A Tinubu presidency is tragic
Bola Tinubu was already a very divisive figure even before becoming president-elect. Unfortunately, we will be stuck with him as president for at least a year or more. This is tragic. The very unabashedly brazen electoral fraud that is bringing him into office has hardened a lot of Nigerians.
There could not be much confidence left in state institutions after that kind of electoral heist. The only institution now standing in the way of a mass perception of state failure is the judiciary. Quite literally, the judiciary is on trial. Should the judiciary prove to be not any different, we should prepare for some potentially very dark days ahead.
Even before, we will have to endure months of this oddity, as the legal process cannot be rushed. After all, even someone so controversial, divisive and massively flawed as Mr Tinubu deserves justice and fair treatment under the law.
Mr Tinubu is president from end-May by the gift of northern Nigeria. He did not win his home southwestern region nor his home Lagos state. Mr Tinubu, a southern presidential candidate, did not win the south. Unsurprisingly, the north is rightly emboldened, as the ongoing jostling for political offices already shows.
Mr Tinubu’s many controversies, from perjury, multiple identities, corruption to documented drug-trafficking, are also beginning to embolden the country’s darker instincts, with politicians, officials and security operatives, making a show of competing for who is the baddest gangster. The Adamawa gubernatorial mess is one example.
The disregard for process, law and order was so brazen, so crass, that even the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) felt this was one too much for it to chew. The recent incident in mid-May involving Seun Kuti of the renowned Fela lineage is another example.
Mr Kuti slapped a policeman on the face in a manner that suggests a newfound confidence that could only have been instigated by a sense of impunity. A gangster’s paradise beckons should the judiciary fail to do its duty.
Peter Obi, the hugely popular presidential candidate of the burgeoning Labour Party (LP) has a huge task ahead of him. Mr Obi should prepare to be betrayed from the day of inauguration on May 29th, 2023. There is a thing about the power of incumbency that intoxicates people. Many of his key elite allies will play both sides; if they are not already doing so.
And the error should not be made that the tensions are entirely about Mr Obi’s Igbo roots. Yes, it is a factor. But it is more than that. Mr Obi has proven that an alternative electoral math can be used to secure a Nigerian presidency that cuts across legacy structures and sentiments.
Since 1999, a southerner has been successfully elected to the Nigerian presidency
twice. And each time, the southerner had to get the support of the Muslim north. Bar the serendipitous case of Goodluck Jonathan, who was president in 2010-15, this tend to involve first proving an affinity for the north. The concept of “amanah” (trust) in northern Muslim culture cuts both ways.
Olusegun Obasanjo, who handed over to Shehu Shagari, a civilian northerner who was president in 1979-83, even when as military head of state in 1976-79, he could have successfully done otherwise, displayed this virtue, especially as he proved to be a loyal friend to Shehu Yar’adua, his deputy whose place he was widely reported to have been urged to take after the murder of Murtala Muhammed, a popular military head of state in 1975- 76. Mr Obasanjo’s sense of “amanah” would be reciprocated when the North needed a trustworthy southerner yet again to become president by necessity in 1999.
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In Mr Tinubu’s case, his facilitation of Muhammadu Buhari’s win of the presidency in 2015 after the latter’s many failed attempts also put him in the category of the people the north could do business with. The north was well aware of Mr Tinubu’s heavy baggage.
But as Mr Buhari was likely reminded when he was having second thoughts about paving the way for Mr Tinubu in the 2023 general elections, they could not suddenly now remember who Mr Tinubu really is. It was a Faustian bargain for which all of us will have to now bear the consequences.
Mr Obi will not have that opportunity. Better still, he will not need it. What the contested 2023 presidential poll results show is a path to electoral victory that almost literally excludes the core north. Mr Obi not only successfully polled massively in southern Nigeria and among disillusioned northern minorities, but also with the majority youth population in such a manner that eludes any of the legacy political classifications.
Like Socrates, Mr Obi has quite literally put two very different generations of Nigerians, the disillusioned young and the blasé old, against each other. In a good way, of course. Still, Mr Obi should not for one minute think that this will be taken lightly by the old guard.