2011 GENERAL ELECTIONS OPENED UP NEW FRONTIERS AND THREW UP NEW CHALLENGES
•INEC Boss, Attahiru Jega
The stretch of 2011 general elections was indeed a season of long knives. All of that, to be sure, was the fallout of the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in May 2010 and the politics of succession that started even before his demise. As it were, the political situation of the country was heavily pregnant and nobody knew exactly how things would turn out.
The North had insisted that the zoning arrangement of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was sacrosanct and that President Goodluck Jonathan was not qualified to contest the presidential election on the platform of the party.
The battle line was drawn between the proponents of zoning (those who believed that in line with the constitution of the party and the agreement which Jonathan was a signatory to, the North must produce the president) and the antagonists of zoning (those who said that zoning was an idea whose time had passed, more so, that the political firmament is wide and should be opened for everyone to contest any post irrespective of geographical background).
Apart from some aggrieved northerners that went to court to stop the president, ethnic and religious jingoism was shot out in bold relief, almost polarizing the country on North-South divide and Christian -Muslim dichotomy.
In order to make sure that the North was not shortchanged and had to complete its second term, four presidential aspirants with clouts and war chests to march Jonathan emerged - former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, former Kwara State governor, Bukola Saraki and former National Security adviser to Yar'Adua and later Jonathan, General Aliyu Gusau (retd). The Northern Elders Forum (NEF), led by Adamu Ciroma and eight other members that were hell bent on making sure that a northerner wins the 2011 presidential election, screened the four aspirants and declared that Atiku was the favoured candidate of the forum to face Jonathan at the presidential primaries - both of PDP.
The campaigns mounted by Atiku and Jonathan camp were very bitter and acrimonious, so much so that they left deep wounds in the party. At the end of the presidential primaries contested by the duo and Mrs. Sarah Jubril, Jonathan defeated Atiku, even in northern states that analysts believed were the strongholds of Atiku and the NEL.
At the rescheduled presidential election held on April 16, 2011, after it was postponed from April 9, Jonathan scored 58.89 per cent, trouncing his closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, who scored 31.89 per cent. Buhari had left All Nigerians Peoples Party (ANPP) and founded another party, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which was making waves in the North.
The result of the presidential primaries sparked riots in some states in the North that led to the killing of over 23, including National Youth Service Corps members serving in the affected states. Properties estimated at over N100 million were also destroyed.
One striking thing about 2011 general election is that it marked the end of zoning in Nigerian politics, thus opening up new frontiers and challenges in the nation's politics in a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, where the minority hopes that by zoning and rotation, power would come to them without a struggle.
Towards the inauguration of the seventh session of the National Assembly, the PDP top hierarchy had zoned the office of the speaker of the House of Representatives to the Southwest and deputy to the Northeast. This irked members of the House as they revolted against the arrangement and overwhelmingly voted Aminu Tambuwal from Northwest as Speaker, while Emeka Ihedioha from Southeast was elected the deputy.
This position of the House finally nailed the coffin of zoning and rotation of political offices especially in PDP. With this arrangement, the Southwest lost out in the power equation in the country, as it is not occupying any of the six plum political positions.
The 2001 general elections started on shaky note with doubts about Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC), preparedness for the election. It started with the late arrival of the Direst Data Capturing Machine and the malfunction of some of the machines for voter registration.
Midway into voting for the Senatorial and House of Representatives elections in just a few areas on April 2, INEC halted and cancelled the exercise, citing logistic problems. The election was shifted to April 9, the presidential was held on April 16, while governorship and state House of Assembly elections were held on April 26.
After the election, there were over 400 election petitions before Election Petition Tribunals. However, this number was a far cry from the over 1,250 petitions filed in 2007.
Buhari and his party headed for the tribunal to contest the outcome of the presidential election. The tribunal upheld the election of Jonathan, not satisfied, Buhari headed for the Supreme Court which upheld the decision of the Appeal Court. Succour also came the way of Governors Ibikunle Amosun, Jonah Jang and Rabiu Kwankwaso as the court declared them as lawful governors of Ogun, Plateau and Kano states, respectively.
The Governorship Election Petitions Tribunal in Kebbi nullified the election of Gov. Sa'idu Dakingari as state governor and directed INEC to conduct a fresh election within 90 days.
Also, the election petition tribunal in Kebbi State upturned the election of Senator Atiku Bagudu of PDP and declared former governor of Kebbi State, Adamu Aliero, winner of Kebbi Central senatorial seat. In the same vein, the election tribunal in Benue State quashed the election of the Benue State House of Assembly Speaker, Terhemen Tazor, a PDP member, and declared Avine Agom of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) winner of Makurdi North constituency.
On December 22, Court of Appeal Election Tribunal in Enugu, nullified the election of Andy Uba of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as Senator representing Anambra South Senatorial District. The tribunal led by Justice Helen Moronkeji Ogunwumiju, also annulled the election of Mrs. Uche Ekwunife representing Njikoka/Aniocha, Dunukofia Federal Constituency.
One of the fallouts of the 2011 general elections is that political heavyweights were reduced to featherweights. Vice president, Namadi Sambo lost in his ward. Former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and his daughter, Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello, also lost out. Former governor of Enugu Sate, Chimaroke Nnamani lost in his senatorial zone.
Twenty-six governors contested the elections and four of them were defeated at the polls - Ikedi Ohakim of PDP from Imo State, who was defeated by APGA candidate, Rochas Okorocha, Mammud Shinkaffi of PDP from Zamfara was defeated by Yau Abubakar of ANPP, Tanko Al-Makuri (the only CPC governor from Nassarawa) trounced Akwa Doma, while Alao Akala of PDP lost out to Abiola Ajumobi of Oyo State
The greatest loser of the election was the PDP in the Southwest as Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) uprooted it from the zone.
The court also extended the tenure of five governors who were elected on the platform of PDP. The governors were, Ibrahim Idris of Kogi, Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto; Timipriye Sylva of Bayelsa; Liyel Imoke of Cross River and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa.
In 2011, PDP suffered a major set back at the National Assembly as its numerical strength was weakened by its depletion. From its control of the NASS in 1999 with 77 per cent of the members, 84 per cent in 2003, 94 per cent in 2007 and now about 50 per cent in 2011, it is certain that the party is taking a downward trend. This is the more reason the top party hierarchy could not have its way as to who became the speaker.
On December 3, INEC conducted gubernatorial elections in Kogi State, which was won by PDP candidate, Captain Idris Wada. While the other candidates protested the outcome, INEC held its ground and asked any aggrieved party to go to court.
In Bayelsa State, it has been a show of might and power between forces in Abuja and the local foot soldiers in Bayelsa over the party gubernatorial ticket. As it is now, it would seem that Governor Sylva has lost out to the Abuja might, as a member of House of Representatives, Seriake Dickson, is now holding the party ticket for the February 11, 2012 gubernatorial election.
The 2011 general election has thrown up the ACN as an emerging tiger in Nigerian politics; controlling five states in Southwest and one state in South South and some legislatures from Southeast. Tambuwal was able to emerge the speaker of the House because of the weight of ACN in the House.