In reality, the mind chooses what to see and believe, and this optical illusion is a field of study in social science. Mirage, selective perception and phantasmagoria, are real mental challenges. Indeed, the last general election, in Kaduna State, has provided ample case studies for experts’ analyses. In fact, from campaign to voting, including election results and litigation, the opposition was disconnected from reality. Largely, PDP top hats, as well as its rank and file, are still living life in the clouds. Therefore, their claim to electoral victory, in the gubernatorial poll, defies logic, common sense and facts on the ground.
First, their message, channel of communication and manner of delivery, were flawed from the outset. The PDP, in all its outreach, kept serving the same cuisine to the electorate, with monotonous effect. The party, in the last campaign, had harped on demolition, sacking of teachers and civil service reforms, to de-market APC. However, they promised nothing new but kept regurgitating old themes and tales by moonlight. Clearly, the stale news was no longer exciting as the issues had dominated the 2019 election. Therefore, dredging them up in 2023, four years later, was boring to the electorate and besides, it was unimaginative and bereft of ideas.
Truly, under El Rufai, APC had re-engineered Kaduna State and reinvented the wheel of governance. However, the policy was unpopular in some quarters but overall, it made positive impact, especially the urban renewal programme, increased revenue generation, as well as women and youth inclusion. Indeed, the surgical operation spilled some bad blood but the dividends of reform, three years down the road, had started manifesting in 2022. However, with blinkers on, the PDP still campaigned on the past, but APC promised a better future for the people of Kaduna State. Naturally, the electorate voted for hope over scaremongering in the last election.
Significantly, apart from the message, the dissemination was also defective. Entirely, PDP built its campaign on publicity and daily, it churned out radio and television jingles, interviews and sundry media appearances. In fact, the party chose media engagement over rallies, meeting focal groups and door-to-door campaign. Conversely, APC Campaign Council went all over the state, held rallies in all 34 state constituencies, met with stakeholders and paid courtesy calls to royal fathers. In all, the gubernatorial candidate, Senator Uba Sani, APC state and federal lawmakers candidates, senior government officials canvassed for support, promising a better tomorrow.
Similarly, in Giwa, Kudan and Kajuru local governments, Senator Uba Sani commissioned projects, promising more dividends of democracy when elected. Likewise, he donated vehicles to religious groups, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, Kaduna State Council and women organisations during the campaign. Besides, members of the Campaign Council, from the Neighbour-To-Neigbhour Directorate, to the Directorate of Students’ Matters, including the Youth Directorate, held separate engagements with stakeholders at different times. In addition, the Director General of the Campaign, members of Strategic Communication and sundry others, made 26 radio and TV appearances, selling Senator Uba Sani and other APC candidates.
However, in spite of this mileage, PDP lived on false hope, fantasized about victory, lived a lie and believed it. Sadly, on this note, the party went to the polls on March 18, 2023, and the outcome was predictable. Indeed, PDP elements and the opposition, before the results were announced, took over the social media, conjured figures, raising tension and anxiety as a result. Selectively, they released their own results and gullible supporters, blinded by partisanship, chanted ‘’Ashiru Is Coming.’’ The party, for two days, kept spreading this falsehood and its apparatchiks claimed victory.
On March 20, INEC released the official results and Professor Lawal Bilbis, the returning officer, declared Senator Uba Sani, the APC candidate, as Governor-elect. Specifically, the victor scored 730, 002 votes while Isa Mohammed Ashiru, the PDP flag bearer, polled 719, 196 votes. Consequently, facebook lawyers and paralegals, arm chair analysts as well as partisan pundits, took over the mainstream and social media and denounced the results.
Predictably, PDP rushed to the Election Petition Tribunal, alleging foul play, wanting to upturn Senator Uba Sani’s victory. In fact, the party filed petition in June and for three months, legal fireworks ensued as both parties, through their counsel, argued back and forth at the Tribunal. However, laymen, party loyalists and influencers, swooped down on social media spewing the usual ‘’Ashiru Is Coming’’ mantra. Sometimes, they added a Hausa phrase to the mix, ‘’Akwai Haske’’, meaning there is hope.
However, on September 28, their hope was dashed and Ashiru, like his supporters, went home disappointed from the Tribunal. The verdict, in a 2: 1 split decision, dismissed Isa Ashiru’s petition on technical ground at the beginning of the judgement. Similarly, in another decision, the Justices yet again declared the March election inconclusive, ordered a re-run in seven wards, four local governments and 24 polling units, comprising 16,300 voters. Indeed, the first ruling had technically knocked off Ashiru’s petition ab initio and the second verdict was like medicine after death. Undaunted, Ashiru and the PDP, in another futile attempt, have appealed the judgement of the Tribunal.
Significantly, assuming without conceding, that a re-run is held and Governor Uba Sani and Isa Ashiru are on the ballot, the two-horse race is predictable. In fact, the Governor is leading with over 10,000 votes and from the records, slightly above 16, 000 voters collected PVCs in the affected polling units. In Nigeria, the average voter turn out is between 20% and 40%. In the re-run, assuming 50% of those with PVCs all vote for Ashiru, Governor Uba Sani will still win the election.
However, in spite of this fact, coupled with their poor campaign strategy, lack of clear and articulate message, including failure to reach out to voters directly, PDP elements are still dreaming that ‘’Ashiru Is Coming.’’ Clearly, this delusional mindset is worse than selective perception. Indeed, given the facts on ground, Ashiru is going nowhere and the Appeal Court verdict will seal his defeat.
Ibraheem Musa was the Director of Strategic Communication of the APC Campaign Council