60 events that helped shape Nigeria (3)

60 events that helped shape Nigeria (3)

Igboeli Arinze


The history of elections in Nigeria has been largely controversial.

Since 1959 each and every  election conducted save for that of 1993  have ended with a mixture of gripes and hollers. Our elections have been draped with the most bizarre methods of rigging as well as a coterie of violence, intimidation and a number of other unwholesome practices that have made our approach to democracy a lot untidy.

We as a nation began on a faulty note in 1964, with the Northern People’s Congress and its counterparts in its Nigerian National Alliance “winning” a total of 198 seats out of 312. It was an election that saw the Western Region’s  bogeyman in Samuel Ladoke Akintola’s NIgerian National Democratic Party, NNDP towering above Awolowo’s Action Group in the Western Region. An election where Akintola was alleged to have gloatingly stated that whether the electorate voted his party or not he would win the elections!

The 1964 elections was an affront to the tenets of democracy that the nation’s president in the person of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe refused to call on Tafawa Balewa to form a government much until an uneasy truce was reached between the duo. However,as bad as the 1964 elections were, it was to appear as a saint’s affair than what was to come in 1965, an election so rigged that future elections which witnessed monumental forms of rigging such as the 1983, 2003 and 2007 elections could not hold a torch to what was said to have transpired in 1965. Results not reflecting the will of the people were churned out to the chargrin of the people. It was indeed obvious that such rigging was in the thinking of the ruling NPC which had sought to strangulate all forms of opposition. The NPC was a senior partner in the NNA Alliance and had Akintola’s NNDP as the junior partner. This triggered ‘Operation Wetie’ which in turn led to the January 15 coup.

The 1979 elections also bore within it a seismic like shaking set of precedents. For the first time the country was to be modeled upon the American system of government with a President elected from the ballot box rather than the Westminster parliamentary model where a leader’s only claim to power is because his party had a majority in parliament and not because the entire country decided directly that he leads them.

Five parties were eventually cleared to slug it out, namely, the NPN, UPN, NPP, GNPP and PRP. The presidential elections led to the 12 2/3 conundrum where it was argued that the NPN candidate, Alhaji Shehu Shagari had not garnered 25% in 13 states as was required by regulations spelt out by the then electoral body, FEDECO.

Shagari had 25% or one-quarter in 12 states but failed to get 25% in Kano State where he had 243,423 votes —  the equivalent of 19.4% of the 1,220,763 votes cast in total in the state. Sadly, FEDECO and Richard Akinjide thought otherwise and in a landmark judgement, which came with a sort of appeal that such a judgement was never to be cited in any court, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shagari. In doing so, the Supreme Court gifted Shagari a mago-mago victory, denying Obafemi Awolowo  an opportunity to take his aspiration for the office of the President to the electoral college, who were the 449 members elect of the Federal House of Representatives. Perhaps, one never knows which way the pendulum would have swung had the gauntlet gone to the electoral college. Perhaps we may have been fortunate with an Awo Presidency.

The 1983 elections were such a sham. In that election Shagari and his acolytes were hell bent on returning to power that they shamelessly rigged themselves in. The election was wonderfully captured in Fela’s song ‘Teacher Don’t Teach Me Nonsense’, even Awo and Zik refused to approach the courts, calling on higher powers to do justice, lurking around were the military brass who  then did not have the patience to wait on God to do justice, they gave their own version and in three months removed Shagari from office.

The 2003 and 2007 elections were also massively rigged. The former was blatantly rigged that former President Jimmy Carter a good friend of the biggest beneficiary of that stolen election, Olusegun Obasanjo did not congratulate his friend. Carter was in Nigeria to monitor the elections, he was reported to have left in disgust. The 2007 was even worse off, it was that bad that Umaru Yar Adua, it’s version’s beneficiary, on receiving his certificate of return on his electoral heist was to in stoical altruism impute that the process that brought him in was neither free nor fair! Even skeptics could not have done better.

Lastly, the 2015 elections will also count as one of the earth shaking events. For the first time in the history of the nation the candidate of the opposition party was to dislodge an incumbent and end sixteen years of gross misrule since the inception of democracy.

Source: thenationonlineng.net