President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor on the 29th of May is now known. He is Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate in the 25 February presidential election. The Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Mahmood Yakubu, who was also the national Returning Officer, declared him the winner of the poll on Wednesday, 1st of March, having polled the majority of lawful votes cast. He got a total of 8,794,736 votes to beat 17 other opponents.
He was trailed by Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with 6,984,520 votes; Peter Obi of Labour Party (LP), who polled 6,101,533 votes; and Rabiu Kwankwaso of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), having 1,496,687 votes. Tinubu did not only score the highest number of votes but also at least 25% of the votes in 30 states, out of the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to gain the national spread, a constitutional requirement to become President-elect. The law stipulates at least a 25% benchmark of votes in 24 states. Tinubu won the highest number of votes in 12 states, just as Atiku and Obi equally did, when the FCT is added. Kwankwaso won the most votes only in Kano State.
In his acceptance speech, Tinubu promised “to be a fair leader to all”, and that he “will be in tune with your aspiration.” These are niceties in a seemingly social contract with the people. Ultimately, he extended the olive branch to his fellow contestants in an election that has gone down in our history as the most competitive since the First Republic.
The President, in his congratulatory message to Tinubu, lauded him as the best man for the job. He was pleasantly surprised at the poll’s competitiveness, which he viewed as evidence of the deepening of democracy in the country. He said, “Never has the electoral map shifted so rapidly in one cycle. In the presidential election, states in all regions across the nation changed colour,” referencing his home state of Katsina, and Lagos State, won by Atiku and Obi respectively.
However, none of the three major challengers has congratulated Tinubu in line with global democratic tradition. This is understandable. The PDP, LP, NNPP and others protested over the integrity of the results, while the collation was still ongoing on Monday, and they walked out of the collation centre. The parties accused INEC of breaching a critical provision in the Electoral Act, 2022, as amended. Shortly after, the Labour Party at a conference said it was headed for the court; the PDP has articulated a similar resolve.
At issue is the failure of INEC to use the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) to upload the results on its portal from screenshots of the signed result sheets given to all party and security agents. The electoral body attributed this to technical glitches after 24 hours of the polls, following public outcry. The provision was made to correct the errors in previous elections in the country and to guarantee the integrity of subsequent ones. The Electoral Act, in Section 64, (4) states that, “A collation officer or returning officer at an election shall collate and announce the result of an election subject to his or her verification and confirmation that the – (a) number of accredited voters stated on the collated result are correct and consistent with the number of accredited voters recorded and transmitted directly from polling units under section 47 (2) of this Act.”
Non-compliance with this provision of transmission of results to the INEC portal on election day has created the strong suspicion of manipulation by the protesting political parties. They are not alone. Nigeria’s civil society organisations and international election observers have also upbraided INEC for the breach. The CSOs have alleged some discrepancies between the results in their possession and what INEC published in some states. Ballot box-snatching and destruction of thump-printed ballots, gunshots at polling units, intimidation of voters, some of whom were wounded or shot, are much in evidence. These are weighty concerns in the conduct of elections. For these reasons, President Buhari has asked any candidate with evidence of fraud to approach the courts, and not go to the streets. It is on this position that PREMIUM TIMES stands, as the rule of law dictates in a democracy.
However, nobody envies Tinubu’s position if the challenges ahead are considered. To walk the talk is always difficult, more so in the very challenging circumstances the country is facing. Being fair to all, and acting in tune with the aspirations of Nigerians are powerful indices against which his Presidency will be regularly calibrated. We recall President Buhari’s, “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” declaration in his 29 May, inauguration speech. The reality is that he never lived up to it. His key political appointments were marred by lopsidedness, sectionalism, nepotism and cronyism. The centrifugal effect of this imbalance deepened the fragility of a polity seemingly on life-support. How Tinubu deals with this immediate task in forming his team will put his Presidency on the plum pronto.
The country is broken in all spheres and re-fixing it would require profound skills-set, new strategies, patriotism, courage and statesmanship. The protection of lives and property, the essence of government or its legitimacy, as espoused in Section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, seems not to exist here. Lives are routinely lost in thousands through rampant gunmen attacks, kidnapping and Boko Haram Islamists insurgency. Many schools in the North today have been shut down due to kidnapping, with the 2014 abduction of 276 Chibok school girls being the peak of this barbarity. Scores of the taken girls are still in the den of the fiends.
As civilians are being killed, soldiers and the police, whose duty is to secure lives and properties, are not spared either. Something is fundamentally wrong with the country’s security architecture, which must be re-jigged to guarantee personal and group safety. Tinubu’s plan to inject thousands of more police personnel into a thoroughly corrupt and ineffective centralised policing set up is not enough; the institution has to be reformed and enabled to play its constitutional role properly. The path to multi-layered policing should also be considered.
Accountability in governance no longer exists; public corruption has haemorrhaged the treasury; service delivery has deserted the bureaucracy. These have eroded public confidence in governance. When governance and socio-economic development are corrosively impeded, urgent radical reforms and, more importantly, fidelity to implementation, become the only rational option. Without embracing this, Tinubu’s four-year presidency will be another circus show.
There are 133 million Nigerians stuck in the abyss of multi-dimensional poverty on account of successive government’s mismanagement of the economy. Jobs need to be created to deal with the unemployment crisis at the rate of about 33%; inflation should be reduced to a single digit. Nigeria’s foreign debt stock is a millstone on the economy, while epileptic power supply has killed the real sector and many businesses. The President-elect will inherit the 2023 budget with its N11.34 trillion deficit. Public funds remain in private pockets. Unfortunately, the National Assembly, which has one of its responsibilities as the safeguard of the treasury, has made a mess of it with its transactional oversight of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government and budget-padding.
Inward-looking and aggressiveness in blocking leakages should be priorities to staunch the penchant for foreign loans. The Ease of Doing Business policy should be ramped up to create a fertile environment for foreign direct investments. The nation’s oil revenues have been massively pillaged with nobody held to account. Perennially, the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NIETI) reports reveal the quantity of crude oil stolen, revenues that oil companies owe the country, and even unpaid taxes. The Federal Government discovered in 2017, $17 billion worth of crude stolen by some oil majors between 2011 and 2014, which it vowed to recover. The matter is now in the cooler while Nigeria often runs to China and other places for loans.
READ ALSO: The elections of 25 February, By Mary Beth Leonard
The country has $62 billion unrecovered oil revenue from the oil firms, based on a Supreme Court judgement in 2018, over what is due to the country whenever oil prices reach $20 per barrel in a Joint Venture production sharing of profit. Those who masterminded this peculiar mess are not officially known, let alone having legal sanctions invoked against them. How far the anti-graft agencies will go after 29 May will be of public interest. Many hitherto financial heists on Buhari’s watch, especially the oil subsidy now at N400 billion monthly, will need to be unfurled.
The choice will be Tinubu’s – to clean the Augean stables in the oil sector or not. A country that produces crude and imports petroleum products at the mercy of buccaneers, and suffering perennial fuel scarcity, testifies to the charade and scam that governance has become in Nigeria in the past 22 years. The rot needs to be severed!
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