With the full circle of national and subnational general elections completed between 25 February and 18 March, and the political battle shifting to the election tribunals, it is time to take stock of the tumultuous eight (8) years of the outgoing regime of President Muhammadu Buhari that has seen Nigerian ship of state sink very deep into the abyss of poverty and sea of anarchy.
By so doing, we would be setting the agenda for president-elect Asiwaju Bola Tinubu who is poised to take over the reins of governance on 29 May which is barely a month away, all things being equal.
Suddenly, but pleasantly, the tension which had been very palpable in the polity as a negative fall out of the end of 2023 general elections, seems to be abating.
And it is being attributed to the convergence of both Easter which is a Christian rite of fasting in commemoration of the death and celebration of rise from the grave of our lord Jesus Christ the son of God in Christendom and the Ramadan which is a Muslim period of fasting for about a month as a way of seeking reconnection to Allah and showing of love to one another, particularly the wealthy to the poor amongst Islamic faithfuls.
At the risk of being tagged a religionist, since l am sounding like one, I am of the conviction that it is not by mere happenstance that the two critical events that promote tolerance, forgiveness and peace in the calendar of Christians and Muslims would hold simultaneously or back-to-back in the month of April.
Again, while Easter is an opportunity for Christians to humble themselves in grief by fasting in remembrance of the death of Jesus Christ before celebrating his subsequent rise from the grave, Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam during which Muslim faithfuls engage in the sacrifice of also fasting to purify the soul, empathize with the less fortunate in society and strengthen family and community ties.
Ultimately, a combination of both religious ceremonies that are geared towards religious rebirth or reconnection by faith adherents is a phenomenon that is desperately needed in Nigeria at this critical point in time that the outcome of the general elections was at a point threatening to cause a sort of chasm in the polity.
Hence it is believed that it is the hand of God at work in Nigeria that helped pacify the aggrieved Nigerians that were nursing or tending towards seeking redress outside the ambits of the law which is tantamount to promoting a breakdown of law and order.
The justification for the assertion above is that a co- occurrence of both religious events which are under guarded by sobriety which presupposes calmness of spirit and personal self-control immediately after the very contentious 2023 elections may be God’s way of fulfilling His intention to reset Nigeria for good.
As we all are well aware, the religious rites and ceremonies associated with the Christian and Muslim events actually compelled people of both faiths who constitute the largest population of Nigeria to observe penance via the sacrifice of fasting which is the underpinning message and purpose of the rituals for Christians and Muslims and why most Nigerians remained disciplined, sober and peaceful.
It is safe to conclude that had majority of folks not been observing the religious rituals of fasting, most aggrieved politicians and their thugs could have become unruly and disruptive as the aftermath of the controversial elections 2023 result.
And the harmony of purpose intrinsic in both the Christian and Muslim ceremonies being held soon after the general elections organized between the months of February and March and April is not surprising.
That is because Christianity and lslam are part of the three (3) Abrahamic religions birthed by the father of creation or first prophet of God-Abraham as chronicled in the holy Bible and the holy Quran. The third in the Abrahamic religions triumvirate is Judaism.
Unsurprisingly, both Christian and Muslim leaders have been united in enjoining our political leaders and admonishing their followers to toe the path of forgiveness so that political stability would be restored and sustained to enable peace reign so that progress and development can take hold in our country.
Without detracting from the assiduous and commendable efforts of the Directorate of State Security Services, DSS that has been working round the clock to ensure that potential crisis were nipped in the bud, it cannot be denied that it is as a result of the efforts of Christian clergies and Islamic clerics, who are preaching peace and harmony in our country at the same time that has made it possible for frayed nerves to be calmed down and why our country seems to be on track to witness a peaceful transition of political power on 29 May from President Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – 2023) to President-elect Bola Tinubu (2023 – ?)
To encourage the incoming administration and also remind it not to be carried away by the euphoria of power of which it is on the cusp of receiving, it is apropos that it is guided via a recollection of some of the avoidable pitfalls that defined the outgoing administration and the reason it would be ending its tenure with an inauspicious legacy.
As it may be recalled, at inception, the outgoing administration started picking and choosing the court orders to obey or discountenance. The last of which is the naira redesign and Supreme Court order to allow both old and new currencies to remain legal tender pari-passu till the end of the year which most analysts aver was initially snubbed by the authorities until the past couple of weeks.
It is also worth refreshing our memory about how the executive arm also elected to keep meddling in who became the leader of the legislature and head of the judiciary which are the two other arms of government that are ideally supposed to be separate from each other and which form the tripod with the executive as the third arm that serve as the bedrock of democracy.
Under the outgoing regime, the three arms of government that are designed to be independent of each other, which is the universal best practice and hallmark of democracy, has appeared in the past eight (8) years to have blended into one, which is against the letter and spirit of democracy-government of the people, by the people and for the people.
That is because the lines separating the three (3) branches were intentionally being blurred through the meddlesome actions of the executive arm since 2015 when the ruling APC took control of Aso Rock Villa.
The invasion of the other arms of government by the executive branch was witnessed in the epic battle to remove Senator Bukola Saraki who became senate president in 2015 contrary to the plans of the ruling party at the centre, APC resulting in bitter court battles including the Senate president Saraki being put in the dock in law court over allegations of being behind armed robbery.
There was also the abrupt removal of Justice Walter Onoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN under controversial circumstances just before the 2019 general elections. The sacking of the CJN was carried out after the judiciary was accused of being hostile to the executive arm and some judges, including Supreme Court justices were arrested in an early morning sting operation by security agencies leading to some of them being taken into custody in their sleeping wears for allegedly being in possession of some foreign currencies that were found in their homes after a search by security operatives.
By and large, apart from the unprecedented rise in the cost of living as reflected by the astronomical price of a pot of jollof rice and a loaf of bread currently causing great agony to a critical mass of our compatriots ,it is the violation of those democracy ethos that is the culprit in the setting-off of the alarm bells in the minds of Nigerians that laid the foundation for the negative perception that has trailed the outgoing regime from inception to its fast approaching exit date of 29 May which is more or less in one month time.
The encouraging news is that there would be a reversal of the obnoxious culture of trampling on the rule of law by the incoming administration as I have been reliably informed that under president-elect Bola Tinubu’s watch, such impunity or travesty of the rule of law would not be allowed to thrive. That is simply because the former Lagos state governor, Tinubu is a dye-in-wool democrat.
So, as opposed to acting in the manner that past leaders like former military dictators who later became leaders in democratic settings such as former president Olusegun Obasanjo (1999 – 2007) and soon to be former president Muhammadu Buhari (2015 – 2023) that discountenanced and denigrated the ethos of democracy by not respecting the principle of rule of law and separation of power, which are the bulwark of democracy, the days of impunity that have so badly eroded democracy in our nation may be on track to becoming history to be read only in books and archives by our children and not to be witnessed anymore by our generation.
That belief is underscored by the fact that the military orientation of the aforementioned past presidents of Nigeria contrasts with the pedigree of the former Lagos state governor, APC national leader, and currently president-elect, Bola Tinubu’s democracy credentials.
And it is evidenced by his being the arrowhead for the struggle for the return of democracy in the country through National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) in the dark days of military rule in Nigeria, especially under the one nicknamed the ‘goggled one.’ General Sani Abacha who was head of state of our beloved country from 1993 – 1998.
It is on record that it is the battle for the return of democracy to Nigeria which finally manifested in 1999 and of which Asiwaju Tinubu was a prime executor that has helped to put him in the best position to help steer our country back to the path of true and liberal democracy that Nigerians have been craving.
Also, in light of the experience gathered and the sagacity he exhibited during the struggle for the return of democracy, there are very likely chances that the president-elect Tinubu might have scooped the presidency in the 2023 general elections by deploying his widely acknowledged ingenuity of thinking critically, planning rigorously and implementing meticulously towards accomplishing his quest for the presidency of which he has rich antecedents in swaying people to join in his cause.
Although the non-transparent manner in which the election results was finally collated and announced by the lndependent National Electoral Commission, INEC has cast some doubt on the veracity of the number of votes cast and garnered by the contestants and integrity of elections 2023, most Nigerians appear to have elected to eschew the dog-in-a-manger attitude which a vocal minority had adopted.
The ensuing tranquil attitude highlighted above, needs to be emphasized as being owed to the good tidings issuing from the mouths of respected traditional, cultural and faith leaders in our country, to the effect that stakeholders should allow peace to prevail in the spirit of the current season of love being observed by both Christians and Muslims alike.
Be that as it may, it is not for nothing that the President-elect, Tinubu had been branded one of Nigeria’s most outstanding political strategists of our time when he literally pulled the rabbit out of a hat through the pivotal role that he played in the emergence of president Buhari as the winner of the presidential election in 2015.
The feat was performed after three (3) previous failed attempts by then presidential candidate Buhari under sundry political platforms before finally defeating then seating president Goodluck Jonathan on the fourth attempt after being aided by Mr. Tinubu who was instrumental in the formation of the formidable All Progressives Congress, APC which was widely seen as a party of strange bedfellows that has defied the logic of the expectations that it would disintegrate owing to its runaway success and the differences in ethnic and regional agendas of the legacy parties that formed it.
Apart from his significant role in returning Nigeria to democratic path in 1999, it may be recalled that the current president-elect, Tinubu had also dexterously masterminded the unprecedented feat of getting four (4) leading opposition political parties between 2013/14/15 (ACN, CPC, ANPP, APGA) to collapse into one mega political platform, APC with the sole intent of dethroning then ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Such an incredible accomplishment of getting a coalition of opposition parties to go into an election as one party to win a common foe had never happened in the annals of Nigerian politics. Rather, it was often the case that after slugging it out at the polls, the various parties thereafter united to form unity government.
As such, adroitness is considered to be one of the mettles that defines President-elect Bola Tinubu and which foretells the type of positive developments in democratic governance that should be expected from the in-coming government from 29 May, when he takes over the reins of power, all things being equal.
Understandably, owing to the tension that has been generated by the post elections rhetoric that border on samba rattling particularly from the likes of Mr. Bayo Onanuga and my good friend, Femi Fani-Kayode(spokespersons for the president-elect) who have been accused of fanning the embers of tribal hate to the extent of rattling some members of other ethnic nationalities, particularly the Igbos in Lagos that it rubbed off very badly, some Nigerians are entertaining the fear that the incoming regime may be autocratic to the point of stifling opposition.
While one can understand the reasons for the worry, but the fears should be allayed by the fact that there is nothing in Mr. Tinubu’s leadership credentials that suggest that he is an authoritarian or not a democrat.
On the contrary, the president- elect is known to have always resorted to abiding by the rule of law as reflected by his resort to the law court for redress when former president Olusegun Obasanjo, OBJ withheld the allocation of federal funds to Lagos state under Mr. Tinubu’s watch as governor. As it may be recalled, Tinubu had unilaterally created local government development areas to the chagrin of then president Obasanjo who felt that the governor contravened the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with respect to the creation of additional local government areas.
And it is on record that at the end of the legal battle that ensued, Mr. Tinubu and Lagos state triumphed over OBJ and the federal government in the court of law.
As a policy wonk with a rich pedigree in the private sector particularly as one time treasurer of Mobil oil producing company in Nigeria, the former Lagos state governor, Tinubu now president-elect is renowned for having a knack for identifying and selecting talents from both the public and private sectors to work with for effective service delivery.
He did so when he was governor of Lagos state and his cabinet was populated by a formidable pool of talents drawn from both within and outside of Lagos state, Yoruba land and even extending to Igbo land.
Some of the benefits of his keen eye for talents are evidenced by the fact that a record number of former members of his cabinet (1999 – 2007) have moved on to become vice president of Nigeria – Prof Yemi Osinbajo former commissioner for Justice; ministers and governors in Lagos and Osun states – Mr. Babatunde Fashola who is the current minister of works also former governor of Lagos state and Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, present minister of the Interior and former governor of Osun state ; as well as Mr. Lai Mohamed, currently the minister of information that has been angling to become the governor of his home state, Kwara, so far without luck, and not forgetting Mr. Sunday Dare who is the current Youth and Sports minister.
As governor, Asiwaju Tinubu was so good at generating revenue for development through tax in Lagos state, that president Mohammadu Buhari upon becoming president in 2015 practically conscripted Lagos state tax tzar, Babatunde Fowler to lead the revenue generation effort at the federal government level. Thus Tinubu ‘loaned the Lagos money making machine’ Mr. Fowler to the federal government as Federal Inland Revenue Services, FIRS boss.
In fact, the word on the street is that it is the superb development paradigm introduced by Mr. Tinubu which successive administrations since 2007 have been leveraging to seamlessly build upon to attain the current lofty heights that the state has reached. That is part of the reasons that Lagos state is currently rated as the 5th largest economy in Africa after Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia.
And the former Lagos state governor, now president-elect Tinubu’s political prowess and business savviness are the feat that his admirers reckon would be deployed at the national level when he is sworn in as the next president of Nigeria on 29 May 2023. And he is not unfamiliar with fighting insurgents and militancy.
It may be recalled that under OBJ’s watch as president (1999-2007) there was the rise of the group known as Odua Peoples Congress, OPC which was basically a pan Yoruba ethnic nationalist organization. They were dreaded in Lagos by criminal elements, but sometimes they crossed the line of decency and acted like terrorists to innocent Lagosians from time to time.
That prompted the need to rein them in and the rest is history as OPC threat paled significantly and the menace melted away from Lagos state including the entire Yoruba land without much hoopla.
That is simply because a soft approach was applied, as opposed to the resort to only sheer brute force as has been the case with dealing with Boko haram insurgents and other criminal elements in the north and separatist movements and sundry malfeasance in the east.
There is every likelihood that a similar approach of getting to the roots of the matter may be adopted for dealing with insecurity currently ravaging our cherished country may be adopted by the incoming president.
It is disappointing that President-elect Tinubu’s tried and tested approach to conflict resolution is quite in contrast with the realities exhibited by the current leadership of our country at the centre, Abuja whose policies and programs seem as if they are not based on any clear-cut strategy, as evidenced by the fact that the federal government lacks actionable development plan, hence governance has mainly been driven by knee jerk policies.
As such our country’s leaders seem to have been fumbling, even as our nation has been stumbling and tumbling from one leadership and administrative calamity to another.
Although, the outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari has taken advantage of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which is a period of penance for Islamic faithfuls and the celebration of sallah that happens at the end of the fasting period, to in the spirit of reconciliation appeal to Nigerians to forgive him for any short comings of his administration as he exits Aso Rock Villa.
It is a gesture he reportedly made last Friday when Abuja residents visited him in Aso Rock Villa as part of the traditional sallah homage. But as Adam Smith, the Scottish economist and philosopher posits: “Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent”.
However, Nigerians that are known for often being pragmatic are likely to defer from the philosopher Smith’s harsh judgment which may be deemed as a binary way of looking at things.
In fact, the masses that the outgoing president is seeking forgiveness from are likely to take into consideration the fact that president Buhari, unlike most African leaders who tweak with their country’s constitution to elongate their tenure in office, is literally in a hurry to exit Aso Rock Villa as soon as he completes his second term on 29 May which is quite commendable.
Earlier on, Mr. President had been boasting that he is leaving our country better than he met it nearly eight (8) years ago. That claim must have been very difficult for most Nigerians to process and digest as our country under his watch in the past eight (8) years has sunken into the worst socioeconomic turmoil that it has ever experienced since the civil war (1967-70).
And it is one of the reasons that skeptics are doubting that the presidential candidate of the president’s party APC that failed the Nigerian people spectacularly could win the presidency.
But from historical experience in politics all over the world, except in the event of very serious disasters occurring very close to an election period and in which the president and party are adjudged to have failed to act with dexterity in the management of the crisis arising therefrom, merely performing below par hardly results in a ruling party or incumbent president not being re-elected.
Of course, the exceptions are catastrophic events such as the Iran hostage crisis whereby the US was unable to rescue Americans held hostage in Iran in 1980 – a year to the end of his first term that compelled President Jimmy Carter to end his presidential career as a one term president.
The other causes are catastrophic events such as COVID-19 pandemic that presumably got mismanaged by then incumbent president of the US, Mr. Donald Trump and he lost his re-election bid in 2019/20.
Otherwise, broadly speaking, sitting governments hardly lose elections in the US and advanced democracies unless calamity struck without commensurate response.
Although the non-transparent manner in which the elections 2023 results was collated and announced has cast doubt on its veracity and integrity, most Nigerians appear to have elected to eschew the dog-in-a-manger attitude which a vocal minority had adopted.
As earlier noted, the assertion above is reflected by the good tidings issuing from the mouths of respected traditional, iconic cultural and revered faith leaders in our country in this season of love for both Christians and Muslims alike.
To be frank, it would have been better that INEC chairman Prof Mahmoud Yakubu did not promise to transmit election results from polling units directly to its servers for public viewing in its Independent Results Viewing (IReV) portal. But he made that confidence building promise and failed to deliver on it. Hence, the shadow of doubt that has been cast on the authenticity of the results.
At best, it is an own goal by INEC and the negative consequences have rubbed-off very badly on the declared winner of the presidential race whose victory is now believed to be tainted by a good number of Nigerians and foreign elections monitors/observers alike.
But a cure or remedy for the negative impressions or the doubts that had been cast on elections 2023 results is already manifesting in the course of the ongoing presentations at the Presidential Elections Tribunal by a coterie of attorneys representing INEC, President-Elect Tinubu and the aggrieved presidential candidates, ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar of PDP and Mr. Peter Obi of LP that have commenced making their cases before our lordships in the temple of justice.
And there is a high level of possibility that a fruitful resolution may be in the horizon at the end of the one hundred and eighty (180) days adjudicative window for the exercise during which it is expected that the attorneys and the jurists in the election tribunal might have been able to produce a complete and clearer picture after piecing together the seeming jigsaw puzzle which elections 2023 had been looking like immediately after the exercise ended.
Hopefully, the erudite attorneys from all the contenders for the office of president that are at the election tribunal seeking justice may be able to demonstrate convincingly to skeptical and cynical Nigerians that the declared winner and losers in the elections are truly deserving of their victory or otherwise.
In the interim it is gratifying that most Nigerians have elected to allow peace to reign so that the only country that we all can call our own would not be made to go up in conflagration.
And the glory for a crisis free transfer of power from the outgoing to a new political leadership on 29 May can only go to God, the Almighty.