Vol. XI, Issue 4 (Fall 2004): Nigeria
Peter K. LeMaire
For more information
concerning Africa Update
The Nigerian Elections of 2003 were controversial. Allegations of election fraud were made and one of the presidential candidates, General Buhari, threatened court action. Even so the elections were welcomed by a large percentage of the Nigerian population, disillusioned with military rule and anxious to see a civilian government continue the tradition of democratic rule inaugurated in 1999.
Having regained its independence from the British after more than half a century of British colonial domination, Nigerians were optimistic that their well- fought for freedom would usher a new era of peace and prosperity. Peace did not last. The 1966 intervention by the military, ushered thirteen years of military dictatorship. We are pleased to have the perspectives of Chief Akinyele in his analysis of the election of 2003. Chief Akinyele’s interest in the electoral process of Nigeria goes back to 1959 when he served as a Federal Electoral Officer. The 1959 election brought to the forefront legislators for the newly independent Nigeria. Chief Akinyele provides us with an excellent analysis of the sequence of events leading to the 2003 election and the present phase of democratization.
Akinyele’s article is followed by an illuminating interview with the Advisor to the Governor of Kano State, Dr. Tijjani Naniye. Numerous issues are covered, including the controversies surrounding the polio immunization campaign earlier this year. We are provided with a close-up view of democracy in action in one of Nigeria’s most populous states. Formidable problems confront the Kano State Government in terms of health care, education, and social services in general. It is encouraging to note, however, that a consultative model of governance prevails in that state and so, too, a much admired vigilance and caution. The careful steps taken by the Kano State Government to evaluate contaminated polio vaccines early this year earned Governor Shekarau and his advisory team a great deal of praise and several awards.
We thank Chief Akinyele and Dr. Tijjani Naniye for providing us with valuable insights into some of the important issues confronting Nigeria at this present time. We acknowledge some of the various organizations associated with the visit to Connecticut of the Governor of Kano State. Sponsors included the African-American Affairs Commission, and the Connecticut Minority Supplier Development Council and individuals such as Mr. Ola Aina, Mr. Salisu Abdullahi and Dr. Andrew Moemeka. This interview was made possible by his visit to Hartford Connecticut.
Return to Table of Contents
T. A. Akinyele
I have watched with more than keen interest the preparations for and the conduct of the most recent elections in Nigeria, meant to reaffirm the country’s commitment to the democratic process. Preparations started in May 1999 after 15 years of military misrule. These elections were designed as follows: (1) National Assembly (i.e., House of Representatives and Senate) elections, which took place on Saturday April 12, 2003; (2) Gubernatorial and Presidential Elections, which were administered on April 19, 2003; and (3) State Assembly elections, which were carried out on May 3, 2003.
A BRIEF PROFILE OF MODERN NIGERIA
Nigeria deserves special attention because it has features, attributes and a robust resource profile that should attract the interest of not only its citizens but also citizens of other countries of the world’s global village. Nigeria accommodates vibrant, intelligent and resourceful concentration of people of African heritage, being the largest country, in terms of population in Africa, and the tenth most populated country in the world. Out of every five Africans walking the surface of the earth, one is a Nigerian. Nigeria’s population is twice that of the United Kingdom and about half that of the United States of America, scattered over an area of 923,768 square kilometers. It consists of 36 states and Abuja (which is the Federal Capital Territory), each with an average population of about 3 million divided into 774 local government units. The country, with about 250 ethnic groups and 80 religions, now operates under a variant of the American-type executive presidential system. It is important to note, however, that during most of its existence as a sovereign nation, Nigeria has been ruled by military dictatorships. The result is that over 60 percent of the population, the most vibrant and politically relevant portion, has known nothing but military rule.1
Nigeria’s natural resources are enormous. Unfortunately, the proceeds from the exploitation of these resources during most of the post-independence period have been squandered by opportunistic and unscrupulous civil servants and politicians, including the many military elites who have ruled the country. Perverse economic policies designed and executed by corrupt military and civilian rulers have deprived Nigerians of true and genuine development. The country has huge exportable agricultural produce like cocoa, timber and rubber; an estimated 32 billion barrels of crude petroleum reserve, making the country the largest producer in Africa and the sixth in the world; the second largest untapped reserve of bitumen in the world; and several other solid mineral resources. With such enormous endowments of resources, post-independence Nigeria should have risen to be one of the richest and most developed countries in Africa. Unfortunately, it is one of the poorest and its citizens continue to suffer from relatively high levels of poverty and deprivation. Such poverty is due primarily to poor and ineffective institutions, which have allowed state custodians (i.e., civil servants and politicians) to squander the country’s development potential. Put another way, the absence of democratic governance in most of post-independence Nigeria, and the pervasiveness of authoritarian and corrupt civil regimes, as well as military dictatorships, have contributed significantly to the mismanagement of the country’s development prospects.2
DEMOCRATIC EVOLUTION IN NIGERIA
As it is well known by many, Nigeria gained its independence from Great Britain on October 1, 1960, after some twenty years of vibrant and intensive nationalistic clamor by leaders like Macaulay, Azikiwe, Awolowo, Bello, Akintola, Enahoro, and many others. The post-independence government was based on the British-type parliamentary system. While the politicians were fanning the embers of disunity because the regions were stronger and collectively better managed than the Federal Government, young military officers were eagerly waiting for the opportunity to seize control of the apparatus of government. Such an opportunity was provided by the various political events that took place between independence and 1964. The most important of these were (1) the snowballing effects of the Action Group’s intra-party crisis of 1962-1963, which embroiled the most progressive of the Regional Governments (that of the Western Region); and (2) the botched 1964 federal elections and subsequent labor unrest and political turmoil. On January 15, 1966, the military struck.3
The second attempt at democratic governance in Nigeria took place from 1979 to 1983 and this time, was patterned after the American presidential system. Unfortunately, the experiment was doomed to fail. First, the military kept up its harassment of the civilian leadership and made it very difficult for the latter to govern. Second, civilian rulers, through their opportunistic and corrupt activities, provided the military with a good excuse to intervene. Finally, civilian politicians whose primary interest was not public service but self-enrichment spent an enormous amount of time fighting with each other, making it very difficult for the government to perform even basic functions. In December 1983, the military intervened and again took over the government.4
In the first and second attempts at democratic governance, it was clear that political institutions were not nationalistic in their formation, orientation and practices. Problems of regionalism and ethnicity were beginning to rear their ugly heads.5 Through some befuddled political engineering, the various military regimes that replaced civilian rule, attempted to remove these cogs in the wheel of political progress by trying to limit the number of political parties that could legally operate in the country and to ensure that all parties had a wide geographical spread to make them nationally acceptable. To ensure national cohesion, the new military-sponsored constitution provided a highly complicated formula for the election of the country’s civilian president, which required, among other things, that the successful candidate capture at least 25 percent of votes in each of at least two-thirds of the states in the country. All states of the federation would then have to be represented in the new president’s cabinet of ministers. The election of 1993 was to be the first one conducted under this new formula. It, however, was annulled by the military government of General Babangida when it became clear that Bashorun M. K. O. Abiola, an individual who apparently was not acceptable to the military establishment, had clearly won the election. It was in consideration of the fact that all attempts made in 1963, 1973, 1983, 1993 to move from one democratically elected government to another had been abrogated either by military fiat or some other calamity that Nigerians began to speak of the “democracy jinx” occurring every ten years. The 2003 elections are important to Nigeria’s democracy and democratization project in that they have broken the jinx. The question, however, is will this be a sustainable process or will the military soon return to mess things up?6
THE ELECTORAL PREPARATIONS
The political and socio-economic environment since 1999 and particularly in the last two years before the 2003 elections did not present any optimism about a trouble-free atmosphere for the elections. There were several cases of boundary and inter-communal clashes, ethnic uprisings (especially in the oil-rich Niger Delta Region), Sharia-induced unrests, economic sabotage, and other disturbances, throughout the period. In addition, many civil society organizations had become quite aggressive in their efforts to improve living conditions for their people. In the Niger Delta Region, for example, many youth associations, notably the Ijaw Youth Council and the Isoko Youth Movement, had become impatient with the military government’s inability or unwillingness to deal with poverty and environmental degradation in the region. Subsequently, these groups had become involved in violent mobilization to improve conditions in their respective communities and minimize further marginalization. Unfortunately, the even-handed response of the Federal Government to the crisis in the Niger Delta Region only exacerbated the problem and intensified the violence. Meanwhile, many citizens of the southern part of the country continued to decry the fact that the military had snatched the presidency out of their hands through the annulment of the 1993 elections. In addition, the unending arguments and counter-arguments over issues concerning revenue allocation, resource control, and the need for a National Conference to discuss the future union of Nigerian nationalities continued unabated. At the same time, executive-legislative bickering over attempts to establish constitutional checks and balances forced delays in the approval of the national budget and its subsequent implementation. All these developments encouraged many pessimists to suggest postponement of the elections. But the government of President Obasanjo was determined that the elections would hold in order to ensure continuity of the democratic process and to break the so-called “jinx”.
In preparing for the 2003 elections, I believe the Federal Government took cognizance of lessons learned from the mistakes of the 1999 arrangements, and took pains to harmonize the constitutional provisions and the enabling electoral law and regulations, especially regarding the establishment of democratic institutions, such as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and political parties. Nevertheless, some bottlenecks were thrown into the process, although this time, the intervention was through constitutional means. Court cases were filed regarding various arrangements, such as the number of political parties and conditions for their registration. It is to the credit of Obasanjo’s Federal Government that no attempt was ever made to interfere with judicial processes in these electoral matters. Issues were also raised regarding whether all the elections should be held on one day or spread over several days. The amount of freedom of speech guaranteed during these periods, as well as the spirit of tolerance demonstrated by the Federal Government and the amount of transparency in the dissemination of information by the INEC, contributed to the general popular acceptance of the preparatory arrangements made for the elections. Those conversant with elections in developing countries have always affirmed that the ground for any possible rigging of elections usually starts with the way the registration of voters is handled. Because the INEC adopted computer-based methods, which were considered essentially transparent and fool-proof, the exercise generally received popular acceptance. There was opposition in certain sections of the populace, especially in the northern part of the country, against the use of the new national identity cards for obtaining voter cards. The decision to use this form of identification to secure voter cards was expected to significantly reduce the costs of preparing for the elections. Thanks to the persistence of the INEC that the new identity card system form the basis for registration, attempts by overzealous and opportunistic political agents to effect multiple registrations were defeated. Several applications for registration were disqualified, ranging from 2 percent in the least fraud-prone area to as high as 34 percent of total applications processed in some districts. Table 1 provides data on the number of registered voters by state, as well as on the number of disqualified applicants. There are a number of analytical deductions that can be made from Table 1 (also see Table 2). First, the incidence of disqualification of applications due to attempts at multiple registration occurred in all the states of the Federation. Second, the number of registered voters in the northern part of the country as a percentage of the total number of registered voters in all of Nigeria is 48.92 percent, while the corresponding figure for the southern part of the country is 51.08 percent.
TABLE 1: REGISTERED VOTERS IN THE NIGERIAN ELECTIONS OF 2003, BY STATE
Source: The Guardian Newspaper, Sunday April 6,
2003.TABLE 2: NORTH-SOUTH DISTRIBUTION OF REGISTERED VOTERS
It is also important to observe from Table 2 that attempts to defraud the system were more significant in the northern part of the country than in the south. In fact, the north’s 14.38 percent number of disqualified applicants as a percent of all disqualified applicants was higher than that of the nation as a whole. It would appear from these data that the effort made by the INEC to eliminate or minimize the incidence of fraudulent registration eventually paid off and vote rigging was an ineffective part of the electoral exercise of 2003.
After a lot of arguments by some of the registered political parties regarding the system of balloting to be used, the INEC adopted the open-secret balloting system. The latter allows for a certain level of privacy or secrecy. The ballot is thumb-printed and its dropping into the ballot box is carried out in the open and witnessed by interested parties. This system was adopted in place of the one that was supported by some of the political parties, which called for voters to queue behind the pictures or photographs of their preferred candidates. Here again, the INEC’s choice proved reasonable and more efficient, especially given the fact that eventually 30 political parties were certified to contest the elections and as many as 20 candidates were qualified to compete for the position of president of the country. An alternative method would have led to chaos and a possible breakdown of law and order.
THE ROLE OF KEY POLITICAL ACTORS
Democracy as a generally accepted system of organizing the conduct of human affairs in a polity and ensuring the resolution of the conflicting interests of its citizens can only thrive in an environment that encourages and enhances the free exchange of ideas. Politics cannot be successfully practiced in an arm-chair fashion because it is a game pursued in a dynamic process in which the people, as the final arbiters, are watching the efforts of individual actors in their attempts to satisfy people’s yearnings for progress and socio-economic development. However, it must be admitted that the practice of politics requiring the emergence of majority rule embodies a game of numbers which may be manipulated if the actors are allowed by the electorate to be fraudulent. Practical politicians know that it is almost impossible to rig an election in an atmosphere of unpopularity. Furthermore, the dynamic nature of politics demands that politicians must appreciate the fact that there are “no permanent friends or permanent enemies” but permanent interests in the political arena. The practice of politics, which essentially involves a practical handling of human aspirations, requires adequate knowledge, expertise, experience and other remarkably good personal attributes, especially where the political stakes are high. Individuals aspiring to serve the public in some political role must be well informed on those things that matter the most to the people. Hence, a knowledge of the political and economic environment in which one plans to compete for public office is very essential for success. A politician who ignores or refuses to inform himself of the problems confronting his constituents is not likely to succeed in a competitive political system. For a developing country like Nigeria, an aspiring politician must also be well informed on additional complicating factors such as ethnicity and its several dimensions.2
When thirty political parties were finally certified to participate in the 2003 elections in Nigeria, the INEC found itself unable to cope with the enormous number of candidates vying for public office. The INEC then decided to request more funds from the Federal Government, and seek foreign aid in order to cope with the technicalities of the computer-related arrangements affected by the large number of contending political institutions. Many political parties, especially the more established ones (e.g., PDP, ANPP, and AD) were inundated with applications for elective office. To make the process of selecting candidates to compete for each office more efficient and effective, all the political parties agreed to stage “primaries” or elections whose main purpose was to select candidates, through a competitive process to represent the party in the main election. Those parties that conducted their primary elections in a transparent manner and were able to reconcile internally conflicting interests of political aspirants stood a better chance of defeating candidates from those parties that either avoided primaries entirely or allowed the conduct of primaries to degenerate into avenues for party disintegration through intra-party bickering, dissensions and acrimonious court cases. In this regard, the AD avoided primaries in many of the political races, especially gubernatorial, while the ANPP lost control of its primaries—these two parties paid for these mistakes through extremely poor performance in the final national elections. Furthermore, it was apparent that the process leading to the emergence of the ANPP’s Presidential candidate, General Muhammed Buhari, a contestant from the North, was a clear breach of the unwritten but generally agreed zoning arrangement. The desire of Igbo-speaking contestants in the party’s presidential primaries to produce a consensus Igbo candidate was frustrated by the emergence of Buhari as a contestant. The election of the former military ruler in the primaries must have affected the overall chances of ANPP not only in Igbo-speaking areas, but generally in the South because many observers were anticipating a clash of southern-based candidates for the Presidential election. The ability of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to put its house in order before and after its well-organized primaries at all levels and particularly for the Presidential election seemed to have guaranteed its subsequent success, all things being equal.
THE 2003 NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
The first set of elections took place on Saturday April 12, 2003, to choose 109 individuals to serve in the Senate, the upper house of the country’s National Assembly and 360 members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber. The results, as published on the Internet by INEC, are shown in Table 3 and Table 5. Table 4 and Table 6 are derivative summaries of Table 3 and Table 5 respectively.
TABLE 3: RESULTS OF THE 2003 SENATE ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
TABLE 4: DISTRIBUTION OF SENATE SEATS AMONG POLITICAL PARTIES IN NIGERIA AFTER THE 2003 ELECTIONS
TABLE 5: RESULTS OF THE 2003 ELECTIONS TO THE NIGERIAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
TABLE 6: DISTRIBUTION OF SEATS IN THE NIGERIAN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES BY PARTY AFTER THE 2003 ELECTIONS
A careful analysis of the data presented in Tables 3-6 reveals a lot about the dynamic configuration of Nigerian politics and implications for the development of the democratic process in the country. The results of the elections to the Senate show that the party with the highest valid votes (PDP), received 15,585,538 or 53.69 percent of all valid votes, which enabled it to win 73 senate seats or 68.2 percent of total seats declared. That achievement provides the PDP with the mandate that it needs to rule effectively and pass necessary legislation without much difficulty. It is also expected that with such dominance of the Senate, the PDP government would be able to easily secure confirmation of appointments to the public service that require the confirmation of the Senate. The analysis also shows that only 10 parties each scored over 100,000 valid votes (or over 0.34 percent of total valid votes cast), while the remaining 20 parties altogether scored only 235,279 valid votes (or 0.01 percent of total valid votes). The overall results show that total valid votes represent 47.73 percent of total registered voters and that if the rejected ballots were added to valid votes, a voter turnout of 49.32 percent would have been recorded.
The three parties (AD, ANPP and PDP) that won Senate seats scored 26,505,403 votes or 91.3 percent of total valid votes cast, leaving the remaining 27 parties to share only 2,524,704 votes or an average of 93,507 votes per party. If a benchmark of 100,000 valid votes is established for participation in future elections, then only 10 parties can be considered as serious candidates for participating in future contests. Given the material and human resources that Nigeria has, it is not conceivable that its democracy can function effectively with such a large number of political parties. A fair and equitable method must be found to bring the number of political parties participating in elections and other democratic processes to a manageable level.
In an analysis of the results of elections to the House of Representatives, the picture that emerges is similar. Total valid votes represent 48.06 percent of total registered voters while a total of 30,386,270 votes cast represent a voter turnout of nearly 50 percent. However, an examination of the data in Table 6 reveals some interesting phenomena. Because the area and population covered by a Senate constituency is about 3 times that of the House of Representative constituency, the assessment of popularity can become location-specific. Consequently, the same parties were able to make some in-roads into what appeared to be strongholds of some of the bigger parties, especially the PDP, such that while the party has 54.49 percent of total valid votes and 61.67 percent of the number of seats in respect of the House of Representatives, it garnered 53.69 percent and 68.2 percent respectively in the Senate elections. This observation is also buttressed by the fact that while only 9 parties scored over 100,000 votes or over 0.34 percent of total valid votes in respect of the House of Representatives, the remaining 21 parties scored 309,353 or 1.06 percent of total valid votes. However, one should be conscious of the fact that the data available on the Internet as of May 7, 2003 (which are used in this analysis), show that 14 constituencies of the House of Representatives are still outstanding—data from these constituencies, however, are not likely to affect the emerging scenarios.
The fact that 8 political parties shared the 346 seats declared for the House of Representatives has implications for the work of the House and its relationship with the Executive. Since the leading party (PDP) has not been able to achieve overwhelming majority (i.e., 2/3) of the House, the cost of lobbying may increase as well as that of providing physical and other facilities for the legislative leaders and political caucuses in the House. On the contrary, some realignment, merger or carpet-crossing might occur to make some of the minor party representatives more relevant. It is also noteworthy that as a result of the elections, only about 20 percent of existing members of the National Assembly were able to retain their seats, an indication that the electorate were watching and monitoring their activities.
THE 2003 GUBERNATORAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
The gubernatorial and presidential elections were held on the same day, April 19, 2003. In a developing economy like Nigeria, where the government is the most important actor in the economy and also controls the allocation of a significant amount of resources, no community wants to be an opponent of the ruling party. Hence, the results of the National Assembly elections of April 12, 2003 had a significant impact on the April 19, 2003 gubernatorial elections. In other words some bandwagon effect of the earlier election on the second one was to be expected. The overall results of the gubernatorial elections are shown in Table 7.
TABLE 7: RESULTS OF THE 2003 GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
Source: Nigerian Tribune, April 23, 2003
Here again, as in the Senate elections, only three parties came out as winning some seats. However, if the results of the same elections in 1999 were compared with these results it would be observed that there are more losers than gainers.
TABLE 8: RESULTS OF THE GUBERNATORAL ELECTIONS OF 1999 AND 2003 IN NIGERIA: A COMPARATIVE VIEW
Although all the gains seem to be in favor of the PDP, it is important to examine the zonal dimension of the gains and losses in order to appreciate the various factors that influenced electoral chances from one zone to the other. It would also be necessary to examine the factors that led to upsets, which resulted in the defeat of 10 incumbent governors out of 36. It is the astonishing nature of the gains, losses and upsets that fuelled the complaints of rigging and other electoral malpractices by the losers. Many of these charges, however, cannot be substantiated by the available evidence. The Nigerian electorate has become wiser and more enlightened over their civic responsibilities and rights as a result of the political liberalization and democratization that has taken place in the country since 1999. The people have taken seriously the much publicized slogan of INEC that “your vote is your power, use it wisely.” Since 1999, citizens have taken a particular interest in observing the performance of elected officials at both the local and federal levels. Politicians in Abuja, as well as in the state capitals and local government offices, who have performed opportunistically, using their public offices to enrich themselves instead of performing the jobs for which they were elected, were punished severely by the electorate. Many of these poorly performing politicians suffered significant losses at the ballot box. What is important here is the fact that Nigerians are gradually learning to use the vote as an instrument to discipline poorly performing and opportunistic politicians, including those who rely on ethnicity to keep their public positions. It is becoming clear that politicians must perform their public functions effectively and efficiently and serve their constituents well if they plan to retain those positions. Competitive politics represent the future of governance in Nigeria and gone are the days of primordial political sentiments—the 2003 elections appear to have given notice to tribalists, opportunists, and the “money bags” that it is no longer business as usual. Nigerian politics are changing for the better as the electorate has become more sophisticated politically.
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS OF 2003 IN NIGERIA
Table 9 presents data on the overall results of the 2003 presidential elections in Nigeria.
TABLE 9: RESULTS OF THE 2003 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN NIGERIA
Source: The Guardian Newspaper, Wednesday, April 23, 2003.
Note from Table 9 that even though there were 30 registered political parties, only 20 or 2/3 of them presented candidates for the Presidential elections. Because of the interplay of several factors displayed before and during the various elections and particularly in respect of the Presidential election, it is essential to examine these factors and their impact on the 2003 elections. These factors include ethnicity; religion; professions; gender; incumbency; complementarity of running mate; and personality of the candidate. Table 10 provides information on the ethnic profile of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates for the 2003 elections.
TABLE 10: ETHNIC PROFILE OF PRESIDENTIAL AND VICE-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES FOR NIGERIA’S 2003 ELECTIONS
Generally speaking, the choice of a Vice-Presidential candidate as running mate in Nigeria has significant impact on the ability of the ticket to emerge victorious. While the qualifications, integrity and ability of the running mate are important, it appears that his or her ethnic and/or religious affilitation, as well as region of origin, are equally important. For example, in 1979, Chief Obafemi Awolowo chose an Igbo man, a Christian and Southerner like himself for a running mate and failed to win the elections. Many observers believed then that had he chosen a Northerner and Muslim, he might have done quite well. Ethnic, religious, and regional considerations, unfortunately, continue to play an important role in Nigerian politics. Furthermore, it is generally true to say that the more the number of contestants for a specific public office (e.g., the Presidency) from a particular ethnic group, the greater the dissipation of votes from that particular ethnic group. In fact, the inability of Igbo candidates to do well in the 2003 Presidential elections can be partially explained by the relatively large number of candidates of Igbo origin. In the list of 20 Presidential candidates, 15 are Christians while the remaining 5 are Muslims, while only 6 of the Vice-Presidential candidates can be described as Christians. Regarding gender, there are 3 female Presidential and 3 Vice-Presidential candidates. The professional profile shows that there were 6 former military/Para-military officers, 2 lawyers, 2 Christian priests and 10 from other professions or business concerns. At the end of the show, the 3 leading contestants turned out to be ex-military officers.
It would be useful to take a closer look at the performance of the top three candidates for President: Olusegun Obasanjo, Muhammadu Buhari and Odumegwu Ojukwu. All three together received 38,463,607 or 97.42 percent of total valid votes (see Table 11).
TABLE 11: SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS OF 2003 IN NIGERIA
The only other observation of a general nature worth making is the fact that Voter Turnout, that is the ratio of total votes to the number of total registered voters, is as high as 60.82 percent, which is very impressive indeed for Nigeria.
The success of President Olusegun Obasanjo, which was expected by most Nigerians, did however, not go without criticism from losing political parties and individuals. This is to be expected in a country like Nigeria, which is still getting accustomed to the procedural practice of democracy. In these early stages, it is expected that losers will cry fowl and seek ways to overturn the results of the elections. What appears unreasonable, however, is the behavior of some political parties which received as little as 4,000 votes in the elections but became quite active in the movement to overturn the results of the elections. As expected, those seeking relief, did so on the grounds that the elections were supposedly rigged and that voters were intimidated and the results manipulated to favor certain candidates, primarily those of the incumbent party. Several of the protesting candidates (e.g., Buhari and Ojukwu) made claims that could not be substantiated. In fact, at one time Ojukwu claimed that he won the presidential elections outright but at another, he sought to have the elections annulled and the process started all over again. While it can be claimed that no election of that magnitude anywhere in the world can be undertaken without some irregularities, available evidence shows that the INEC administered the 2003 elections effectively and fairly and that the results represented the correct wishes of the electorate. Hence, it is time for all Nigerians to abide by the official results and allow the new government to carry out its responsibilities.
Ethnicity has always been a major factor in Nigerian politics. As can be gleaned from Table 10, the three major contenders represent Hausa/Fulani (Buhari), Igbo (Ojukwu) and Yoruba (Obasanjo). Under a tacIt agreement among politicians and political parties, the Hausa/Fulani ethnic group was not expected to present a candidate this time around. It appears that the emergence of Buhari represents the belated effort of the hard-liners among the Hausa/Fulani group who felt the group had been marginalized by the first Obasanjo government. Such a claim, however, appears not to have been shared by the majority of Northerners. Secondly, both Obasanjo and Buhari were military rulers with records that the voters could easily examine. When all is said and done, Obasanjo’s was a more progressive military regime, especially considering the fact that it was his government that returned Nigeria to civilian rule in 1979. These achievements appear to have benefited his candidacy.
The campaign launched by Buhari for the presidency of Nigeria betrayed a desire by the former military ruler to use any means necessary, including such divisive issues as ethnicity and religion in Nigerian politics. Arguing that Muslims should only vote for Muslim candidates, and that the Islamization of Nigeria was just a matter of time, he effectively betrayed a preference for the kind of politics that is likely to destroy Nigerian unity and along with it, the nation itself. Apparently, as seen from the results of the elections, some Northerners embraced Buhari’s brand of politics and voted for him and his party (the ANPP). Many Muslim dominated communities in the North voted for the ANPP, contributed significantly to the loss of the PDP in the Kano gubernatorial election. On the other hand, in many Southern states, voters instead saw Buhari as a fanatical fundamentalist Muslim who was intent on exacerbating ethnic and religious conflict in the country and forcing the disintegration of Nigeria’s fragile federation.
As a military ruler (in 1984), Buhari enacted draconian anti-press decrees, which muzzled the press and made it very difficult for both the print and electronic media to expose the military’s exploitative, repressive and anti-development leadership. Today, he remains quite unpopular among the press, partially because of his extremely poor record as a ruler and also because of his unwillingness to cooperate with the Oputa Commission, which had been set up to reconcile Nigerians to one another over human rights abuses during the last several decades. In fact, his problems with the press forced him to decline participation in the 2003 Presidential debates organized by the media.
As for Ojukwu, it was apparent that he came into the political turf belatedly believing he could be accepted as a consensus candidate of the Igbos, who were searching for a candidate to satisfy their yearning for an Igbo President this time around since the failure of Dr. Alex Ekwueme at the PDP primaries. Unfortunately, he was unable to overcome several obstacles to his candidacy. First, many Nigerians were still unwilling to forgive him for leading the secessionist movement that degenerated into the bloody civil war. Second, he had made many pre-election speeches that painted him as an unrepentant secessionist and one incapable of leading a united Nigeria. Finally, in recent years, many young and capable Igbo elites have begun to preach a more progressive form of politics that seeks to secure opportunities for the group’s growth within the Nigerian polity and hence, have tended to distance themselves from the old guard. In fact, this new leadership has convinced most Igbos that their future lies with a unified and strong Nigeria and hence, have been working to deemphasize ethnicity and adopt a more pragmatic approach to politics and support only candidates (regardless of their ethnic origins) that can enhance the ability of the Igbos to improve their welfare. This more practical approach to politics emerged as an important constraint to the candidacy of Ojukwu, which was based primarily on ethnicity and not on a well-articulated program to enhance Igbo welfare.
The most remarkable phenomenon of the elections, which Obasanjo’s opponents wanted to use to prove their charges of rigging and other electoral malpractices, is the unprecedented success of the PDP in all the six States hitherto controlled by the AD. The PDP went on to win the majority of seats in all the Legislative Houses. In addition, the party also captured 5 out of 6 gubernatorial seats, narrowly conceding only Lagos to the AD. The PDP campaigned more effectively than all the other political parties in these States and in addition, was aided by the fact that the AD, which before the 2003 elections had controlled these States, had performed poorly and failed to get its message to the people. Perhaps the AD’s failure was attributable to the fact that party leaders were quite confident that the people would retain them as their representative at both the federal and state levels. Many Yorubas, however, saw a second term for Obasanjo (himself a Yoruba) as the only opportunity for the Yorubas to remain relevant in national politics. As the election neared, many Yorubas did not see anyone among themselves, other than Obasanjo, capable of capturing the Presidency. Hence, the PDP was considered the pragmatic choice for 2003.
Both the ANPP (Buhari) and the APGA (Ojukwu) bitterly protested what they claimed was vote rigging and manipulation in the six States of the South-South zone. Their position was supported in part, by the comments of one or two foreign observer teams (e.g., the European Union Observers Mission Report). In this regard, some analysts have argued that even if hypothetically the votes obtained by the PDP in the six “disputed” states were disallowed, Olusegun Obasanjo would still have won the elections and would still have satisfied the two constitutional requirements for proclaiming the winner of the Presidential election, namely majority vote and 25 percent of the votes cast in each of the states constituting two thirds of the states of the federation. This argument is supported by the data presented in Table 12.
TABLE 12: SUMMARY OF VOTES CAST IN THE SIX DISPUTED STATES
As pointed out earlier, ethnicity and religion came into greater prominence during the Presidential election. It is therefore essential to examine how the six zones voted, especially for the 3 leading contestants who, as indicated, also represented the three major ethnic groups and the two major faiths—Christianity and Islam. It must be appreciated that where the more important factor in consideration by the electorate is religion, the faith of the running mate is discounted while emphasis is placed on the presidential candidate himself.
Of the three zones in the North, Obasanjo lost the North-West zone to Buhari, the Hausa/Fulani candidate, shared the North-Central States where Islam cannot claim predominance and where the people have expressed their desire to be seen to be independent of the so-called monolithic North. On the other hand, Obasanjo clearly won all the Southern States. Even when the issue of geographical spread constitutionally required is considered, it would be seen that where Obasanjo did not receive the mandatory 25 percent of total votes cast, the result has not been as dismal as in the case of Buhari as shown in Table 13.
TABLE 13: VOTES FOR THE TOP CANDIDATES IN THE 2003 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA
Even in some States like Edo where the ANPP gubernatorial candidate made some fairly good showing, Buhari failed abysmally, confirming his unpopularity with the electorate in the South even in Igboland from where his running mate (Okadigbo) emanates. The only State where he performed quite well in the South was Akwa-Ibom (13.21 percent), which is the State of the chairman of the party (ANPP), Chief Don Etiebet. Incidentally, Obasanjo won his largest number of votes in Rivers State with 2,003,521 valid votes while he received the highest percentage of valid votes (97.98 percent) in Cross Rivers State. The PDP victory in the 2003 elections established the fact that in post-1999 (i.e., end of military rule), the Nigerian people are the ones who determine who should rule the country. In addition, the data show clearly that ethnicity and religion are gradually losing their relevance as determining factors in electoral outcomes in the country. The Nigerian electorate is gradually becoming more sophisticated and pragmatic in their choices and are making decisions at the ballot box based on economic and other considerations and not on ethnicity, region or religion. Today’s Nigerians are deeply committed to democratic ideals and have, through the elections of 2003, sent a clear message to all future leaders to stay clear of anti-democratic and opportunistic politics.
STATE ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
As it is to be expected, the bandwagon effect of the two previous elections in the 2003 series became pronounced in the May 3, 2003 exercise to select individuals to serve in the legislatures of the 36 States. The results of the elections, as posted on the Internet by INEC, are summarized in Table 14.
TABLE 14: SUMMARY OF RESULTS OF STATE ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
Notes: *5 minor parties shared 6 seats
*Not available at date
The number of seats for each State depends on its population. In the 2003 elections, the number of seats varied from a high of 40 in both Kano and Lagos to a low of 24 seats in about 24 States. The aggregate number of seats for all the 36 States is 982. As is indicated by the data in Table 14, as of May 17, 2003, only 743 seats had been declared, either because of the need for further verification or because elections were not concluded in the constituencies concerned. This represents about 75.66 percent of the total number of possible seats. The sharing of the seats among 8 of the parties is provided in Table 15.
TABLE 15: APPORTIONMENT OF STATE LEGISLATIVE SEATS AMONG 8 POLITICAL PARTIES
There is some similarity between this outcome and that of the election into the Nigerian House of Representatives. Going by the trend of the elections so far and considering the electoral choices of the areas where results have not been declared or not declared fully, it would appear that the results of the remaining 239 seats will not make much difference in the showing of the parties. Here again, as in the other elections in the 2003 electoral series, the most viable political parties remain the PDP, ANPP and AD. It must be observed however, that even though the AD’s strongest area of influence is Lagos, the party has improved in Borno and Plateau States in the North. In Borno State in particular, the AD’s showing in terms of valid votes and number of seats won, is almost as strong as that of the PDP, whose popularity in the North-East zone seems to be gradually waning except in Adamawa and Taraba where the influence of the Vice-Presidential candidate of the PDP, Atiku Abubakar, constitutes the saving grace. These results also show a consistency in the opposition of the entire North-West zone to the PDP, re-confirming the influence of factors like ethnicity and religion in these elections. However, there is a slight improvement in respect of Katsina. Going by the figures of valid votes, it would appear generally that the voter turnout on this occasion is substantially lower than in the other election, either as a result of voting fatigue, apathy or outright boycott. It has also led to a situation where apparent disparities have occurred in respect of voter/seat ratio such that some parties scored substantial votes without winning any seats. For example, in Bauchi, the ANPP scored 276,775 votes or 17.14 percent of valid votes without winning any seat, whereas the ANPP won 2 seats in Benue with only 177,042 votes. Similarly, whereas the NDP won 1 seat with only 45,081 votes (in Nasarawa), the ANPP, which scored 80,183 votes or 15.29 percent of valid votes in the same Nasarawa State, did not secure any seat. There might be other factors like bad choice of candidate, dissipation of energy or protest voting, that have contributed to these results. The fate of the PDP in Sokoto and Zamfara is similar where the party scored 136,577 or 16.64 percent of valid votes and 86,154 or 8.27 percent of valid votes in the two States respectively without obtaining a single seat. In the same vein, in Oyo State, the AD scored 166,189 votes and won no seats out of the 25 declared so far.
ELECTION AFTERMATH AND THE FUTURE
These elections were free, transparent and violence-free. Nigerians and others interested in democracy in Africa should be proud of the achievements of the INEC in this regard, as well as the commitment of the electorate to uphold the country’s nascent democracy. The voter turnout was high and voter behavior exceptionally laudable. After the hue and cry has died down with the constitutional intervention of the various tribunals, all Nigerians are bound to gear up towards the establishment of governance at all levels, which will guarantee enhanced democracy dividends under the rule of law. The fear expressed in some disgruntled quarters about the possibility of military intervention is far fetched because it will be a misunderstanding of the mood of the Nigerian populace to imagine that the military would be given a chance to stage a come back. The people could not exercise any right under the military regimes but now they have imbibed the slogan “your vote is your power; use it wisely” and they can now legitimately demand their rights. Even the military “boys” themselves are known to be happier now than before since improvements have started to show regarding their remuneration, accommodation and professional training. The fear has also been expressed that Nigeria stands the risk of being turned into a one-party State given the landslide victory of the PDP. I believe all stakeholders in the Nigerian democratic endeavor—politicians, worker-unions, press and civil society in general—will not allow that eventuality. I believe democracy is the most viable option for Nigeria but its evolution and sustenance calls for continuous dialogue, negotiation, give and take, lobbying, and public debate, all activities and processes that should become part and parcel of the country’s national psyche in approaching all political issues. There is still a lot to be done in the area of fashioning out ways and means of enthroning “good governance” at all levels. One major issue which must be addressed is the proliferation of political parties; definitely thirty are just too many for any useful purpose. It is on record that 14 out of the 30 political parties did not contest any of the elections at all! Nigerians have embraced democracy and with time they will nourish and make it grow.
1. See the series of essays presented in Adebayo Oyebade, ed., The Transformation of Nigeria: Essays in Honor of Toyin Falola (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2002). Also see the 64 essays presented in Toyin Falola, ed., Nigeria in the Twentieth Century (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2002); Sir A. C. Burns, History of Nigeria (London: George Allen, 1963); Toyin Falola, The History of Nigeria (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999); Karl Maier, This House Has Fallen: Midnight in Nigeria (New York: Public Affairs, 2000); Ken Saro-Wiwa, Genocide in Nigeria: The Ogoni Tragedy (Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Saros, 1992).
2. Agbese, P. O., “Keeping the African Military at Bay: Current Trends in Civil-Military Relations,” in Mbaku, J. M. and Ihonvbere, J. O. (eds.), The Transition to Democratic Governance in Africa: The Continuing Struggle (Westport, CT: Praeger); Ihonvbere, J. O., “Constitutionalism and the African Military: Contemporary Strategies to Domesticate the African Military,” in Mbaku, J. M. and Ihonvbere, J. O. (eds.), The Transition to Democratic Governance in Africa: The Continuing Struggle (Westport, CT: Praeger); Eghosa, E. E., “In Search of Democratization Middle Grounds: Nigeria and South Africa in Perspective,” in Mbaku, J. M. and Ihonvbere, J. O. (eds.), The Transition to Democratic Governance in Africa: The Continuing Struggle (Westport, CT: Praeger).
3. Pita Ogaba Agbese, “With Fingers on the Trigger: The Military as Custodian of Democracy in Nigeria,” Journal of Third World Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2 (1992), pp. 220-253; J. ‘Bayo Adekson, Nigeria in Search of a Stable Civil-Military System (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1981); Samuel Decalo, Coups and Army Rule in Africa: Studies in Military Style (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1976); Zainab Duke, The Revolutionary Potentials of the Nigerian Military, 1966-1986 (Ikeja, Nigeria: Jeromelaiho and Associates, 1987).
4. Agbese (1992), op. cit. Also see Agbese (2003), op. cit.
5. Eghosa E. Osaghae, “Federalism and the Ethnic Question in Africa,” in Mbaku, J. M., Agbese, P. O. and Kimenyi, M.S. (eds.), Ethnicity and Governance in the Third World (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001), pp. 33-57; Pita Ogaba Agbese, “Managing Ethnic Relations in a Heterogeneous Society: The Case of Nigeria,” in Mbaku, J. M., Agbese, P. O. and Kimenyi, M.S. (eds.), Ethnicity and Governance in the Third World (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2001), pp. 125-148.
6. For the struggle of Nigeria and other African countries with democratization since the early 1990s, see the special issue of the Journal of Asian and African Studies titled “A Decade of Democracy in Africa” and guest edited by Stephen N. Ndegwa: Vol. 36, No. 1 (2001).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chief Theophilus Adeleke Akinyele, born February, 29, 1932, is a product of the University College, Ibadan, where he obtained the BA (Hons) London in Classics in 1959. He also studied at Oxford University, University of Connecticut and Harvard Business School where he attended a number of specialized courses.
As a public servant for about 30 years, he served variously as Permanent Secretary in the Western State Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and later as Registrar and Secretary to the Council of the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), Ile-Ife, Secretary to the Military Government and Head of Service of Oyo State and Federal Director of Budget and Special Adviser to the Nigerian President on Budget Affairs from 1979-1983.
After retiring into the private sector, Chief Akinyele manages his own firm of Management and Financial Consultants in Ibadan. He is an author of a number of books in the area of Budgeting. He is a member of several national and international professional associations, prominent among which is the National Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), where he served as Chairman of its Economics and Statistics Committee for some ten years. He is also a member of the Nigerian National Planning Commission. Chief Akinyele holds the chieftaincy title of Bobajiro of Ibadanland and was in November 2000, conferred with national honors, as Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) by the President of Nigeria.
Return to Table of Contents
An interview with the Special Advisor to the Governor of Kano State, Nigeria on Research and Documentation, Dr Tijjani Namiye. This interview was held on October 9, 2003 in Connecticut during a visit by the Governor of Kano, His Excellency Governor Shekarau. The interviewer was Gloria Emeagwali.
Interviewer: Can you please introduce yourself, Sir.
Advisor: I am Dr. Tijjani Mohammed Naniye from Kano State, Nigeria.
Initially I was a lecturer at Bayero University, Kano, Dept of History but
in December 2003 as a result of the election as the Executive Governor of
Kano State of Mallam Shekarau, I was appointed a special advisor in
charge of research and development.
Interviewer: Are you on leave of absence from Bayero University, Kano?
Advisor: Yes. I am
Interviewer: Were you surprised at the success of Governor Shekarau in the election?
Advisor: No. I was not surprised. The fact that I agreed to work with him is an
indication that I know his caliber and his capability, so the successes he
has made in various aspects of human endeavor are not a surprise to me,
particularly his achievements with regards to the education of females,
the health care delivery system, education, human development, arresting
environmental degradation and so on.
Interviewer: Who do you consider more ideologically attuned to your government,
Mallam Abubakar Rimi, a former governor of Kano or the late Mallam
Advisor: His Excellency Ibrahim Shekarau has taken after the ideological
principles of Mallam Aminu Kano. The fact that he accepts democratic
humanism to be the framework upon which His government should
discharge its responsibilities is a clear indication that he is
following in the footsteps of the late Mallam Aminu Kano.
Interviewer: There has been an issue concerning polio vaccines. Can you tell us more
about this, please?
Advisor: Yes. The issue of polio vaccines is a lingering issue. The campaign
against polio started in1989 and many opinion leaders, scholars and
traditional rulers in Kano have been questioning the genuineness of this
vaccination process. Nothing was done until in 1996 something terrible
happened in Kano State. Pfizer went into Kano when there was an
outbreak of meningitis with the promise to give medicaments to the
population attacked by this deadly disease. Unknown to many, Pfizer
was testing a new medicine and as a result of this medication which
was given free of charge, we ended up with many cases. Some lost
their lives, some were maimed for life, others incapacitated, others
made deaf and dumb. The case is still in court.
Interviewer: This incident with Pfizer is not well known.
Advisor: This incident with Pfizer was deliberately suppressed and no
compensation was paid. So when the issue of polio vaccination came
up again many people were apprehensive and they protested against
taking their children through this vaccination process. Upon being
sworn in, Governor Shekarau wanted to face this incident squarely.
The first thing he did was to suspend the vaccination process. He
then set up a powerful technical committee under Professor Alhassan
Bichi, a renowned scholar working in Bayero University, Kano.
Other members of the committee were physicians like
Dr. Borodo, a consultant at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital,
laboratory technologists and so on. This team was charged with the
responsibility of finding out what really was the composition of this
It was as a result of the report submitted to government that
the position of the Kano government to suspend this vaccine was
confirmed. The report indicated that this vaccine contained
contaminants unrelated to the prevention of polio. No one could
give an answer as to why these contaminants were there. So
Governor Shekarau determined that until more information could be
given on this, the vaccination process would be suspended.
People blamed the Nigerian equipment and said that maybe
It was defective. The government then decided to send the team to
foreign countries to substantiate the report. It was first sent to South
Africa which confirmed that the contaminants were there. Other
samples were sent to India and then to Indonesia where the
contaminants were confirmed.
The intention of the present government is to encourage
our indigenous pharmacologists and medical doctors with generous
funds to enable us to come up with our own vaccines so that we do
not have to rely on anybody for this kind of treatment.
Interviewer: I was of the opinion that Dr.Haruna Keita was a major figure in
When the Kano State Government took a decision on the vaccine other states followed. Dr. Haruna Keita was doing his own research, in support of the Kano government and even when one of the Muslim organizations of Kaduna, did its own research it was really in support of the Kano Government. When the Federal Government set up its own team it was also in support of what the Kano Government was doing, either to confirm or reject the position of the Kano State Government. That is why the government was quick to correct also some false notions. When Kano, being predominantly Muslim, took its position, there was a campaign carried on to suggest that Kano State was trying to challenge the Western world or to challenge the U.S. It was asserted that it wanted to be different; and that it was controlled by Islamic fundamentalists. But in reality this was not the guiding principle. In fact, the opposition of the Kano State Government to the vaccine, as it was administered then, was entirely scientific. It was never religious. Never was it political. Some said that because Kano was ANPP, it wanted to challenge the Federal Government which was PDP- controlled. Some people even said that since Kano was Hausa- Fulani it wanted to pose a problem to a government that was controlled by the Yoruba. All kinds of interpretations were given. But these accusations were false. The technical committees set up by the government were purely scientific. It was not about politics, religion or anti-western sentiments.
Interviewer: It seemed to be about quality control.
Advisor: It was about quality control and ensuring public health
for our citizens. That was the only thing that guided government in
taking the decision that it took. Throughout the entire eleven
months, Kano continued to explain to the public and its own
citizens what was happening. The government of Kano did not
take any decisions alone. It called a congress in Kano comprising
of traditional rulers, technocrats, elders of the society,
non governmental organizations, youth organizations, scholars
and others, to tell them about the current situation, and it was
through discussions and consultation that the decisions were
always arrived at as to the next line of action.
Interviewer: Dr. Tijjani, please convey to your Governor and the various
officials associated with this decision the fact that we are
proud of the courage displayed by Kano State. We have to
continue to evaluate vaccines and medicines of all kinds
regardless of their source whether local, or international, to
ensure that the health of our citizens is carefully protected.
Advisor Yes this will be conveyed to His Excellency the Governor
of Kano State.
Return to Table of Contents