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Elections 2023: The ooh and aah moments

The sounds of oohs and aahs started breaking out from incredulous mouths when the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections started rolling out…

The sounds of oohs and aahs started breaking out from incredulous mouths when the results of the presidential and National Assembly elections started rolling out at the beginning of last week. It would be trite to say the unexpected was happening. Unforeseen, unpredicted, unanticipated—different such adjectives kept popping up and down my mind to describe what was unfolding.

In the presidential race, the first shock was the loss of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in Lagos State to the Labour Party (LP). The candidate of the APC, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, is from Lagos State and has never been defeated there since he ventured into politics in 1992. He was the first governor of the state in this 4th Republic and, over the years thereafter, has maintained a tight leash over the political structures in Lagos, including all the adjoining states in the region.

Peter Obi, the LP candidate, on the other hand, is an Anambra State citizen who has served as governor of the state. Though he left the seat of governor very well-regarded, he has never been considered a political kingpin of any sort. He was not even a member of the LP. He was in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) where he even contested as a vice-presidential candidate to Atiku Abubakar in the 2019 elections. Obi left PDP last year when he realised that he would not be the presidential candidate for the party. He joined the LP and was adopted as a presidential candidate. The LP, a relatively small party with an uncertain structure and confined to a corner of the country, was never in contention with either the PDP or the APC.

I never gave it any chance myself. The LP did not control any state government or its legislature. It hardly had a presence in the National Assembly. It had no offices in many states of the federation. Yet the inclusion of Obi seemed to have galvanised the party, helped with a frenzied, emotive campaign, unfortunately, some of it religious, made the party grow like wildfire within a short period.

There is no doubt that the LP targeted a win in Lagos, but they were waived away as daydreamers until it happened. That was the initial, unforeseen event of the elections. And as the results unfolded and the LP kept on springing surprises, many realised that there must be found a place for the new sheriff that has arrived in town.

The PDP also gave plenty of oohs moments. I have earlier remonstrated with readers on this page about the PDP’s plight, particularly when Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State and a coterie of governors seemed bent on taking their party down the drain. Uptill days before the elections, these governors stuck to their guns. To worsen matters for the PDP, Peter Obi, seemed set to displace them in areas where they always held sway in the South and the North Central.

I gave up on the PDP giving serious competition to the APC. But things turned out differently as the results started rolling out. As against the run of play, PDP won not only in its traditional areas of Adamawa, Bauchi, and Sokoto, but went on to grab Yobe, Kebbi, and Katsina the home state of the outgoing president as well as Osun, the ancestral home of the APC president-elect.

As the count finished, PDP had gathered an impressive majority of votes in 12 states of the federation.

On the flip side, the PDP, had heavy losses in its stronghold of the South East and South South where the LP gobbled up the votes. In a twist of irony, three of the rebellious five PDP governors lost their bid to go to the Senate. Governor Ifeanyi Ogwuanyi of Enugu State lost to Okea Ezea of LP, while Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State lost to Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA).

The star loser of the lot is Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, who was beaten to the ground by the APC candidate, Titus Zam, formerly his special adviser on local government and chieftaincy affairs.

If the APC was expecting a swift victory, it turned out not to be so. They had a bruising time, crushed, here and there, even in their traditional strongholds. They lost in major population centres of Lagos and Kano states. They lost Katsina and Kebbi states, but they were compensated with rich pickings from Benue and Rivers states.

One of the last results to come in was from Borno State, home to Senator Kashim Shettima, the APC vice-presidential candidate. It was a saving grace as most of those occupying the top echelons of the APC, including the president, the presidential candidate, the party chairman, and the director general of the campaign council, had lost their states to opposing candidates.

I regard it as one of the hardest-fought elections I have witnessed and despite the reported imperfections, one of the most transparent. There are major complaints about the process of transferring results. These are issues for the courts to decide, and the aggrieved should head there. Sabre-rattling by some of the candidates, from my perspective, is uncalled for.

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