The signs were ominous. The predictions were frightening. War threats and rumours of war were not far away. As a result, many checked out of the country in droves in order not to be caught in the crossfire. That was the prevailing atmosphere that characterised the recently concluded 2015 general election which was somewhat peaceful, free and fair compared to other elections in recent times.
In the midst of the uncertainty that trailed the elections, there were some actors that made the season memorable and worth remembering. These actors, by their actions, inactions, speeches and public display galvanised some sections of the country all in the bid to win votes.
These actors will not be forgotten in hurry when the history of the 2015 elections is written by historians and researchers.
He was undoubtedly the main actor in the election. As the incumbent, he was saddled with the responsibility of conducting an election in which he was a participant. The instrument of the state was at his beck and call.
So it was not surprising to most Nigerians when the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) forced the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to postpone the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for February 14 to March 28.
President Jonathan crisscrossed the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to canvas votes. He was a regular feature in palaces of traditional rulers and influential citizens of Nigeria. President Jonathan’s church attendance during the electioneering process skyrocketed.
His aides and advisers were active in shielding him from any attack from his political opponents. Any remark thrown at the president was met with stiff resistance from his aides who would take such critic to the cleaners.
Not until when campaign was winding down did the president seize the initiative to start engaging the voters directly and vigorously. Prior to this period, the president had limited his campaign appearance to addressing rallies in stadia and open spaces.
The direct engagement paid off for the president, especially in Lagos. Weeks before the election, the president practically turned Lagos to his new home as he used to come around often to meet different groups who pledged to work for his re-election.
After the election, the final results were released and President Jonathan garnered 44.36% of the votes while the APC had 51.70%.
His concession speech catapulted him overnight into the realms of an immortal in Nigeria’s political history. Never has a sitting president done that in Nigeria.
“That Muhammadu Buhari, APC, having satisfied the requirement of the law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby returned the winner.”
After three unsuccessful attempts to become Nigeria’s president, General Buhari would have been overwhelmed with Joy when Prof. Jega uttered those words while declaring him the president-elect of Nigeria.
At the end of collation of results, APC scored 15,424,921 votes while the PDP had 12,853,162. The victory didn’t come on a platter of gold for Buhari. He ran a disciplined campaign against President Jonathan. He was consistent on his message of ”change”. He projected himself as a viable alternative to President Jonathan’s government plagued by numerous challenges.
Buhari’s campaign worked as a team; while Jonathan’s men worked at cross-purposes. At the end of the day, days of hard work paid off for him.
Prof. Attahiru Jega
Professor Jega has been raising the bar since he came on board. The first election he conducted was in 2011 which was adjudged by international observers as free and fair.
In the 2015 elections, the stakes were higher and the tensions were heavy.Nigerians and the international community were all interested in the outcome of the election. Being a man given to excellence, Professor Jega lived up to expectations. To curb fraud and multiple voting, he introduced Permanent Voters Card (PVC) and card readers.
Though there were widespread malfunctions of the card readers during the presidential election, the issue was resolved during the gubernatorial elections. Jega, even in the face of provocation from desperate politicians, kept his cool. At the end of the day, the result of the election was accepted by majority of Nigerians.
Chief Bola Tinubu
One of the strongest pillars behind General Buhari is the former governor of Lagos state, Chief Bola Tinubu. Tinubu’s doggedness and astute politicking withstood the onslaught from President Jonathan’s camp.
Not even the damning documentary allegedly commissioned by the Jonathan camp and aired on a major television station could halt his resolve to see a Buhari presidency.
Among all the power blocs backing the Buhari presidency, Tinubu’s camp got the largest share of the booty. His camp produced the Vice President in the person of Professor Yemi Osibajo.
Governor Amaechi served as the Director General of the Buhari campaign organisation. In this capacity, Governor Amaechi was able to galvanise public opinion in favour of General Buhari.
Though he lost his home state to the PDP in the presidential and gubernatorial election, his hard work and tenacity helped General Buhari to win the March 28 election.
Chief Olusegun Obasanjo
Having lost interest in his godson, President Jonathan, Chief Obasanjo turned to his new bride, General Buhari.
He slammed the president’s policies and even released a damning memoir which rubbished President Jonathan’s presidency.
Chief Obasanjo went as far as renouncing his membership of PDP and actively campaigning for the election of General Buhari.
Prof. Yemi Osibajo
The selection of Professor Osibajo as the running mate to General Buhari is considered by many political analysts as a political masterstroke. Being an ordained pastor of a leading parish of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Prof. Osibajo was able to get loads of vote for General Buhari. His selection neutralised a great deal, President Jonathan’s strategy of playing the religious card.
Vice President Namadi Sambo
Though regarded as taciturn, Vice President Sambo was vocal on the campaign train. He was unable to fetch the northern votes for President Jonathan. In order to gain popular appeal in the Muslim dominated north, he accused APC of being a Christian party because it fielded a pastor as the presidential running mate.
When the story of the 2015 general election is written, it will be very difficult to omit the wife of President Jonathan, Patience Jonathan.
Her comments at campaign rallies angered some section of the country. Anytime she held the microphone, a bombshell did drop.
The former governor of Bauchi State, Adamu Muazu, ascended the chairmanship of PDP at a time the party was greatly fragmented and dislocated. His strategy to woo back aggrieved members of the party earned him the title, “The game changer.” He was a reliable partner to President Jonathan as he traversed the country to solicit votes.
Oba Akiolu of Lagos
The Oba’s xenophobic comments few days to the gubernatorial election will remain fresh in the memory of Lagosians for a long time. His statement was condemned by Nigerians across different walks of life.
Elder Godsday Orubebe
The disruption of the collation of the presidential results by Elder Orubebe hit the headlines across the country. Though he later apologised for his actions, Elder Orubebe will always be remembered for this outburst on national television.