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Elections 2023, bruised political parties and crushed Nigerians -By Magnus Onyibe

The new reality is that the power of incumbency has become even more potent and lethal factor in the political of Nigerian as state apparatus and resources in terms of the use or abuse of security agencies and financial power to self perpetuate by second term governors or outgoing governors imposing surrogates have become more rife.

During the run up to the 18 March elections, there were palpable concerns on whether there would be a domino effect of the party that won at the presidential and National Assembly, NASS levels on 25 February also triumphing at the subnational stage.

To the contrary, after the 18 March voting exercise for the recruitment of governors and members of the House of Representatives, it was quite welcoming and encouraging that each of the four (4) main political parties,All Progressives Congress,APC, Peoples Democratic Party,PDP and Labour Party,LP as well as New Nigerian Peoples Party,NNPP, left their imprints country wide without any of them dominating the political scene.

Indeed, it is fortuitous that the APC and PDP had won twelve (12) states apiece, just as LP won 11 states plus the FCT which comprises of the thirty five (35) of the thirty six (36) states in the country and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP also succeeded in wining one state-kano which is the most populous in the northern Nigeria, bringing the total number territories to thirty seven (37) when the FCT is added.

As things are currently shaping up,it would appear as if there has not really been any crushing defeat suffered by any of the four (4) main political parties. But they have only suffered bruises as their supporters bases are evenly spread across the country.

But conversely Nigerians have been crushed as not less than twenty one (21), and by some accounts thirty (30) people have been reported as having been killed in the course of the 18 March elections.

A few millions of the masses have also been crushed by hunger and starvation as they are not only buying foreign currencies with naira, but as a negative fall out of the naira redesign policy, they are now compelled to use local naira currency to purchase the new naira notes from those privileged to have it at a premium of up to 30%.

If any thing,amongst the political parties,it is the LP that has suffered a reversal of fortune from the commanding heights that it had attained during the 25 February political assizes which inspired the framing the title of my column last week in form of a question: “Election 2023 as Giant Killer, End Of Incumbency?”

In that piece,l had extolled Mr Obi and LP for the feat of stirring up the youths that were hitherto dormant politically, but whose 37 million strong voting power of the 93.4 million registered voters by INEC took our country by storm during the 25 February elections and forced a change.

But the 18th March subnational election that witnessed a tamed involvement of the Obi-Dients saw the rise of NNPP in north, particularly in Kano state where it has won the gubernatorial elections and in the east where APGA is poised to expand from being the ruling party only in

Anambra state to other eastern states where it’s candidates for governor positions are serious contenders ,particularly in Abia state.

Unless,Mr Alex Otti wins the gubernatorial contest in Abia state,LP would end up not producing any governor as its major hope for producing the governor of lagos state has been dashed by multiple factors including ethnic/identity politics.

As an equally insurgent party,NNPP has won the gubernatorial election in kano state, LP must also have been nursing the ambition of controlling at least a state in lgboland.

But that hope now hangs in the balance with the Abia election yet to be called in its favor.

The reduced impact of LP/Obi-Dients in the 18 March election may in part be attributable to the mixed messaging from Mr Obi who is the indisputable leader of the party and its prime motivator who during the run up to the elections at first stated that the Obidients are not in partnership with any of the parties for the state governor and house if assembly elections.

That decision was obviously informed by the deluge of leading political parties scrambling to benefit from the positive value intrinsic in the name of LP that was enjoying tremendous goodwill of voters and LP presidential flag bearer Mr Obi whose positive image was soaring into the sky at rockstar popularity level.

In his wisdom,Mr Obi had subsequently stated that not everyone flying the flag of LP should be voted for.

Rather he instructed as it were that Obi-Dients should vote only for competent candidates.

With such an utterance, Mr Obi literally threw the contestants on the LP ticket, perhaps with the exception of Mr  Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivor contesting for the governorship of Lagos state under the bus.

Simply put,Mr Obi reversed himself as some parties started claiming alliance with the LP and the good fortune rubbed off on them and the party’s candidates not endorsed by him got sidelined by Obi-Dients who aligned with politicians of the old order that they had vowed they were on a mission to unseat.

It is needless reiterating that the confusion enabled vote buying to become an option as Obi-Dients became susceptible to being free agents ready to swing the votes in favor of the highest bidder for their votes during the 18 March election exercise which is rather unfortunate.

In the light of the above, it has been concluded by some analysts that it is Mr Obi who unwittingly flung the door open for vote buying by parties desperate to harness the votes of Obi-Dients who are currently enjoying the positive reputation of being disruptors of old order.

Apparently,the LP candidates that did not receive Mr Obi’s endorsement were just used to fill in the blank spaces in INEC’s records after it was made public by the electoral umpire and amplified in the media that LP was short of candidates vying for elective offices compared to APC,PDP, NNPP and even SDP.

In the bid to close the gap,the so called third force party must have lowered its standards by engaging in anything goes hence political dredges were featured in LP’s platform.

Even when every Tom , Dick and Harry were hastily accepted to fill up the slots in order for LP to fulfill all righteousness, as it were, it is not surprising that there were still numerous seats across Nigeria of which the LP did not field candidates.

In fact there was also a dearth of agents to represent LP according to lNEC.

The aforementioned situation arose simply because the LP only became significant and of national reckoning after Mr Obi got on board and became its presidential standard bearer barely nine (9) months ago.

But does disowning LP political office seeking candidates who helped Obi win big in the 25 February contest not smack of the Machiavellian principle of the end justifies the means in the sense that those denied validation by Obi and LP during the state governorship and house of assembly elections on 18 March may be considering themselves as having been used and dumped?

Before the advent of Mr Obi and Obi-Dients,no real politician subscribed to LP, particularly after the exit of Comrades Segun Mimiko and Adams Oshiomole who had become governors of Ondo and Edo states respectively leveraging the platform of LP.

Even those that failed to win in the primaries of the major parties like APC and PDP hardly pivoted to LP, since it had no prospect and lacked structure.

Rather,they moved to SDP and other fringe parties that had appeared to be more robust than LP.

But from the look of things,LP hitherto an underdog that became the most sought after bride following a fairy tale outing on 25 February does not appear to have  replicated its superlative performance of clinching 11 states plus the FCT during the 25 February elections.

As such it may be on a retreat which is quite the opposite of NNPP which won overwhelmingly the votes of Kano people during the 25 February presidential and National Assembly elections and repeated the victory during the 18 March elections at the sub national level by producing the governor-elect of kano state proving that, indeed it is the dominant political party in the state.

Conversely,despite LP’s superlative performance barely three weeks ago,it is not likely to produce a state governor.

So, was the 25 February election victory by LP a flash in the pan ?

Whatever the case may be ,the feat of LP winning equal number of states clinched by the erstwhile political giants such as the current ruling and main opposition parties,APC and PDP respectively is manifestly one of the wonders of election 2023.

That is because it is rather unprecedented that the three leading parties respectively came first in twelve states apiece out of the 36 states in the country plus the FCT.

Never has the strongholds of major parties been so evenly shared in our country since 1979 when roughly half a dozen political parties-NPN,UPN,UPGA,GNPP, PRP, NPP representing the multiple ethnic groups, regions and religious leanings ruled the roost in Nigerian political space as the political landscape of our country is currently looking.

The present political landscape of Nigeria tend to be echoing or exhibiting same character as events in 1979. The assertion is premised on the springing forth of regional parties that have become entrenched in ethnic enclaves after the 25 February and 18 March elections.

The realities above came into greater relief after the Saturday 18 March elections.

While the lgbo party APGA that can be said to be a kind of reincarnation of UPGA is regaining its foothold in the east as it is poised to expand from Anambra to Abia,NNPP that can be be likened to PRP is also consolidating its hold in Kano and likely Yobe and Jigawa states where it is having strong presence. As l have been observing in past articles,the Yorubas have shifted from being the champions of regional or ethnic based parties as reflected by UPN led by the late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo, who the late Dimkpa Odumegu Ojukwu tagged the best President Nigeria never had, into a nationally focused group. That was largely due to the transition of the narrow scope of the UPN which was essentially a Yoruba ethnic focused political vehicle into the ACN led by former Lagos state governor,Asiwaju Bola Tinubu now president-elect which eventually morphed into the current ruling party,APC.



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