One of the biggest surprises thrown up by the 2023 general elections is the loss of the presidential election recorded in Lagos State by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Since he began to swim in Nigeria’s murky water of politics more than three decades ago, the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who is dubbed the “City Boy” in reference to his grip on the politics of the state, had never lost in Lagos.
After recording the highest number of votes among the elected senators in Nigeria during the aborted Third Republic in 1992, Mr Tinubu was later elected governor of the state in 1999 and to a second term in 2003. His reelection was despite the war waged on his party, Alliance for Democracy (AD), by the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which swept away five of the party’s six governors in the South-west states.
Since then, opponents had tried in vain to dethrone Mr Tinubu’s political dynasty from the nation’s economic nervecentre. But like a cat with nine lives, the former governor maintained his hold on Lagos and from there has spread his influence to put his associates in government in and outside the South-west.
Mr Tinubu was a principal architect of the merger of opposition political parties that unseated President Goodluck Jonathan in 2015. He contributed to nurturing the ruling party and finally claimed its presidential ticket for the 25 February presidential election.
He has since been declared winner of the election and presented with a certificate of return by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). But the opposition’s highest gain in the 25 February presidential election seems to be the trouncing of Mr Tinubu in his home state of Lagos.
Though the difference in the votes recorded by Mr Tinubu and the candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, who won in the state, was less than 10,000, the defeat has since set a lot of tongues wagging.
In fact, it has set panic into the former governor’s political camp ahead of next Saturday’s governorship and House of Assembly elections.
Many young Nigerians and social media users, and particularly followers of Mr Obi, have continued to taunt the incumbent governor of the state and a protege of Mr Tinubu, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, advising him to begin to pack his belongings from the Alausa Government House.
But for the discerning, the defeat of APC in Lagos did not come as a surprise as the factors that gave the opposition victory are clear enough. A few of them are discussed below:
APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket
In 1993, Moshood Abiola (now late) of the then Social Democratic Party (SDP) chose a fellow Muslim deputy from the Kanuri ethnic group of Borno State as running mate and still won the presidential election. However, the socio-political and religious divides in Nigeria have widened since then and trust among people of different religious beliefs have reduced.
The Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria since 2009, and the activities of marauding cattle herders and bandits across the country have worsened interfaith relationships.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has not done much to douse the tension and bridge the divides.
According to Joseph Akinola, an ICT expert and Lagos resident, if Christians feel discriminated against despite having one of them as vice president in the last seven years, “the combination of a Muslim president and Muslim vice will worsen our situation.”
Expectedly, many Pentecostal churches championed the crusades against the same faith ticket of the APC and adopted Mr Obi as the Church’s candidate.
Lagos is the capital of many Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, and many advised their members to vote against the APC presidential candidate in the election.
Though informal, this was the message across many Christian societies in the state and the country ahead of the presidential election.
The fact that Mr Tinubu’s party won the state’s three senatorial seats and 19 out of 24 House of Representatives seats reinforced the argument that Christian voters were not necessarily against the party but were against its Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
Shettima as VP candidate
Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno State, had his image largely dented when on 14 April, 2014, about 250 students of the Government Girls’ Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, were abducted by members of the dreaded Boko-Haram sect.
The callous act birthed the global “BringBackOurGirls” campaign, which had global leaders joining to demand the release of the students.
Prominent political leaders from Nigeria’s North-east have been accused of being behind the Boko Haram savagery in their region.
A voter during the 25 February poll and member of the Redeemed Christian Church of Nigeria (RCCG), who identified herself simply as Ibidun, said she cringes at the mere thought of Mr Shettima as Nigeria’s potential vice-president.
“A mere look at Mr Shettima alone gives you the impression of a tough man, and it can be scary. So I couldn’t just vouch for him, and I am afraid of Tinubu’s health,” Ms Ibidun told PREMIUM TIMES.
Although Mr Shettima has denied any links with Boko Haram and there is no evidence to the contrary, many Lagos voters were not convinced.
Since October 2020 when protesters against police brutality were attacked at the Lekki toll gate in Lagos by security operatives, many young Nigerians, particularly those residing in Lagos, had waited for a day to punish Mr Tinubu and his political associates for allegedly being behind the attack.
The violent reaction by the protesters also included setting ablaze public properties and those linked to Mr Tinubu, including the Television Continental headquarters and The Nation Newspaper’s office.
It was, therefore, not surprising that many young Nigerians voted against the candidate of the ruling party.
Ade Mabo who flew to Lagos from the United States of America to vote for Mr Obi, cited the “killing of innocent protesters” as one of the many reasons he voted against Mr Tinubu.
Godfatherism/questionable pension plan
Mr Tinubu has not held any public office since his tenure as governor ended in 2007. But he wears the garb of a “godfather” with the status of a colossus.
He is accused of imposing and removing political officeholders in Lagis at will. Many of Mr Tinubu’s critics blamed him for the replacement of the state’s immediate past governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, with Mr Sanwo-Olu in 2015.
Apart from this, the controversial pension scheme instituted for political office holders at the twilight of his administration as governor of the state has remained a source of resentment against Mr Tinubu by many Nigerians. The content of this pension package was shared far and wide on social media ahead of the presidential election and many contrasted this with the perceived frugality of the Labour Party candidate while he held sway as governor in his home state of Anambra.
“Godfatherism is one of the reasons I voted against Tinubu: specifically choosing governors and puppetting them. Making sure he controls them like a pawn instead of giving them free hands to run and then mentoring them to do the right things,” said Mr Mabo, an investor, and social entrepreneur.
Tinubu’s ‘frail’ health
Until Wednesday, 1 March, when he held high his Certificate of Return after the presentation by INEC, many Nigerians did not believe Mr Tinubu could carry his hands without being supported.
There have been many insinuations about Mr Tinubu’s health, including that he allegedly wet his clothes while on a public visit.
Despite the candidate and his associates insisting that he was fit enough to govern Nigeria, the rumours did not subside.
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Mr Tinubu was accused of selfishness and greed, with many advising him to nominate any of his trusted allies, rather than subject himself to the rigour of tedious campaign activities.
Many voters stuck to their negative perception of his health status, despite Mr Tinubu running perhaps the most strenuous physical campaign of the 18 candidates.
Fuel scarcity/Naira redesign policy
Petroleum products were largely available in Nigeria for more than six years under the APC federal government. But Nigerians in the past year have faced difficulties in accessing the products, and at very high costs.
While the fuel crisis raged, the government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) introduced a naira redesign policy which it said was to address monetary issues while President Buhari said it would curb vote buying during elections.
However, at the expiration of the deadline for conversion to the new notes in January, there was an acute cash scarcity and confusion set in.
This led to protests across Nigeria with attacks on backs and some other private and public properties. The naira scarcity still persists.
As the nation’s commercial nervecentre, the impacts were badly felt in Lagos, and the consequence was many voters rejecting the political party in power. Though Mr Tinubu condemned the policy, many voters were reluctant to separate him from the policy of his political party.
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