The February 12 FCT area councils election was a setback for the APC, Nigeria’s ruling party. Since coming to power in 2015, the party had recorded near-total success in the two previous elections.
Council elections are held in the Nigerian capital every three years. In 2016, the APC won five of the six councils – Abaji, AMAC, Bwari, Gwagwalada, Kuje, and Kwali – and lost Gwagwalada to APGA, an opposition party. In 2019, it won four, taking Gwagwalada and retaining Abaji, AMAC, and Kwali, while losing two – Kuje and Bwari – to the main opposition PDP.
However, in the latest election, last month, APC recorded its worst performance in the FCT polls under President Muhammadu Buhari as it shared the councils 50-50 with PDP.
Each of the council areas in Abuja has ten wards except for AMAC which has 12, making a total of 62 wards.
For the ward councillorship positions, PDP won 42 while APC won 20 in the latest elections, whereas in 2019 the PDP had 27 and the APC 35.
However, the most significant of APC’s misfortune in the council polls was losing AMAC (Abuja Municipal Area Council) to PDP, which also won Kuje and Bwari. AMAC is the most developed and cosmopolitan council, which hosts the city centre, including the enclaves of the country’s super-rich and base of power.
The Presidency, National Assembly, Supreme Court, Federal Secretariat, headquarters of ministries, departments, and agencies, headquarters of the armed forces, police, secret services, diplomatic missions and a host of other consequential national and international establishments are located in AMAC.
For a party that did not win any council in 2016, winning two and then three in 2019 and 2022 respectively showed how steadily the PDP was recovering and gaining ground against the ruling APC in the Nigerian capital. When PDP lost all in 2016, it was still a time the APC had just come to power, with a high public acceptance and sentiments that the PDP had caused the country’s woes having ruled for 16 years.
It is against that background that the FCT election has been seen as an Abuja-limited referendum on the performance of the APC government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is a signal,” said Yunusa Yusuf, a native Abuja public commentator, arguing that the Abuja election was a measure of public opinion on the performance of the APC administration. “There is hunger in the land. The same people that voted in the previous elections were the same that voted in the February election.”
“The president is trying but the problem was our leaders,” he added.
In Abuja, not much has changed in the area of public service delivery. Services – such as water supply, streetlights, waste management, traffic management – have remained either perfunctorily delivered or not delivered at all, especially in areas other than the city centre, many of them also in AMAC.
Instead of reducing the gap between the city centre, commonly called town, and the surrounding less developed neighbourhoods, often called satellite areas, the dualism that defines Abuja is deepening.
A dualism, in geography and development, refers to the existence of two separate economic and social sectors within a space. A dual society, like Abuja, typically has rural, impoverished, and neglected parts surrounding a more developed and advanced part.
However, a local APC official in Abaji, Mohammed Bako, said APC’s fortune dwindled because of internal manipulations that resulted in the “fielding of unpopular candidates.”
“Our leaders, from the federal secretariat to the local level gave tickets to unpopular candidates,” Mr Bako said. “That was why we lost so much, including AMAC, which covers the Villa (the Presidency).”