Suspense, tension, permutations and acrimony. These are the colours of Nigeria’s 2023 general elections.
From the Presidential and National Assembly elections held on February 25 to the rescheduled governorship and state Houses of Assembly poll that took place on March 18, there are lessons for winners, losers and the country’s democratic journey.
Indeed, there were outcomes that shocked many observers, and the predicted outcomes that came to pass. All in all, this year’s general elections were not the norm in respect of the interest displayed by Nigerians, the desire to vote by voters and their expectations, the attitude and perception of the political gladiators before voting day, and most importantly, the air of uncertainty that hung over the political parties and their supporters.
The dark horse in the presidential election, Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, like a hurricane had taken the nation’s political firmament by storm, and when the dust settled, the ex-governor of Anambra State, ridiculed by opponents for lacking the structure to win any state, won in 12 states and polled a total of over 6, 000, 000 votes.
As if this feat was not enough, he defeated the frontrunner in the election and candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who eventually won the poll in his home turf of Lagos State, including in Ebonyi, Plateau, Nasarawa, Imo, and Cross River, four states controlled by the ruling APC. The other seven states where Obi came out tops were controlled by the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
Not yet done, the LP which was until this year not one of the top parties in the nation, also snatched 40 National Assembly seats, made up of seven senatorial seats and 36 House of Representatives seats. A major political coup by all standards. Based on this outcome, the party can be described as the major winner in the 2023 general elections, surpassing its expectations and dreams. It can still score a first, if its candidate who is challenging the results of the presidential poll in court emerges victorious and is declared winner of the election. The major loser in the electoral successes recorded by the LP was the PDP.
In the presidential election, Tinubu, apart from showing his dominance in clinching the highest votes in all the states in the South-West, apart from Lagos and Osun. He won in three states in the North Central all controlled by his party, and made inroads into Benue that was under PDP control. However, his biggest win was in Rivers State, hitherto before now was a major PDP stronghold, where against all odds he scored 231,591 votes to emerge first. Tinubu showed in this election that he was a political chess grandmaster, who knew which states had to be swept clean of mines and how to navigate the political stormy waters in such states to gain the much-needed victory. Tinubu’s party, the APC also scored big in the National Assembly elections, in which the party won 162 seats, comprising 57 senatorial and 162 House of Representatives seats.
As for former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who came second in the presidential election, he won in only two South-South states, a traditional PDP stronghold. In the North West and in states controlled by the APC, Atiku came out tops in Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina States, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state. His strongest showing was in the North-East, the region he comes from, where he won five out of the six states, including in Gombe and Yobe, governed by the APC. Obviously, his campaign was badly hit by the activities of the G5 PDP governors, resulting in him losing in the states held by them. For the PDP, it grabbed 33 senatorial and 88 House of Representatives seats.
For the gubernatorial poll based on the results released so fat by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the APC won 15 states, snatching victory in Sokoto and Benue States, in his cycle of elections, while losing Plateau, Kano and Zamfara States. On the other hand, the PDP won in seven states with results from Enugu, Abia, and Adamawa still being awaited as at the time of this piece. The party therefore lost in Sokoto and Benue. While the LP looks likely to record an upset in Abia State, and the PDP leads in Enugu State, the New Nigeria Peoples Party led by former governor and minister, Rabiu Kwankwaso, however, won the number one seat in Kabo State, bringing to an end the stranglehold of the APC on the ancient commercial city.
The picture will, however, become clearer at the commencement of legal fireworks and when disgruntled candidates of the outcome of the governorship polls approach the tribunals to contest the results announced by INEC. Only when the governorship election tribunals conclude the hearing of the various petitions, and deliver judgement that we will know which party controls the majority of states in the country.