Liberia: Nigeria’s Opposition Blow – A Clarion Call for Liberia’s Opposition to Fix Things up Before October Elections

Monrovia — In an electioneering calendar year for Africa, Nigeria over the weekend kicked off the first of seven elections slated for the continent before 2023 unfolds its curtains. Three of those seven elections are happening in the West African region.

Now with one down, and two more to go for the West African sub-region, Nigeria’s highly charged electoral battle has finally set the pace as the first of three West African elections slated for 2023. Sierra Leone and Liberia are next in line to conduct elections, respectively over the next couple of months. Last weekend’s presidential and general elections in Africa’s biggest democracy have had the rest of the continent and beyond anxiously awaiting the outcomes of a highly contested process: before, during and even after now that the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) candidate in Ahmed Bola Tinubu has been officially declared as the winner early Wednesday morning, March 1, 2023.

It’s no gain saying that the Nigerian elections have huge implications for the rest of the other six elections slated to happen on the continent this year. But in particular, the major political actors in the pending Sierra Leonean and Liberian polls which are scheduled to be held in June and October of this year, respectively, will want to immediately get on the drawing board to harness whatever lessons they can learn from the Nigerian results, whether in opposition or ruling parties.

Coming home to Liberia, a country that looks up to the political giant in Nigeria for most of its electoral aspects, the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) would be breathing that better sign of relief and reassurance of a second, successive mandate after the October polls as the Liberian opposition remains disjointed in the face of not being able to have itself unified against the ruling establishment’s bid for a second term.

Though the Nigerian scenario could be a bit different from the Liberian political space, political observers and pundits are of the opinion that the Nigerian opposition leaders’ failure to unite against the ruling APC cost them the elections. The APC gets an extended third term based on its garnered 36% of the votes against the opposition’s combined total of 64%. Out of this, the main opposition candidates of the former ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s Atiku Abubakar, and the relatively new entrant Labor Party’s Peter Obi as well as the New Nigeria’s People’s Party (NNPP)’s Rabiu Nwankwaso garnered over 90% of the opposition votes.

The February 25th elections had no incumbent as now outgoing President, Muhammadu Buhari exhausted his two terms of presidential limits.

Like their Liberian counterparts, aside from being divided on forming a united front against the ruling APC, the Nigerian opposition endured deep internal rife right from pre-conventional days up to last Saturday’s polls. The main opposition PDP, for instance, had its primary marked with huge controversies not only over the selection of a presidential candidate but also high-level positions of the party. Peter Obi, sensing this, had to shift gear to a relatively unknown Labor Party when it was clear that he wouldn’t have gone anywhere near the PDP flagbearership. Interestingly, Obi was the vice presidential candidate to Atiku during the last elections of 2019 of the PDP that challenged President Buhari who eventually secured a 2nd term.

Fast forward, in the aftermath of Wednesday’s results declaring the APC candidate as the winner, the same opposition figures who had refused to forge a united force against the ruling APC are now the same ones vowing to unite in contesting the results, while jointly calling for a new election to be held under a new elections boss.

Legal battles define the country’s post-electoral days with over 80% of such rulings going the way of the proclaimed or announced winners. Already, the regional bloc, ECOWAS, while appealing to all stakeholders to promote peace and use constitutional means to address any grievances they may have, on Wednesday afternoon issued a congratulatory message to the President-elect. The Leader of Guinea Bissau, His Excellency General Umaru Sissoco Embalo, who is also the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, on behalf of the entire ECOWAS Leadership, “conveys our heartfelt congratulations” to the newly elected Nigerian President.

A total of 18 candidates participated to occupy the Aso Rock Presidential Villa but pre-electoral opinion polls predicted that Tinubu, Atiku and Obi were the lead contenders. Simple logical mathematical calculations derive the answer that the combined votes of Atiku and Obi would have been more than 13 million votes which would have far surpassed the now President-Elect Tinubu’s 8 million votes.

Unlike Liberia’s ‘Absolute Majority ‘ rule, Nigeria’s electoral law makes a runoff unlikely, as the winning candidate needs only a ‘Simple Majority’, provided he/she get 25% of the vote in at least two-thirds of the 36 states.

With Liberia’s further tougher requirement of 50% plus 1 vote to win the presidency, it may be difficult for a political party including the ruling CDC to win on the ‘first ballot’ in the October polls, necessitating a second round as have been the case since post-war elections dating back to the 2005 polls.

Like Nigeria’s opposition, the Liberian opposition’s failure to unite in preparation for the elections in about seven months could secure a second term for the ruling CDC. Despite heavily benefitting from a united opposition front from several by-elections under the same CDC administration, the Liberian opposition’s efforts to finally secure a ‘winning ticket’ hit rock bottom in January of last year, 2022, as they embroiled themselves in claims and counter claims of forgery of its own documents that were supposed to bind them together.

Under three years of its agreement, four of the country’s major Liberian parties including the Unity Party (UP), Liberty Party (LP), Alternative National Congress (ANC) and the All Liberian Party (ALP) have failed to finally seal that concerted deal many analysts had thought would ouster the incumbent CDC in the impending 2023 general elections. That deal in the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) seems to have been buried beyond any form of resurrection as the crises deepen continuously on both the general front and even within the constituent parties.

Like their Nigerian PDP counterparts, the CPP had since disintegrated even further with the intra-party legal battle within the country’s third largest opposition in the Liberty Party (LP), a leading constituent party of what was supposed to be an opposition collaborating party. All of these are happening much to the liking of the current ruling party.

As if not enough, a fraction of the LP says it remains stuck with the CPP while the other half says otherwise. These occurrences within the CPP have only made it a collaborative political entity that is now a former shadow of whatever it promised to be and achieved during elections in such a short period of time within a few years of its formation.

How the Liberian opposition bloc sees what has happened to their counterparts in next-door Nigeria and uses the same to correct its missteps if it must take state power during this year’s election remains to be seen. Anything short of such means an automatic extension of the George Weah administration.

At the same time, the ruling CDC would do itself a great favor by taking huge advantage of such unending opposition disunity to win the elections. While drawing strength and reassurance from the opposition’s current lack of unity, the CDC would further form alliances with other parties beyond its current three constituent parties of the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), the National Patriotic Party (NPP), and the Liberian People’s Democratic Party (LPDP).


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