Uniting or Dividing the Country?- Revisiting Nigeria's 2015 General Elections

By Lucius Ndimele

The Nigerian general election has come and gone, history was made, democracy strengthened, and a new ruling party born. True enough, only a few of the general Nigerian population expected the presidential election to be as peaceful as it turned out to be. Many saw the election as the final straw that would break the camel’s back. This fear was boosted by a report by the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States Government in 2006, which predicted that Nigeria would breakup by the year 2015. The actions of the dreaded Boko Haram did little to quail those fears. Prior to the election, there were multiple threats of war coming from several ethnic based groups backing their respective presidential candidates, to those groups, losing is not an option. To many, it was just a matter of time.

Now that the election has come and gone, all the pre-election fears of all hell breaking loose have been put to bed, and the country looks more united than ever. But how true is this postulation?

The recent voting pattern across the country have shown a sharp division along ethnic lines, which have been in existence since 1960. It is shocking to state the truth that after 100 years of existence, and 57 years of independence, the country is still grappling with the issue of ethnicity and tribalism.

In the just concluded presidential election, the South-Eastern part of the country gave the candidate of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, and the incumbent President, Goodluck Jonathan over 2.4 million votes compared, to 198,248 votes for the candidate of the chief opposition, All Progressive Congress  General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) while the South-Southern part of the country where the former president hails from gave Goodluck Jonathan over 4.5 million votes compared to the 418,590 votes offered to General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd). That is to say that the President (Buhari) did not get up to a million votes in 11 states of the South-East and South-South combined. The core North (excluding the middle belt) where General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) hails from, and where he enjoys a god-like persona gave him over 10.5 million votes which is approximately 70% of the total votes he won in the election while in contrast they gave Goodluck Jonathan just over 2.4 million votes.

 A former Niger-Delta militant, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, says with the defeat of Goodluck Jonathan, he and other militants may be forced to return to the creeks. Asari-Dokubo, who hails from the same state as Jonathan, said the voting pattern showed that the South-West and the North ganged up against the South-South and South-East geo-political zones. The ex-militant said in a statement by his spokesperson, Rex Anighoro that it was unfair that the minorities were being emasculated by the majority ethnic groups. Femi Aribisala in one of the interviews he granted to one of the media outlets noted that President Jonathan’s defeat was as a result of a conspiracy against the South-South.

Erstwhile, many pundits have lambasted the South-Southerners, and South-Easterners for voting along ethnic lines and against the nations interest. The South-East which is over 95% comprised of Igbo have come under heavy attacks from several analysts with many fearing that the south east has lost its national political relevance due to their voting pattern in the just concluded polls. While some insinuating that they should be punished as a result of their voting preference.

"Nigeria presidential election 2015 - blue and green" by Varavour - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

"Nigeria presidential election 2015 - blue and green" by Varavour - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

But the history of ethnicity in the country’s politics was birthed by the country’s heroes of independence. Prior to independence, the three existing parties, the NPC, NCNC, and AG, all served regional interests. While the NPC led by Ahmadu Bello, represented the Fulani/Hausa dominated northern interest, the NCNC led by Nnamdi Azikiwe, and the A.G led by Obafemi Awolowo served the interest of the Igbo dominated eastern and Yoruba dominated western regions of the country respectively. 

Though the incoming administration of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) have repeatedly assured that no section of the country will be neglected as a result of their pattern of voting, they have to do quite more to minimise the level of ethnicity, by nationwide re orientation, starting from the primary schools, and religious outfits. Also racially induced remarks or sermons should not be treated with kids’ gloves. 

A country which has its survival threatened by the vicious terrorist group, Boko Haram, facing economic woes, high rate of unemployment, massive infrastructural decay, and corruption challenges should now realise that it is impossible to overcome all these challenges while still dwelling on the biases resulting from ethnicity and tribalism as old as the nation. For the country to really take centre stage in African and world affairs, it needs to settle its internal matters which are generally hinged on the lack of unity among various ethnic groups. As it is well known, a house divided against itself cannot stand.

President Goodluck Jonathan by conceding defeat might have saved the country from a civil war, it is now left for the incoming president to end the existing one. 

Lucius Ndimele, a poet and writer is the author of the poetry collection 'The Wandering Voice'.