There’s Life Even After Election Defeat - by Eric Teniola

Except the August 6, 1983 presidential election, every presidential election in Nigeria has ended in the courts. That of August 11, 1979 was worse.

On August 15, 1979, the returning officer in the election, Chief Fredrick Louis Menkiti, announced the results of the election. In the results, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the National Party of Nigeria scored 5,668,857 votes while Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Unity Party of Nigeria scored 4,916,951 votes; Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe of the Nigerian Peoples Party scored 2,822,523; Alhaji Aminu Kano of the People’s Redemption Party got 1,732,113 votes and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri of the Great Nigeria People’s Party, 1,686,489 votes. After the results were announced, Awolowo challenged the results with Chief Abraham Adesanya as his lead counsel while Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide defended Alhaji Shehu Shagari.

I covered the tribunal and the Supreme Court judgment for THE PUNCH 36 years ago. At the Supreme Court, delivered just a few days before the inauguration, Justice Kayode Esho gave the minority judgment in favour of Chief Awolowo while the majority judgment was delivered by Mr. Justice Atanda Fatai Williams in favour of Shagari.

But in the August 6, 1983, presidential election, it was a different ball game; Shagari scored 12,081,471 while Awolowo scored 7,902,209 and Azikwe 3,557,113; Aminu Kano 968,974; Waziri Ibrahim 646,806 and Mr. Tunji Braithwaite of the Nigerian Advance Party scored 271,524. Awolowo decided not to challenge the result insisting that if Nigerians needed him they knew where to find him. He thereafter settled in Ikenne, his hometown and on May 9, 1987, he answered the final call. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office.”

In the February 27, 1999, presidential election, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party had 18,738,154 votes as against those of Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy who scored 11,110,287 votes. Falae did not accept the result of the election. The regime of Gen Abdusalami Abubakar who wanted to quit government in time had to summon the traditional ruler of the Akure Kingdom where Falae comes from, Kabiyesi Adebobajo Adesida, the then Deji of Akure, to Abuja to persuade Falae to withdraw the suit. He refused and for his refusal till today, both Obasanjo and Falae are not on speaking terms. The enmity between both men still lingers.

In the April 19, 2003, election, Obasanjo scored 24,456,140 votes while Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari scored 12,710,022 votes and the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu of the All Progressive Grand Alliance had 1,297,445 votes, Jim Nwobodo of the UNPP scored 169,609 votes, Chief Gani Fawehinmi of the Conscience Party 161,333 votes, Sarah Jubrin of the Progressive Action Congress 157,560 votes, Gen Ike Nwachukwu of National Democratic Party 132,197 votes, Chris Okotie of Justice Party 109,547 votes, Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the Peoples Redemption Party 100,765 votes, Arthur Nwankwo of the People’s Mandate, 57,720 votes, Emmanuel Okereke of the All People Liberation Party, 26,921 votes, Kalu Idika Kalu of the New Nigeria People’s Party 23,830 votes and Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf, a former Inspector-General of Police of the Movement for Democracy and Justice scored 21,403 votes. Buhari went to court to challenge the results of the election. The Supreme Court finally decided in favour of Obasanjo.

In the April 21, 2007 presidential election, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua of the PDP had 24,638,063 votes as against Buhari/Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the All Nigeria Peoples Party who scored 6,605,299 votes. Both Yar’Adua and Buhari are from the same Katsina State. It was the first time in the history that both candidates are from the same state. The presidential disputes ended in the Supreme Court with Chief Wole Olanipekun as the lead counsel for Yar’Adua.

In the April 9 2011 election, the PDP duo of Jonathan/Sambo had 22,495,187 votes while the duo of Buhari/Bakare of the Congress for Progressive Change scored 12,214,853 votes. Buhari challenged the outcome of the results and it ended in the Supreme Court.

In a few hours’ time, Nigerians shall march to vote for the March 28, 2015 presidential election. It is on record that no incumbent President has ever lost any election in Nigeria. But there are examples in Africa. In the April 1991 presidential election in the Republic of Benin, President Mathieu Kerekou lost to Nicephore Soglo. Also in 1991, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia lost to Frederick Chiluba. Just last September, Michael Suta of Zambia defeated the Multi Party Democratic that has been in power for 20 years with President Rupia Banda conceding defeat. All eyes will definitely be on Nigeria before and after tomorrow’s election.

It is to be seen whether the presidential election will bring peace or chaos to Nigeria. So much has been written about Saturday’s election in Nigeria-the anxiety, alarms and the innuendos. Definitely, one person must lose and another must win. Defeat can be injurious but definitely there is life after defeat. Nothing pains a politician more than losing an election.

When I think of presidential elections, the one that comes to my mind is the 1968 Convention of the Democratic Party held in Chicago in the United States.

After withdrawing from recontesting against the incumbent President, Lyndon Johnson became so unpopular that he was not even invited by his party to the Convention. He thereafter lamented, “I’ve never felt lower in my life. How do you think it feels to be completely rejected by the party you’ve spent your life with, knowing that your name cannot be mentioned without choruses of boos and obscenities? How would you feel? It makes me feel that nothing’s been worth it. And I’ve tried. Things may not have turned out as you wanted or even as I wanted. But God knows I’ve tried. And I’ve given it my best all these years. I woke up at six and worked until one or two in the morning every day, Saturdays and Sundays. And it comes to this. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

Presidents too have their own lamentation. They are not invincible. They are like the rest of us. Power belongs not to the individuals but to the people. The people in their wisdom have to choose whom they are to endow the power with.

As we head to the polls tomorrow, the two major contenders in the election need to be reminded of the eternal words of Albert Einstein, “The state is made for man, not man for the state.” Meaning, win or lose, Nigeria remains bigger than all of us.

- Eric Teniola, a former director at The Presidency