By Segun Tomori
The February 25 Presidential and National Assembly elections was an election unusual in many instances. First, the Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IREV) were technological innovations introduced for the first time in a general election. Preceding the elections were the twin issues of severe cash crunch occasioned by the ill-advised “naira confiscation” policy of the CBN and fuel scarcity. As if that was not enough, the nation was gripped with anxiety, and sometimes fear of the unknown as reports of alleged subterranean plots to sabotage the elections and foist an interim government on bewildered citizens rent the air.
Despite contrived and unintended bottlenecks, before and during the elections, a clear winner emerged on March 1, and he was declared duly elected. He needs no introduction, but for emphasis, he is All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Presidential candidate, now President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Tinubu had the plurality of votes and at least 25% in 29 States to fulfil the constitutional requirements, defeat the three other major contenders to emerge as Nigeria’s next President.
As results of the elections trickled in, early excitement was palpable in the camp of hysterical supporters of the Labour Party candidate, Peter Obi popularly known as “OBIdients” as they claimed that “Tinubu did not win 25% of total votes cast in FCT, and therefore cannot be declared winner”.
They obviously misconstrued Section 134(2) of the constitution which states that for a Presidential candidate to be declared winner, “he must have the highest number of votes cast in the election and have not less than 25% of votes cast in at least two-thirds of all the States in the Federation and the FCT”. In singing their short-lived kumbaya, OBIdients forgot Section 299 of the constitution which clearly states that “provisions of the constitution shall apply to the FCT, Abuja as if it were one of the States of the Federation”. In essence, in the eyes of the Nigerian statute, FCT is deemed the 37th State, hence the declaration of a President-elect will be hinged on two-thirds of 37 which is approximately 25. Tinubu surpassed this criteria by winning over 25% in a whooping 29 States!
Another major plank of the opposition’s grouse with the results is the failure of INEC and its officials to immediately upload polling units results to IREV portal. While INEC has explained technical hitches prevented it from instantly uploading on IREV, it has since uploaded all results and we haven’t seen any genuine claims from the opposition that the uploaded results are different from the ones signed by their polling agents in the nation’s 176,846 polling units. Obi was famously captured on national TV as saying “I won the elections, and I will prove it”. One would have thought that the grounds of his petition to the tribunal would have been, “I won majority of votes cast and 25% in over 24 states and the FCT” but alas, the basis of his petition borders on very ludicrous claims of non-qualification of Tinubu to run – a pre-election case that has been dismissed severally, and thrashed by the courts!
Indeed, with the use of the IREV for the first time on a national scale in this election cycle, one cannot rule out some hitches, but regardless, it didn’t substantially affected the outcome of the polls. For instance, the President-elect lost in his home state of Lagos for the first time in 24 years, the party chairman lost his home state of Nasarawa, the DG of the Presidential campaigns lost his Plateau State and most out-going Governors even lost their Senatorial elections! It is also instructive to note that the three front-runners won an almost equal number of 12 States each – Tinubu and Atiku, with Obi winning 11 and the FCT. Asiwaju Tinubu won the plurality of votes because he has more national spread than his contenders, unlike Atiku who became a pariah in the South in the run-up to the elections on account of the zoning brouhaha and his friction with the G-5 Governors, whilst Obi, posturing as a Christian candidate had a weak link in the core North – ostracized himself from the predominantly Muslim North and fielded a paper-weight as running mate.
The opposition despite orchestrating a few sponsored protests and championing a strident online campaign to delegitimize the victory of the President-elect has not been able to agree on whom amongst its “two losers” won the elections. What more asinine situation can exist that both Atiku and Obi are in court claiming they won or praying that the outcome of the polls be annulled? Do we have to appeal to the National Peace Committee to organize a parley with the two sore losers, so that they can at least agree on one of them as the “authentic” winner”? Bunch of jesters! It is becoming obvious that majority of more discerning Nigerians are not swayed by the theatrics of Obi and his alter-ego, Atiku, as it is apparent the outcome of the elections reflected the people’s will.
Quite worthy of note also is that most independent opinion polls predicted Asiwaju Tinubu’s victory. Prominent amongst them is Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research, a subsidiary of the renowned Fitch Ratings had twice predicted Tinubu’s victory. In its second verdict, few weeks to the elections, Fitch summed up its findings as follows, “ we maintain our view that All Progressives Congress (APC)’s Bola Tinubu is most likely to win Nigerian’s February 2023 Presidential election. We believe that the Labour Party’s rise in popularity is likely to split the opposition vote, favouring the ruling APC. Indeed, we expect that Obi – a Christian from the South-East – will do well in States in Nigeria’s South-East and South-South regions, which are PDP strongholds ”.
Stears, a pan-African data company which carried out unarguably the most analytical research and poll had predicted a Tinubu victory in the event of a low turn-out. The latter was the case as voter turn-out stood at just over 27% of registered voters. While a rash of mushroom polls had erroneously given the polls to Obi, not a few political analysts faulted the claims on account of flawed methods and scant sample size which they posited were unreflective of the nation’s diversity and voting patterns in rural areas.
It is gratifying that international observers and indeed the international community have lauded the polls as credible and fair, despite the few hitches that trailed it. Head of the Commonwealth Observer Mission, former South African President, Thabo Mbeki during a congratulatory visit to the President-elect picked holes in the opposition’s dispute of the poll’s outcome. “We need a strong Nigerian Presidency that will also focus on the African region. Your opponent will be looking for the smallest thing to throw stones at. That is the way of democracy”. The United States in a statement released by its state department congratulated the people of Nigeria and President-elect Tinubu, emphasizing that “the competitive election represents a new period for Nigerian politics and democracy”. On his part, the British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak whilst congratulating Tinubu restated that the UK and Nigeria relationship remains strong. “I look forward to working together with the President-elect to grow our security and trade ties, opening up opportunities for businesses and creating prosperity in both our countries”.
Asiwaju Tinubu has since extended an olive branch to his opponents and their supporters. Speaking after receiving his certificate of return, Tinubu had stated, “ To those who didn’t support me, I ask that you not allow the disappointment of this moment keep you from realizing the historic national progress we can make by joining hands and heart in common endeavor to pull this nation through. In a phrase, I am asking you to work with me. As your President, I need you. More important, Nigeria needs you” . He also committed to forming a government of national competence in another fora. The time is now to tone down the harsh rhetoric of the campaigns, ponder on the inevitability of the Tinubu Presidency and seek as citizens to ensure he keeps to his promise of delivering a Nigeria that works for all.
While it is the right of those that lost to seek legal redress, it is pertinent that they do not bring down the country by inciting the populace through incendiary remarks or actions that may inadvertently lead to anarchy. You claim you won the elections and will prove it. You have gone to court, prove it!
Segun Tomori is a member of the Strategic Communications Directorate of the Tinubu-Shettima APC Presidential Campaign Council, APC-PCC)