By Ehichioya Ezomon
The lead headline of New Telegraph of Monday, December 7, 2020, to wit: “APC, PDP hold sway in 11 states’ legislative polls,” was a tell-it-all one-liner that captured the outcome of the December 5, bye-elections held across Nigeria.
Further to the headline, the introductory paragraphs stated that, “Nigeria’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), have maintained grips in their strongholds in Saturday’s bye-elections in 11 states.”
“While the APC won Lagos, Plateau and Imo senatorial seats, the PDP dominated in Bayelsa (2) and Cross River where three seats were at stake,” the report said, adding that, the APC won six legislative seats in Lagos, Borno, Katsina, Kogi and Bauchi, and the PDP prevailed in Cross River and Enugu.
Recalling these paragraphs is necessarily to point out the operative words in the news report: both the APC and PDP “have maintained grips in their strongholds” in the bye-elections.
Save the kind of crisis that affected the ruling APC during the 2019 general election, no objective polity watcher had expected one political party to gain over the other’s strongholds at the bye-elections.
Yes, politicians are incurable optimists, who believe they can bring out the chestnut from the fire with bare hand. They would rather build castles in the air than bungalows on land. And that’s the case of the PDP in Lagos State.
During the campaigns, the PDP and its senatorial candidate, Babatunde Gbadamosi, a past contestant to political offices, including the governorship, predicted defeat for the APC and its candidate, Tokunbo Abiru. But the latter prevailed in a landslide with 89,204 votes to 11,257 votes.
Interestingly, the PDP used the poll as a launchpad to rallying the troops for the “overthrow” of the political hegemony of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, in Lagos.
Though the PDP has failed to diminish Tinubu’s political influence since he became governor in 1999, the party thought it had a brighter chance at the bye-elections to make that a reality.
The PDP was buoyed by recent events: The September 19, 2020 poll in Edo State; the #EndSARS protests; scheming for the 2023 presidential election; and reliance on social media opinion polls.
The APC lost Edo partly to Tinubu’s alleged interference in the poll. Unaware of the depth of animus against him, he made a last-minute video, urging the people to vote out Governor Godwin Obaseki of the PDP because “he wasn’t a democrat,” for backing a minority rule of nine-members in a 24-member Edo House of Assembly.
Tinubu’s action reinforced the battle cry of “Edo is not Lagos,” which the PDP took to the poll, defeating the APC, “to prove that Tinubu has no political leverage to decide the fate of Edo people.”
Because Tinubu was reportedly “demystified” in Edo, the PDP thought it’s time a similar treatment was given to him in Lagos, via the bye-elections, which the party failed woefully to achieve.
During the #EndSARS protests, elements against Tinubu visited mayhem on his interests and those of his associates and allies, torching Television Continental (TVC), The Nation newspaper, Continental Hotel, and the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, a close ally of Tinubu.
The PDP wrongly calculated that the fallout from the #EndSARS protests would be channeled into massive protest votes against the APC, as a way to get at Tinubu. But the dream fizzled out.
Similarly, PDP’s hope that external forces, “some in the APC-controlled Federal Government,” would interfere in the bye-elections to undo Tinubu’s reported presidential ambition, never materialized.
And online opinion polls based, among other reasons, on the above-listed factors, predicted victory for the PDP, and Gbadamosi, to be Senator-elect for the Lagos East senatorial district.
But the online permutations had no bearing to the real politics on the streets of Lagos where the APC and Tinubu have a cultivated majority, no matter the size of the turnout the PDP quarreled with.
So, failing to use the poll as a staging post to “humiliate” Tinubu, the PDP has alleged massive electoral fraud by the APC, in cahoots with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The PDP chairman in Lagos, Adedeji Doherty, an engineer, has described the bye-elections as a “charade,” and accused the APC, backed by the INEC, of allocating votes to itself to defeat the PDP.
Doherty’s words: “In an attempt to do image laundering after the #EndSars embarrassment, the APC, in collaboration with INEC, went about allocating ridiculous votes to party against the PDP.
“This was done to give the impression that the APC and their leaders are still in firm control of Lagos, which is obviously far from the truth and does not represent the true position of Lagosians.
“We all know that the voters’ apathy alone negates the votes allotted to the APC, as less than 10 per cent of the voters in Lagos State took part in the elections.” (As at January 2019, Lagos had 6.5 million registered voters, with Lagos East 1,343,448 voters and Kosofe state constituency II 280,363 voters.)
But absent the stats to support PDP’s claims, Doherty has cleverly shifted the battle to 2023, assuring “the good people of Lagos State that all hope is not lost,” and that before the 2023 general election, the PDP would “end the control of Lagos by APC and its leadership, which have held down Lagos State for over 20 years.”
“To the various sympathisers of change and new leadership in Lagos, rather than be dismayed, please keep hope alive, as I can assure you that we would be repositioned positively for the 2023 elections. To our party faithful and leaders, we want to assure you that Lagos will fall… very soon in favour of the PDP,” Doherty said.
Does the PDP actually believe it could’ve defeated the APC in Lagos on account of Edo 2020, #EndSARS protests, intrigues of the 2023 presidential contest, and social media opinion polls the PDP probably commissioned or self-generated?
Going by the New Telegraph report of December 7, the APC and PDP held their political turfs at the bye-elections, and that shows in the comfortable margins the respective party got where it won.
Governor Bala Mohammed of Bauchi State understands the dynamics at play in a party’s stronghold, hence his appeal to the PDP supporters to take, in good faith, their loss of the Dass state constituency seat in Bauchi in the December 5 poll.
Dass is a local government area in the Dass/Tafawa-Balewa/Bogoro federal constituency, which, despite PDP’s rule in the state, is an APC stronghold represented by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara.
Prior to the bye-election, Dogara and Mohammed campaigned in Dass a day apart, with the former friends and allies-turned political foes stressing the importance of their party clinching the seat previously held by assassinated APC lawmaker, Musa Baraza.
But in the end, Dogara and APC prevailed, and Governor Mohammed, notwithstanding the closeness of the race (12,299 votes for APC, and 11,062 votes for PDP – a margin of 1,237 votes) appealed to PDP’s supporters to accept the outcome of the poll.
Yet, in Lagos, where APC’s margin of leads over the PDP in the senatorial and state constituency bye-elections are 77,947 votes and 10,426 votes, respectively, the PDP refused to accept its defeat, but, as usual, cried wolf whenever it lost any election.
Should the APC have copy-catted the PDP and cry blue murder in the PDP strongholds of Bayelsa, Cross River and Enugu States, where the PDP recorded landslide victories? That would be turning political logic on its head. So, PDP should learn to accept defeat!
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos