The result of the Nigerian 2015 presidential election shows how elections are won and lost on the altar of strategies. The opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) did the impossible by unseating the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the March 28 Presidential elections effectively ending its 16-year dominance in the Nigeria political space.
President Goodluck Jonathan and his party, the PDP, as far as some of us are concerned lost the election due to his own undoing-underestimating the APC’s strategies. The APC simply discovered a new way of defeating its arch rival with the PDP seriously suffering from constipation.
The following proves the difference between the two parties:
The (Mis)Use of Propaganda
Both parties used propaganda in the build up to the March 28 election, it is very difficult not to! The only worrisome aspect is its tactless use by the PDP. Instead of promoting their own candidate, Goodluck Jonathan, they ended up promoting the APC candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari. They sponsored on several Television stations personal attacks on the General, many of which largely went over the bar. They even behaved like the US Republican during the Franklin D. Roosevelt who, in their uncontrolled attacks, included the President’s dog, Fala. There were several mentions of the General’s academic qualification, his health status, and they even went so puerile to included his daughter who died of Sickle Cell anemia in their propaganda effort.
To cap it up one of the television stations airing the PDP propaganda, African Independent Television (AIT) conducted an online poll, which put Buhari clearly on the lead with 76 per cent while President Jonathan was trailing behind with about 20 per cent. Needless to say that the poll was cancelled abruptly, but the message was clear-the attacks were not working!
Propaganda is not itself bad if it is serves the exact purpose for which it was used. The Nazis were taught this bitter lesson during the World War II with the British superior propaganda machinery. So if the PDP lost due to propaganda, then the APC must have had more effective propaganda machine!
In 2011, President Jonathan rode to power purely on the basis of strong positive public perception, winning in four of Nigeria’s six geo-political zones. The fact that President Jonathan, from South-South zone, contested against three leading Northern Presidential candidates largely divided Northern votes which all ran in his favour while he cruses home with southern votes including the south west.
All that changed in 2015. The Boko Haram insurgency in the North East made that region a “No Entry” point of President Jonathan. Though he won in Taraba, a Christian dominated state, having little to do with the Boko Haram fiasco.
In the North Central where President Jonathan won in every single state, except for Niger, jumped ship. Of the six states, General Buhari won in four: Niger, Kwara, Kogi, and Benue, leaving President Jonathan with slim victories in three: Abuja, Plateau, and Nassarawa(a surprising victory?).
In the North West, the most populous in the country, is considered General Buhari’s “home” so President Jonathan was seriously expected to sweat it out seriously in this region. Even the most optimistic of the president’s men would not have expected a miracle for the president in this region. It is doubtful if the President even got the constitutionally required 25 per cent in this region.
The South West region, which voted massively for President Jonathan in 2011, provided unclear picture for the president’s strategists. Some are of the opinion that president Jonathan won the 2011 election thanks to bulk votes he got from the Yorubas. I didn’t share this view until recently. The President got a total of 22.5 million national votes. If we remove 8.5 million Yoruba votes from his votes he is then so close to his next contender, who scored 12.5 million votes. In the worst case scenario, the election will have ended in a run-off whose outcome is largely unpredictable.
The president’s loss in this region, except in Ekiti State, is largely his undoing. He did not return the favour of the region’s votes throughout his tenure. Needless to say the APC appointed Professor Yemi Osinbajo from the region as its Vice Presidential candidate. This proved to be where the party hit the jackpot, winning the five out of six states in the region.
The Western Influence
There are strong indications of United States and United kingdom’s influence on the outcome of the march 28 election. Though this is largely difficult to prove, there are several clues to point out this fact.
First, the APC’s strongest point in the campaign was based on the Boko Haram insurgency. The situation largely portrayed the Jonathan’s administration as irresponsible, “clueless”, and ineffective. To compound the problems, the Barrak Obama administration refused to supply arms to the Federal Government in its fight against the terrorists.
Secondly, is the fall in the oil prices with the Americans refusing to purchase Nigerian oil. This led the federal government to implement “austerity measures” in the face of the “US-induced oil crises”. The opposition cleverly keyed into this slump again to portray the government as reckless.
Thirdly, the role of the American public relations’ firm, AKPD Media and Messages Consulting is another pointer to the “Obama hand” in the outcome of the election. The firm is owned by David Axelrod, Obama’s confidant. Though the firm has denies it served as a media consultant to the Nigerian opposition when it said it broke initial agreement it had with the APC in March, 2014 there are clear evidence to show that the firm in fact did the work for the APC behind the scenes.
Fourth, since he started contesting in 2003, at no time has general Buhari been granted an international audience. In fact there were insinuations in some quarters that he is a wanted man in London because of his alledged role, as Nigerian Head of State, in the attempted kidnap of ex-Minister of Transport under President Shehu Shagari, Mallam Umaru Dikko on the streets of London in 1984 leading to strong diplomatic row between both countries. His invitation and subsequent acceptance to deliver a lecture at the influential Royal Institute for International Affairs, also known as Chatham House, London effectively ended all insinuations. Before then, he was largely viewed as a dictator with poor human right record and a religious bigot in the West. The question then is: What has changed?
If President Jonathan and PDP take closer look at their outing in the Presidential campaign they will discover that though they misfired on several occasions, but they lost the battle to the fact that they largely underestimated the more vibrant, innovative, and coherent APC election strategy.