The Making of a President
President Goodluck Jonathan polls over 22 million votes to beat 17 other contestants to win the 2011 presidential race
The victory was foretold. Even on the eve of election, you could feel victory in the air for Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and the incumbent president, in the impending April 16, presidential polls. From Oyo to Uyo, Kaiama to Kaduna, many people predicted that he would be the clear winner. Thus, they trooped out that Saturday morning to give vent to their feeling. And when the final results were announced on April 18, the sitting president polled 22,495,187, a wide margin against the 12,215,853 votes garnered by Muhammadu Buhari of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, his closest rival.
The two other major contenders who came third and fourth – Nuhu Ribadu and Ibrahim Shekarau – of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, polled 2,079,151 and 917,012, respectively. The result showed that President Jonathan got 59.66 percent of the total lawful votes of 37,707,203. Buhari made only 32.4 percent, Ribadu, 5.51 percent and Shekarau, 2.43 percent.
Jonathan had the highest national spread of votes. He won in 23 states – 16 out of 17 in the southern part and seven – Kogi, Kwara, Benue, Nasarawa, Plateau, Adamawa and Taraba – in the north. Besides, he scored the constitutionally mandatory 25 percent or more votes in 32 states and the Federal Capital Territory.
Buhari, on the other hand, won in 12 states solely in the north. He, however, had 25 percent in 16 states also in the region. Ribadu won only in one state – Osun and had 25 percent or more votes in just four states of the South-West. Shekarau neither won nor polled 25 percent votes in any state, including Kano, his state of origin.
During the Saturday, April 16, presidential election, a majority of the registered voters spoke with one voice irrespective of party affiliations. Contrary to permutations that the ACN would sweep the polls in the South-West, Jonathan beat the party’s candidate hands down in Lagos, where he got 1,281,688 votes against Ribadu’s 427,203. He scored 484,758 votes in Oyo, Ondo, 387,376 and Ogun, 309,177 as against Ribadu’s 252,240; 74,253 and 199,555, respectively.
Jonathan also swept the polls in the South-South and South-East. Aside recording his highest votes in Rivers, he polled 1,381,357 in Imo, Delta, 1,378,851, Abia, 1,175,984, Akwa Ibom, 1,165,629 and Anambra, 1,145,169. And in Plateau, Jonathan garnered 1,029,865 against Buhari’s 356,551.
Buhari secured his highest votes in Kano, where he got 1,624,543 against Jonathan’s 440,666 and Shekarau’s 526,310. He also led in Kaduna, with 1,334,244 votes, Bauchi, 1,315,209 and Katsina, 1,163,919.
On Monday, April 18, Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, declared Jonathan winner of the presidential polls. “I hereby certify that I was the returning officer in the presidential election held on April 16, 2011. I also certify that the election was held. I hereby declare Dr. Goodluck E. Jonathan as winner of the election,” he said.
The presidential poll was a radical departure from the old electoral processes in terms of transparency, voting procedures, result collation and declaration. INEC employed unversity professors many of whom are vice chancellors to collate the result.
Across the country, security was adequate while international and local observers monitored the exercise. Pundits who had thought that the ACN, peopled by acclaimed progressives and adherents of the late Obafemi Awolowo would sweep the polls in the South-West were proved wrong. PDP won in the old ‘Wild, Wild West,’ losing only Osun State to the ACN. In Oyo State, for example, the party won in 28 out of 33 local government areas. Voter turnout was low. Only 900,739 out of 2,680,635 registered voted. Ribadu won in Atiba, Iseyin, Kajola, Oyo East and West LGs. Voters, according to Nureni Akanbi, PDP scribe in the state, believed in Jonathan and voted for him. “Nigerians have come to believe in democracy because PDP was on ground and was the party to beat, not just in the presidential race but in other elections,” he told Newswatch, adding “Jonathan is detribalised and so people did not vote along ethnic or religious lines. He was better than other candidates given his achievements within a short time in office as president.”
Kehinde Olaosebikan, another PDP stalwart and chairman of Oluyole local government in Oyo State, noted that Nigerians voted for the best organised candidate. He said Jonathan and his party campaigned vigorously using world class media available. “Jonathan’s personality reflected in his articulate method of politicking. He was in constant touch with me up to 60 hours before the election,” he said.
To ensure victory for Jonathan in Ogun State, the People’s Party of Nigeria, PPN, and PDP sank their differences and worked together. “There was a sense of unity among all of us politicians irrespective of our differences,” Titi Oseni, former speaker of the State House of Assembly and a PDP stalwart, told Newswatch. Raheem Ajayi, publicity secretary of PPN confirmed the pact. “We had a declaration and the result was the expression of support for Jonathan as an individual because he represents a paradigm shift,” he said, adding, “But it was also a rejection of military mentality and dictatorship.”
Jide Awe, ACN chairman in Ekiti State, said the South-West geopolitical zone voted for Jonathan and not his party. He said that after the merger talks between ACN and CPC collapsed, the next best option was to look at the future of the country and vote for the PDP candidate. “The voting pattern was not an endorsement of the PDP but rather a development which occurred as a result of the breakdown in negotiations between ACN and CPC,” he noted.
In the South-East geopolitical zone, the turn out of voters was very impressive and in virtually all the polling units Newswatch visited, the electoral officials arrived on time with electoral materials. Accreditation of voters started as early as 8 a.m. and voting commenced by 12.30 p.m. as directed by INEC. Ifeanyi Araraume, governorship candidate of the ACN in Imo State, who voted at a polling unit in Osuachara ward 11, Isiebu community, Isiala Mbano local government area, commended INEC for improving on its performance during the National Assembly election, especially ensuring that accreditation started on time.
He was impressed with the turn out of voters too. According to him, voters turned out en masse to exercise their franchise because they knew that the choice of the president they make would, to a large extent, determine the political future of the country. “This is the presidential election where the outcome will be determined by votes from the north, the east and the west. What I have always believed is that people should be allowed to vote according to their conscience. This election is particularly about individuals and the character of the personalities contesting. The parties have provided the platforms but individuals matter a lot in the voting pattern for this election,” Araraume said.
Incidentally, based on the voting pattern in the South-East, it was glaring that most eligible voters cast their votes for Jonathan and this assumed a non-partisan bent. Newswatch learnt that this was largely influenced by the decision of Ohanaeze, the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation to adopt him as its consensus presidential candidate. For more than five months, it did not only canvass support for Jonathan, but also held meetings with him. In an advertorial published in some national dailies a few days to the election, Ralph Uwechue, president general of Ohanaeze, enjoined Ndigbo to vote massively for Jonathan because he would fulfill the quest of Ndigbo for good governance, political stability, and sustainable unity of the country.
Three days to the election, a zonal meeting of the PDP leaders in the South-East was held in Enugu, where it was resolved that the zone should deliver more than 85 percent of Igbo votes to Jonathan and ensure that the zone remained relevant in the coming dispensation. Olisa Metu, vice-chairman of the PDP in the South-East, who presided over the meeting, was happy that Ndigbo heeded the clarion call of Ohanaeze and PDP leaders in the zone. He said that Ndigbo voted massively for Jonathan because he is the best candidate for the presidency of the country at this point in time and the people of the zone believe that with him at the helm of affairs, their interest would be best protected.
He explained that a few weeks before the election, the PDP Zonal Working Committee had continued with its “state to state, zone to zone and constituency to constituency mass mobilisation campaigns” during which they sensitised the entire people of the South-East on the importance of a bloc vote for Jonathan.
Some of the voters, however, told Newswatch that they voted for Jonathan because since he assumed office as president, the people of the South-East no longer suffer from the incessant scarcity of fuel which often led to frequent increases in transportation fares. For instance, Chinma Nwachukwu, an aged woman from Emekuku, Owerri, Imo State, said this was why she voted for Jonathan, whom she described, as a man destined to turn the situation of the country around.
Anya O. Anya, professor of Zoology and former director-general, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, NESG, said that he was glad Jonathan received bloc votes from Ndigbo. “I am happy that what some of us strategically worked for has happened and people voted for him across Nigeria. His election would not have been possible without the votes of Igbo resident in the South-West and the North.” He explained that the Igbo solidarity for Jonathan was because they regard him as one of them since Bayelsa, his home state, was part of the old Eastern Region during the first republic. The renowned academic said it was important for Jonathan to recognise the historical significance of the massive support he received from Nigerians as reflected by the number of votes he received at the polls. According to him, many Nigerians voted for Jonathan, not the PDP.
Jonathan also swept the polls in the South-South. Unlike the National Assembly election in which ACN emerged victorious in Edo State, the PDP won the presidential election in the state. At the end of voting, Eghosa Osaghae, a professor of political science and collation officer for Edo State, announced that PDP polled 542,173 votes as against ACN’s 54,242. The CPC had 17,795 while the ANPP scored 2,174.
Rose Obuioforibo, the registrar, INEC, Edo State, attributed the success of the election in the state to the commission’s ability to correct the initial lapses of the commission such that people now had confidence in the system.
Tony Anenih, former chairman, Board of Trustees, PDP, said though, there was low turnout but the exercise was peaceful. “So far, we commend the INEC for handling the hiccups that earlier confronted the last election, we commend the security personnel and the electorate for ensuring a successful election. This election has been the most credible and violence-free in this country and I am happy to see this happen,” he said.
Adams Oshiomhole, governor of Edo State, described the election as successful and praised INEC for making appreciable improvement over the last election. He also appreciated the role of the security agents in ensuring a credible election in the country and urged them to sustain this same level of credibility during the governorship and the House of Assembly elections. “It doesn’t matter how the people voted, what matters is that they all voted peacefully, no intimidation, no harassment, no ballot snatching and no shooting. I am satisfied,” he said.
The exercise started early in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on April 16. There were no reports of violence from the various quarters. Chibuike Amaechi, Rivers State governor, voted about 12.30.p.m. at his country home Omuigwe Village Square polling Unit 014, Ward 8, Ubima, in Ikwerre LGA of the state.
He praised INEC for the improved level of performance but said he was not impressed by the turnout. Out of 600 registered voters here, only 358 turned out for voting, two voters higher than in the previous election. “Part of the problem is that people spend time accrediting and going home. May be if you can accredit and vote at the same time, we may likely have more persons. But again the reason for which INEC is insisting that we must stay behind is to discourage rigging. If everybody votes and goes home you are left with just INEC officials and party agents, you can never tell what could happen,” he said. Jonathan scored his highest vote of 1,817,762 in Rivers State.
The presidential poll went well in Akwa Ibom State. By the eve of the election most prominent indigenes of the state as well as top government functionaries had relocated to their communities to ensure that they delivered their locality to PDP and Jonathan. There was also enthusiasm among the people as they were eager for the day to come so that they would cast their votes for Jonathan. On election day, voters trooped out in large numbers to cast their votes. Godswill Akpabio, Akwa Ibom State governor, voted at his Ukana Ikot Ntuen community ward. Other prominent indigenes like Nduese Essien, minister of Lands and Housing who voted in Eket, expressed happiness over the peaceful way voters conducted themselves.
By 10.p.m. on April 16, all the results from the 31 local government areas of the state had reached the state INEC headquarters which was the collation centre. Professor Comfort Ekpo, vice chancellor of the University of Uyo, who served as the chief collation officer, concluded her assignment by 4.30 a.m. on Sunday, April 17. Jonathan polled 1,165,629 votes, Ribadu, 54,148, Buhari, 5,348 and Shekarau, 2,000. The PDP won overwhelmingly in all the 31 local governments in the state including Uyo, the domain of James Akpan Udoedehe, the gubernatorial candidate of ACN.
Akpabio was happy that Jonathan won in his state. During the winding up of Jonathan’s campaign in Abuja, the governor had promised to deliver 100 percent votes in the state for the president. “The result in Akwa Ibom is not surprising given the fact that Akpabio earlier delivered 100 percent of the delegates of the state to the president during the primaries,” Usoro Usoro, chief press secretary to the governor, said.
Uwemedimo Nwoko, an Uyo-based lawyer, said the pedigree of the president also endeared him to the people. “Jonathan is the first president in Nigeria who promised to conduct a free and fair election in Nigeria and delivered on the promise. He has shown strength of character, especially the way he conducted himself by not interfering with the work of INEC in spite of being a candidate. People have come to the conclusion that this is the man to be our president,” Nwoko said.
The election was also very peaceful in Cross River State. And like in Akwa Ibom, Jonathan had a clean sweep, winning in all the 18 local governments in the state. He polled 709,382, Ribadu, 5,839, Buhari, 4,002 and Shekarau, 2,521.
In Kwara State, North Central Nigeria, security was tight on election day. Police and army personnel patrolled the streets of Ilorin, the state’s capital, while some others mounted security checks at strategic points across the state. Before 8 a.m. INEC officials had arrived the polling units in the capital city ahead of the voters, who soon began to trickle in. Voting commenced as scheduled. Once it was 12 o’clock, INEC officials at the Agbaji polling booth at the entrance to Olusola Saraki’s house, were ready to begin voting. People queued and by, 12.30, voting began. The conduct of people at the polling centres in Ilorin and across the local governments in the state was orderly. There were no reported cases of electoral irregularities that were a feature of past elections.
Taiwo Otitolaye, one of the domestic observers on the platform of the United Action for Democracy, UAD, told Newswatch that the elections were devoid of the electoral irregularities that were the hallmark of past elections. “I can say that INEC under Jega is fairly good and we can begin to build on this foundation,” he said.
Bukola Saraki, Kwara State governor, said the success of the polls was not just a victory for Jega and his team but for all Nigerians. He told journalists shortly after casting his vote at the Agbaji polling unit close to his family house, that he was happy with the way things went, especially INEC’s preparedness and voter turnout. He initially thought the turn out was low but found out that people took their turn to come out and be part of the exercise.
The success of the exercise, according to him, meant that Nigerians had resolved to be an example to other nations. “This is something that we have done well. We have done it well. I want to thank Kwarans and Nigerians for this. We are two steps on the way, we only have one more to go. I keep saying that, in this country, we don’t celebrate when we do well.We are only quick to condemn where we don’t do well. Let us do the last one too, so that the world will see that Nigeria has finally arrived on the world stage, not only as a leader in Africa but on the world stage,” he said.
Many of those who voted were happy that they were able to exercise their franchise. Some chose to talk about their preferred candidates and why they voted for them. Calistus Ajebionu, a voter, told Newswatch that Jonathan earned his vote because of what he had been able to achieve in the short time he had been in power. “I have seen some changes in the months Jonathan has been in power. Electricity supply is better than it used to be and there has not been scarcity of fuel since he came in. I am happy about this and that is why I voted for him. I feel that he will do even better if he is given another four years.”
Rafiu Atanda, an indigene of Ilorin West local government who voted for Jonathan, said. “I voted for Jonathan. He’s a humble man and I believe in him. I believe in him so much, that’s why I voted for him. And he has a good programme for the people of this country. I believe he will make this country great again.”
Rasaq Gerewu is another fan of Jonathan. “I voted for PDP, for Goodluck,” he told Newswatch. “ I want him to fix the roads and ensure better supply of electricity and adequate water supply. He should also revamp the education sector. Jonathan had 268,243 of the total 405,950 vote cast in the state, that is, 66.08 percent. Buhari scored 83,603 or 20.59 percent.
Jonathan described his victory as a “new dawn.” In his acceptance speech after he was officially declared winner of the presidential polls, he thanked Nigerians for the great sacrifice and overwhelming national mandate given him to preside over the affairs of the country for the next four years. “Our nation has spoken. At the end of intense and hard fought campaigns by all the political parties, our people spoke through the ballot. We have, by this election, reaffirmed our unity as one nation under God; reiterated our faith in democracy; and underscored our determination to fully join the free world where only the will of the people is the foundation of governance. We will not let you down. We will not let Nigeria down,” he promised.
He, also, enjoined the other contestants to join hands with him in the task ahead. “Now, we must all unite. We must quickly move away from partisan battle grounds and find the national common ground. We must show the world that this nation of many people will always find the love, the courage and the path to move forward as one. Let us join hands to build a prosperous nation. This is the challenge of our generation. This is our unfinished task. On my part, I promise to run an all-inclusive government.”
Reported by Chris Ajaero, Emmanuel Uffot, Anthony Akaeze, Annette Ogheneraboke and Godfrey Azubike.