“Politics are almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times”, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.
With the exception of the August 6, 1983 Presidential election, every Presidential election in Nigeria has ended in the courts.
That of August 11, 1979 was worse. On August 15, 1979, the returning officer in the Presidential election, Chief Fredrick Louis Menkiti announced the results. In the results, Alhaji Shehu Shagari of the NPN scored 5,668,857 votes while Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) of the UPN scored 4,916,951 votes; Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (1904-1996) of the NPP scored 2,822,523, Alhaji Aminu Kano (1920-1983) had 1,732,113 votes and Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri, 1,686,489 votes. After the results were announced, Chief Awolowo challenged this, with Chief Abraham Adesanya as his lead counsel, whereas Chief Richard Osuolale Abimbola Akinjide defended Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
I covered the tribunal and the Supreme Court judgment for The Punch thirty-six years ago. At the Supreme Court, Justice Kayode Esho (1925-2012) gave the minority judgment – delivered a few days to the inauguration – in favour of Chief Awolowo while the majority judgment was delivered by Mr. Justice Atanda Fatai Williams (1918-2002) in favour of Alhaji Shehu Shagari.
But in the August 6, 1983 Presidential election, it was a different ball game; Alhaji Shehu Shagari scored 12,081,471, while Chief Obafemi Awolowo scored 7,902,209. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe had 3,557,113 votes; Alhaji Aminu Kano, 968,974; Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of the Great Nigeria People’s Party (GNPP), 646,806 and Mr. Tunji Braithwaite of the Nigerian Advance Party scored 271,524. Chief Obafemi Awolowo decided not to challenge the result, insisting that if Nigerians needed him they know where to find him. He thereafter settled in Ikenne, his hometown, and on May 9, 1987, he answered the final call. In the words of Thomas Jefferson “I have no ambition to govern men. It is a painful and thankless office”.
In the February 27, 1999 Presidential election, Chief Olusegun Aremu Okikiolu Obasanjo of the PDP had 18,738,154 votes as against Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy who scored 11,110,287 votes. Chief Falae did not accept the result of the election. The regime of General Abdusalam Abubakar who wanted to quit government in time had to summon the traditional ruler of the Akure Kingdom where Chief Falae comes from, Kabiyesi Adebobajo Adesida, the then Deji of Akure, to Abuja to persuade Chief Falae to withdraw the suit. He refused, and for his refusal both General Obasanjo and Chief Falae are not on speaking terms till date. The enmity between both men lingers.
In the April 19, 2003 election, General Olusegun Obasanjo scored 24,456,140 votes, while Major General Muhammadu Buhari scored 12,710,022 votes, the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Chief Chukemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu of the All Progrssive Grand Alliance (APGA) had 1,297,445 votes, Jim Nwobodo of the UNPP scored 169,609 votes, Chief Gani Fawehinmi of the Conscience Party 161,333 votes, Sarah Jubrin of the Progressive Action Congress 157,560 votes, General Ike Nwachukwu of National Democratic Party 132,197 votes, Chris Okotie of Justice Party 109,547 votes, Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the Redemption Party 100,765 votes, Arthur Nwankwo People’s Mandate 57,720 votes, Emmanuel Okereke of All People Liberation Party 26,921 votes, Kalu Idika Kalu of the New Nigeria People’s Party 23,830 votes and Alhaji Muhammadu Dikko Yusuf, former Inspector General of Police of the Movement for Democracy and Justice scored 21,403 votes. General Buhari went to court to challenge the results of the election. The Supreme Court finally decided in favour of General Olusegun Obasanjo.
In April 21, 2007 Presidential election, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua of PDP had 24,638,063 votes as against General Muhammadu Buhari/Edwin Ume-Ezeoke of the ANPP who scored 6,605,299 votes. Both Alhaji Yar’adua and Major General Buhari are from Katsina state. It was the first time in the history when both candidates were from the same state. The Presidential disputes ended in the Supreme Court with Chief Wole Olanipekun as the lead Counsel for Alhaji Yar’adua.
In the April 9, 2011 election, the duo of Jonathan Goodluck/Namadi Sambo had 22,495,187 votes while the duo of Major General Muhammadu Buhari/Pastor Tunde Bakare scored 12,214,853 votes. General Buhari challenged the outcome of the results and it ended in the Supreme Court.
In a few days’ time, we shall march to vote during the March 28, 2015 Presidential election. It is on record that no incumbent President has ever lost election in Nigeria. But there are examples in Africa. In the April 1991 Presidential election in Republic of Benin, President Mathieu Kerekou lost to Nicephore Soglo. Also in 1991, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia lost to Frederick Chiluba. Just last September, Michael Suta of Zambia defeated the Multi Party Democratic (MPD) which has been in power for twenty years, with President Rupia Banda conceding defeat. All eyes will definitely be on Nigeria before and after the election.
It is to be seen whether the Presidential election will bring peace or chaos to Nigeria. So much has been written about the forthcoming Presidential elections in Nigeria – the anxieties, the alarms and the innuendos. Definitely, one must lose and one must win. Defeat can be injurious but definitely there is life after defeat. Nothing pains a politician more than to lose an election.
When I think of Presidential elections, what comes to my mind is the 1968 Convention of the Democratic Party in the United States in Chicago. After withdrawing from re-contesting, the then incumbent President, Lyndon Johnson became so unpopular that he was not even invited by his party to the Convention. He thereafter lamented, “I’ve never felt lower in my life. How do you think it feels to be completely rejected by the party you’ve spent your life with, knowing that your name cannot be mentioned without choruses of boos and obscenities? How would you feel? It makes me feel that nothing’s been worth it. And I’ve tried. Things may not have turned out as you wanted or even as I wanted. But God knows I’ve tried. And I’ve given it my best all these years. I woke up at six and worked until one or two in the morning every day, Saturdays and Sundays. And it comes to this. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
Presidents too have their own lamentation. They are not invincible. They are like the rest of us. Power belongs not to the individuals but to the people. The people in their wisdom have to choose whom they are to endow the power with. Albert Einstein said, “the state is made for man, not man for the State.”
Eric Teniola, a former Director at the Presidency, lives in Lagos.