massive deployment of the military, who in many instances particularly in Rivers, Bayelsa and some Eastern states were involved directly as protagonists of violence deliberately targeted at opposition strongholds and supporters; it does seem from reports that soldiers were in many instances actively involved in perpetrating electoral malpractices! Many innocent lives, including of electoral officers and ordinary voters were lost in the process.
It was also deliberate that I started the article by highlighting the “…large incumbency advantages in Nigeria’s politics stemming from control of … INEC, police, armed forces, DSS and NNPC!” I also noted that “more than any of its predecessors, the Buhari’s Presidency… has shown a willingness to pervert the institutions of state, … especially security services…” and ended the write-up noting that any analysis and projections of the outcome of the elections will “… be irrelevant in the context of a blatantly rigged process”. President Buhari, in the event has been declared winner of the 2019 presidential elections by a landslide of 15,191,847 to Atiku’s 11,262,978, a margin of almost 4 million votes! The vote institutionalises a process which began in 2015-in which there are two different voting systems North and South of Nigeria; and in which particularly in 2019, Southern Nigeria is projected as politically irrelevant in the electoral outcome. The Southern politicians, who helped create such a semblance of political false reality in expectation of benefitting from such in the future, may be either surprisingly naive or blinded by their ambitions.
Meanwhile the jury is out whether Buhari’s imminent second term will be different or better than the first. The President himself has already hinted that it will be “tougher”(God forbid!) and noted towards the end of the campaign that Nigerians should live within their means! I was reminded of Rehoboam in 1 Kings12:14! A people deserved the leadership they get!