By Eric Teniola

“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.


Except for 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 of the poll. Alhaji ShehuShagari of the National Party of Nigeria, NPN, scored 5,668,857 votes while Chief Obafemi Awolowo (1909-1987) of the Unity Party of Nigeria, UPN, scored 4,916,951 votes. Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe (1904-1996) of the Nigerian Peoples Party, NPP, scored 2,822,523, Alhaji Aminu Kano (1920-1983) of the People’s Redemption Party, PRP, got 1,732,113 votes while Alhaji Ibrahim Waziri1, Great Nigeria People’s Party, GNPP, scored 686,489 votes.

After the results were announced, Chief Awolowo challenged the outcome with Chief Abraham Adesanya as his lead counsel while Chief Richard Osuolale AbimbolaAkinjide defended Alhaji Shehu Shagari. I covered the tribunal and the Supreme Court judgment for The Punch newspapers thirty-six years ago. At the Supreme Court ruling delivered just few days before the inauguration, Justice Kayode Esho (1925-2012) gave the minority judgment 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 ShehuShagari (NPN) scored 12,081,471 while Chief Obafemi Awolowo (UPN) scored 7,902,209 and Dr. NnamdiAzikwe (NPP) got 3,557,113, Alhaji Aminu Kano (PRP) had 968,974, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim (GNPP) scored 646,806 and Tunji Braithwaite (NAP) scored 271,524. Chief 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 Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, scored 18,738,154 votes as against that of Chief Olu Falae of the Alliance for Democracy who got 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 the chief  comes from, Kabiyesi Adebobajo Adesida, the then Deji of Akure to Abuja to persuade Falae to withdraw the suit. He refused and for his refusal till today both General Obasanjo and Chief Falae are not on speaking terms. The enmity between both men still 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 and 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, NDP, 132,197 votes. Chris Okotie of Justice Party, JP, got 109,547 votes, Alhaji Balarabe Musa of the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, 100,765 votes, Arthur Nwankwo People’s Mandate 57,720 votes, Emmanuel Okereke of All People Liberation Party, APLP, 26,921 votes, Kalu Idika Kalu of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP. 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 the April 21, 2007 presidential election, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’adua of PDP got 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 both from Katsina State. It was the first time in the history of Nigeria that both leading presidential candidates would be from the same states. The presidential disputes ended in the Supreme Court.

In the April 9, 2011 election, the duo of Jonathan Goodluck/Namadi Sambo had 22,495,187votes while the duo of Major General Muhammadu Buhari/Pastor Tunde Bakare scored 12,214,853 votes. General Buhari challenged the outcome of the election and it ended in the Supreme Court.

In a few days’ time, we shall march to vote in the March 28 presidential election. It is on record that no incumbent president has ever lost any election in Nigeria. But there are examples in Africa. In the April 1991 presidential election in Republic of Benin, President Mathieu Kerekou (82) lost to Nicephore Soglo. Also in 1991, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia lost to Frederick Chiluba. Just last September, Michael Suta of Zambia defeated President Rupia Banda whose party had been in power for 20 years. 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 forth coming presidential elections in Nigeria – the anxieties, the alarms and the innuendos. Definitely one party must lose and another must win. Defeat can be painful but definitely there is life after defeat. Nothing pains a politician more than to lose an election.

When I think of presidential elections around the world, the one that comes to my mind is the 1968 Convention of the Democratic Party in Chicago in the United States. After withdrawing from recontesting, the 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 Editor of the Punch and  former Director at the Presidency resides in Lagos.

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

    Support the ICIR

    We invite you to support us to continue the work we do.

    Your support will strengthen journalism in Nigeria and help sustain our democracy.

    If you or someone you know has a lead, tip or personal experience about this report, our WhatsApp line is open and confidential for a conversation


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Support the ICIR

    We need your support to produce excellent journalism at all times.

    - Advertisement


    - Advertisement