In the eyes of the people, Labour Party won this election, and there is no better way to reciprocate the mandate given to them by working for the people. This time, representations at the National Assembly will be colourful, while debates will be exciting. For winning the hearts of the people and for changing the usual narrative with the much it has achieved, Labour Party is the unexpected ‘victor’ in Nigeria’s most consequential election.
As imperfect as any human endeavour is, as disappointing as the election turned out to be, in comparison with the pre-election optimism, and as certain as winning and losing is, this presidential election is, for the first time in the history of elections in Nigeria, the most competitive, revealing, shocking and anticipated.
Apart from the almost 25 million voters, the election has produced so many upsets and thrown up issues and persons that were not in the front burner in political discourse previously. Is it the outpouring of youth in the political participation process? Is it the incumbent party struggling for survival? Or is the defeat of Tinubu at his backyard in Lagos imminent?
One of the issues thrown up with this election, apart from the massive youth mobilisation and participation, is anger and revulsion against the political elite. Even those who eventually emerged winners would tell you how hard they fought.
Peter Obi, the former governor of Anambra State, came to the Labour Party as an underdog; he was not just a frontrunner in the election, his massive votes threatened established candidates in the race. He did not just win the majority of votes in the South-South and South-East, the Labour Party succeeded in defeating lawmakers who have been around over the years, such as Ndudi Elumelu, Sam Egwu, Onyejeocha and a host of others.
But how does one juxtapose the LP’s sweeping of the South-East with the same zone’s agitation for the presidency in the context of a national quest? The Obi/LP revolution might have changed the power configuration generally, but it has left the Igbo presidency bid in a quandary. Their pathway to the presidency, which PDP touted and offered them, was rejected in favour of their own in Obi. However, the final results of the presidential election may have left the Igbo in a far more precarious situation and despondency than before, except the LP momentum can be sustained and nurtured for years in the way the South-West nurtured, sustained and owned the Alliance for Democracy (AD)-Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) until their merger with Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC)/All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) to produce the presidency in 2015. If the South-East handles Labour Party the way it did the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the momentum will fizzle out in the course of time.
The opposition is yet to learn any lesson. How can you seek to supplant an incumbent government while being so split down the middle? Rabiu Kwankwaso with his nearly one million votes in Kano alone is down and out. Impressive as Labour Party’s outing is, nearly does not kill a bird. For the G-5, it takes more than junketing from one part of the world to the other on tax payers’ money, wearing aso ebi and partying together to win elections.
The political equation that came out of the contest has further alienated the South-East from mainstream political leaning, which used to be PDP and now APC. So, when next the Igbos complain about being marginalised, remind them about the missed opportunity in the Atiku-Obi and Atiku-Okowa tickets that did not fly and which they did not buy into respectively. Politics is about strategic thinking, calculation, scheming and planning, and not emotion and the bandwagon effect. I’m afraid the South-East did not do much of it prior to this election.
This takes me to the once-toast of the Nigerian press, the G-5 governors. The renegade five governors of the PDP – Governors Samuel Ortom, Ikpeazu, Makinde, Ugwuanyi and Wike who have been in combat mood and were celebrated as speaking for the South did help the Labour Party and this nailed some of them and their ambitions under the PDP. They even renamed themselves as the Integrity Group to give themselves a semblance of credibility and as freedom fighters. Out of these five, at least three have kissed the canvas, having lost their senatorial bids, while Wike’s anointed candidates also lost their bids. It remains to be seen whether their anointed governorship candidates will survive the Labour Party storm they brought upon themselves.
As for the PDP, it should be obvious to them that you cannot go into a crucial contest like a presidential election divided. And as the saying goes, a divided house cannot stand. PDP had split into four before the election — the mainstream PDP, the G-5, part of Labour Party and NNPP. All of them went down together.
The opposition is yet to learn any lesson. How can you seek to supplant an incumbent government while being so split down the middle? Rabiu Kwankwaso with his nearly one million votes in Kano alone is down and out. Impressive as Labour Party’s outing is, nearly does not kill a bird. For the G-5, it takes more than junketing from one part of the world to the other on tax payers’ money, wearing aso ebi and partying together to win elections. If you don’t want your friend to become king, you cannot be a king’s friend. They fought Atiku to a standstill and frustrated his last opportunity to be president; the electorate has paid them in their own coins.
There is a saying that there is blessing in disunity. The Labour Party thought they were fighting Tinubu, meanwhile he became the beneficiary of the division they caused with their withdrawal of support for PDP. The lack of compromise and cohesion undid the PDP. A fragmented opposition PDP was not formidable enough to defeat the incumbent, and some of us did warn on the imperative of making concessions, but they did not listen.
My hope is that Labour Party will not mismanage the revolutionary-like unprecedent support they got by allowing pastors and Christian religious leaders to hijack their denouement reminiscent of the EndSARS protest that unified the youth of this country. Even then, the party has every reason to celebrate the number of lawmakers that will be flying its flag in the next dispensation at the National Assembly.
Warts and all, Labour Party might not have won, but the party should actually celebrate itself as the biggest winner. You don’t have to win the trophy before you win the hearts of people. Labour is the hero of the presidential race. It railed against the establishment and revolted against the system, while Obi served a red card to politicians of the old order. With Labour and Obi’s incursion, no public position is anybody’s birthright, while intimidation and suppression of votes can no longer work.
Here is a party cobbled together within a year after it became obvious that Atiku would not pick Obi as his running mate. Yet, that party has been able to come this far. If only they eschewed religious and ethnic sentiments, they would have gone farther than this. A political party that identifies with a particular ethnic group or religion is doomed to fail. Labour built its house on quicksand, and failure was predictable. It is however not too late to consolidate on its current efforts. Labour only needs a national spread to take it to Aso Rock Villa. Legal options and protests won’t take it anywhere.
My hope is that Labour Party will not mismanage the revolutionary-like unprecedent support they got by allowing pastors and Christian religious leaders to hijack their denouement reminiscent of the EndSARS protest that unified the youth of this country. Even then, the party has every reason to celebrate the number of lawmakers that will be flying its flag in the next dispensation at the National Assembly. I’m excited about the coming rainbow parliament of people from different parties working toward the betterment of Nigeria, and not for self-interest or party interest. Hopefully, the National Assembly will cease to be the Executive’s rubber stamp, thanks to Obi and the Labour Party.
Another win for the people is the emergence of an Okada rider as a would-be lawmaker in Kaduna State. It means institutional and structural bottlenecks will no longer be impediments to one’s aspiration. Again, thanks to the Labour Party.
In the coming days, we expect an active parliament that will scrutinise (and not pad) budgets. A National Assembly that will ensure even spread of infrastructure across the country, and not those that turn constituency projects into their slush funds. Labour Party can work for the people if its lawmakers do their oversight work and do not collude with the executive to shortchange Nigerians. In the eyes of the people, Labour Party won this election, and there is no better way to reciprocate the mandate given to them by working for the people. This time, representations at the National Assembly will be colourful, while debates will be exciting. For winning the hearts of the people and for changing the usual narrative with the much it has achieved, Labour Party is the unexpected ‘victor’ in Nigeria’s most consequential election.
Zainab Suleiman Okino is Editorial Board chair of Blueprint Newspaper and a syndicated columnist. She can be reached via email@example.com.
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