An Election of Firsts: The Uniqueness of the March 2015 Presidential Elections

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It is of no doubt that the just concluded presidential election on the 28th of March was an epochal moment for the nation. The brand new political awakening – precipitated by a decade mastery of the social media by the Nigerian people – which blew over the political landscapes, indeed had a lot to do with the exciting nature of the elections and the electioneering process. Indeed the March 2015 election was an election of firsts.

First, after the election results were announced the incumbent government embodied in the person of President Jonathan, conceded defeat. This so far is the most obvious and talked about ‘first’. The president’s panegyrists have gone so far as to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize, because by conceding defeat he prevented a bloodbath whose aftermath would have made the killing fields of Cambodia look like a stand-up comedy show.

And the Pro-Buhari group believes it is an abhorrent thing for anyone to think about nominating him for a Nobel peace prize because he did the expected in sane climes – after all his administration was scandalized by numerous cases of mismanagements and misappropriations. Others think the president did a commendable thing by conceding defeat in a free and fair election, but they leave it at that – just a commendable act, nothing more.

But one thing that might help is putting Jonathan’s act in context. Just before the election there were reports of politically motivated vigilante and militant groups stockpiling arms. Some of these groups it was alleged went so far as to purchase battle ships. A former Niger Delta Warlord said “2015 is more than do-or-die. It is our very survival that is being challenged, and we must tell them: you are a man and I am a man, we are going to meet on the battle field”.

The Northern Elders Forum, a pressure group said that “there is no going back on the presidency returning to the North in 2015”.On the 14 of October 2014, the same group said anyone who votes for Jonathan and the PDP in the 2015 elections, would be deemed an enemy of the North.

PDP however described the APC as a “Nigeria’s Muslim Brotherhood”, and a “party of bloodthirsty, religious and ethnic bigots averse to the unity of the country” and even went as far as accusing them for being responsible for the blood raged Islamist group, Boko Haram, saying that the APC and its leaders are “a hypocritical lot, wolves in sheep skin, devils who, through their utterances, stoke the fires of violence by night only to wear messianic robes in the morning to shed crocodile tears for their victims”.

The APC went as far as threatening to form a parallel government if they lost the election perceiving it was rigged – which would have become the grand recipe for the failure of the Nigerian state.

In the aftermath of the 2011 presidential elections after General Buhari lost the election a bloodbath ensued leaving over 1000 people dead and almost 65000 people displaced, mostly in the north. In the face of all these, General Buhari remained tacit.

But the legendary phone call, made by President Jonathan to General Buhari, before the final results were announced nipped, to a good level, whatever violence that might have been envisaged. Putting all these into context, factoring the history of election violence in the country and how easy it is to incite violence across ethnic and religious line in Nigerian one could see why indeed that sole act of President Jonathan is more than commendable.

To win an election, a candidate must capture two out of the three regions in Nigeria. These three regions include the North, West and East – the Western and Eastern regions are collectively categorized as the South. In the past elections, General Buhari was only able to capture a majority vote in the Northern part of the country, losing to other candidates who were able to capture the other two regions. For example, the diagrams below show the numbers of states won by the presidential candidates in the 2011 election and 2015 elections respectively.
2015 election
Image source: http://www.nigerianmuse.com/

In this image, one sees how regional in nature the votes were dispersed. Most of the Northern part of the country voted for Buhari, while the West and the East, i.e. the Southern part of the country was captured by Jonathan. Ribadu’s case is clearly an aberration on this list.
election2election3
Image source: http://www.news24.com.ng/

As we can see for the first time General Buhari was able to capture most of the Northern and the Western part of the country. The west was the tipping point for General Buhari to secure his victory.
Indeed one could say the democratization process is finding its voice in the Nigerian state, and Nigeria might just be on its way to become one nation and not more a country if many nations.

Notes
*The manuscript of the call goes thus:

President Jonathan: Your Excellency
General Buhari: Hello Your Excellency
President Jonathan: How are you?
General Buhari: I am alright Your Excellency
President Jonathan: (laughs) Congratulations
General Buhari: Thank you very much Your Excellency
President Jonathan: Yeah, so how are things?
General Buhari: Well I would congratulate you more…
President Jonathan: one of these days you should come so we sort out how to plan the transitional period
General Buhari: Thanks Your Excellency, Thank you very much
President Jonathan: Okay… Congratulations
General Buhari: my respect Your Excellency…

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