Winning elections in Nigeria requires no rocket science, as is often carelessly touted that ‘the best riggers are those who win elections’. Nevertheless, to rig election to win takes strategic planning. It cannot be said enough that attempts at rigging the governorship elections in Bayelsa and Kogi cut across all the parties. So, it is safe to say that the modus operandi for politicians to win elections in Nigeria today is largely through rigging.
By Gbenga Adesanya
In both Bayelsa and Kogi elections, PDP rigged, but APC seemed to have learnt how to be better at it. However, it cannot be said that rigging was the main tool All Progressives Congress used to win the elections in both states.
One cannot easily forget the lessons of 2014 election in Ekiti States, where Dr. Ayodele Fayose of Peoples Democratic Party defeated Dr. Kayode Fayemi of All Progressive Congress who happened to be the incumbent governor at the time. Everyone laughed when Dr. Fayose and PDP went on rampage with the popular “stomach infrastructure” campaign, while Dr. Kayode Fayemi relied on his gentlemanly antecedent and style. The result was an eye opener for APC, and that clearly came into play in Bayelsa and Kogi states elections. APC did not shy away from giving out gifts and money to potential electorates just as PDP also did. That way, the votes of a section of the electorates who believe in what they see before they can vote, was already divided between the parties. No gentleman tactic.
Another vital strategy was the choice of candidate for APC in the person of David Lyons who is a known oil magnate based in the South South state, but more importantly, a popular philanthropist whose generosity helped a lot of Bayelsa youths and women, especially in area of empowerment and job creation. Lyon is widely loved in Bayelsa, and was strategically positioned to challenge Douye Diri of Peoples Democratic Party who relied on the incumbency of Seriake Dickson, and his own profile as former Commissioner, house or representative member, and a current senator.
All Progressive Congress knew that Seriake Dickson, in spite of his failings in Bayelsa, still had a large followership, and adding that to Diri’s profile which has a major support along Sagbama, Kolokuma and Opokuma areas, was very dangerous. Though Lyons also had his own support in Southern Ijaw, Nembe and Brass, the APC played a smarter hand by exploiting the rancour in Bayelsa PDP, and especially the rumoured conflict between Dickson and the immediate past president of Nigeria. Dr. Goodluck was quietly engaged by the APC, and he was in Abuja for an unannounced meeting with President Buhari just few weeks to the election. It is also of note that Eunice Jonathan, former president’s mother, also welcomed the APC candidate to her home at Otuoke during the campaign. In Goodluck alone, the APC drove a massive nail into PDP’s coffin in Bayelsa State.
In similar vein, the ethnic card that played out in Bayelsa also came into play in Kogi wherein Edward Onoja, an Igala, was fielded as deputy governor, thus dividing the votes PDP had counted on to bring Musa Wada, also an Igala, to power, while the Egbira people who never had any love for the Igala, massively voted for their son, Yahaya Bello, thus increasing the odd against PDP.
In retrospect, one cannot but notice that, though APC lost in Anambra in 2015, a state controlled by All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), they have learnt from their past mistakes and they have been making inroads into the state with meticulous planning along same line as noted in Bayelsa where it was, initially, an anathema for APC to contest an election, least of winning. In readiness for the 2021 election, of note was the significant move by APC to of bring in old members like former Anambra state governor, Dr. Chinwoke Mbadinuju and other old heavyweights like Senator Ikechukwu Obiora.
Of note, also, was another factor that would be easy to overlook in both elections, but which played a massive role in APC’s win. The number of APC governors who rose to join the campaign trains in both states, led by the APC ‘poster boy’, in the person of the Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who is very popular and beloved across the length and breadth of the country, was a big boost as the move altered the thinking of the Bayelsa and Kogi people to believe APC might just be the party that would offer them the most dividend of democracy.
Clearly, APC has a mission, to capture the South South, and with the win in Bayelsa, Anambra might just be an icing on the cake if APGA relies on the power of incumbency. If the business of political party is to win election, APC is surely taking its business very serious, and the wins in Bayelsa and Kogi are a warning to Bayelsans.
Gbenga Adesanya is a Bloomgist Columnist