2019 General Elections: How Political Parties Can Upstage Incumbent And Mega Parties


Once upon a time, there was PDP, a Party touted to be the biggest in Africa, infact at a point a certain party bigwig said the Party would be in power until 2050. Fast-forward a few years, this is 2017 and the party is already in tatters, reeling from the excruciating hammering it took at the hands of the ruling All Progressives Congress. This is not to say all is rosy in the APC camp, it just goes to show that the “mighty” can fall. As the 2019 general elections draws nigh, we look at how an incumbent party can be knocked of its perch.

1. Build a National Platform

If your aim is to upstage a party ruling at the center, then you must realize that Nigeria is as diverse as it gets, 350 distinct ethnic groups is no joke. We are not a homogeneous society, hence tribal sentiments and alliances are real, the smart choice is to brace up to these realities and try as much as possible to appeal to a wide audience.

The major reason parties like APGA and the now defunct CPC and AD failed to make any National impact was because they only appealed to their respective ethnic nationalities. Ethnic politics has its payoff’s at state and regional levels, but to win the Presidency or capture major State Governments, you need more.

Since independence in 1960, Federal Governments have been brought to power via coalitions, mostly along ethic lines. Azikiwe’s NCNC and Ahmadu Bello’s NPC aligned to form a Government, leaving Awolowo’s AG in opposition. The same trend has followed all other elections over time.

Obasanjo Praises Jonathan

In more recent times, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, though a Westerner rode on the backs of the support of Powerful military Northern oligarchs and the PDP fan base of the east to defeat Chief Olu Falae (AD) whose primary support group was the from Western Nigeria.

Political analysts would tell you it would have been impossible for President Buhari to clinch victory without the alliance of the Bola Tinubu led ACN

2. Field Preferred Alternatives.

If Politics is a business, the product on sale would be good governance. Nigeria’s biggest challenge is poor leadership. Performance in public office is a scarce commodity, so if a Political Party can identify a candidate with a track record of performance, ( even if it is perceived performance) then they just hit gold.

One of the selling points of Muhammadu Buhari as a candidate was that he was perceived to have an unblemished record in terms of corruption and graft. To wrestle power from an incumbent, you must offer the electorate something different.

3. Aggressively Mobilize supporters to actually Vote

With a population of over 160 million people, the percentage of the population that turn out at the pools is alarmingly low. This has led to the phenomenon of the “arm chair voter”. These supporters vociferously support a candidate in discussions with peers, on social media platforms but will rarely actually step out to vote. This is common among the upper middle class and the elite.

2019 General Elections

They posses all the intellectual analysis and reasons why they support the candidate, but will fail to turn up on the D- day.

To unsit an incumbent elected public office holder, more than mere talk is required. Whoever mobilizes its support base to turnout en masse, has made a substantial leap toward victory

4. Get your Political calculations right.

Politics they say is a game of numbers, and whoever has more votes will win. Whoever has more money (sadly) is more likely to win. Nigeria’s political terrain is still very crude, hence it takes alot of guts and sometimes a bit of street wisdom to prevail. For instance, it is very unlikey to win the Presidency running under a mushroom political party. If there are alliances to make, make them, if there are mergers needed – merge. You are not going to lead over 160 million people appealing to a narrow audience.

One of the greatest miscalculations of Jonathan campaign was its failure to get its political calculations right. In a Nation of 36 States, with various population dynamics, some key States are a must win. States like Lagos, Rivers, Kano need more than basic campaign approaches.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Tinubu during an APC rally

PDP had strongholds in 2 of the Six geopolitical zones – South South,South East. The South West was Pro APC because of its ACN roots, the North West and North East were clearly blocks of the CPC faction of the APC.

The roughly 2 million votes that clinched it for the APC could have been made up if the PDP ensured it got the votes of the North Central – a traditional pro PDP region. The 4-2 imbalance in the regions meant the PDP were struggling all along.

5. Use the Media…they can sell anything.

The media is a powerful tool for marketing, the same way Brands are made by media influence, Political brands are packaged and sold by the media. Perception is everything in politics, what the masses see is usually a larger-than-life image, one made out billboards, flashy  campaign adds and exuberant political rallies.

In reality of Social media and digital forms of advertising must not be taken lightly. It is also important to note that an effective  campaign strategy must take into cognizance the demographic peculiarities of a people and its impact on strategy. As trendy as social media is, there is still a world outside that cant be reached online.