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The hope and challenge of Nigerian elections

By AbduRafiu
02 March 2023   |   2:37 am
The winner of our Presidential Election has been announced amid controversies. He is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was a highly competitive election. It was keenly fought. The four frontline contestants, Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwoso put in a lot in terms of energy, drive and resources.

The winner of our Presidential Election has been announced amid controversies. He is Bola Ahmed Tinubu. It was a highly competitive election. It was keenly fought. The four frontline contestants, Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi and Rabiu Kwankwoso put in a lot in terms of energy, drive and resources. It was admirable. I am not surprised about the dedication of three of them I know fairly closely—Tinubu, Atiku and Obi.

Tinubu’s doggedness cannot but amaze watchers whether from afar or from a close range; sleepless nights by his desk, capacity to receive visitors and hold long meetings. Fears about his health turned out to be groundless after all. He overflogged himself going round the 36 states of our land campaigning. His generousity of heart is legendary. He is a fast thinker, too. Since the results have been coming out, his prouncements have been mature, calm and conciliatory. After surprisingly losing Lagos State, his home base to Obi, he promptly issued a statement accepting the result so his supporters could be put in check. He did not threaten fire and brimstone. Far must it be from him to be found wanting on matters of religious liberalism. He is not one you could charge with religious dogmatism, nor with bigotry. When the issue of a Muslim-Muslim ticket was mooted, I wrote twice on the subject that the Christian community had nothing to fear if he decided to source for a Muslim as his running mate. I wrote at the time that he was a typical city boy and that in that kind of contest his focus should be where he could have the most harvest of votes in his basket. I said he would not have problems with Christians in the South, principally in the South-West, and suggested he should raise a team to be led by Professor Idowu Sobowale, who chaired the committee on the return of mission schools to their original owners to meet with Christian leaders—CAN and leaders of Pentecostal Church’s own association.

The Christian leaders were to be reminded that Tinubu’s administration was the first state government to do so in the whole country. I made it plain that Christians in the Middle-Belt were a different kettle of fish. They had been under siege. What they would require was cast-iron assurance that they would be protected and should have no fears whatsoever about their freedom of conscience and worship. They would be too delighted to learn that Tinubu’s wife of more than 40 years is not only a Christian but a pastor at Redeemed Christian Church of God and that indeed, on the day of her ordination, Tinubu was present in the church and he, his wife and Pastor Adeboye took photographs on the grounds of the church. I did state that Remi Tinubu attended Our Lady of Apostles at Ijebu-Ode, Kemi Nelson, one of his commissioners attended Anglican Girls Grammar School, a sister secondary school to Ijebu-Ode Grammar School which Dr. Leke Olorunnimbe Mamora attended. I did say Bola Tinubu had more Christians in his cabinet than Muslims. Professor Sobowale did not only attend Baptist Academy, Obanikoro, Lagos, he is today a leader in the school premises. Dele Alake, Architect Towry, Yemi Osinbajo and some more were Christians in the cabinet. Chief of staff, Babatunde Fashola, was raised by a Christian grandmother. His mother and his wife, Abimbola are Christians.

I recalled that when there was a serious conflict between the Church and Aregbesola Administration in Osun State, Tinubu rushed down to intervene. In the end, the missionary schools were returned to their original owners by Governor Gboyega Oyetola. I concluded that in the South, there is no fuss about the spiritual values anyone may profess. With that, the Christians in the Middle Belt would undoubtedly place their implicit trust in Tinubu. I still stand by these thoughts. The spread from the election results stretching from the South to North West is proof of the triumph of his liberal attitude of live and let live.

Atiku Abubakar, the Northern Star has come with appreciably glittering credentials. Among these is single-mindedness, cultivating friendship almost effortlessly with warmth, jokes and humour; building bridges across ethnic frontiers and like Tinubu, gift of talent hunting and leaving you to unfold abilities and excel. I am confident that if he were to win he was going to transform the economy as a man with business acumen and a merchant of free-market economy. He believes fervently in the restructuring of the country. Listen to him speaking at Ademola Popoola Public Lecture, Faculty of Law, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, in March 2017:

“It is a myth to say we do not need restructuring, that all we need is good leadership. While leadership is critical, leaders also operate within structural and institutional constraints, which may impede or enhance their performance. Thus if you have a federal structure that encourages dependency while discouraging hard work, innovation, productivity and competition, your development as a nation will be less than optimal. Our challenges are multi-faceted and the structure of the Federation is only one of them. Restructuring itself will not automatically guarantee good governance. As a people we still have to demand good governance and accountability from our leaders.

“Restructuring is the states coming together to delegate some powers to the central government (on matters that they deem best served by a central government. In contrast our 1999 Constitution specifically Section 7, has 83 federal legislative items as against 15 for the states (which the Federal Government can also over-rule). I do not know of any well-functioning federal systems in the world that has that kind of lopsided central dominance. Only our First Republic Constitution came close to the U.S. Constitution in terms of the process of Federal Constitution making and allocation of powers between the federating units and Federal Government. Subsequent efforts have been one, where military leaders amended the constitution through decrees and when our peoples’ representatives were involved, set the parameters and redlines that could not be crossed by ‘we the people.’

“With eyes set firmly on oil revenues rather than divers economic activities and a mindset that saw any push for greater autonomy for regions as a threat to national unity, the efforts resulted in over-centralisation of power and concentration of economic resources at the Federal Level. For as long as oil flowed and revenues remained high, few people seemed to mind. Rather than clamour for more productivity and improvements in human resource development, we clamoured for and got more states and local governments. We even had the awkward sit
uation where the Federal Government created local government and continues to allocate resources directly to them through so-called joint accounts with state governments essentially confiscating the funds and expending them as they wish…the intrusion of the Federal Government in local government administration has virtually destroyed local administration…ours should be a federal system that delegates to the Federal Government only powers and responsibilities for those matters that are better handled by a central government such as defence, foreign affairs, inter-governmental affairs, setting overall national economic policy and standards. Other powers and responsibilities should reside with the states, which will include the power to create and fund local governments as they may deem fit.” Abubakar should know; he had been there, very close to the helms for which he now longs.

Peter Obi is the new tantalising face in town, saying what is new and placing emphasis on production rather than consumption. His record as Governor of Anambra State speaks eloquently for him. His educational policy and return of schools to the missionaries were a masterstroke which has brought a dramatic turn around to education standards in Anambra. For many years now Anambra has been coming first in public examinations followed by Imo State. Anambra is, however, constant. Personal discipline and discipline expected of a public officer are written all over him. Young and full of energy, he turned an irresistible exemplar and product to the youths who constitute more than 40 per cent of our population. His deputy, an educationist, carries with him certain air of wholesomeness.

The elections especially in the collation of results were flawed in some places. Tinubu the winner said this much in his acceptance speech. The answer is not to cancel the whole exercise but to identify areas of the failings and bring them to acceptable resolution in the tribunal and the courts. Given our level of inner development as a people, we cannot not but experience lapses in this kind of humongous exercise in which ad hoc staff run into nearly 1.5 million in numerical strength. There would be uncultured and overzealous officials who would on their own try to manipulate the election technological gadgets, mainly Bi-VAS in their hands—even where unsolicited.

None of the candidates in the election has congratulated Tinubu. They feel strongly the alleged irregularities cannot be glossed over. It is reassuring that Tinubu has stretched his hand of friendship to them and those not persuaded are free to register their complaints at the tribunal or courts. That is not novel in our tension-soaked elections and sometimes acrimonious. It is the civilised path to take. But I am proud of the contestants—their determination. They have demonstrated their preparedness to serve.

It is to be hoped that INEC will improve on last week’s performance during the governorship elections coming off on March 11, less than two weeks from today. The ripples of the presidential election are bound to linger for a long time, no doubts about that at all. At least until the courts make their pronouncements.