A profound surprise of the February 23, 2019 presidential election was the emergence of the largely unknown, 37-year-old New York-based pastor and businessman from Edo State, Nicolas Felix, of the Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), as the third placed candidate.
In a pack of supposed political gladiators and as fierce as the 2019 presidential election was, nobody gave the candidate of the Peoples Coalition Party (PCP), Mr Nicolas Felix any chance of coming among the tops. But after the votes were tallied, he pulled 110,196 votes to finish third behind incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Nicolas’ feat was surprising given that his votes were more than the cumulative 72,618 votes polled by Omoyele Sowore of the African Action Congress (AAC), Kingsley Moghalu of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Fela Durotoye of the Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN).
In fact, the trio of Sowore, Moghalu and Durotoye only managed to garner 33,953, 21,866, and 16,779 votes to place 10th, 14th and 17th respectively.
Trailing Nicolas in the election were Obadiah Mailafia of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), who placed fourth with 97,874 votes, and John Gbor of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), who ended up fifth with 66,851 votes.
Until the result of the election was announced, Nicolas was largely unknown. In fact, very few had either heard his name as a presidential candidate or seen his posters, even within the seat of power, Abuja.
It is on record that the founding pastor of Miracle Centre International, United States, never had any coordinated campaign or debates prior to the election.
It also proved difficult to track him for an interview after the “historic” election, as a source, which pleaded anonymity, confided in Daily Trust on Sunday that he left Nigeria shortly after the declaration of the result.
How then did the young Nicolas gain traction among over hundred thousand Nigerian voters who voted for him at the polls?
On Facebook, the PCP candidate, in his post-election appreciation to Nigerians, had acknowledged that “power indeed belongs to the people.
“History will bear witness to the valiant efforts of patriotic Nigerians in this sensitive period of elections. Votes were cast, words were spoken, journeys were made and inevitably, in some cases, blows were exchanged.
“Truly, we have been able to show every observer from the international community, to purported political bigwigs and ‘godfathers’, even to the poor masses who must have lost faith in the process, that power, indeed belongs to the people,” he wrote.
He equally described the election as “a huge step out of the Dark Ages into the Age of Enlightenment; civic and social awareness.”
Indeed, those words could not sway many Nigerians, especially political watchers, who have continued to query how the unknown presidential candidate “miraculously” finished third, over and above well-known contenders.
Daily Trust on Sunday recalls that few days before the presidential election, Nicolas and his All Grassroots Alliance (AGA) counterpart, Chucks Nwachuku, had formally adopted Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.
Briefing newsmen in Abuja on behalf of the duo, Nicolas had boasted that it could only take a man of strong wits, expertise, courage, and resourcefulness to diagnose and treat the immune-deficiency of the country and restore the health of Nigeria.
According to him, “…After careful consideration among some presidential candidates, I, Nicolas Felix of the PCP and Chucks Nwachukwu of AGA, are officially declaring our support for the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar.”
He defended his endorsement of Atiku, saying he (Nicholas) knew he didn’t have the capacity to win the presidential election.
One school of thought contends that the votes credited to Nicholas were indeed accidental.
The proponents of this theory argue that the placing of the two political parties, the PCP and PDP, one after another on the ballot, ended up shortchanging the PDP of the votes, especially among the unenlightened electorate.
To them, the votes were as a result of people, who could not differentiate between the two parties and their logos.
But Nicolas was quick to come in defence of his popularity at the poll. Dismissing all the theories ascribed his feat to mistaken acronym or logo, as an attempt to discredit his sterling performance.
“We campaigned at the grassroots level in all the 36 states and FCT, among the people who truly vote. We sold our vision to them and they voted for me. We were also in the electronic and social media.
“Mind you, PCP and PDP logos are not related. In fact, INEC couldn’t have allowed that in the first place. This is not my victory; it is the victory of Nigerians, and it will be a bigger victory in 2023 when I will be elected Nigeria’s youngest democratic president,” he said shortly after INEC announced him as the third place candidate.
On Facebook, his “Never Again Movement 2019” described him as a self-acclaimed, altruistic mentor and benefactor who has created jobs for over 500 persons through his companies in the United States.
He had also promised to place emphasis on security, alternative power supply, education, affordable healthcare and fight against corruption, if elected.
Indeed, not all Nigerians have bought into the accidental voting and logo mantra.
Many believe that Nicolas might have earned his popularity, especially within the social media sphere where he is more visible and accessible.
Others, however, pointed to his youthfulness and looks as likely selling points, which would have swayed many thereby earning him such high number of votes.
For them, Nicolas’ performance at the presidential poll proves that the Not Too Young To Run Act, signed in 2018 by President Buhari, has come to stay. Daily Trust on Sunday recalls that the African Union Election Observation Mission to Nigeria recently called on political parties to leverage on the opportunity created by the Act to enhance political representation of, and participation by the youths.
Head of Mission and former Ethiopian Prime Minister, Hailemariam Deselegn had remarked that “The Mission commends the Nigerian government for enacting the Not Too Young To Run Act, which reduces the age limit for the office of president and enhances youth participation and political representation in the 2019 general election.”
Also, Dr. Ugochi Ohaja, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mass Communication, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), said until the 2019 elections, such political feats as Nicolas’ was only a dream in Nigeria.
She said, “In Nigeria, meaningful youth and female participation in politics had remained a dream. The smaller parties may have provided more level playing field; expectedly, however, they did not make much impacts in the election.”
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